Tag Archives: Global Warming

My letter to the New York Times

The New York Times
Elizabeth Spayed, Public Editor

Dear Elizabeth,

I am writing to express my concern for the addition of Bret Stephens to the NYT team as a columnist.

I don’t expect a columnist who seemingly writes about everything to be wrong about nothing. But the Gray Lady should, at the very least, expect a columnist to know something about something.

Stephens doesn’t simply express opinions that are not popular in certain, many, circles. He attempts to support his opinions with what we now seem to be calling alt-facts.

For example, his opinion about the importance of climate change is that we don’t know what climate change will really do, if it will really do anything, or when. He supports this idea by asserting that there is too much uncertainty in the science for us to know.

Elizabeth, you must know that science is nothing if it is not the study of variation in nature and its causes and properties. While the public face of many scientific findings is often the trend line showing the relationship between two variables, much of the science itself is about the uncertainty around that trend line; measuring, understanding the limits and extent of, and grappling with uncertainty is what scientists do.

As a scientist (not a climate scientist, though I’ve published in that area) and a science communicator, I can tell you that when Mr. Stephens makes the claim that there is too much uncertainty about anthropogenic climate change to say much about it, he is simply wrong. He does not know the science, he has made up this thing that looks like a fact, and he has used it to buttress absurd arguments, and you, the New York Times, is now set to be a vehicle for passing this misinformation on to the general public.

Many of my friends and colleagues have unsubscribed to the New York Times over this. I have not. Rather, I was just about to subscribe, as part of my overall effort to support good journalism in the Trump Era. In the past few weeks I’ve subscribed to my local paper, my regional paper, and one national paper (Washington Post) and I was just about to add the New York Times to that list. But now I can’t ethically do so, even though much of your other science coverage is pretty good, and even tough I grew up on the New York Times Science Section (remember that?).

But this probable drop in subscription is nothing to you, because trends in the business side of the NYT operation are much larger and more complex than many, if not most, of the world’s climate scientists dropping off your list over the addition of Bret Stephens to your staff. The bigger problem is this: The New York Times editorial staff has lost our respect.

I look forward to your prompt and decisive attention to this manner, and the quick repair of the mistake the NYT has made.

Sincerely,

Greg Laden, PhD.

Global Warming Is Warming

The latest data from NASA GISS has come out, showing a surprise result for the month of March.

Hat tip to Jeff Masters of Wunderground for sending this info. He’ll probably be blogging on it soon.

The surprise is that March, while expected to be warm due to human caused greenhouse gas pollution, turned out to be very warm globally. This is a surprise because the Earth supposedly just experienced a minor cooling La Niña event that ended in January. March 2017, it turns out, is the fourth warmest month since 1880 expressed as an anomaly from a 1951-1980 baseline (that’s a bit tricky, more on that below).

Here’s the current list of warmest months:

February 2016, 1.32°C
March 2016, 1.28°C
January 2016, 1.13°C
March 2017, 1.12°C
February 2017, 1.10°C
December 2015, 1.10°C

The key thing to notice here is all those years being very very recent.

The ranking of months is on a month by month basis. In other words, Feb 2016 is not necessarily the warmest month of all the months over 120 years. Rather, it is the warmest of all the Februaries over this period of time. This may seem like a strange way to do it, but it actually makes sense. Even though these are global values and thus integrate northern and southern seasons, there is a potential for intra-annual variation in global temperatures, for a number of reasons (including the uneven distribution of land and ocean between the northern and southern hemispheres). For this and other even more esoteric reasons having to do with how to track anomalies, we compare months to months (Januaries to Januaries, Februaries to Februaries, etc.).

How the IPCC becomes a climate change denial tool

About once a day, someone tells me that human caused climate change is not real because this or that thing in the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) contradicts something I, or some other scientists or science writer, has said.

I’ve noticed an uptick in references to the IPCC report by those intent on denying the reality of climate change. This even happened at recent congressional hearings, where “expert witnesses” made similar claims.

How can that be? How can the flagship scientific report on climate change, the objective source of information about the science of climate change, be used so frequently to argue that scientists have climate change all wrong?

Obviously, one way this can happen is if the information is cherry picked or misrepresented. That, certainly, happens and is almost always part of the recipe. But there is another only barely less obvious reason, and this is a reason that becomes more and more relevant every passing year. What is it? Hold on a sec, first a bit of context.

As a scientists and writer-about-science I often have access to temporarily secret information. Also, I make it a point to keep track of opinions held by trusted experts in the field, as they change and adapt to new findings. This secret information is, of course, peer reviewed research that isn’t published yet, and is under embargo.

To be embargoed means to be held in secret, but distributed to a small number of trusted individuals or agencies (often news outlets and science writers), with an “embargo date and time” after which the information is no longer secret. There are a few reasons this is done. One is that many scientific outlets rely on the splash factor to get readership, and having a paper that changes how we think about the world be released at a particular planned moment helps with that. Related is the idea that publishers, research institutions, and the scientists themselves want the paper published alongside other products to help the press and the public understand the material better, such as a press release, selected graphics, maybe a nice video. This all requires production time and effort, and it is pretty much wasted effort if it does not become publicly available at the same exact moment the paper becomes available.

A few papers exist as early drafts long before publication, and those are passed around for the purpose of getting some preliminary feedback, and to get the conversation about the topic going among experts. That is less common because many journals don’t like it, and how often this happens depends on the field of study. Indeed, there are entire “journals” that started as and still serve as semi-formalized outlets for early drafts of appers, academic theses, or reports are routinely published, sometimes years before a final peer reviewed product comes out, representing for example that year’s output from a long term grant. (NBER and BAR come to mind as examples of this.)

Authors and publishers send me embargoed papers they think I might want, or more commonly, ask me if I’d like to have a copy of an embargoed paper, giving me a chance to say yes. Often, I know of a subset of scientists who also have the paper (typically, the co-authors) and I can ask them questions about the paper before hand. Most outlets will provide a science writer with this sort of contact information. This is how all those fully formed news reports come out in the media the moment a paper is released. Days or even weeks of work has already happened, quietly and in secret, before the paper’s release.

Other research is available in other ways. I have colleagues who are always working on certain things, and they’ll say things like, “well, we don’t have it finalized yet, but this thing you said is probably wrong because X turns out to be larger than Y, even though we previously thought the opposite … we’ve got a paper coming out probably next summer on this…” or words to that effect.

All this is, of course, why I write the blog posts and you read them. You could do this too; You could have foreknowledge of the developments on the leading edge of a particular scientific field as well. You just have to become a credible quasi-journalistic outlet (I am not now nor have I ever been a journalist) and develop a pertinent Rolodex, and gain the trust of everybody. Takes a few years.

I mention all this because it makes this happen now and then: I have a concept of some aspect of climate change research that is not yet generally understood outside a limited range of experts. Then, of course, the dissemination of information catches up and everybody knows the same thing, and the revised, updated view of that bit of science is now added to general knowledge. Close behind, perhaps, follows a shift in, or refinement of, consensus. This is how science works large scale.

The scientific understanding of an active area of research is dynamic and requires currency. Six months old is old. A year or two old is ancient.

I’ll give you three examples.

A while back the generally understood consensus of sea level rise was that sea levels were going up at a certain relatively low rate, on average. However, that estimate was faulty because of a lack of integration of a full understanding of how water moves between fresh water reservoirs and the sea, and certain really cool research on ocean warming, gravitational effects, etc. had not yet been published. Also, some time was missing; there had been a couple of strange quirky sea level related events that turned out to be outliers, so data sets needed to be full updated, and a couple of years added over the passage of time. For this reason, what was generally known at one point in time was different from what came to be understood a few years later. People in my position saw it coming, people who were not tracking the literature held the old and incorrect view.

