Linking global warming and severe storms

By Phil Plait | December 19, 2008 11:18 am

It has long been speculated that as the Earth warms overall, the number and severity of large storms will increase. This makes sense, as the process that drives storms depends on water temperature; the higher the temperature of the water in the oceans, the more energy is available to drive hurricanes and other large storms.

Until now, data to support this idea have been sparse. However, scientists have just announced they have found strong evidence to support it.

At a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco today, JPL Senior Research Scientist Hartmut Aumann outlined the results of a study based on five years of data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua spacecraft. What they found is that very high clouds, which are associated with severe weather, are more frequent when the ocean is warmer. The correlation they found was very strong; for every degree Centigrade the oceans warm, they saw a 45% increase in the number of these clouds!

They observed the clouds as the seasons changed — changing the ocean surface temperatures — to get their data. They typically see 6000 such clouds a day, so it sounds like they got reasonably good statistical samples. The clouds are very high in the atmosphere, about 20 km (12 miles) or more over the Earth’s surface. In general, linking clouds, rain, and global warming is incredibly difficult because rain is very difficult to model. This new result bypasses that, using the clouds as a proxy for storms. The study is also consistent with a 2005 NASA study which found a 1.5% increase in the global rain rate over the past 18 years.

So what does this mean? Well, it’s still not possible to say that any given season will have more or more powerful hurricanes/monsoons due to global warming, because there are so many inputs that drive the storm season. What it does indicate is that over time, over many years, the number of such storms will increase.

Also, remember, this is a global result; local areas may still get colder — I say this specifically because I always get comments in global warming posts that some place or another is getting more snow or is colder than usual. That’s expected. With global warming comes altered weather patterns, so while the Earth overall warms, some places will get wilder weather.

It will be very interesting to see the fallout from this study. Expect to hear Inhofe call it a hoax, and for the usual suspects to raise a hue and a cry. For my part I’ll say that I would very much like to see more observations of this. But in general, as we get more and better data, the case for global effects gets stronger. And come January 20, I’m very much hoping to see our government take this seriously for the first time in 8 years.

Fire image courtesy peasap’s Flickr photostream; Earth image from NASA.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Politics, Science
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Comments (113)

  1. moof

    Real science. Cool. Much better than the frequent media thread of using the NHS’s _prediction_ of more hurricanes as proof of global warming.

  2. I’ve no doubt that Obama will take this very seriously, especially considering his most recent nominations. I still can’t get it through to some of my friends the differences between local and global effects. I even used the analogy of a heating/cooling system for your house; temperatures outside my well up to 100 degrees, but inside you may be a nice cool 74. My point was that you can’t say it’s not hot outside based upon the temperatures inside. Not a perfect analogy, but somewhat close.

  3. James

    “local areas may still get colder — I say this specifically because I always get comments in global warming posts that some place or another is getting more snow or is colder than usual.”

    Say for example, snow in New Orleans, or Vegas? This point will always be the hardest to drive home to those who want to stick their head in the sand. Perhaps when we get a Venus style runaway greenhouse effect they will start to listen…oops too late…

  4. Todd W.

    How do they define a “cloud”? How do they specify where one cloud ends and another begins?

  5. SeanDudeManDudeDude

    Cloud head, cloud derriere. Easy.

  6. AFakeGuy

    I just read online that Bush is trying to implement legislation make it difficult to limit CO2 emissions in the U.S. by the EPA.

    We need to phase out coal power plants and replace them with alternate energy power plants. Bush stills ignores good science and sound judgement. Can’t he get it thru his head that AGW is real.

  7. Charles Boyer

    But Rush Limbaugh knows better. I suppose that he is scoffing about this on-air as we speak.

  8. http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=4403

    Hurricanes and Global Warming:
    Interview with Meteorologist Dr. William Gray
    by James K. Glassman (September 12, 2005)

    Meteorologist Dr. William Gray may be the world’s most famous hurricane expert. More than two decades ago, as professor of atmospheric science and head of the Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University, he pioneered the science of hurricane forecasting. Each December, six months before the start of hurricane season, the now 75-year-old Gray and his team issue a long-range prediction of the number of major tropical storms that will arise in the Atlantic Ocean basin, as well as the number of hurricanes (with sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or more) and intense hurricanes (with winds of at least 111 mph). This year, Gray expects more activity, with 15 named storms, including 8 hurricanes. Four of them, he says, will be intense.

    James Glassman: Dr. Gray, in the September issue of Discover Magazine, there’s a remarkable interview with you. You’re called the world’s most famous hurricane…

    Dr. William Gray: Well that – you have to talk to my critics about that. I don’t think they would agree with you.

    Glassman: Well you certainly…

    Gray: I’ve been around a long time, yes. I’ve been around studying hurricanes over 50 years now, I’m an old guy. Yes.

    Glassman: Well, you’re in the hurricane forecasting business among other things?

    Gray: Well, we’re in the seasonal hurricane forecasting business, and monthly. We don’t do the short range, you know, one to two day crucial forecasts. That can only be done by one group at the National Hurricane Center. But we certainly do a lot of forecasting for different parts of the globe and the hurricane from a seasonal, monthly point of view. Yes.

    Glassman: And from a seasonal, monthly point of view, you had been predicting a growing number of hurricanes. Now, my question is in the wake of Katrina and some of the statements that we’ve heard immediately afterwards by advocates of the global warming theory – is global warming behind this increase in hurricanes?

    Gray: I am very confident that it’s not. I mean we have had global warming. That’s not a question. The globe has warmed the last 30 years, and the last 10 years in particular. And we’ve had, at least the last 10 years, we’ve had a pick up in the Atlantic basin major storms. But in the earlier period, if we go back from 1970 through the middle ‘90s, that 25 year period – even though the globe was warming slightly, the number of major storms was down, quite a bit down.

    Now, another feature of this is that the Atlantic operates differently. The other global storm basins, the Atlantic only has about 12 percent of the global storms. And in the other basins, the last 10 years – even though the Atlantic major storm activity has gone up greatly the last 10 years. In the other global basins, it’s slightly gone down. You know, both frequency and strength of storms have not changed in these other basins. If anything, they’ve slightly gone down. So if this was a global warming thing, you would think, “Well gee, all of the basins should be responding much the same.”

    Glassman: You’re familiar with what your colleagues believe. Do you think many hurricane experts would take a different point of view, and would say, “Oh, it’s global warming that’s causing hurricanes?”

    Gray: No. All my colleagues that have been around a long time – I think if you go to ask the last four or five directors of the national hurricane center – we all don’t think this is human-induced global warming. And, the people that say that it is are usually those that know very little about hurricanes. I mean, there’s almost an equation you can write the degree to which you believe global warming is causing major hurricanes to increase is inversely proportional to your knowledge about these storms.

    Now there’s a few modelers around who know something about storms, but they would like to have the possibility open that global warming will make for more and intense storms because there’s a lot of money to be made on this. You know, when governments step in and are saying this – particularly when the Clinton administration was in – and our Vice President Gore was involved with things there, they were pushing this a lot. You know, most of meteorological research is funded by the federal government. And boy, if you want to get federal funding, you better not come out and say human-induced global warming is a hoax because you stand the chance of not getting funded.

    Glassman: We thank you very, very much for this interview. Thank you, Dr. Gray.

    Gray: Well thank you for asking me.

    I am convinced myself that in 15 or 20 years, we’re going to look back on this and see how grossly exaggerated it all was. The humans are not that powerful. These greenhouse gases, although they are building up, they cannot cause the type of warming these models say – two to five degrees centigrade with a doubling of the greenhouse gases.

    Glassman: Well thank you very much for giving us your time.

  9. Since I don’t listen to Rush or Faux News, what is their position as to why scientists would lie about global warming? What’s in it for them to make the whole thing up?

  10. Todd W.

    @Richard Wolford

    Because they are all socialist lefties that hate America and business?

  11. Because all scientists are liberals. And they depend on funding from the government. And if you say everything is fine, you get no funding.

    Not a very logical argument, but what do you expect from Rush?

  12. Shane P. Brady

    One reason climate change skeptics hammer on the long cold snaps we’ve had the last couple years, is in direct reaction to the media talking about about “global warming” only when it’s hot out.

    Is it really accurate to call it “global warming” versus “climate change” ? To me it seems the only thing we do know for sure (in terms of future predictions) is that our massive CO2 output is affecting the climate.

  13. Brant D

    From what I can tell, this finding is very interesting. The rain rate increase globally is limited by radiative cooling to about 1%-2% per K warming. If this finding is true, then it means that not only will severe precipitation events increase, but the amount of rain-free areas will increase as well, leading to more common drought. This is consistent with other independent estimates of the likely changes in the atmospheric water cycle.

  14. TBRP

    @Richard Wolford
    I think the usual argument for that is that by raising a ruckus, climate scientists are thus ensuring that they are going to continue to be gainfully employed. Or that they just want attention, and people pay attention to Chicken Littles. The more insane ones say things to the effect of it’s a global conspiracy to get the world to move toward socialism. Does anyone know if I missed any?

