Frankenstorm predicted

OK, no one can predict a specific weather event months in advance. But what we can do is anticipate expected frequency of events. Back in February of this year, Nature Climate Change published a paper, Physically based assessment of hurricane surge threat under climate change, (PDF bypasses Nature’s paywall) that predicted more frequent storm surges for New York City thanks to the changing climate.

Here’s the abstract:

Storm surges are responsible for much of the damage and loss of life associated with landfalling hurricanes. Understanding how global warming will affect hurricane surges thus holds great interest. As general circulation models (GCMs) cannot simulate hurricane surges directly, we couple a GCM-driven hurricane model with hydrodynamic models to simulate large numbers of synthetic surge events under projected climates and assess surge threat, as an example, for New York City (NYC). Struck by many intense hurricanes in recorded history and prehistory, NYC is highly vulnerable to storm surges. We show that the change of storm climatology will probably increase the surge risk for NYC; results based on two GCMs show the distribution of surge levels shifting to higher values by a magnitude comparable to the projected sea-level rise (SLR). The combined effects of storm climatology change and a 1 m SLR may cause the present NYC 100-yr surge flooding to occur every 3–20 yr and the present 500-yr flooding to occur every 25–240 yr by the end of the century.

Think about that. Storms that used to occur every 100 years can be expected between 5 and 33 times as often.

Did Climate Change Supersize Hurricane Sandy? | Mother Jones

Did Climate Change Supersize Hurricane Sandy? asks Chris Mooney in Mother Jones.

Look. We know there’s more moisture in the atmosphere because when you warm a gas it holds more vapor. So that means there’s more precipitation when a storm blows in. And we know the sea level is rising because when you heat water, it expands. More importantly, melting ice from Greenland is pouring incredible volumes of water into the northern Atlantic. This is all elementary physics. So for anyone to argue that Sandy isn’t at least in part a product of climate change is just plain silly.

More from Michael Mann

Now on CNN:

Imagine you are sitting in your office simply doing your job and a nasty e-mail pops into your inbox accusing you of being a fraud. You go online and find that some bloggers have written virulent posts about you. That night, you’re at home with your family watching the news and a talking head is lambasting you by name. Later, a powerful politician demands all your e-mails from your former employer.

It sounds surreal. But it all happened to …

Michael Mann.

in Michael Mann’s words

Michael Mann, co-author of the “hockey stick” visualization of the last millennium of global warming, has written a book about the trials of sticking to the science in an era when half the country is hostile to reality. Here’s the 10-minute synopsis, in the form of an interview:

Peter Gleick’s alleged crime

Another day, another distraction from the real issue at hand. Yes, a hitherto respectable member of the climate science community, MacArthur fellow, and all-round good guy has admitted appropriating someone’s identity to obtain private records of a climate-denial think tank. Was this wrong? Yes, although no more so than was the ostensible betrayal of trust on the part of a long list of whistleblowers. Daniel Ellsberg comes to mind. And he is now remembered as “an icon of truth-telling.”

As much as I hate to admit it, the most cogent commentary on the matter so far arrived in the form of a tweet, from Naomi Klein:

And what about the fact the Heartland Institute impersonates a scientific organization every day?

Does this matter have anything at all to do with the science of our changing climate? No. And I can’t think of any else of use I can contribute to the discussion. Plenty of others have more thoughtful things to say. Greg Laden is a good place to start.

The Heart(land) of the Denial Campaign

Someone has leaked a treasure trove of insider documents from the Heartland Institute, which until now has been a major source of climate change obfuscation in the U.S. There’s plenty of illuminating information to chew on, including detailed budgets and an IRS 990 form. Shades of “climategate” reversed?

Much is being made of one line from a strategy document, a line that could easily be the result of sloppy editing, or at perhaps a Freudian slip. Or maybe not. Here’s the entire paragraph, with the offending phrase in bold:

Development of our “Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms” project.

Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective. To counter this we are considering launching an effort to develop alternative materials for K-12 classrooms. We are pursuing a proposal from Dr. David Wojick to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science. His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science. We tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $100,000 for 20 modules in 2012, with funding pledged by the Anonymous Donor.