Second and related example: There was a set of estimates for how fast glaciers in polar regions (Greenland and Antarctica) would melt with global warming, and how much this process would contribute to sea level rise. However, there was some new research coming to bear on the issue that was starting to change that. Glaciers don’t just melt, but they also structurally fall apart, big chunks ending up in the sea and melting there. Some increase in understanding how that happens emerged. The upper limit of how fast that could probably happen, in the general publicly available knowledge base, was modest. But over a fairly short period of time, a previously highly speculative and closely held thought that the upper limit on how much ice could deteriorate was higher, and a similarly unexpressed thought that the lower limit on how soon that might start to happen, began to make its way into the more public discussion. This is still very much an area of uncertainty and very active research. Look for big changes and many surprises over the next 24 months. But today, the best informed experts have a very different view of what might happen, and what is likely to happen, than widely held a few years ago, because of this shift. Polar glaciers will likely fall apart and contribute to sea level rise more and sooner than the best guesses would have suggested five years ago.

A third example just went through a major change. A few years ago it was generally thought, and often repeated, that it was difficult to attribute human caused climate change as a reason behind any particular bad weather event. That has shifted dramatically over time. A set of studies a few years back failed to find any clear association in a majority of weather events. A year later, a similar number of studies, of new weather events, either attributed the events to climate change or resulted in “we can’t say one way or another.” The most recent papers are generally showing a likely connection. Meanwhile, certain research linking certain climate phenomena to a large set of bad weather events was developing. Note that the previous studies were conducted mainly ignoring this new and emerging research. I was a little like saying “We don’t know why so many more people are falling on the subway tracks these days” while ignoring a growing set of observations of bad people showing up at the subway stations and pushing people off the tracks on purpose. In the absence of consideration of this nefarious and willful behavior, one could not say that the increase in untoward events was anything other than a random uptick in numbers. Seeing and acknowledging an actual cause makes it impossible to not link the cause and effect.

This happened, as noted, slowly and in the background in the literature, and suddenly, just a few days ago, a crowing paper took that likely cause of severe weather, ran it in highly sophisticated and reliable models, and demonstrated that this is a thing. Humans release fossil carbon in greenhouse gasses (and do some other bad things), certain things about our climate system change unambiguously because of this, this causes an important but heretofore not fully understand change, which then causes additional droughts and floods across the globe.

Five years ago, that would have been regarded as speculation, worthy of consideration but nothing that could nail down our understanding of the greenhouse gas – severe weather link. Today, the link is sufficiently established to regard it as scientific fact rapidly becoming consensus, though there will certainly be a bit more fighting about it, and much refinement of the theory and data.

All of these examples can be rephrased in relation to the last IPCC report.

The most recent IPCC report was published nominally in 2014. It was restricted to existing peer reviewed literature, thus not including the pre-embargoed material (though there was an effort by many scientists to get stuff out in time to be employed in that process). The report took time to produce. The physical science basis part of the report, on which the rest is based, actually dates to 2013 nominally, though it includes some 2014 material.

It is now April 2017. A claim that “The IPCC Report said bla bla bla therefore you are wrong” is the same as “in or before 2013, at least 4 years ago, the best we knew was bla bla bla therefore your are wrong.

Let’s return to the sea level rise example and consider the thinking of how fast and how much glacial melting, and other factors, would cause sea levels to rise in the future.

There were several studies used in the IPCC report, mostly dating to or before 2011. I would regard the science in the IPCC report to reflect the thinking primarily of the first decade of the 21st century on this subject. The last 2 years, or even one year, of research on sea level rise contrasts remarkably with that early work, suggesting a faster rise and more of it. That is just what is published. I don’t happen to know of any new work coming out shortly, but I can promise you that the summaries, the estimates, and the graphics that would be produced by an IPCC-like agency working on a summary of the physical science of sea level rise as it stands right now would be significantly different than what the last such report by the actual IPCC provided in 2014.

Two IPCC reports back, it was estimated that global sea level could rise between 18 and 59 cm by 2100. The subsequent report, the most current one, estimated that sea levels can rise between 29 and 82 cm by 2100. A recent and well regarded paper, dating to early in 2016, and using the best available information and methodology, estimates that the global sea level could rise by more than a meter by 2100 from just the melting of Antarctic, not counting Greenland.

Longer term sea level rise estimates have also risen, with a key paper published in 2013 suggesting that we may be in for as much as two meters over the next few centuries, and the aforementioned most recent report suggesting “more than 15 metres by 2500.”

(I hasten to add that an estimate of between 8 and 15 meters has been on the table for a long time, coming from palaeoclimatologists, who have always seen higher levels because in the past, similar conditions today produced such high levels, indicating that current levels are actually unusually low.)

Climate science is progressing very rapidly, especially in some areas. There are things we know now, or that we feel fairly comfortable asserting as pretty likely, that one year ago, and certainly four years ago, were fairly uncertain or in some cases inconceivable.

Citing the most recent IPCC report about a climate change relate issues tells me two things:

1) You don’t read the literature or talk to climate scientists; and

2) You are not especially interested in an honest conversation about this important scientific and policy issue.


The recent work on sea level mentioned above is here, the IPCC report is here, and a summary of the IPCC and other sources is here.

It is possible, but unlikely, that the Great Barrier Reef can be saved

Here’s a video from the Guardian on the current status of the reef:

This is going to take a while. If there is a major bleaching event every year for a few years, the reef could essentially die off right away, but most likely, there will still be a few years where coral can spread, and a few years that are not too bad. So one must adjust expectations.

Let me put this a different, perhaps cynical but probably realistic, view. In about four years from now, there will be some bone-headed global warming denier standing on a boat off shore in Australia, showing us a section of really nice, well preserved, ecologically healthy reef. That person will tell us that climate scientists predicted that the Great Barrier Reef would be dead by now, but look, it isn’t!

The truth is that the reef is already severely damaged, and will recover only if water temperatures in the area cool down. That is not going to happen. A very likely scenario is that the living reef becomes a very limited phenomenon, so you will always be able to find a bit here or there that looks good, but the vast majority of the reef will not be alive.

Once a large area of the reef is dead — meaning specifically that the thin growth layer on the coral formation’s surface, where the living coral are, is dead — it will begin to dissolve and erode. The total dissolution and erosion of the geological structure is impossible, it will simply become a giant fossil. But, the minimum depth of the reef formation will increase to the point where there won’t be much sunlight, so recovery will be even less likely. Reefs start in shallow water, and then grow upwards as sea level rises (as it did in the past). The Great Barrier Reef is located on formerly dry land. With future sea level rise moving the sea surface up, and erosion of a dead coral structure pushing the surface of the reef down, we will reach a situation where the current location of the Great Barrier Reef is simply not a place a coral reef of this kind can exist, even if the sea temperatures and other conditions improve.

Personally, I don’t see any hope, medium and long term, for this natural feature. I think we need to preserve optimism where it is realistic, but very much avoid it when it isn’t. I’m not sure where we are at this time in relation to this particular outcome of human greenhouse gas pollution. I don’t see how two bad years in a row are not going to be followed by two more bad years in a row, given the steady increase in sea temperatures. However, climate systems to vary in the region, maybe it is possible. Maybe in three years we’ll be looking at a remarkable recovery. But, it is almost positively certain that over the next decade or two the frequency of bad years will go up and the best years will become unlivable for most of the coral.

An Update on the Arctic Sea Ice

As we pass through Spring on the way to summer, the sea ice in the Arctic is starting to melt. The ice usually peaks by the end of the first week in March or so, then slowly declines for a few weeks, then by about mid-May is heading rapidly towards its likely September minimum.