  15. Brant D

    Shane P. Brady: Both “global warming” and “climate change” are accurate, though they do not refer to the same thing. “Global warming” refers the observed and predicted rapid increase in average global temperature. Global warming is a type of climate change. Global warming is caused by another type of climate change, the change in the atmosphere’s chemical composition by human activity. Global warming also results in other types of climate change, such as an increase is global average precipitation, as well as a myriad of localized climate changes as well. However, if you want a term to describe all of these in context of its cause, perhaps the best term would be “anthropogenic climatic destabilization.”

  16. So warming drives more weather. What is the effect of weather on global temperature?

  17. Ah, so the scientists are being accused of making up global warming so that they can get more funding to research, uh, global warming. Yeah, logic, they’re doing it wrong. Wow. Ok, that’s a good enough answer for me, confirms my position that Rush is a moron with a big mouth and that I really, really don’t want to watch Faux News.

  18. Gustavus

    I don’t like this, I don’t like it at all. What’s going to happen if the next truckload of data on global warming determines that humanity is doomed, regardless of what we do to protect ourselves?

    I can sympathize with the people who want to put their heads in the sand and shut out these awful truths about global warming. Not that I agree with them — but I can see where they’re coming from.

  19. Brant D

    MarkP: Weather’s feedback on climate is a very difficult topic to address. However, we are not completely lost. For example, the topic study suggested a strong correlation between increased SSTs and vigorous deep convection. If this is true, then it is likely that the area of Earth covered with convective “anvil” cirrus will also increase. Cirrus clouds generally enhance the greenhouse effect, as they are usually thin enough to let sunlight to the surface, but are opaque to infrared radiation from the surface. So if increased convective activity leads to increased cirrus cloud cover, then this form of weather will positively feed back on and enhance global warming. And if more global warming causes more convective activity… You get the picture. Eventually the feedback loop will break, but we have no idea when that will occur.

  20. For those who might be interested in looking at some real data consider:

    http://ams.confex.com/ams/pdfpapers/108927.pdf

    Scroll down to the last page. It contains the average ACE (Accumulated Cyclone Energy) index value (a measure of cyclone intensity) for both the northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere.

    For the northern hemisphere, peak ACE value was 950 in 1997. In 2005 it was 650 (a 32 percent drop). The ACE value for 1957 was 700. The top 3 values were 950 in 1997, 900 in 1992, and 750 in 2004. One of the lowest values was 450 in 1999.

    For the southern hemisphere (which doesn’t have good data until the 1980’s), peak ACE value is 350 in both 1997 and 1985. In 2005 the ACE value was 150 (a 57 percent drop).

    How exactly does this data support a connection between hurricanes/typhoons/etc. and CO2 emissions? I defy anyone to look at any of these charts and show me a monotonically increasing upward trend.

  21. Skeptic Tim

    An interesting result reported at the same meeting: see “http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/has-the-arctic-melt-passed-the-point-of-no-return-1128197.html” reporting on a study presented to the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco by Julienne Stroeve, of the NSIDC, who led the study with her colleague Mark Serreze.

    “… Temperature readings for this October were significantly higher than normal across the entire Arctic region – between 3C and 5C above average – but some areas were dramatically higher. In the Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska, for instance, near-surface air temperatures were more than 7C higher than normal for this time of year. The scientists believe the only reasonable explanation for such high autumn readings is that the ocean heat accumulated during the summer because of the loss of sea ice is being released back into the atmosphere from the sea before winter sea ice has chance to reform.

    “One of the reasons we focus on Arctic amplification is that it is a good test of greenhouse warming theory. Even our earliest climate models were telling us that we should see this Arctic amplification emerge as we lose the summer ice cover,” Dr Stroeve said. “This is exactly what we are not starting to see in the observations. Simply put, it’s a case of we hate to say we told you so, but we did,” she added….”

    While the exact proportion of greenhouse gas excess that is anthropogenic may still be questioned, the effect of the excess appears to be well documented.

    One small quibble with your article Phil: you wrote “… for every degree Centigrade the oceans warm…”. Please note; The grad is a unit of plane angle, equivalent to 1⁄400 of a full circle, dividing a right angle in 100.(Mostly used by civil engineers.) The term centigrade was in use for one hundredth of a grad. Temperature is measured in degrees Celsius.

  22. James

    Rush Limbaugh contributes to global warming….every time he talks. Hopefully there will be new legislation banning him….

  23. gruebait

    “…see our government take this seriously for the first time ever.”

    There, fixed that for ya.

  24. SLC

    Re Tom Marking

    1. James Glassman, who used to write a column on economics for the Washington Post is a far right wing ideologue who is about as competent to pontificate on climate change as he is to comment on quantum mechanics.

    2. Bill Gray, as described by Chris Mooney in his book on hurricanes, is an old fashioned scientist who disbelieves in computer modeling. He is quite typical of scientists who were trained 50 years ago in the era before the advent of powerful computer systems and the concomitant development of simulation techniques. I experienced people like Dr. Gray in the area of simulation of traffic, who were trained as transportation engineers at the start of the Interstate Highway Program in the 1950s and who used to refer to traffic simulation models as “computer crap”. By now, those people have retired or died and transportation engineers who graduate from college today are very familiar with traffic simulation techniques and use them in their work as a matter of course. The same thing will happen in climate science as the Bill Grays of the world pass from the scene.

  25. IVAN3MAN

    Dr. Phil Plait did not mention in his post above as to to what type of clouds the article referred to, or show what they look like. So I thought that I should mention that these clouds are known as Polar Stratospheric Clouds (P.S.Cs.), also known as nacreous clouds.

    Examples of Nacreous Clouds:

    Polar_stratospheric_cloud

    Arctic_stratospheric_cloud

    I hope this works!

  26. @SLC …

    Sounds just like an ad hominem attack to me. Luckily I have my Carl Sagan baloney detection kit handy and it’s still in working order so I know how to deal with those. Now, please try to say something substantial, perhaps concerning the ACE data and how it’s all wrong or the product of some conservative wack-job.

  27. Quiet Desperation

    We need to phase out coal power plants and replace them with alternate energy power plants.

    Please describe the roadmap for that process.

  28. Quiet Desperation

    I’m sticking with my Ice Age prediction in the hopes that they name it after me when it happens.

  29. Tom Marking: Actually, I’d say that SLC’s criticism is legit. You’re presenting this exchange as the word of experts. SLC is questioning their credentials to speak on the matter. Without data being presented, their credibility matters. (It doesn’t make what they say either true or untrue, but it should affect how much you trust them.) Of course, we have only SLC’s word on the assessment, so it’s a bit of a conundrum.

    Also, you state

    I defy anyone to look at any of these charts and show me a monotonically increasing upward trend.

    yet don’t explain who it is, exactly, is claiming we have a monotonic trend (or why this post by Phil deals only with hurricanes, when clearly it’s talking about weather in general). Sounds dangerously like a straw-man argument. Check the CSBDK?

    Also, you should probably spend some time pondering the nature of small-number statistics and stochasticity before you talking about N% drops from one year to a few years later.

    (For the record, I’m pretty agnostic on the global-warming/hurricane connection. The mechanism is plausible and entirely reasonable, but the data so far are ambiguous.)

  30. Brant D

    IVAN3MAN: No, the study is not referring to PSCs. The study is referring to the tops of tropical deep convective clouds (cumulonimbus), which can penetrate into the stratosphere to heights over 15km in the tropics. Though Dr. Plait’s claim of 20km seems a little high. I don’t think even the most powerful convective clouds in the tropics get quite that high.

  31. JoeSmithCA

    @Brant D, Ivan3Man
    if I remember my clouds correctly cumulonimbus can peak at ~20-22km. This makes sense that the study would track these, they’re the ones you worry about creating flash floods, tornadoes etc.

  32. A G

    Wha..? Cloud are storms?

    In other news, ManBearPig has been sited near San Francisco.

  33. Brant D

    JoeSmithCA: It would be a *very* rare case for deep convection to reach that high. It would certainly be much beyond the necessary threshold for “normal” severe weather. Also, the storms discussed here aren’t the types of storms that cause tornadoes and high winds. The study appears to focus on tropical penetrating convective towers, which are very important for rainfall and the general circulation, but are not the same types of storms as the “supercell” type storms that form over, say, the US Great Plains and drop all manners of misery on the locals. I am not quite convinced that the results for this study can be smoothly carried over to predict an increase in supercelluar deep convection, as they form through quite different processes than tropical deep convection. Still, this is a very important find in terms of precisely identifying the connection between global warming and changes to the general circulation.

  34. SLC

    Re John Weiss

    1. Mr. Glassman, who purports to be an economist, has no expertise to pontificate on the issue of global warming and its effect on hurricanes either way, yea or nay.

    2. My analysis of Dr. Gray is based on Chris Mooneys’ book, “Storm World”. Mr. Mooney, who, by the way, is very careful to state that the relationship between global warming and hurricane frequency/intensity is as yet unproven as we sit here today, knows Dr. Gray very well and has had numerous conversations with him. If Mr. Mooneys’ description of Dr. Gray is accurate, and I have no reason to doubt it, the latter is definitely someone who rejects out of hand the use of climate simulation models. Based on my experience with transportation engineers who were trained before the era of computing power that made simulation of complex systems feasible, this does not surprise me. I found the same attitude with those engineers relative to traffic simulation as is exhibited by Dr. Gray relative to climate simulation. Like those transportation engineers of yore, IMHO, Dr. Grays’ time has passed.