It is possible, in my opinion, that the author meant to write “dissuading teachers from teaching climate science” or something similar. That would make sense from the point of view of those of us who believe our students should actually know something about science.

On the other hand, the context is critical here and it could very well be that the phrase means exactly what it says. Again:

His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.

This could mean that the author recognizes that teachers, especially of younger students, are wary of teaching any scientific subject that comes with political baggage. The obvious examples are evolution and climatology. So the plan is for the Heartland curriculum to draw attention to the controversial nature of climate science in hopes that teachers would then give it a miss, not to actually dissuade teachers from teaching science in general.

This is still a disingenuous, dishonest and an entirely despicable thing to do. But I, for one, do not want to be accused of taking anything out of context. That’s more the Heartland Institute’s style.

UPDATE: Heartland claims that “at least” one of the leaked documents is false. But considering that there is nothing in any of the documents that is inconsistent with what we already knew about the Institute, it seems reasonable to remain skeptical about the denial. After all, denying is what the Heartland folks do best.

If you’re reading the Wall Street Journal, you’re part of the problem

For reasons that can only reflect poorly on the paper, the Wall Street Journal recently decided it was a good idea to publish an op-ed that recycled some the of the most soundly discredited notions associated with the climate change denial movement. The piece was signed by 16 ostensible “scientists,” though only four have any experience with climatology, and even they work on the extreme fringes of respectable research.

The same editors refused to publish a letter from a longer list of actual climatologists, a letter that does reflect the science of the day and one that the journal Science did see fit to publish.

The WSJ’s “travesty” of an editorial decision continues to reverberate around the blogosphere almost two weeks later. Here’s a roundup of the response, which has been summarized thusly:

… flaring anti-science syndrome suffering climate denier and delayer inanities often divert people from valuable and productive activities. Prominent eruptions of this malady, however, drive white-cell like effort to respond and dampen the damage…

Calling it like it is

Two examples of why blogs are better than mainstream news coverage, when it comes to confronting reality and doing something about it, one from the climate wars, one from the front lines of women’s health.

First, Andy Revkin, a former New York Times journalist who still blogs there. He calls out a coal-industry-backed attempt to silence one of the world’s leading climatologists as the “Shameful Attack on Free Speech” that it is. By launching a Facebook campaign to convince Pennsylvania State University to cancel a scheduled talk by Michael Mann, the coal interests have indeed shamed themselves.

Andy adds:

Antidemocratic, hateful, and coal-backed smear campaign against a scientist I’ve sometimes disagreed with but who has every right to state his case at Penn State or anywhere else.

A few hours after Andy’s post, the Fb page disappeared. Penn State is sticking to its guns, too. Score one for the good guys.

Continue reading “Calling it like it is”

Tea Party shenanigans

As if you needed another reason to lament the state of American politics:

Across the country, activists with ties to the Tea Party are railing against all sorts of local and state efforts to control sprawl and conserve energy. They brand government action for things like expanding public transportation routes and preserving open space as part of a United Nations-led conspiracy to deny property rights and herd citizens toward cities. (New York Times, Feb 3, 2012)

The story ends on what would be a humorous note:

“The Tea Party people say they want nonpolluted air and clean water and everything we promote and support, but they also say it’s a communist movement,” said Charlotte Moore, a supervisor who voted yes. “I really don’t understand what they want.”

The weatherfolk who never were

George Monbiot usually pays more attention to the climate than weather, but his recent interest in the latter should provide many hours of merriment, and not just in the UK;

This month, I questioned the credentials of the alternative weather forecasters used by the Daily Mail, the Express, the Telegraph and the Sun. I suggested that their qualifications were inadequate, their methods inscrutable and their results unreliable. I highlighted the work of these two companies: Exacta Weather and Positive Weather Solutions (PWS).

Now the story has become more interesting: do the people from Positive Weather Solutions, making its forecasts and quoted in news articles, exist?