With global warming the ice has been reaching a lower winter maximum, and a much lower summer maximum. This is caused by warm air and water, and it contributes to global warming. The more ice on the sea for longer, during the northern Summer, reflects away a certain amount of sunlight. With less ice, less sunlight is reflected away. This is called a “positive feedback” but it is not a “positive” thing. It is a negative thing. (But it is not a “negative feedback,” that’s something different!)

We have seen a steady, but mostly recent, decline in sea ice. For years, climate science deniers have been telling us not to worry, the Arctic ice would come back.

But it hasn’t, and it is not going to.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center keeps track of the amount of sea ice on the Arctic. They have a nifty tool that you can use to plot the data from 1979 to the most recently available information, which is generally a today or yesterday. I used that tool to make a series of graphics I’d like to share with you here. Read the captions to get the key interpretations. The bottom line: Arctic sea ice reduction has accelerated and is not showing any sign of stabilizing.

I’m reminded of a saying allegedly uttered by thoracic surgeons. The bleeding always stops. Eventually. In a similar vein, I assume the reduction of Arctic sea ice will eventually stop. Then the Dinosaurs can live in the Arctic again!.

The chart with no year by year data shown. The grey line is the "baseline" which is usually a 20 or 30 year period against which to measure each year.  The grey area is the range over which almost all years occur in this baseline. Since it is two standard deviations that is about 95% of the years within the baseline period. Any year outside of that line is a significant anomaly.
The chart with no year by year data shown. The grey line is the “baseline” which is usually a 20 or 30 year period against which to measure each year. The grey area is the range over which almost all years occur in this baseline. Since it is two standard deviations that is about 95% of the years within the baseline period. Any year outside of that line is a significant anomaly.
These are the first ten years of available data. Notice that during this period, essentially, the 1980s,  all the years are above the average for most of the year.
These are the first ten years of available data. Notice that during this period, essentially, the 1980s, all the years are above the average for most of the year.
As we shift to the next ten year period, 1990 to 1999, the total ice cover throughout the year is less, close to the baseline average.
As we shift to the next ten year period, 1990 to 1999, the total ice cover throughout the year is less, close to the baseline average.

This trend continues in more recent years, with almost all years being below the baseline average.  Remember that second graph above where all the years were above average? That shows that the baseline is set during a period of actual warming, so it is an underestimate of how much ice should be there. And now, during the period 2000 - 2009, all the years have much less ice than this.
This trend continues in more recent years, with almost all years being below the baseline average. Remember that second graph above where all the years were above average? That shows that the baseline is set during a period of actual warming, so it is an underestimate of how much ice should be there. And now, during the period 2000 – 2009, all the years have much less ice than this.
Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 7.50.55 PM

This is the third year in a row that maximum sea ice has broken a record for being low.

The Inconceivably Bogus Republican Science Committee Hearings

Last week, House Representative Lamar Smith held yet another masturbatory hearing to promote climate science denial. Smith is bought and paid for by Big Oil, so that is the most obvious reason he and his Republican colleagues would put on such a dog and pony show, complete with a chorus of three science deniers (Judith Curry, Roger Pielke Jr, and John Cristy). I don’t know why they invited actual and respected climate scientist Mike Mann, because all he did was ruin everything by stating facts, dispelling alt-facts, and making well timed Princess Bride references.

The hearings were called “Full Committee Hearing- Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method.”

Several others, including specialized climate science writers as well as mainstream media, have written about the hearings:

<li><strong>Dana Nuccitelli at the Guardian:</strong> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2017/apr/04/inconceivable-the-latest-theatrical-house-science-committee-hearing">Inconceivable! The latest theatrical House 'Science' committee hearing</a></li>

… as is usually the case in these hearings, despite being presented with the opportunity to learn from climate experts, most of the committee members seemed more interested in expressing their beliefs, however uninformed they might be.

At the 2:04:05 mark in the hearing video, Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL) provided a perfect example … asking witness Judith Curry what causes ice ages (Milankovich cycles, which we’ve known for nearly 100 years), so that he could make the point that natural factors caused past climate changes – a point that usually leads to a common logical fallacy (presented here in cartoon form).

Webster proceeded to claim it was “the standard belief of most scientists” in the 1970s that the Earth was headed into an ice age.

This has been discussed at length on this blog, see especially this guest post. It is indeed true that back in the 1960s (and a little ways into the 70s) climate scientists considered cooling as well as warming for future scenarios. As Dana points out in his post, this was partly due to the consideration of aerosols (dust) that might cause a cooling effect sufficient to push us into an ice age. But it has been understood for much longer that the most likely scenario was not cooling, but warming, if we keep putting greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.

<li><strong>Ben Jervey</strong> at Desmog: <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2017/03/29/house-science-committee-hearing-lamar-smith-michael-mann-climate-consensus-deniers">House Science Committee Hearing Pits Three Fringe Climate Deniers Against Mainstream Climate Scientist Michael Mann</a></li>

Ben nots that the intent of these hearings, despite the alt-reasons given by the chair, was to provide a platform for the tiny number of scientists (plus Roger) with positions that must be regarded as firmly in the science denial camp.

Besides Dr. Mann (author of The Madhouse Effect) the other three experts will all be familiar to DeSmog readers:

  • Dr. Judith Curry, a former professor at the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who has since resigned to focus on her private business, Climate Forecast Applications Network. Curry has admitted to receiving funding from fossil fuel companies while at Georgia Tech, and she is frequently cited and quoted by climate skeptic blogs and fossil fuel-funded politicians for her stance that the climate is “always changing.”
  • Dr. John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science and Director of the Earth System Science Center of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and the official Alabama State Climatologist since November 2000, who routinely critiques climate modeling and has sung the praises of carbon dioxide.
  • Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr., who is not a climate scientist, but a climate science policy writer working at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and who Joe Romm at Climate Progress once called “probably the single most disputed and debunked person in the science blogosphere, especially on the subject of extreme weather and climate change.”
  • “The witness panel does not really represent the vast majority of climate scientists,” said Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, an Oregon Democrat. “Visualize 96 more climate scientists that agree with the mainstream consensus … 96 more Dr. Manns.”

    <li>Dan Vergano at BuzzFeed: <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/danvergano/mann-inquisition?utm_term=.vwArzR8GR#.kaXl5RdKR">This Famous Climate Scientist Just Endured A Washington Inquisition</a></li>
    

    Climate science went on trial on Wednesday at a hearing held by Congress’s notoriously grouchy science committee.//

    The witness list pitted Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann — a lightning rod for energy industry-funded attacks on scientists for two decades — against two scientists critical of their own field, former Georgia Tech scientist Judith Curry and University of Alabama satellite scientist John Christy, as well as a political scientist, Roger Pielke Jr. of the University Colorado, who has argued against links between climate change and extreme weather. These three climate skeptics had collectively testified 20 times previously at similar Congressional hearings.

    As Dan implies, the gang of three deniers, and a few others, have been before this and other panels in the US Congress again and again. Interestingly, the short list of deniers available has grown shorter over the years. There are no new ones — that 97% consensus figure works only if you include everyone. If you look only at younger scientists, it is very hard to find any deniers — so there is some attrition for the usual demographic reasons. But also, at least one denier, Heartland funded alt-Harvard scientist Willie Soon, has been taken off the list because his reputation died an ugly death from self inflicted wounds.

    <li>Devin Henry at <a href="http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/326336-members-researchers-spar-over-climate-science-at-hearing">The Hill: House Panel Hearing Becomes Climate Change Sparring Session</a></li>
    

    “The current scientific consensus on human-caused climate change is based on thousands of studies conducted by thousands of scientists all around the globe,” committee ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) said.

    … Michael Mann criticized committee Republicans for their NOAA probe, saying it “is meant to send a chilling signal to the entire research community, that if you, too, publish and speak out about the threat of human-caused climate change, we’re going to come after you.”

    Mann sparred directly with Smith, highlighting a Friday article in Science magazine that criticized Smith for speaking at a conference for climate change skeptics. Science magazine is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    “That is not known as an objective writer or magazine,” Smith said.