  35. wfr

    I knew that the atmosphere was heating up. But are the oceans getting warmer as well? I accept the science that correlates local ocean temperatures with weather (the topic of Phil’s post). But Phil doesn’t say anything about any planetary trends in ocean temperature. Call me a denier, but I find it hard to believe that the greenhouse effect is raising the temperature of Earth’s oceans measurably.

    ps. I’d rather be called a skeptic.

  36. @John Weiss “Tom Marking: Actually, I’d say that SLC’s criticism is legit.”

    No, let me explain it to you. I am presenting a link which says Person A says X. SLC is saying Person A is a bad guy. That is clearly an ad hominem argument. If SLC presented something which said X is not true because of Y, Z, … then that is NOT an ad hominem argument.

    “yet don’t explain who it is, exactly, is claiming we have a monotonic trend (or why this post by Phil deals only with hurricanes, when clearly it’s talking about weather in general).”

    Weather in general? Let’s review the title of the post: Linking global warming and severe storms. Is a hurricane/typhoon/cyclone not a severe storm? And would you not expect that if severe storms are linked to global warming (as the post alleges) that hurricanes are also linked to global warming? I think the problem in in the study. As BA says:

    “This new result bypasses that, using the clouds as a proxy for storms.”

    Using clouds as a proxy for storms? I think actually using real data from real storms as the ACE index does, is the much more accurate approach. To measure data on clouds and then to claim that it automatically applies to severe storms is highly questionable, particularly when it contradicts known data on real severe storms.

    “Also, you should probably spend some time pondering the nature of small-number statistics and stochasticity before you talking about N% drops from one year to a few years later.”

    By that reasoning no conclusions could ever be taken concerning global warming because we don’t have statistics for the last 1,000 years. 100 years is not enough to draw statistically significant conclusions.

  37. Brant D

    Tom Marking: The data on *real* severe storms show a very strong correlation between cloud top height and precipitation. Atmospheric scientists have been measuring the properties of convective storms for several decades now, using both multiple independent satellite datasets and ground-based field observations. While there are still some uncertainties in the exact relationship, the approximation is still based on much more solid information than assumptions.

  38. Tom:

    1) You missed the point entirely. Your post was an argument from authority, itself a logical fallacy. (Look it up, Sagan discusses it pretty extensively.) SLC replied by questioning the authority. That’s legit. I wasn’t addressing your “data” post, which was elsewhere.

    2) Not all severe weather is a hurricane. In fact, I’m pretty sure that most of it isn’t. This means that the small number statistics problem that exists with hurricane data may not be so problematic with severe weather in general. In other words, the data may be too noisy to conclude anything about hurricanes (and I think it is), but it may not be to conclude something about severe weather in general.

    3) You don’t understand “small number statistics”. Please look it up before you reply again. (You also don’t know about the climate data available, which extends well over 100 years into the past, but that’s a separate issue.)

  39. @SLC “1. Mr. Glassman, who purports to be an economist, has no expertise to pontificate on the issue of global warming and its effect on hurricanes either way, yea or nay.”

    Glassman is the interviewer. As such he is asking questions and not pontificating on the issue. It doesn’t matter who he is since he is not the one providing the information. He could be Attila the Hun and it still wouldn’t matter since the information is not coming from him.

    “2. My analysis of Dr. Gray is based on Chris Mooneys’ book, “Storm World”. Mr. Mooney, who, by the way, is very careful to state that the relationship between global warming and hurricane frequency/intensity is as yet unproven as we sit here today, knows Dr. Gray very well and has had numerous conversations with him. If Mr. Mooneys’ description of Dr. Gray is accurate, and I have no reason to doubt it, the latter is definitely someone who rejects out of hand the use of climate simulation models.”

    So in other words, Chris Mooney, who is your source for trashing Dr. William Gray, actually AGREES with Gray that there is no proof of a relationship between more intense hurricanes and global warming? Did I get that right?

  40. SLC

    Re Tom Marking

    There is a significant difference between the views of Dr. Gray and Mr. Mooney relative to a possible relationship between global warming and hurricane frequency/intensity. Dr. Gray, who rejects global warming, baldly states that there is no relationship between any type of climate change that may be happening and hurricane frequency/intensity. Mr. Mooneys’ position is that there is some indication of a relationship but that the information currently available is insufficient to say definitively. Mr. Mooney also is not in agreement with Dr. Grays’ and apparently Mr. Markings’, position that global warming is not happening.

    As Mr. Weiss has stated, it is perfectly proper to question Dr. Grays’ qualifications as an expert on climatology, given his rejection of climate simulation.

  41. @SLC “Mr. Markings’, position that global warming is not happening.”

    Now you’re putting words in my mouth. I never said that. I suggest you go look at the charts of Accumulated Cyclone Energy by year that I’ve provided. What relationship between global warming and hurricane/typhoon intensity do you see in them?

  42. Tom Marking:

    For the record,

    Glassman is the interviewer. As such he is asking questions and not pontificating on the issue.

    I agree completely with this logic. I think that as an interviewer, he’s not leading the interviewee or pontificating and as such, his personal views on the matter have no bearing on the issue.

  43. Tom Marking, it’s a fact of life that all of us have to trust experts in some areas of knowledge. Even if I were a climate scientist, fully competent to evaluate all the arguments around global warming and hurricanes, I’d almost certainly not be able to do the same for, say, the safety and importance of vaccination, HIV as the cause of AIDS, or the ineffectiveness of DDT against malaria.

    I think we can boil it down to two propositions:

    a) Natural phenomena are too complicated for one person to understand them all;
    b) Natural phenomena are not *so* complicated that a person can’t understand them in their specialist field.

    Which means that inevitably to evaluate issues such as global warming we are forced to look at: process, for example, peer review; credentials, such as what subject people have degrees is; and track record in the past use of dodgy arguments.

    That looks a lot like ad hominem, but unfortunately, I don’t see a way around it.

  44. @John Weiss “You don’t understand “small number statistics”.”

    Where are you getting this small number fallacy from? Do you understand what an ACE (Accumulated Cyclone Energy) index value is? Here is a clue:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accumulated_cyclone_energy

    Data points are collected every 6 hours for every active tropical storm with wind speed of 35 knots or higher. Over the course of a hurricane season that might be something like ~1,000 data points. Thus each chart showing ACE values from 1970 to 2005 is actually data based on ~35,000 data points. That is not a small amount of data statistically speaking.

  45. Brant D

    Tom Marking: It is interesting that you call the Accumulated Cyclone Energy index “real” data when it is in fact quite clearly an estimate, based on peak wind speeds (many of which themselves are estimates) and assuming a common wind profile for tropical cyclones. Your “real” data has *far* more assumptions in it than the cloudtop height dataset described originally has. I’m not saying that the ACE index is totally wrong or completely useless, but you should acknowledge the major uncertainties concerning your dataset. Otherwise it undermines your credibility.

  46. A G

    It’s been 8 years since the government has taken this cereally.

  47. Robbie

    Vagueofgodalming, I would probably disagree with your point B, but the rest of your post was very good. I didn’t see where you made ad hominem like points or suggested that ad hominem like arguments are necessary for evaluating claims of experts in other fields. As I understood your post there’s nothing to be apologetic about.

    Following your examples as ways to critique arguments of experts in fields other than the one I have expertise in, I see many flaws in AGW believers arguments and processes.

  48. @Brand D “Tom Marking: It is interesting that you call the Accumulated Cyclone Energy index “real” data when it is in fact quite clearly an estimate, based on peak wind speeds (many of which themselves are estimates) and assuming a common wind profile for tropical cyclones”

    At least for the Atlantic basin the wind speeds and barometric pressure are measured directly by the Hurricane Hunters who fly aircraft directly into these storms. There are typically multiple flights per day and they have been doing this since the 1960’s.

  49. Brant D

    Tom Marking: The wind speeds and pressure are measured along the flightpath. It is necessary to convert measurements taken along the flight path into an estimate of wind structure across the entire hurricane, such as surface wind speed. In particular, I am concerned that the formula for calculating ACE only uses the maximum wind speed in a hurricane, and does not appear to take the shape and size of the hurricane into consideration at all. Of course size is a very important factor in determining a hurricane’s kinetic energy. It might be possible that the average storm radius half a century ago could have been significantly higher or lower than it is today. How would we know?

  50. Well, I haven”t seen it this cold for this long here in Squamish, (near Vancouver), since I was a kid. I haven’t seen temps like this since living in Alberta!

  51. Darth Robo

    WHY the heck is it always “Liberals” who agree with Global Warming and “Conservatives” who don’t?

  52. IVAN3MAN

    Brant D, I acknowledge what you said. I merely pointed out the fact that P.S.Cs. (nacreous clouds) typically occur at a height of 20km (or greater), which was stated by Dr.Phil Plait. Furthermore, an article in the newspaper Daily Mail (UK) — tinyurl.com/3ejqp8 (copy & paste into browser address bar) — mentioned that nacreous clouds “could indicate global warming”. So I assumed that this is what Dr. Plait was referring to.

