Weather & Climate

WORDS on WEATHER & CLIMATE — December 9, 2010

December 9, 2010 // 0 Comments

‘Consistent With’ by CRAIG JAMES One of the things that marks a good scientific theory is whether or not it can make accurate predictions. That is one of the problems I have with the human-induced global-warming theory. Most of the predictions based upon the theory have turned out to be wrong, or in many cases they are so general and contradictory that no matter what happens it is said to be “consistent with” global warming. Early last year a study at the University of California, Berkley, reported that due to global warming, “California’s coastal fog has decreased significantly over the past 100 years, potentially endangering coast redwood trees dependent on cool, humid summers.” However, later in the year the National Weather Service reported that the San Francisco Bay area had just recorded its foggiest summer in 50 years. Shortly thereafter, another study, this time from San Jose State in California, reported that “thanks to global warming, it’s about to get even foggier” along the California coast. So I guess more fog is consistent with predictions of climate change and less fog is consistent with predictions of climate change. I wonder if the same amount of fog would also be “consistent with” climate change? Probably so. After all, we are told that warm temperatures, cold temperatures, droughts, floods, more storms, fewer storms, more snow, less snow, etc., are all “consistent with” global warming. I guess you don’t have to be the White Queen from Alice in Wonderland to believe six impossible things before breakfast. But I digress. It turns out that the same scientist who published the fog decline story received a $2.5 million grant for a new study on the health of the California redwoods. The proposal was to “chart the health of the trees over time and use laboratory analysis of carbon and oxygen isotopes to figure out how the trees have reacted in the past to climate and weather conditions.” It was thought that laboratory testing of the redwood tree rings would indicate what negative effects on growth were produced by the changing climate, which of course he believed was caused by humans. His conclusion is not surprising to me but it apparently was to him. “Redwood studies thus far have come up […]

Words on Weather & Climate

November 24, 2010 // 0 Comments

An $82 Billion Dollar Forecast by CRAIG JAMES I will readily admit I know next to nothing about how insurance companies estimate risk and establish rates, but I just have to share with you an article published on November 14, 2010 in a newspaper in Sarasota, Fla., about the insurance industry and hurricane risk prediction. The “prediction” was created in just four hours by four hurricane forecasters and turned out to be worth $82 billion to the insurance industry that had just suffered a $40 billion dollar loss due to Hurricane Katrina. Apparently, on a Saturday in October 2005, a company called Risk Management Solutions (RMS) brought four handpicked scientists together in a hotel room in Bermuda. The scientists all believed global warming was causing an increase in the number and intensity of hurricanes. They, along with RMS, also shared a very disputed belief that computer models could accurately predict such a change. Instead of using 120 years of history to calculate the average number of storms each year, RMS used the scientists’ forecast as the basis for a new computer model that would estimate storms for the next five years. This change in risk estimation “created an $82 billion gap between the money insurers had and what they needed, a hole they spent the next five years trying to fill with rate increases and policy cancellations.” RMS justified the change based upon what they called “scientific consensus.” True, it was a consensus, but among only four people who were highly biased. Based upon four hours of what one of the forecasters called “winging it,” they estimated that the historical long-term average of 0.63 major hurricanes striking the U.S. every year would now be 0.90 due to global warming. That seems like a small change until you realize that it is a 45% increase in the risk of a catastrophe. Plugged into a complex software program used to estimate hurricane losses, that number caused the reinsurance companies to triple their rates to the retail insurance companies. Since the Florida Insurance Commission would not let the retail insurance companies pass along rate hikes that high to homeowners, many insurance companies pulled out of the state, leaving an estimated 300,000 Floridians without insurance. Today, two of the […]