    Mann replied, “Well, it is ‘Science’ magazine.”

    This part, which is also discussed in the above referenced piece at the Guardian, was amazing. When Smith called the United State’s primary science journal a biased source, I could hear the sound of jaws dropping in unison across the world.

    <li>Rebecca Leber at Mother Jones: <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2017/03/michael-mann-lamar-smith-house-science-committee">A Scientist Just Spent 2 Hours Debating the Biggest Global Warming Deniers in Congress</a></li>
    

    Michael Mann lamented that he was the only witness representing the overwhelming scientific consensus that manmade global warming poses a major threat.

    “We find ourselves at this hearing today, with three individuals who represent that tiny minority that reject this consensus or downplay its significance, and only one—myself—who is in the mainstream,” he said in his opening testimony.

    Mann blasted Republicans for “going after scientists simply because you don’t like their publications of their research—not because the science is bad, but because you find the research inconvenient to the special interests who fund your campaigns.” He added, “I would hope we could all agree that is completely inappropriate.”

    <li>Emily Atkin: <a href="https://newrepublic.com/minutes/141716/house-republicans-held-insane-hearing-just-attack-climate-science">House Republicans held an insane hearing just to attack climate science</a></li>
    

    The Trump administration has been nothing if not a master class in gaslighting—the art of manipulating people, often through lies, into questioning their own sanity—and its pupils on Capitol Hill have clearly been taking notes. On Wednesday, the Republicans on the House Science Committee held a three-hour hearing on the merits of climate change science, a cavalcade of falsehoods so relentless and seemingly rational that one might well need psychiatric counseling after having watched it.

    I’m going to disagree with Emily on the ordering of things. The Republicans were already very good at doing this. It may be that Trump learned from them, or it might just be that governing from the conservative agenda and real estate both involve a lot of gaslighting.

    But, she is right; this is gaslighting. EG:

    At one point, a Republican on the committee even tried to pin the label of “climate denier” on Michael Mann, a world-renowned climate scientist the Democrats had called to defend mainstream science. Georgia Congressman Barry Loudermilk asked Mann if he though it was possible, even in the slightest, that humans are not the main driver of climate change. Mann said that based on the current data, it’s not possible. Loudermilk concluded: “We could say you’re a denier of natural change.”

    Dave Levitan at Gizmodo: Today’s Congressional Hearing on Climate Change Was a Colossal Train Wreck

    It was, overall, a horrendously depressing display of scientific illiteracy, but there were some odd bits of optimism to be found. The witnesses all agreed at various points that yes, the climate is changing and that humans play a role (though they disagreed, contrary to overwhelming evidence, on the magnitude of that role), and they also agreed that the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to Earth-observing systems at NASA, NOAA, and elsewhere are a monumentally dumb idea.

    What’s more, perhaps the best point was made by one of the GOP witnesses, Roger Pielke, Jr.: “Scientific uncertainty is not going to be eliminated on this topic before we have to act.”

    In other words, not knowing everything is not a justification for doing nothing.

    One of the more disturbing moments during the hearing was when Republican representative Clay Higgins asked Mike Mann if he was a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists. At first, I was surprised to hear the answer: “No.” Then, I realized, that if you are a smart witness, often called as a witness, then other than the major professional societies, it is probably better to not be a member of anything.

    It was even more shocking when Higgins, who is clearly not the sharpest bullet in the chamber, demanded that Mann provide proof that he is not a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Mann indicated that he had already provided his resume, which does not say that he is a UCS member, but would be happy to send a second copy.

    Sorry, Mike, that is not proof that you are not a card carrying member of the Union of Concerned Scientists. You will need something better than that. Here, for example, is a valid Not a Member card:

    Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 1.28.08 PM

    You’re welcome.

    I have placed the YouTube video of the entire hearing at the bottom of the post.

    Starts at about 15 minutes:

    Teachers: Be on the alert for this anti-science mailing!

    A well known anti-science “think” tank has sent around, to teachers, a mailing including an antiscience book, a movie, and nice letter and, oddly, a pamphlet exposing the fact that the mailing is entirely politically motivated.

    Most science teachers will ignore this. A few science teachers are science deniers, and they already had the material in the mailings. So, I think this was a huge waste of money and effort. But it happened and you should know about it, and you should warn anyone you know that is a teacher.

    The real concern, in my opinion, is not this falling into the hands of science teachers. The science teachers will recognize this for what it is. The concern is this mailing in the hands of non-science teachers who are not inoculated against it, who may then wonder why their colleagues down the hall are not “teaching the controversy,” as it were.

    The Heartland Institute, famous for supporting research to prove that smoking is not bad for people, and more recently for promoting research that climate change is not real, has sent this mailing to many thousands of teachers. I’ve heard the number 300,000, but that number is probably from Heartland, and they lie all the time, so I don’t believe it.

    The Heartland Institute

    …is a Chicago-based free market think tank … that has been at the forefront of denying the scientific evidence for man-made climate change. The Heartland Institute has received at least $676,500 from ExxonMobil since 1998 but no longer discloses its funding sources. The Union of Concerned Scientists found that “Nearly 40% of the total funds that the Heartland Institute has received from ExxonMobil since 1998 were specifically designated for climate change projects.”

    David Padden founded The Heartland Institute in 1984 and served as its Chairman between 1984 and 1995, co-chairing with Joseph Bast. Padden was also one of the original members of the Board of Directors of the Cato Institute…

    In the 1990s, the Heartland Institute worked with the tobacco company Philip Morris to question the science linking second-hand smoke to health risks, and lobbied against government public health reforms. Heartland continues to maintain a “Smoker’s Lounge” section of their website which brings together their policy studies, Op-Eds, essays, and other documents that purport to “[cut] through the propaganda and exaggeration of anti-smoking groups.”

    In a 1998 op-ed, Heartland President Joe Bast claimed that “moderate” smoking doesn’t raise lung cancer risks, and that there were “few, if any, adverse health effects” associated with smoking.

    The mailer includes the book “Why Scientists Disagree about Global Warming, with three authors including Craig Idso, Robert Carter, and Fred Singer, with a forward by conservative columnist Marita Noon.

    Idso is the head of an organization who’s stated purpose is to “separate reality from rhetoric in the emotionally-charged debate that swirls around the subject of carbon dioxide and global change,” which means, in this case, to deny the basics of atmospheric physics. He has numerous ties with the oil industry. Carter died in 2016. He advised several climate change denying organizations and filled the print media with many anti-science op eds and editorials. He has openly admitted that he is a paid shill of the petroleum industry. Singer is an actual former scientist but recognized by his colleagues as an anti-climate science spokesperson. Singer has been on the Heartland Institute payroll for quite some time.

    The book is full of lies and misdirections. It is mainly an attack on the “scientific consensus” on climate change.

    You have probably heard a lot about the “climate consensus.” Since the attacking the consensus is the main objective of this mailing, I’d like to spend a moment on that topic. Feel free to skip down to the bottom of the post for suggestions on what books would be good for your favorite science teacher to have in his or her room, in case you want to participate in a sort of grass-roots counter mailing!

    In most scientific endeavors, where new discovery is being made, a period of uncertainty, perhaps confusion, perhaps vigorous competition among ideas, is usually followed by a period of growing consensus around a particular scientific idea (a model, a theory, a set of methods and interpretations of findings, etc., depending on the science).

    The growth and establishment of consensus is one of the key objectives of science. Scientists know that consensus is powerful and even limiting; an incorrect consensus can mislead researchers and be very counter productive. For this reason, scientists take consensus pretty seriously. Like a jury deciding on innocence or guilt of a person accused of a very serious crime, scientists don’t want to make a mistake. However, scientists are more like a civil case jury than a criminal case jury. We are not required to reject an otherwise well developed case because someone has raised doubt about one tiny aspect of it. Rather, we arrive at consensus using the preponderance of evidence, like in American civil law.