  53. MarkH

    @ James

    “Rush Limbaugh contributes to global warming….every time he talks. Hopefully there will be new legislation banning him….”

    So you are for censorship?

  54. IVAN3MAN

    Darth Robo:

    WHY the heck is it always “Liberals” who agree with Global Warming and “Conservatives” who don’t?

    Oxford English Dictionary

    conservative adjective 1. Tending to favour the preservation of the existing order; averse to change and holding traditional values. 2. (in a political context) Favouring free enterprise, private ownership, and socially conservative ideas. 3. (Conservative) Relating to a Conservative Party. 4. (of an estimate) Purposely low for the sake of caution.

  55. IVAN3MAN

    Oxford English Dictionary

    liberal adjective 1. Willing to respect and accept behaviour or opinions different from one’s own. 2. (of a society, law, etc.) Favourable to individual rights and freedoms. 3. (in a political context) Favouring individual liberty, free trade, and moderate reform. 4. (Liberal) (in the UK) Relating to the Liberal Democrat party. 5. (especially of an interpretation of a law) Not strictly literal. 6. Given, used, or giving in generous amounts. 7. (of education) Concerned with broadening general knowledge and experience.

  56. DrFlimmer

    There is one thing that always concerns me in a discussion of GW. It seems to be about “I am right and you are wrong”. But now my question to those who think GW is not a “bad thing”:
    Shall we risk it? What if GW is right and we are doing great damages to our planet if we go on like we do now? Is this worth it?
    I say: We should not take that risk because we have only ONE chance! We must do something! If it turns out later that the effects wouldn’t have been so bad the better it is, but should not take the risk of turning everything down! We should not take it.

  57. jorge c.

    Dear mr.plait:
    have your seen an article called “Earth magnetic field has massive breach” (or something like that??? the link is http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2008/16dec_giantbreach.htm?list91627
    i’d like to read your comments or is it not interesting?
    articles like that have sent me to your blog.
    by the way mr.Hartmut Aumann have outlined his studies, and if i remember correctly what they teached me in epistemology, his studies must be replicate or verificy by others scientist, before it could be presented as proof. there are a lot of studies on all fields of science that were erroneous
    am i wrong???
    P.S. even i’d never voted for mr inhoffe, he was just reelect by the citizens of his state, not selected.

  58. Luke

    Hmmmm, we had the dark age cold period, the medieval warming period, the mini ice age and now the period we are in. It seems like a trend. Not to mention we are still in a VERY RARE icehouse period instead of the normal greenhouse period.

    I could also mention how the Cretaceous period was 4 degrees celcius warmer then it is today, and this continued well past the KT transition.

    One more point many would argue we are still in the Wisconsin Glaciation period which is now in a time of retreat.

  59. Brant D

    Luke: One maximum and one minimum in a time series does not provide conclusive evidence for periodicity. You need either more maxima and minima or you need a well-supported theory that predicts periodicity. Until one or both are provided, the “global warming is a natural cycle” claim simply lacks credibility.

    Also, acknowledging the climatic influence of continental drift, the Earth being warmer in the past is good evidence that the chemical composition of the atmosphere is very important in regulating Earth’s average temperature and climate. It supports the theory that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are absolutely capable of changing Earth’s climate in the enar future.

  60. Tom Marking:

    It all depends on how small or large you slice the pie, e.g.: The increasing intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones (Elsner 2008), or this AGU presentation.

    There are some legitimate questions about what will happen to storms and tropical cyclones specifically under anthropogenic warming. A lot will depend on wind shear and how different basins respond regionally to the warming signal. To state that there is no anthropogenic influence on tropical cyclones is not only premature, it is unsupported by the data.

    Bill Gray has no science to back his claims that the observed warming is due to thermohaline circulation changes, and I concur with the person who referenced Storm World- science has passed him by, and he knows it.

  61. Luke

    So one maximum and one minimum is not enough evidence, yet our past 20 years is?

    How about the fact that ice on earth is very rare and most of our geological history has had water at its poles. Well we also had the climatic optimum around the time the Egyptian empire florusihed.

    If you want real evidence whenvever the temperature was warmer society made many advances and when it was cooler we were in a period of stagnation in terms of advancement.

    And I have one more question, if man is causing C02 levels to rise, then why have then been up to and over 5 times higher long before man every lived? Also remember correlation does not prove causation. (the fact that C02 levels have rose since the industrial revolution)

  62. Also, remember, this is a global result; local areas may still get colder — I say this specifically because I always get comments in global warming posts that some place or another is getting more snow or is colder than usual. That’s expected. With global warming comes altered weather patterns, so while the Earth overall warms, some places will get wilder weather.

    I would quibble here. The point is that weather varies quite a bit. Any region can experience a cold snap or a warm snap. That’s just weather. Global warming is over the *long* term — decades, not years.

    An analogy I would make is to the stock market. We get bubbles and bursts (as you may have noticed recently). But over the last century, it has has a steady increase in value. Or like slowly turning up the volume on your stereo. The music can have quiet and loud passages — but overall it’s slowly getting louder.

    A bad hurricane season doesn’t prove global warming. A good hurricane season doesn’t disprove it. A mild winter doesn’t prove it. A cold winter doesn’t disprove. You have to study patterns over decades before the effect is seen.

  63. Luke

    Very good Mike and this is why we cannot say Global Warming is happening. The past climate trends of 2-3,000 years have seem to occured in 3-500 year intervals. Even during the mini ice age I am sure Paris saw some 90 degree days and even heat spells where people died, but the trend was towards it being cold.

    We must also remember that we can’t say the current climate is normal and we are warming up, for all we know we are in a cold period and are balancing out.

  64. Dan Pangburn

    There is only one complete and exact computer of global climate and that is the planet itself. The test (actually there have been many) that proves to be wrong the theory that added atmospheric carbon dioxide causes significant global warming, was run on the planet computer and the results are archived in the Vostok and EPICA ice cores. Records of these global average temperature anomalies and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are widely available. Government and other credible data sources show that, repeatedly during the last and previous glacial periods, a temperature increasing trend changed to a decreasing trend with the atmospheric carbon dioxide level higher during the temperature down-trend than it had been when the temperature trend was increasing. This could not happen if atmospheric carbon dioxide level was a significant driver of average global temperature. Thus any action that is taken to reduce human produced carbon dioxide to reduce global warming is a mistake and puts freedom and prosperity at risk.

  65. Na

    Can someone explain something to me. I’m not a scientist and haven’t read a lot about global warming. All I know is what comes out of mainstream media (GW = bad. Less pollution = good)

    If (and I say if, because I believe what scientists have been saying, and that is that human pollution is affecting the environment in bad ways) – if GW isn’t happening and all those ‘liberal’ scientists etc are wrong, then why is it bad to make changes anyway? Ignore for a moment the “let’s not risk it” argument. Say that altogether, GW isn’t happening and it doesn’t matter what we do, because it won’t change or affect our environment. Why then, shouldn’t we make steps anyway to reduce our pollution on the earth? Even if it doesn’t affect our environment, surely we can see the benefits of reducing pollution anyway. It’s like eating a balanced diet: a little bit of sugar won’t do much over time, but a lot over time will. Surely we should curb our pollution anyway because it just makes sense not to be complacent.

    (Ok, yeah I guess my argument really is about the “let’s not take the risk” thing… but I can’t seem to articulate quite what I mean. Anyway my point is that even if the science isn’t as definitive as we’d like – taking the conservative POV for a second – we should be reducing our impact anyway simply because it doesn’t make sense to go in the other direction. Which is to pollute as much as we like because we don’t believe in the science)

  66. DrFlimmer

    Na, you are right. And we must change something, because some day we will defenitly run out of fuel, meaning oil. So someday we will have to change! Now I think is the very best moment. We have a very big crises – I say, change now, as Obama said: “Yes, we can” 😉

  67. What a bunch of kool-aid drinking fools. AGW is a scam. Proponents are either liars, thieves or ignorant. YOUR side is constantly getting caught falsifying data. YOUR side is ignoring facts and credible scientific research. YOUR side avoids all debate and hides behind ridiculous consensus arguments. YOUR side relies on ridiculous exaggerations and pathetic apocolyptic projections to try and scare the ignorant. YOUR side relies on baseless personal attacks on skeptics (why don’t you bring up Bush or Rush again, what a credible intelligent argument…a**holes). YOUR side is whoring themselves out for funding. [http://churchofglobalwarming.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=50&Itemid=42] YOUR side has a long history of corruption and outright incompetence (UN/IPCC). YOUR side has a mental illness that ignores the obvious facts right in front of you because it feeds your psychological desire to feel good about yourself by ‘saving the planet’. I could go on and on but you are all lost causes. We WILL defeat you because your more of your lies are failing every day and more people are beginning to realize it.