Words on Weather & Climate

November 12, 2010 // 0 Comments

A Political Agenda  by CRAIG JAMES  The most vocal proponents of the theory of human-induced global warming lay claim to understanding the “scientific truth” about the supposed catastrophe that awaits if we don’t do something now to alter the way we live. The skeptics of such a catastrophe, who claim that real science shows no such catastrophe headed our way, are called “climate heretics” or “climate deniers,” with the same connotation as holocaust deniers. How can two groups of educated people so strongly disagree on what are supposed to be “facts” of science? I firmly believe one of the few things we know about climate that can truly be called a fact is that “climate changes.” There is such inherent natural variability in the climate, which we don’t yet understand, that we are currently unable to know with any certainty how greenhouse gases will affect that variability. It seems to me that climate change has become not a scientific question but a political agenda. How did we get to this point? Dr. Judith Curry, a world-renowned climate scientist and chair of Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, has had the courage to suggest that both sides get back to science and out of politics. Staking out a position smack dab in the middle of those who warn of global warming’s existential threat to humanity and those who call it a hoax, Dr. Curry has made herself a target of both camps. In the wake of the release of the Climategate e-mails, which she credits as changing her perception of the IPCC and the way it operates, she has written a wonderful article on her blog site, “Climate, Etc,” explaining how she has “been trying to understand the crazy dynamics of climate science and policy and politics, and how things went so terribly wrong.” She writes, “The enviro advocacy groups saw the climate change issue as an opportunity to enlist scientific support for their preferred energy policy solution.” A solution many politicians believed because they were told the science was settled. “The policy cart was put before the scientific horse.” Instead of open scientific investigation, “the entire framing of the IPCC was designed around identifying sufficient evidence so that the human-induced greenhouse warming could […]

Words on Weather & Climate — November 4, 2010

November 4, 2010 // 0 Comments

The Great Lakes Storm of 2010 by CRAIG JAMES  The major storm that affected much of the United States the last week of October was certainly one for the record books, but given its intensity, I think it produced far less damage than was expected. The storm first impacted the West Coast with very heavy rain and high winds, and this may be a prevalent pattern over the upcoming winter for that area of the country. Coastal areas received four to eight inches of rain from the system and a lot of 40-50 mph winds. Waves reached 22 feet off the Washington Coast, none of which is all that uncommon for a strong Pacific system. The strong jet stream did help produce wind gusts to 132 mph at Squaw Peak northwest of Lake Tahoe, but that was at an elevation of 8,700 feet. The weather computer models did a very good job of forecasting how the storm would reorganize over the central plains and become a huge and very intense system as it headed toward the western Great Lakes. Barometer readings were forecast to fall to record low levels in the center of the system and that is exactly what happened. On Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 27, a barometer reading of 28.21 inches was reported in north central Minnesota, making it the lowest pressure reading on record for any storm in the interior of the country. Hurricanes and nor’easters have had lower pressure readings, but no storms over land in the center of the country have had readings this low. The blizzard of 1978 had a slightly lower reading of 28.05 inches when it was over Lake Huron but not when it was over land. Since a barometer reading this low is usually associated with a category three hurricane capable of steady winds of 111 to 130 mph with gusts to 150 mph, it was surprising the winds were not stronger with this system. Peak winds throughout the Plains and Great Lakes were generally around 40 mph with gusts to 50-60 mph. There were a few gusts between 70 and 80 mph but not many. In Michigan, a gust to 71 mph was reported near Ludington, a gust to 74 just northwest of Traverse City and […]

Words on Weather & Climate — October 21, 2010

October 21, 2010 // 0 Comments

A La Niña Winter Can you believe we are approaching the end of October already? Last year I was able to golf until December 2. That is not likely to happen this year. It appears to me as if prolonged cold weather and probably snowflakes will close the golf courses much earlier than last year. An El Niño weather pattern was the rule for the fall into spring last year but this year a strong La Niña looks likely, which should give much of the United States a very different winter than the past one. What is called a La Niña event occurs when the sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean near the Equator from the dateline east to the west coast of South America are more than 1 degree Celsius below normal. This is the opposite of an El Niño event where temperatures are above normal. Both El Niños and La Niñas usually begin to develop in the late summer and last into the following spring. However, some prolonged episodes have lasted 2 years and even as long as 3-4 years. While their occurrence can be quite irregular, El Niño and La Niña develop every 3-5 years on average and they have noticeably different effects on the weather here in the United States. The sea surface temperatures affect where the jet stream is located, which in turn determines the path of storms. The forecast problem, of course, is in the details but you can see from the graphic the average conditions that exist. Here in the Lower Great Lakes, it is usually warmer and drier during an El Niño year than during a La Niña year. There are exceptions but in general this is true, which probably means a colder and snowier winter here than last year when snowfall was right at average with temperatures about two degrees above average. La Niñas generally produce two distinct storm tracks across the country shown in this graphic. Our area gets Alberta Clippers, which produce lake effect snow and storms from the southern plains, which can give us a lot of snow, or sometimes a wintry mix of snow, freezing rain and rain if the low center comes far enough north. It could get mild and […]

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