    And, once consensus is established, it does not become dogma. Rather, it becomes a dart board, always hanging there in sight, always subject to attack and interrogation. (OK, I know that nobody interrogates their dart board. Maybe it is more like an Elf on the Shelf. But I digress.)

    Consider “continental drift” (aka plate tectonics). When Alfred Wegener proposed his theory that continents move around in the early 1900s, he noted that many others had suggested similar ideas. Wegener proposed a comprehensive model of what may have happened in the earth’s past, but he lacked a good mechanism for it. So, the middle of the 20th century involved a period of criticism of his theory, with the idea eventually being more or less thrown out. One of the key features of plate tectonics is how the two kinds of Earth’s crust interact, but geologists did not yet know that the Earth has these two kinds of crust. “Deep sea” exploration had found submerged continental crust, and that looked like regular crust, so it was assumed that the land under the sea was the same as the land on the land.

    I note that even though oceanic crust was not understood in the 19th century, Darwin had observed, during the voyage of the Beagle, that a set of islands in the Atlantic, which are actually a bit of ocean crust thrust above the sea surface, was very odd, and that with more study, may cause us to think novel thoughts about rocks.

    Even though the theory was eclipsed, some people still thought it was a good idea.

    So, we went from nobody getting continental drift, but with a few people mentioning it now and then, to a surge in thinking about it, to a widespread rejection but with a few people thinking it might be valid. I oversimplify, but it is safe to say that by the middle of the 20th century, even though “continental drift” had been a conversation in science since even before science could be said to exist, there was no consensus.

    The later part of the middle of the 20th century, however, saw more and more evidence mounting. Rocks were found to be absolutely identical in the evidence of how they formed (that is the main way geologists divide up rocks) across large areas. For example, there are rock formations in South America, South Africa, India, Antartica, and Australia that clearly were once part of a single geological formation all on the same continent. This required that the continents had moved, and in this case, that these particular continents were all attached to each other at one (or more) time.

    Also during this period, deep water oceanography was advanced and the actual sea floor was observed and sampled. Mid ocean ridges were discovered and documented. This is where the continents were spreading.

    Meanwhile, the dynamic of continental crust subducting under other crust were being figured out, and the significant movement of continents right now (like around the Pacific) became the only way to explain, for example, Japan. The fossil record, which demonstrates a complex biogeography of evolution and movement of species, either restricted by being on different continents, or able to move around large areas that are now on different continents, started to makes sense only in the light of the emerging and increasingly detailed theory of continental movement. Research on how the Earth itself works as a planet, below the surface, eventually allowed for, if not definitively providing, a means for the continents to move.

    Plate tectonics (the process) and continental drift (the historical events) eventually became consensus science.

    Climate change, the processes by which climate patterns form and change over time, including the role of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, and the potential contribution of human release of fossil Carbon as CO2 or Methane in causing significant change in climate, was consensus science at least a few decades ago. But agents of the petroleum and coal industries preferred citizens (voters and consumers) and governments (regulators) to not act on this already happening climate change. They funded libertarian and conservative front groups and others to manufacture doubt about climate change. For this reason, five years ago, to pick a date, the casual observer could not tell, depending on who they listened to and what they read, whether or not climate scientists were all on the same page.

    A group of rather brave and smart scientists decided to do something that had not been done very much before, and that had never been addressed with a fully committed research program: Measure the consensus.

    I have a few comments on that, but the best way to learn all about this effort is to check out “The Consensus Project.”

    Normally the consensus over a scientific issue forms and all the scientists know about it. That is part of what being a scholar of science is about. You learn to learn about the developing arguments, the fights, the building consensus, the overturning of ideas, all of it, over historical time, recent decades, the present, as you study to become a scientists and you continue to keep track of this information as a working scientists.

    Scientists know what consensus means, and they know its limitations and what questions remain. Today in geology nobody is working to disprove the idea that Cambridge Argillite and its sister rock in Norway match up and were once part of the same sea basin prior to the opening of the Atlantic Ocean, because that fact can only be wrong if everything we know about rocks is wrong. But others are working on, and arguing about, important details of the deep layers of the Earth and how they act in moving continents around.

    But the scientists studying climate consensus were forced into the position of addressing consensus, as a concept or as a measure of the maturity or stability of a particular scientific construct, because the bought and paid for deniers forced them to do so with their politically motivated anti-science (and anti environmental) yammering.

    There were actually two groups, and their work is often confused. The less widespread but excellent analysis that happened first showed that almost 100% of scientists agree on the basics of global warming related science. The more intensive analysis showed that nearly 100% of the literature agreed on the basics of global warming. In both cases, they were a couple percent short of full consensus, but I note the following:

    1) The research was conservative, biased a little towards including items or people on the non-consensus side, in order to be unassailable.

    2) The research was done with scientists and peer reviewed papers over a period of time, and the work ended (most of it) a couple of years ago. So, a figure like “97%” reflects, perhaps, the state of the field in 2010 better than 2017. The last few years have seen the total wiping out of certain non-consensus generating observations (like the so called “pause” in global warming). In other words, if this work showed a 3% non-consensus, I expect at least half of that to have gone away by now.

    3) The deniers and their works, if they are scientists and if the work is peer reviewed, are of course considered in such studies, so that accounts for a half percent of so.

    4) In normal society, something like 8% of people believe they were abducted by aliens. About 1% or a bit less probably believe they are aliens. (That works out nicely.) Among scientists, there are always going to be a few oddballs. There is a tenured professor at Harvard who is a UFO-ologist. There was until recently a tenured professor in Washington who thought Bigfoot was real. There are probably one or two geologists who think plate tectonics is fake. Science is lucky that the oddball number is low compared to society in general. But it is not zero.

    The Heartland mailing asks teachers, “How do you teach global warming?”

    Let me ask you that now, if you are a teacher? I’d love to know how and if, and using what materials and methods, you address climate change and global warming. Let us know in the comments!

    Meanwhile, please let any teachers you know about this mailing. Feel free to share this blog post with them. And, if you are not a teacher but know one, or if you are a parent with a kid in school, consider sending the teacher a note, and if you feel up to it, a book! (But not the one Heartland sent!)

    I do have some suggestions for you. There are many books on climate change and global warming, and they have tended to differentiate themselves so that there is remarkably little redundancy. Here, I’ll note a handful of recent (all are very current) books that serve a variety of different purposes. I’ve reviewed most of these on this blog (see links below) if you want more info on them.

    Dire_Predictions_Mann_KumpDire Predictions, 2nd Edition: Understanding Climate Change by Michael Mann and Lee Kump.

    The UN’s IPCC periodically summarizes the state of scientific thinking on climate change. It is a huge report written for an expert audience. This book turns that report into something accessible by the average person, and does so with excellent graphics and other material. This book should be on the shelf in every science classroom.

    Explore global warming with graphics, illustrations, and charts that separate climate change fact from fiction, presenting the truth about global warming in a way that’s both accurate and easy to understand. Respected climate scientists Michael E. Mann and Lee R. Kump address important questions about global warming and climate change, diving into the information documented by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and breaking it down into clear graphics that explain complex climate questions in simple illustrations that present the truth of the global warming problem clearly.

    My review

    Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 11.10.24 AMA Global Warming Primer: Answering Your Questions About The Science, The Consequences, and The Solutions by Jeffrey Bennett.

    This is the book sent around to teachers by the National Center for Science Education. It is an excellent overview of climate change and human impacts, using a unique approach that will work especially well in both high school science and social studies classrooms.