  68. …and btw NA – in response to your question carbon dioxide is NOT pollution – you have been sold on a hysterical lie by people intent on manipulating you. CO2 is a trace gas in the atmosphere completely incapable of affecting global climate. You could take your question and substitute any low probability event – why aren’t we spending billions on preparation for an asteroid strike? Why aren’t we spending billions on preparation for an alien invasion? Why aren’t we spending billions on preparation for Godzilla? Because they are all ridiculously improbable or fantasy events and our resources would be much better spent elsewhere. Does that answer you question?

  69. @Brant D “Tom Marking: The wind speeds and pressure are measured along the flightpath. It is necessary to convert measurements taken along the flight path into an estimate of wind structure across the entire hurricane, such as surface wind speed.”

    Well, at least for hurricanes/typhoons we already know that the maximum sustained winds occur at the eyewall and just about every Hurrican Hunter flight tries to penetrate the eyewall and drop a radiosonde so that weather measurements at the surface can be recorded. It is this v-max (i.e., maximum sustained winds) that goes into the ACE calculation. Also, when a hurricane gets close enough to land then land-based Doppler radar can also be used to measure the eyewall rotation and thus speed. So there are a number of ways to measure it.

    Saying it is an incomplete measurement since it doesn’t take into account the size and shape of the hurricane is far different than saying it is not “real” which is what you seemed to be saying. In any case, you’ll have to take it up with NOAA since it is their measurement. It is not some measurement that I invented and made up data for.

  70. @thingsbreak “To state that there is no anthropogenic influence on tropical cyclones is not only premature, it is unsupported by the data.”

    There may be a GW signal in the ACE data but it appears to be much, much weaker than the random variability and cyclical variability if it exists at all. So I would state that there is no strong GW signal in the ACE data and I stand by that. There may be a minor signal but it’s hard to tell.

  71. Re: Quiet Desperation We need to phase out coal power plants and replace them with alternate energy power plants.

    Please describe the roadmap for that process.

    Ending coal use is a hard barrow to push when the US has an abundance of the stuff. It’s going to be too politically convenient to stall limits on coal usage for a long time with the economy how it is and with American’s generally in a panic about reliance on foreign energy as it is.

    As farcical as the concept appears to some, Clean Coal Technology is an area environmental scientists need to be involved with and influencing rather than writing off entirely as something to be banned.

  72. @Vagueofgodalming “Which means that inevitably to evaluate issues such as global warming we are forced to look at: process, for example, peer review; credentials, such as what subject people have degrees is; and track record in the past use of dodgy arguments.”

    Vagueofgodalming? That’s one hell of a name! What happens if the predictions of GW cross disciplinary boundaries? What if it happens that someone alleges that the increase in sales of cell phones during the last 30 years is due to GW? Then only a climatologist who supports computer modeling has the expertise to make such a claim. That’s what I’m hearing from SLC. An expert in cell phone manufacture and engineering apparently has no standing to oppose this assertion – only climatologists have the authority to speak on any subject related to GW. Is that right?

  73. @Leigh “What a bunch of kool-aid drinking fools. AGW is a scam…YOUR side relies on baseless personal attacks on skeptics (why don’t you bring up Bush or Rush again…). …YOUR side has a long history of corruption and outright incompetence (UN/IPCC).”

    AGW would be anti-global warming? Just a hunch from the rest of your post but I’m guessing that A shouldn’t be there? :)

    O.K. Thought about it some more. “A” must stand for Anthropogenic. Sorry.

  74. @Na “if GW isn’t happening and all those ‘liberal’ scientists etc are wrong, then why is it bad to make changes anyway? Ignore for a moment the “let’s not risk it” argument. Say that altogether, GW isn’t happening and it doesn’t matter what we do, because it won’t change or affect our environment. Why then, shouldn’t we make steps anyway to reduce our pollution on the earth?”

    It all depends upon what those steps are. For example, I personally, have replaced all of my incandescent light bulbs in my house with the new fluorescent ones (you know, the ones where the bulb spirals around). So these new bulbs produce the same amount of light but consume only one third or one fourth the electricity. If they result in less CO2 being emitted into the atmosphere then I’m happy for that since I’m also saving money on my electric bill. The same could be said for more fuel-efficient cars. Why wouldn’t I support that? As a consumer I will be saving money on gasoline.

    Other steps I support not so much. For example, the Obama administration supports building new nuclear power plants (McCain supported the idea as well). That’s a step that will reduce CO2 emissions. I don’t favor it however since it produces its own environmental dangers. The Obama administration has no plan for long-term storage of nuclear waste – I think he uses some weasel words such as “let’s convene a committee of experts to study the problem”. And despite what we might think concerning the dangers of a warming planet the risk that radioactive waste might get into the water table or atmosphere is much, much worse. So it all depends on what the steps being proposed are.

  75. TheWalruss

    I’ve been thinking about it, and I must say I prefer the term “Global Climate Change”. Who cares if the Earth is a couple of degrees warmer?

    “Global Warming” doesn’t really communicate the severity of the implications. To most people in the “developed” world, (I’m a winter-snow-ice-o-phile) the “warming” bit sounds pretty nice. The reason the warming is so terrible isn’t the couple of degrees of difference, it’s the change in climate that’s relevant – that’s what causes droughts, and flooding, and melting glaciers, and disease, and extinction. If it was always dry, we’d call it a desert instead of a drought – which isn’t a disaster. Same thing for flooding. In other words, we wouldn’t worry about it because our civilization is already built around the deserts, already takes into account of wetlands and deltas, and is already familiar with the common diseases.

    Plus it takes care of any idiots making exclamations about how it’s getting colder in their neighborhood.

    Keeping the “Global” in there is nice, too – it brings home the fact that this affects everyone.

  76. Mick

    But how do you explain the accuracy in which the solar theory predicted the current cooling spell?

  77. TheWalruss

    Having read the comments now, I have another to make:

    I’m frankly very surprised at the amount of controversy here. It seems there are several people that have definitely reached the conclusion that “GW” is bunk.
    I’m wondering where, exactly, the difference in reasoning is – it’s been difficult to trace in these posts, so I’ll just explain in short my reasoning for believing in GCC, and you can point out which assumption or step of reasoning you disagree with:
    1) Humans are putting a large amount of CO2 into the atmosphere.
    2) CO2 causes a greenhouse effect.
    3) Humans are also putting a lot of other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
    4) We have measured a rise in global temperatures over the last century.
    5) We have witnessed a drop in glaciers on all mountain ranges, sea ice on both poles, an increase in desertification, melting permafrost, and ascending treelines.
    6) We have witnessed unexpected weather patterns.
    7) Climatologists in multiple respectable institutions have modeled the Earth, taken volcanic activity and natural processes into account, and concluded that it seems likely that these data are consistent with anthropogenic GCC.
    8) Scientists have found data in ice cores, sedimentary rocks, and fossils that confirm the correlation between greenhouse gases, global temperatures, extinctions, and chemical changes in the atmosphere.

    That summarizes it nicely, I think. I’ve looked at papers from both sides, and I usually (though not always) find the GCC advocates are supported by better science. I’m aware there are atmospheric models and computer simulations out there that closely match the data *without* AGCC, but I haven’t found them very convincing, and I haven’t found any good explanations for why they think that dumping eons worth of plantlife into the atmosphere as little CO2 molecules in just a couple of centuries would *NOT* affect climate.

  78. Gary Ansorge

    Now, let me see if I have this right:

    conservative adjective 1. Tending to favour the preservation of the existing order; averse to change and holding traditional values

    VS:

    liberal adjective 1. Willing to respect and accept behaviour or opinions different from one’s own

    Thus CONSERVATIVES are trying to preserve the existing order(like not polluting a pristine planet or flooding low lying areas thru global warming)

    ,,,and LIBERALS will let the opposition blow off steam,,,(but what has that to do with GW???)

    Since I prefer the world as it was, before humans learned to pollute and not give a hoot, ie, before the planet started warming up but I don’t mind if you have a different opinion, I guess that makes me a LIBERAL/CONSERVATIVE???,,,or possibly a CONSERVATIVE/LIBERAL???

    OK, I guess I don’t get how AGW is a LIBERAL cause, when what’s being touted is maintaining the world as it was.

    I’m confused,,,

    Gary 7

  79. http://www.readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=96846

    6/24/2008 4:27:00 PM
    Hurricane Center director talks forecasting in interview
    AP Interview: Hurricane Center director discusses forecasting, global warming
    By JESSICA GRESKO Associated Press Writer
    The Associated Press

    MIAMI – Substantially improving the accuracy of hurricane intensity predictions could take years and tens of millions of dollars, the National Hurricane Center’s director said Tuesday.

    In an interview with The Associated Press, Bill Read said reducing by half the errors made in tasks such as determining whether a storm would remain a Category 1 or grow stronger would be a costly and long-term effort.
    .
    .
    .
    Read also talked about the sensitive issue of a suggested link between global warming and hurricanes, acknowledging it carries “so much emotional baggage” it can be “really hard to sift out the science.”

    Read said he agreed with others at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and that the link between global warming and hurricanes “IS STILL TO BE DETERMINED.” While people who model climate largely believe “global warming is real and it’s going to get worse,” Read said, there is much more disagreement about the effect of warming on tropical storms and whether the number and intensity of storms will be affected.

  80. http://www.businessandmedia.org/articles/2007/20070104190229.aspx

    NBC, CNN Leave Out Hurricane Expert’s View on Global Warming
    Retiring NOAA meteorologist Max Mayfield doubts global warming is to blame for intense hurricane seasons.

    By Ken Shepherd
    Business & Media Institute
    1/4/2007 7:11:17 PM

    He’s been the face of hurricane forecasting for decades to TV viewers at home and storm-obsessed broadcast journalists, so it’s not surprising that NBC and CNN honored NOAA’s Max Mayfield with positive stories on his retirement. Yet in doing so, neither network mentioned that Mayfield didn’t buy the theory that global warming caused the strong hurricane season that produced Katrina.
    .
    .
    .
    Yet for all the praise of Mayfield as a public servant and “reliable” scientist, neither CNN nor NBC touched on the veteran meteorologist’s skepticism about linking global warming to active hurricane seasons such as the 2005 one that produced Hurricane Katrina.

    Shortly after Katrina’s landfall in the Gulf of Mexico that year, Mayfield was quoted disputing the notion that global warming caused the devastating storm.

    Noting that “the Asian Pacific is way down” in the number of storms in “the past few years,” the Associated Press quoted Mayfield in a Sept. 1, 2005, article saying he hadn’t “bought into” the theory that global warming was at the root of an intense hurricane season in the Atlantic.

    Mayfield expressed similar sentiments weeks later in a congressional hearing, as CNN’s Ann O’Neill wrote on her network’s Web page.

    “The increased activity since 1995 is due to natural fluctuations (and) cycles of hurricane activity driven by the Atlantic Ocean itself along with the atmosphere above it and not enhanced substantially by global warming,” O’Neill quoted Mayfield in her Sept. 23, 2005, article. The National Hurricane Center director made those remarks three days earlier in testimony before a Senate subcommittee.

    Mayfield was hardly alone in his views at the government’s weather service.

    “Mayfield’s colleague at the National Hurricane Center, meteorologist Chris Landsea, said two recent studies about global warming and hurricanes raise more questions than they answer. He added that the impact of global warming is ‘minimal for the forseeable future,’” added O’Neill.

    A link between global warming and intensifying hurricanes is often an assertion that goes unchallenged in the media, as the Business & Media Institute has previously reported.
    .
    .
    .

  81. http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/archives/science_policy_general/000318chris_landsea_leaves.html

    January 17, 2005
    Chris Landsea Leaves IPCC

    This is an open letter to the community from Chris Landsea.

    Dear colleagues,

    After some prolonged deliberation, I have decided to withdraw from participating in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). I am withdrawing because I have come to view the part of the IPCC to which my expertise is relevant as having become politicized. In addition, when I have raised my concerns to the IPCC leadership, their response was simply to dismiss my concerns.

    With this open letter to the community, I wish to explain the basis for my decision and bring awareness to what I view as a problem in the IPCC process. The IPCC is a group of climate researchers from around the world that every few years summarize how climate is changing and how it may be altered in the future due to manmade global warming. I had served both as an author for the Observations chapter and a Reviewer for the 2nd Assessment Report in 1995 and the 3rd Assessment Report in 2001, primarily on the topic of tropical cyclones (hurricanes and typhoons). My work on hurricanes, and tropical cyclones more generally, has been widely cited by the IPCC. For the upcoming AR4, I was asked several weeks ago by the Observations chapter Lead Author – Dr. Kevin Trenberth – to provide the writeup for Atlantic hurricanes. As I had in the past, I agreed to assist the IPCC in what I thought was to be an important, and politically-neutral determination of what is happening with our climate.

    Shortly after Dr. Trenberth requested that I draft the Atlantic hurricane section for the AR4’s Observations chapter, Dr. Trenberth participated in a press conference organized by scientists at Harvard on the topic “Experts to warn global warming likely to continue spurring more outbreaks of intense hurricane activity” along with other media interviews on the topic. The result of this media interaction was widespread coverage that directly connected the very busy 2004 Atlantic hurricane season as being caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas warming occurring today. Listening to and reading transcripts of this press conference and media interviews, it is apparent that Dr. Trenberth was being accurately quoted and summarized in such statements and was not being misrepresented in the media. These media sessions have potential to result in a widespread perception that global warming has made recent hurricane activity much more severe.

    I found it a bit perplexing that the participants in the Harvard press conference had come to the conclusion that global warming was impacting hurricane activity today. To my knowledge, none of the participants in that press conference had performed any research on hurricane variability, nor were they reporting on any new work in the field. All previous and current research in the area of hurricane variability has shown no reliable, long-term trend up in the frequency or intensity of tropical cyclones, either in the Atlantic or any other basin. The IPCC assessments in 1995 and 2001 also concluded that there was no global warming signal found in the hurricane record.

    Moreover, the evidence is quite strong and supported by the most recent credible studies that any impact in the future from global warming upon hurricane will likely be quite small. The latest results from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (Knutson and Tuleya, Journal of Climate, 2004) suggest that by around 2080, hurricanes may have winds and rainfall about 5% more intense than today. It has been proposed that even this tiny change may be an exaggeration as to what may happen by the end of the 21st Century (Michaels, Knappenberger, and Landsea, Journal of Climate, 2005, submitted).

    It is beyond me why my colleagues would utilize the media to push an unsupported agenda that recent hurricane activity has been due to global warming. Given Dr. Trenberth’s role as the IPCC’s Lead Author responsible for preparing the text on hurricanes, his public statements so far outside of current scientific understanding led me to concern that it would be very difficult for the IPCC process to proceed objectively with regards to the assessment on hurricane activity. My view is that when people identify themselves as being associated with the IPCC and then make pronouncements far outside current scientific understandings that this will harm the credibility of climate change science and will in the longer term diminish our role in public policy.

    My concerns go beyond the actions of Dr. Trenberth and his colleagues to how he and other IPCC officials responded to my concerns. I did caution Dr. Trenberth before the media event and provided him a summary of the current understanding within the hurricane research community. I was disappointed when the IPCC leadership dismissed my concerns when I brought up the misrepresentation of climate science while invoking the authority of the IPCC. Specifically, the IPCC leadership said that Dr. Trenberth was speaking as an individual even though he was introduced in the press conference as an IPCC lead author; I was told that that the media was exaggerating or misrepresenting his words, even though the audio from the press conference and interview tells a different story (available on the web directly); and that Dr. Trenberth was accurately reflecting conclusions from the TAR, even though it is quite clear that the TAR stated that there was no connection between global warming and hurricane activity. The IPCC leadership saw nothing to be concerned with in Dr. Trenberth’s unfounded pronouncements to the media, despite his supposedly impartial important role that he must undertake as a Lead Author on the upcoming AR4.

    It is certainly true that “individual scientists can do what they wish in their own rights”, as one of the folks in the IPCC leadership suggested. Differing conclusions and robust debates are certainly crucial to progress in climate science. However, this case is not an honest scientific discussion conducted at a meeting of climate researchers. Instead, a scientist with an important role in the IPCC represented himself as a Lead Author for the IPCC has used that position to promulgate to the media and general public his own opinion that the busy 2004 hurricane season was caused by global warming, which is in direct opposition to research written in the field and is counter to conclusions in the TAR. This becomes problematic when I am then asked to provide the draft about observed hurricane activity variations for the AR4 with, ironically, Dr. Trenberth as the Lead Author for this chapter. Because of Dr. Trenberth’s pronouncements, the IPCC process on our assessment of these crucial extreme events in our climate system has been subverted and compromised, its neutrality lost. While no one can “tell” scientists what to say or not say (nor am I suggesting that), the IPCC did select Dr. Trenberth as a Lead Author and entrusted to him to carry out this duty in a non-biased, neutral point of view. When scientists hold press conferences and speak with the media, much care is needed not to reflect poorly upon the IPCC. It is of more than passing interest to note that Dr. Trenberth, while eager to share his views on global warming and hurricanes with the media, declined to do so at the Climate Variability and Change Conference in January where he made several presentations. Perhaps he was concerned that such speculation – though worthy in his mind of public pronouncements – would not stand up to the scrutiny of fellow climate scientists.

    I personally cannot in good faith continue to contribute to a process that I view as both being motivated by pre-conceived agendas and being scientifically unsound. As the IPCC leadership has seen no wrong in Dr. Trenberth’s actions and have retained him as a Lead Author for the AR4, I have decided to no longer participate in the IPCC AR4.

    Sincerely, Chris Landsea
    Posted on January 17, 2005 11:39 AM

  82. DrFlimmer

    So, I ask once more, and Yes or No will do:

    Just forget everything for a moment. Don’t care for a moment if stronger huricanes will occure due to GW or not. Just one thing:

    Shall we take THAT risk? And the risk of everything else? Is it worth for the sake of planet earth?

    We are fine by now. And if GW doesn’t do anything we’ll be fine in the future.

    But… WHAT IF…? Shall we take THAT risk?

  83. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    As regards deep history carbon dioxide levels, it’s AFAIU iffy on account of plate tectonics and concurrent changes in mineralization, spiced with increase in solar output over time.