    Is human-induced global warming a real threat to our future? Most people will express an opinion on this question, but relatively few can back their opinions with solid evidence. Many times we’ve even heard pundits say “I am not a scientist” to avoid the issue altogether. But the truth is, the basic science is not that difficult. Using a question and answer format, this book will help readers achieve three major goals: To see that anyone can understand the basic science of global warming; To understand the arguments about this issue made by skeptics, so that readers will be able to decide for themselves what to believe; To understand why, despite the “gloom and doom” that often surrounds this topic, the solutions are ones that will not only protect the world for our children and grandchildren, but that will actually lead us to a stronger economy with energy that is cheaper, cleaner, and more abundant than the energy we use today.

    Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know® by Joe Romm.

    This is more for the parents and teachers than the students, but it could be an excellent choice for an environmental science class. Romm discusses many of the pragmatic aspects of global warming, for the average individual, which is not seen as intensively developed in other books.

    This book offers the most up-to-date examination of climate change’s foundational science, its implications for our future, and the core clean energy solutions. Alongside detailed but highly accessible descriptions of what is causing climate change, this entry in the What Everyone Needs to Know series answers questions about the practical implications of this growing force on our world:

    · How will climate change impact you and your family in the coming decades?
    · What are the future implications for owners of coastal property?
    · Should you plan on retiring in South Florida or the U.S. Southwest or Southern Europe?
    · What occupations and fields of study will be most in demand in a globally warmed world?
    · What impact will climate change have on investments and the global economy?

    My review.


    Climatology versus Pseudoscience: Exposing the Failed Predictions of Global Warming Skeptics by Dana Nuccitelli.

    Dana examines climate change by comparing what people, both real scientists and the fake ones, predicted, with what happened. He does other stuff too, but that is my favorite part of this book.

    28 Climate Change Elevator Pitches: Short Explanations on the Scientific Basis of Man-made Climate Change by Rob Honeycutt.

    This is hot off the presses. Again, this is more for the teacher and parent than the school setting, but since it is new I wanted you to know about it. My review is here.

    How Global Warming Causes Extreme Weather: New research

    I want to tell you about what may be the most important research result in the area of climate change in recent years. First, a little background.

    We know from paleoclimate studies that the Earth’s climate system changes from time to time enough to leave a mark. For example, it is widely thought that during the “ice ages” (periods of extensive or moderate glaciation) over the last couple of million years, areas that are currently very dry had a lot more water. Some combination of rain and evaporation (more rain and less evaporation) conspired to fill playas (dried up lakes) or salt lakes (like the Great Salt Lake in Utah) with so much fresh water that inland basins filled and started to drain out to the sea. It is hard to imagine how the weather would have been so different to make the arid regions of the American West into very wet places, long term, but it happened.

    As we head towards a warmer and warmer planet, one would think that whatever happened during the ice ages would be the opposite of what we would expect in the future. To some extent that is almost certainly true, as certain regions will likely be much dryer in a heated up world than they were during the cooler ice ages. But some patterns of climate change are not simply characterized by temperature. The pattern of movement of air, and the pattern of moisture in the air, can be different from one climate system to another in very complex ways. Perhaps (this is very conjectural) the recent intense rains we see in the American West would be a common phenomenon in a warmed world. Perhaps the phenomenon of ARkStorm, a very rare situation where several “pineapple express” style storms happen over a single winter, large ones, in rapid sequence, filling the dry valleys of the American West with giant lakes and wiping out low lying villages and most of the crop land. That kind of feels like the Pleistocene when the great inland deserts were converted int great inland lakes! Or, perhaps the multe-year california drought that we experienced up until just a few months ago will become the “normal” situation.

    Don’t get me started, but it is not difficult to imagine a world in which the American west has 4 to 10 year long droughts punctuated with a couple of winters in a row sufficiently wet to fill those lakes, so we get both!


    ADDED: Jet Streams, Extreme Weather and Other Things with Stefan Rahmstorf


    Here is the point of all this: Back in the 1950s through the early 1980s, by my estimation, North America (and probably many regions in the world) experienced stereotypical storm patterns that were like storm patterns seen over many centuries, though with the occasional interruption for something strage for a few years. 1860 – 1861 were strange years out west. The 1930s were strange in a lot of places. But what happened startomg around 1980 or so was different.

    Prior to 1980s, storms in North America came from certain directions, were more common during certain times of years, dropped a range of precipitation amounts on the ground, and rarely were severe in the amount of rain that occurred. After 1980, the timing and various aspects of the physical nature of those storms including their apparent directionality and the speed which with they passed through, changed.

    For example, in Minnesota, at the Twin Cities airport, there was an average of about 1.64 above 2 inch rainfall events per year for the hundred years of record keeping before 1971. In the time following, to the present, that number went up to about 2.7. Since about 2000 that number has gone to close to 3.5. Meanwhile, out east, the frequency of large blizzards has gone from one every few years to at least one in most years.

    Putting this a slightly different way, the chance in a given year of having a major storm around these parts has more than doubled, with that doubling happening well within the lifetime of most of the people who live in the region.

    I’ve written before about a special class of research on climate change that I have always regarded as among the most important. The authors of that earlier work overlap with the most recent work, with a key player being Stefan Rahmstorf. Rahmstorf and his colleagues, a few years ago, tackled an interesting problem that others had also noticed, and for which a number of explanations were floating around. Speaking of floating, this work surfaced and got some real traction when the Rocky Mountains near Boulder, and up near Calgary, were each hit by a really bad and very special kind of storm.

    In each case, the storm system was trained along a very curvy and slow moving jet stream. When the jet stream slows it curves, or when it curves, it slows, or, really, kinda both. When that happens, if there is a big wet storm following along in the air system that itself creates/is created by the jet stream, that storm also slows. Fed by a more or less unending supply of moisture, such a storm can drop a lot of rain on a given region. We tend to think of the most severe storms as being fast moving, and they often are. Hurricanes can be pretty darn fast. Rapidly moving fronts coming off a dry line are associated with either tornado outbreaks or derecho storms. But these big and slow jet stream mediated storms are very very wet. Calgary was badly flooded, like no one has seen before. Boulder was very badly flooded more than in anyone’s memory.

    Storms like this happen now and then, and can be found in historical records, and may have even happened in or near Calgary or Boulder at some time in the past. But since Calgary, we have had many many more such storms. Here in Minnesota, we’ve had a few. St. Louis had one. Texas had had a bunch of them. They’ve happened in China, Japan, all across Europe.

    These storms, which are associated with a jet stream that is curvy and slow, are now common, and they were once rare.

    What is the climate change connection? How do we know that global warming causes this?

    There are a couple of different lines of evidence. First, as noted by the earlier work, and exemplified in the graph I put at the top of the post, which I made a couple of years ago, researchers have noticed that these curvy jet stream are more common. Another reason to think this is that curvy jet streams are expected to be associated with an Arctic that is warming more rapidly than the rest of the planet.

    How does that work? I can explain it in general terms that will probably make some atmospheric scientists yell at me, but that I think is close to reality and also understandable by the average science-savvy civilian.

    The big features of the weather system on a planet with an atmosphere have to do with heat reaching equilibrium across the planet. There is more heat near the equator, less near the poles, so it is all about heat moving from the equators to the poles, but also, hot stuff, water or air, making that journey. This hypothetically sets up an interesting phenomenon in the atmosphere that can be thought of as a giant twisting donut — a plain round donut shaped donut, not some hipster cream filled donut — just north of the equator, and another donut just south of it. Air is moving up in altitude at the equator, cools and spreads away from the equator, then drops back down to the surface, and heads back to where it was originally heated to get warmed up again.

    This pair of giant twisting donuts of air helps set up another giant twisting donut of air to the north and south, and those donuts can, in turn, set up another, and so on. On a small planet like Mars, with a thin atmosphere, there may be one single donut per hemisphere. On giant heavy atmosphere planets like Jupiter and Saturn, you get many such donuts, and an overall striped appearance from a distance.