    What matters most is ecological change. As the current ratio of species extinction points to a man made mass extinction, that will be made much more severe by adding global climate change, we will have to face up to wasting species diversity on adapting to a climate change.

    Of course, evolutionary bottlenecks may end up increasing diversity, so it’s a risk-benefit situation. However, our descendants will live in a poorer world for tens of millions of years. Why make the future worse than it has to be?

    this is why we cannot say Global Warming is happening

    I’m sure that is news for the majority of climate scientists which claims differently. Why don’t you publish your data in peer review then? (They do.)

    AGW is a scam.

    It’s definitely science.

    I’m sure you could be questioning this ten years ago, perhaps even five, but to claim that the likelihood that AGW is happening is too low today is to be in denial about the presented science.

    To claim it’s a scam or that there is “sides” (unless you count science and non-science) is not even wrong, it’s full blown crank hood.

  84. @DrFlimmer “So, I ask once more, and Yes or No will do: Just forget everything for a moment. Don’t care for a moment if stronger huricanes will occure due to GW or not. Just one thing: Shall we take THAT risk? And the risk of everything else? Is it worth for the sake of planet earth?”

    Without a specific action plan on what is to be done in response to GW it’s a rather pointless question. Yes or no to what? Yes is apparently do nothing and let GW take its course. What specifically does the No answer mean? Does it include building more nuclear power plants? If so then ask yourself these questions: Are you willing to take the risk of another Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, or worse? Are you willing to take the risk that terrorists will attack a nuclear power plant and release large quantities of radioactive waste into the atmosphere or hydrosphere? All choices have risk. None of them are risk-free.

  85. Geomaniac

    @ James up top.

    Yes it did snow in New Orleans on December 11th of this year. The temperatures have been in the upper 70’s and lower 80’s F ever since! New Orleans averages a light dusting of very wet snow every 5 to 10 years. The only reason that even happens is that the weather here is so influenced by the Gulf of Mexico.

    This years snow happened because very cold temperatures aloft from the northwest collided with very juicy air from the Gulf from the southwest. Oddly the temps. on the ground were only in the upper 30’s so many of us were surprised to see snow at all. On radar and satellite imagery, the low pressure system looked very much like a hurricane, albeit a small and cold one. At least we had one day of winter here this year.

  86. DrFlimmer

    @ Tom Marking

    If I had a master plan I would shout it out loud. Of course our problems cannot be solved from today till tomorrow, but there are always the little things that count, too.
    You mentioned that you changed your light bulbs in your house. That’s a really good start! Let everyone do it and we have quite a reduction in the need of electric power.
    Cars is another thing. I still don’t understand why in America they still “only” drive cars that use about 15ltrs/100km (whatever this is in gallons/miles). A car that uses 9 or 10 ltrs is really a polluter in Europe. We have this massive crises by now. This is the time to change something. Build cars with more efficent engines, or bulid cars that can go without gasoline. We have the technology – let’s do it!
    I totally agree with you, that nuclear plants are no solution! Without knowing even how to store it after usage we cannot take that risk, either. On the other hand we have other resources. Wind, sun, water. We are even able to bulid coal plants that seperate the CO2 (of course, here is the question again, where to store it, but I think that is possible…).

    So. There is quite something we can do NOW. Even as an individual – the mentioned light bulbs. Or leave the car if possible. Take public transortations, your bike, or walk. These are always very little things. But everything counts. And if everyone would do it, it would add up to quite a bit!

    “All choices have risk. None of them are risk-free.”

    I agree on that! But what is more risky?

  87. IVAN3MAN

    DrFlimmer: “I totally agree with you, that nuclear plants are no solution! Without knowing even how to store it after usage we cannot take that risk, either.”

    Would that include fusion power, DrFlimmer? I don’t think we should rule that out.

  88. DrFlimmer

    Fusion power is not nuclear power, is it?

    Fusion power cannot damage anything (its reactor at most)…. the problem is, that our technology is not so far, yet. But “let’s pray to god” or just hope, that we will get it right. Fusion would solve our problems….

  89. TheWalruss

    I’m sorry to say that telling people to live “greener” is not so simple. There need to be changes to infrastructure, agricultural strategies, and the fundamental business models that supply energy, food, and water.

    I have found that living with a low carbon footprint is much MUCH easier in Europe than in the US.
    In the US, I *had* to have a car. Where I lived was a little extreme, but for 6 years that car had to have 4-wheel drive, which are basically automatically gas guzzlers. In other places I could get away with a much more efficient car. In most areas in Michigan, it’s very very difficult to get local produce. It’s also very difficult to find vegan/vegetarian food. And all that vegan stuff came from California, if not even farther away. There isn’t much cattle ranching either – your best bet for local meat is deer.

    In the Netherlands, I don’t own a car. I ride my bicycle to the train station and take the train for long distances, and if it’s really really awful weather, or I don’t want to lug my bike around town, I take the bus around the city, or walk. Most of the time I just ride my bike, though. There is a huge selection of vegetarian food (less vegan, though). And the local produce is always easy to find in the stores – everything from dairy and meat to a very wide range of vegetables is all grown within a radius of 100 km. That makes a huge difference.

    I know that the Netherlands is a little exceptional in that respect. Take Belgium, for instance. It used to be just like the Netherlands with respect to local produce, but their culture is a little more epicurean, so the market is oriented a little more towards fine meats than vegetables, so they’ve moved to corn. This is an ecological disaster (like in the US), of course, and it limits the Belgian consumer to produce from Spain, or Morocco, or Chile. Why corn? They take the soybeans from Brazil (take that, rainforest!) and mix it with the corn from Belgium (take that, local variety) to feed Dutch cows (take that, CO2 emissions), which are then sold all over the Netherlands and Belgium and probably the rest of Europe.

    So yea – what can be done? There are really two answers:
    1) Convince *everyone* to push for greener solutions in food, energy, water, and other products. If we can set the demand, then the markets will do the rest.
    2) Similarly, if we can set the supply, people will adjust and end up healthier, happier, and on an healthier planet. That means socializing some part of the supply chain – taking the food example again, it could mean requiring farmers to rotate crops, or having grocery stores increase the cost of foreign produce, and to put the proceeds in a fund for CO2 reduction, or something.

    I’ve been using food as an example, here. Replace it with transportation, or electricity, or whatever, and you’ll find the exact same situation.

  90. Na

    Leigh Says:
    December 20th, 2008 at 6:17 am

    “YOUR side has a mental illness that ignores the obvious facts right in front of you because it feeds your psychological desire to feel good about yourself by ’saving the planet’. I could go on and on but you are all lost causes. We WILL defeat you because your more of your lies are failing every day and more people are beginning to realize it.

    69. Leigh Says:
    December 20th, 2008 at 6:26 am
    … Does that answer you question?”

    No it doesn’t. I said at the start, I’m no scientist. But I’ve been lurking here long enough to know that you better back up your arguments with some proof – and being skeptical of your accusations of lies, I’d like to ask you to present some evidence of those lies.

    As for the rest, I would ask you one more thing: As someone who suffers from a mental illness, I think it’s unfair and quite disrespectful to compare global warming ‘rhetoric’ to a real and painful sickness. Your comments on that only suggest to me that you are angry and unwilling to discuss this in a polite and proper debate. Maybe you should read your own words and apply them to yourself.

    … And now I have to read the rest of the comments, because I haven’t read anything else after your reply so far… So if you have provided proof, I’m sorry, I haven’t seen it yet.

  91. Na

    # Tom Marking Says:
    December 20th, 2008 at 10:40 am

    It all depends upon what those steps are. …Other steps I support not so much. For example, the Obama administration supports building new nuclear power plants (McCain supported the idea as well). That’s a step that will reduce CO2 emissions. I don’t favor it however since it produces its own environmental dangers. The Obama administration has no plan for long-term storage of nuclear waste – I think he uses some weasel words such as “let’s convene a committee of experts to study the problem”. And despite what we might think concerning the dangers of a warming planet the risk that radioactive waste might get into the water table or atmosphere is much, much worse. So it all depends on what the steps being proposed are.”

    I agree. Luckily, as an Australian I don’t have to worry too much about nucleur power plants (although having said that, we do provide a lot of uranium, which I’m not happy about). I don’t think nuclear power is good. I have read a bit about it vs solar power and wind, and would have to side with solar power over the use of nuclear power.

    So what steps would make you happy? And does your response mean that you think we should be reducing our impact?

  92. Na

    Sorry, just wanted to add:

    @Leigh, as far as the kool aid goes, I have grown up with GW=bad stuff from the mainstream media. But, and this is a big but, I am open minded and curious enough that if I were shown true and well researched data by credible scientists saying otherwise, then you would have a convert. So please, feel free to present evidence for YOUR side. I’m more than willing to be convinced.

  93. IVAN3MAN

    DrFlimmer: “Fusion power is not nuclear power, is it?”

    Au contraire, mon ami. According to Wikipedia:

    Nuclear Power is any nuclear technology designed to extract usable energy from atomic nuclei via controlled nuclear reactions. The most common method today is through nuclear fission, though other methods include nuclear fusion and radioactive decay.