    On earth, you get one really well defined donut (in each hemisphere) then a poorly defined donut, then another donut that is fairly well defined but that is also rotating in a circle, around the pole, much like a donut that got partly stepped on, rolled out the door of the donut shop, and his heading down the street.

    Now here’s the thing, the explanation you can understand once you rap your head around these donuts: If the difference in heat at the equator vs. at the poles is great, the donuts are well defined and energetic. If the difference in heat between the equator and the poles is less, the donuts become less well defined, wobbly, and curvy.

    The upper atmosphere region between adjoining donuts and the jet stream are more or less the same thing. So, as the arctic warms faster than the rest of the planet, the donuts change their configuration and you get curvy jet streams that can set up to remain in the same location over long periods of time.

    Simple.

    There was, however, a major missing part of this theory, and Michael Mann, climate scientist, joined the Rahmstorf et al team to fill in that blank. It is very difficult to be sure that a climatic phenomenon is either a) for real or b) characterizable as you’ve witnessed it, when you are looking at it for just a few years. If there is a change in climate because of the above described effects, there are not too many years of data allowing us to track it, observe its variations, or to figure out exactly how it works. This is complicated by several factors. For example, an alternate but similar explanation for the waves themselves, and the weather that comes with them, is the warming of the North Pacific. Hell, it could be both factors, because both factors may reduce the heat differential between the midriff and heads of the planet.

    There are two obvious solutions to this problem. One is to sit back and wait a hundred years or so and collect data then consider the problem with a lot more information at hand. I’m sure climate scientists are busy doing this as we speak, but it may take a while! The other is to use climate modeling to simulate long periods of time, and see if quai-resonant waves and changes in the weather pattern are associated with anthropological global warming.

    Michael Mann told me “that there is now a detectable influence of anthropogenic climate change on jet stream dynamics associated with extreme, persistent weather events like the 2010 Russian heat wave/wildfires, 2011 Texas heat wave/drought, 2013 European floods, etc. This is the first article, in my view, to demonstrate a robust such connection.”

    This research involved combining some 50 climate models that comprise the CMIP5 project, and historical observations of climate over time. They found that under conditions of a warming Arctic, “standing waves” (quasi-resonant waves in other parlance) formed, just as we’ve seen during recent bad weather events. Above, I focused on rainfall events, but drought, extreme fire conditions, etc. are the other side of the coin, or rather, the other side of the jet streams. A persistent standing wave in a jet stream can cause a few nice and sunny days to transform into several years lack of rain, and a drought.

    “Both the models and observations suggest this signal has only recently emerged from the background noise of natural variability. We are now able to connect the dots when it comes to human-caused global warming and an array of extreme recent weather events,” said Mann.

    Here is the abstract of the paper:

    Persistent episodes of extreme weather in the Northern Hemisphere summer have been shown to be associated with the presence of high-amplitude quasi-stationary atmospheric Rossby waves within a particular wavelength range (zonal wavenumber 6–8). The underlying mechanistic relationship involves the phenomenon of quasi-resonant amplification (QRA) of synoptic-scale waves with that wavenumber range becoming trapped within an effective mid-latitude atmospheric waveguide. Recent work suggests an increase in recent decades in the occurrence of QRA-favorable conditions and associated extreme weather, possibly linked to amplified Arctic warming and thus a climate change influence. Here, we isolate a specific fingerprint in the zonal mean surface temperature profile that is associated with QRA-favorable conditions. State-of-the-art (“CMIP5”) historical climate model simulations subject to anthropogenic forcing display an increase in the projection of this fingerprint that is mirrored in multiple observational surface temperature datasets. Both the models and observations suggest this signal has only recently emerged from the background noise of natural variability.

    Historical data and cutting edge modeling and analysis strongly indicates that global warming, caused by human release of greenhouse gas, is increasing the frequency of persistent weather extremes such as very wet or very dry conditions. This paper looked at the northern hemisphere summer.

    We have long passed the point where you can say with a straight face, “you can’t attribute a given weather event to global warming.” Climate change is change in climate; weather is climate today, climate is weather long term. Weather generally carries the climate change signal, and some of the weather is very different than it was prior to recent decades because of that change. You can’t separate a given weather event from global warming.

    Michael E. Mann, Stefan Rahmstorf, Kai Kornhuber, Byron A. Steinman, Sonya K. Miller & Dim Coumou, 2017, Influence of Anthropogenic Climate Change on Planetary Wave Resonance and Extreme Weather Events.

    Climate Change Elevator Pitches

    Rob Honeycutt is famous for his many contributions, at Skeptical Science, in the comment threats on my blog, and elsewhere, in defense of climate science, where that defense is largely against the deniers of science and damagers of civilization. (He is also the guy who makes these famous messenger bags) He deserves a lot of credit for all the work he has done in this area.

    Over the years, Honeycutt has developed a number of dialogs related to most, possibly all, areas of human caused global warming and climate change. Along with these dialogs, he has also developed some very helpful graphics.

    And now, he has put them together in a book: 28 Climate Change Elevator Pitches: Short Explanations on the Scientific Basis of Man-made Climate Change.

    Full disclosure: As noted in the book, I did help out as a reader of some of the chapters, but I hasten to add that I did very little to contribute to this book; when I first saw it, it was very far along and nearly a done project.

    The premise of the book is:

    If you stepped into an elevator and had 2 minutes to explain some aspect of climate science to someone, could you do it? Most people lack the time to become fully informed on this critical issue. The science is complex and varied. Here are 28 quick pitches to help you better understand this issue which we should all be concerned about.

    Personally, I’m not sure if these, or most of these, 28 arguments are truly elevator speeches. For one thing, where graphics are used, you’d have to carry the graphics around with you! For another thing, as brief and concise as they are, a true elevator speech has to be one paragraph long and that’s it.

    But, the arguments are carefully thought out, scientifically valid, and clear. Indeed, a true elevators speech is not supposed to be the convincing story, the discourse that causes someone to accept an argument. Rather, the elevator speech is designed to get the person with whom you are speaking to step off the elevator with you, walk slowly down the hallway towards their destination, and even be willing to stop for an extra minute to hear you out. That speech, that somewhat longer and full argument about a very specific topic, is what Rob Honeycutt’s book does at such a high level of excellence. This book, available in various formats including the Kindle, is an essential add on to your library (and the Kindle version is only 4 bucks!).

    You may want the afore linked to Kindle version (or get an eVersion on iTunes, or wherever) because it will be searchable, which may be handy. But, because of the graphics, I’m thinking you will much prefer a print version. The print version, (CLICK HERE FOR THAT) because it has high quality graphics, is not quite as inexpensive, but I know from the author that this is about as cheap as he could make it. Honeycutt is so committed to making this widely available that he went ahead and made a cheaper lower res version, and a higher res version.

    Dr. Gavin Schmidt’s Epic Response to Scott Adams

    Scott Adams is the creator of Dilbert, the once funny but now highly repetitive cartoon about a nerd who has a job in an office.

    Dr. Gavin Schmidt is high up in the top ten list of world class climate scientists. He is Director of the currently under siege GISS Unit of NASA, where much of the climate science done by that agency is carried out. If you read my blog, you’ve read his work, because you also read RealClimate, where GS writes about climate science in a manner designed to be understandable to the intelligent, honestly interested, thoughtful individual.

    Adams has a history of going after core science concepts, often substituting scientific reality with his own. He has done so with climate science.

    And, he’s done it again. In a recent blog post (of yesterday) Adams tries to “convince skeptics that climate change is a problem”

    This is a re-hash of earlier posts he’s written, in which he does the old denial two step. Of course climate change is real, he says. I’m not a scientist, he says. I don’t know jack about climate science in particular, he says. Then, he uses up piles of ink telling climate scientists how they’ve got all the science wrong.

    His objective, I assume, is to spread and nurture doubt about climate science and science in general.

    Dr Schmidt caught a tweet of Adams’, pointing to his absurd blog post, and responded with a series of tweets addressing all the things.

    I wanted to preserve this excellent, well documented and richly illustrated TweetTextBook, and it occurred to me that you might want to see it too. So, here are the tweets.

    Feel free to add additional relevant tweets to the comments, if you like. I hope this doesn’t break the Internet.

    Earliest Tornado in Minnesota

    It is now verified that the earliest 2017 tornados — first tornados of the season — struck several communities in east-central Minnesota (a few miles north and south of me). So what you say? Especially because it was a mere F1 and didn’t hurt anyone!

    This is an important event because the earliest recorded tornado of the year in Minnesota was previously March 18th, and that was in 1968. This tornado, striking on March 6th (confirmed yesterday by the NWS) is way earlier than that!

    One tornado, near Zimmerman went for nine miles.

    A second tornado appears to have passed through the community of Clark’s Grove as well. That one may have been on the ground for over 12 miles.

    Neither tornado was large, but there was a lot of damage to property and trees.

    Needless to say, the frequency of storms in general, and their severity, are expected to rise with climate change. Part of that seems to be the lengthening of the storm seasons. More time, more storms.

    The local reports:

    Ben Santer on Seth Myers

    Via Media Matters of America. Very interesting segment.

    Santer talks about what is is like to be a rogue scientist in a Donald Trump administration.

    The words referred to here the twelve words, were part of the 1995 Second Assessment report of the IPCC. That report is regularly updated, and forms the scientific and policy basis for our thinking about climate change at the national and international level. I highly recommend that you have handy at all times what I like to think of as the human-readable version of the most current IPCC report: Dire Predictions, 2nd Edition: Understanding Climate Change

    An excellent resource for debunking and learning about the sort of junk Ted Cruz is seen to be spilling on this segment is Dana Nuccitelli’s book Climatology versus Pseudoscience: Exposing the Failed Predictions of Global Warming Skeptics.

    Here’s a little more on Ted Cruz:

    Chile’s Devastating Fires: Another Climate Change Story

    There have been significant wildfires in Chile since November, and they continue. These are the worst fires Chile has seen in known history, and Chile has been keeping track of its history for quite a while.

    Are these fires climate change caused? Apparently so. Chile has had a rain deficit for well over a decade, though it as been extra dry for about five years. Drought experts call it a “mega-drought.” Droughts tend to have climate change links, and this one is no exception. A study from just one year ago links anthropogenic climate change to the drought.

    Within large uncertainties in the precipitation response to greenhouse gas forcing, the Southeast Pacific drying stands out as a robust signature within climate models. A precipitation decline, of consistent direction but of larger amplitude than obtained in simulations with historical climate forcing, has been observed in central Chile since the late 1970s. To attribute the causes of this trend, we analyze local rain gauge data and contrast them to a large ensemble of both fully coupled and sea surface temperature-forced simulations. We show that in concomitance with large-scale circulation changes, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation explains about half of the precipitation trend observed in central Chile. The remaining fraction is unlikely to be driven exclusively by natural phenomena but rather consistent with the simulated regional effect of anthropogenic climate change. We particularly estimate that a quarter of the rainfall deficit affecting this region since 2010 is of anthropogenic origin. An increased persistence and recurrence of droughts in central Chile emerges then as a realistic scenario under the current socioeconomic pathway.

    Heat on top of the drought adds to the likelihood of fires. Decreased snow pack from reduced rainfall and increasing temperatures at altitude also contribute.

    Here is the Climate Signals attribution schematic for this event. Click through to climate signals for more.

    Trump’s orders = two steps back on climate change

    The science is clear: Human caused global warming is happening and is serious. Building and expanding infrastructure to make it easier to burn fossil fuels is a very bad idea. The Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline were two such projects, and in recent years, the environmental community, politicians, and others managed to stop these projects.

    Today, President Trump signed an executive order that brings these projects back to life and moves them forward.

    From Rhea Suh, president of the National Resources Defense Council:

    “It’s appalling that Trump wants to throw open our borders to big polluters. Eliminating the national interest determination process, used by both Republican and Democratic administrations for decades, cedes control of our borders to multinational corporations to jam through cross-border infrastructure projects. And it completely shuts out public engagement in decisions that affect our communities, air, water and climate.

    “These unprecedented actions could also pave the way for approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline—a project vehemently opposed by the U.S. tribes whose land its crosses and waters it could pollute. Equally troubling, they also revive the Keystone XL pipeline— a tar sands project that would lock our country into, for a generation or more, massive development of among the dirtiest fuels of our past. They pose a grave threat to our water, communities and climate. We will use every tool available to help ensure that they are not built.”

    From Climate Hawks Vote:

    Climate hawks fought one White House over the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and we won. We’re going to fight the next one. And we’re going to keep on fighting until we clear the American skies of the fossil-fueled stormfront of Trumpism – and we will, ultimately, prevail.

    In the wake of Trump’s election, thousands of our members pledged resistance, including peaceful civil disobedience if necessary. We’re now calling on all Americans — including political candidates and elected officials — to pledge to resist these climate-destroying pipelines.

    From Price Of Oil:

    Today, President Trump will be signing executive orders reportedly to fast-track approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines. In response, David Turnbull, Campaigns Director at Oil Change International released the following statement:

    “Both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines will never be completed, no matter what President Trump and his oil-soaked cabinet try to do. Trump’s first days in office saw massive opposition, marking the beginning of four years of resistance to his dangerous policies. We stopped Keystone XL and Dakota Access before and we’ll do it again. These are fights Trump and his bullies won’t win.”

    It appears that this isn’t just hippie punching by Trump, but rather, a shrewd business deal for someone. According to DeSmogBlog:

    As DeSmog has reported, Donald Trump’s top presidential campaign energy aide Harold Hamm stands to profit if both pipelines go through.

    Hamm, the founder and CEO of Continental Resources who sat in the VIP box at Trump’s inauguration and was a major Trump campaign donor, would see his company’s oil obtained from hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Bakken Shale flow through both lines.

    Trump has suggested that these projects would produce tens of thousands of jobs. This is only true in Alt-Universe. In Real-Universe, they will only produce a few dozen jobs long term. In fact, making the movement of a commodity more efficient, which pipeline builder argue pipelines do, reduces the number of jobs to move that commodity, by definition.

    Evangelicals and Climate Change

    The term “Evangelical” is a bit of a moving goal post. But, there is a strong association between Evangelical and getting climate science totally wrong in a way that is actually materially damaging to our planet and to future generations. So, it is not hard to be angry at Evangelicals because they are ruining it for everyone.

    But, within the “Evangelical” movement, there are people who are trying to change that. I wish them luck. One person is Katharine Hayhoe, and here she is talking about that:

    Another is my friend Paul Douglas, famous meteorologist. He wrote Caring for Creation: The Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment:

    Climate change is a confusing and polarizing issue. It may also prove to be the most daunting challenge of this century because children, the elderly, and the poor will be the first to feel its effects. The issue is all over the news, but what is seldom heard is a conservative, evangelical perspective.

    Connecting the dots between science and faith, this book explores the climate debate and how Christians can take the lead in caring for God’s creation. The authors answer top questions such as “What’s really happening?” and “Who can we trust?” and discuss stewarding the earth in light of evangelical values. “Acting on climate change is not about political agendas,” they say. “It’s about our kids. It’s about being a disciple of Jesus Christ.” Capping off this empowering book are practical, simple ideas for improving our environment and helping our families and those around us.

    So, if you are an Evangelical, take heed. If you are not, find one and pass these items on to them.