    Nuclear Energy is released by the splitting (fission) or merging together (fusion) of the nuclei of atom(s).

    Fusion Power is power generated by nuclear fusion reactions. In this kind of reaction, two light atomic nuclei fuse together to form a heavier nucleus and in doing so, release energy.

    You were saying?

  94. @Na “So what steps would make you happy? And does your response mean that you think we should be reducing our impact?”

    IMHO in order from least risk to most risk, I would rank the steps as follows:

    1.) energy conservation/increased energy efficiency (lighting, cars, etc.)
    2.) natural biological CO2 sequestration (plant more trees, etc.)
    3.) albedo remediation (i.e., increasing the earth’s reflectivity)
    4.) solar, wind, hydroelectric, and geothermal power
    5.) clean coal technology, technological CO2 sequestration
    6.) nuclear power

    I only bring up nuclear power in particular because my impending president (Barack Obama) intends to use it as part of the solution. IMHO it should be used only as a last resort. I would hope that before they start breaking earth on the next nuclear power plant that Obama would at least mandate that every federally owned building in the country replace its outdated incandescant light bulbs with new energy-efficient lighting. I’m suspicious when the politicians won’t even grasp the low-hanging fruit and propose drastic solutions to this problem.

  95. @Na “So please, feel free to present evidence for YOUR side. I’m more than willing to be convinced.”

    I thought I already did. Please take a look at:

    http://ams.confex.com/ams/pdfpapers/108927.pdf

    Then come back and tell us how you interpret that data.

  96. DrFlimmer

    Yeeeeees, Ivan, you got me again 😉

    I accuse the media/mainstream for my mistake, because “nuclear” is always used as a synonym for nuclear fission 😉

    But hopefully you agree with me, that fusion is much less dangerous than fission, hence we should try to get our needs of power through fusion. A complex and difficult way, indeed, and I hope we can make it…

  97. Jeffersonian

    a)Every human being we create needs to consume energy.
    b)Population growth is geometric.
    Therefore :
    c)No matter how much we reduce, we can not get ahead unless we curb population growth. If each and every human reduces 20%, but the population doubles in the next 20 years, we’ll still be way behind.
    It’s the elephant in the room that no one admits.

    @Leigh
    “CO2 is a trace gas in the atmosphere completely incapable of affecting global climate.”
    This isn’t really even debated anymore. We already know that increasing the amount in the atmosphere beyond “trace” is problematic (which is actually implicit in your statement). Are you saying that you could pump any amount into the atmosphere and there would never be an effect? If this is not what you are saying, then how much can you safely increase the levels?

    @Tom Marking
    Environmental dangers for nuclear power are small enough, compared to the alternatives, to be unworrisome. Obama can look at putting Yucca Mtn back on track for starters. I agree that Obama was behind McCain on this (campaign wise anyway) but I think it’s because he knows that the public lacks knowledge on the safety of atomic power and tends to knee-jerk, particularly with ignorance of the technological advancements of the last 20 years.

    “the risk that radioactive waste might get into the water table or atmosphere is much, much worse.”
    We’ve been successfully transporting the waste for decades and this scenario has yet to happen. The scenario is extremely unlikely; a very manageable risk. Meanwhile, coal has been proven to create radioactive waste in the air and water, so this is an argument for nuclear power.

    The track record for nuclear power is better than hydro and coal. There are almost 500 nuclear plants running every day including 104 in the US. Yet there has never been a leak in a modern atomic power plant. What people fear is only what they imagine, but not supported by the facts. If it were as dangerous as naysayers would have you believe, we’d have stopped its use long ago.

    @Na
    Solar isn’t an alternative to nuclear or coal. The technology to do more than augment with solar is a long ways off. Wind can augment but can’t replace since it can not meet peak demands. A friend of mine who holds a doctorate in physics from MIT explained it this way: solar is great…if you want to power a pocket calculator. If you look at the math, the choice with today’s technology, is coal or nuclear. Waste deep underground or waste in the atmosphere. I see it as a no-brainer.

  98. Jeffersonian

    @DrFlimmer
    Just think of “nuclear” as meaning “anything happening at the level of the nucleus of an atom.”
    Fission is the chain reaction (meaning “self-sustaining”) of nuclei splitting that creates massive energy. It can occur only with certain elements.
    Fusion is forcing nuclei to fuse together.
    We have figured out fission. Fusion, not so much.

  99. Jeffersonian

    It would appear that most people haven’t a clue how we get power from the atom (not people at this blog, necessarily).

    I offer this:
    Nuclear energy is not “nuclear fusion” and not “nuclear weapons”. The “nucleus” is everywhere. Thus, everything you see or touch is “nuclear”.

    We get power from the atom like this:
    Uranium 235 is separated out of mined Uranium, of which only a percentage is the 235 isotope. U-235 has nuclei that fly away, colliding with others and causing them to split. This creates “free energy” in the form of heat. That heat boils water which creates steam. That steam spins a turbine which powers generators. The power output is extreme and self-sustaining. Modern technology can precisely control the rate of fission based on power needs and fuel availability.

  100. Jeffersonian

    (oops…should have said “U-235 has neutrons that fly into nearby nuclei causing them to split”)

    Note that the amount of energy contained in nuclear fuel is millions of times greater than any fossil fuel. And we have enough for centuries.

  101. wfr

    Here’s a website that occasionally helps me from going berserk listening to people with closed minds: http://climatedebatedaily.com/

  102. Na

    # Tom Marking Says:
    December 21st, 2008 at 8:27 am

    @Na “So what steps would make you happy? And does your response mean that you think we should be reducing our impact?”

    IMHO in order from least risk to most risk, I would rank the steps as follows…”

    Thanks, that helps clarify your POV for me.

  103. Na

    # Tom Marking Says:
    December 21st, 2008 at 8:32 am

    @Na “So please, feel free to present evidence for YOUR side. I’m more than willing to be convinced.”

    I thought I already did. ”

    Sorry, I was referring to Leigh. (Hence the capitalisation of the ‘your’… I was doing a little spoof) :)

  104. Na

    # Jeffersonian Says:
    December 21st, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    “@Na
    Solar isn’t an alternative to nuclear or coal. The technology to do more than augment with solar is a long ways off. Wind can augment but can’t replace since it can not meet peak demands. A friend of mine who holds a doctorate in physics from MIT explained it this way: solar is great…if you want to power a pocket calculator. If you look at the math, the choice with today’s technology, is coal or nuclear. Waste deep underground or waste in the atmosphere. I see it as a no-brainer.”

    I agree that solar can only be part of the solution. But I also know that if we had solar panels on the roofs of houses we’d be doing our part – like changing our light bulbs. You mention improvements in nuclear technology; hasn’t solar panel tech also improved?

  105. IVAN3MAN

    DrFlimmer:

    I accuse the media/mainstream for my mistake, because “nuclear” is always used as a synonym for nuclear fission.

    Yeah, I know what you mean, DrFlimmer. It’s the same with the word “theory” that the media often trivializes, and that results in a misunderstanding of the term “theory” by the general public.

    But hopefully you agree with me, that fusion is much less dangerous than fission, hence we should try to get our needs of power through fusion.

    Indeed! The likelihood of a catastrophic accident in a fusion reactor in which injury or loss of life occurs is much smaller than that in a fission reactor. The primary reason is that the fission products in a fission reactor continue to generate heat through beta-decay for several hours or even days after reactor shut-down, meaning that a meltdown is possible even after the reactor has been stopped. In contrast, fusion requires precisely controlled conditions of temperature, pressure and magnetic field parameters in order to generate net energy. If the reactor were damaged, these parameters would be disrupted and the heat generation in the reactor would rapidly cease.

  106. IVAN3MAN

    @ Gary Ansorge,

    I think that you have misinterpreted the definition of “conservative” and “liberal” that I quoted above from the Oxford English Dictionary:

    conservative adj. 1. Tending to favour the preservation of the existing order [basically: “Sod you, Jack, I’m alright!” attitude problem]; averse to change [stick one’s head in the sand and pretend it ain’t happening] and holding traditional values [‘God created the Earth for man to exploit…’].

    liberal adj. 7. (of education) Concerned with broadening general knowledge and experience [which is what Dr. Phil Plait, et al., are endeavouring to do].

    I trust this is clear now.

  107. K

    Good Partial Summary — there’s more available from teh AIRS website itself (which, curiously, wasn’t referenced by a link in this item):

    http://www-airs.jpl.nasa.gov/story_archive/AIRS_Takes_on_Global_Climate_Change/Severe_Weather_and_Climate_Change/

    “…the AIRS science team has already demonstrated that AIRS data can lead to better forecasts of the location and intensity of “extratropical cyclones” which are mid-latitude storms (an example of which is the “Northeaster” that often strikes the east coast of the United States). This is a good indication that AIRS data are much better than what is available to the weather service, and probably good enough to test the climate-weather connection hypothesis. OF COURSE WE NEED A MUCH LONGER TIME SERIES OF DATA THAN WE HAVE SO FAR, [Empasis Added]…”

    Given that the data is limited NASA JPL clearly isn’t following Phil’s lead in boldly committing to an increasing storm intensity conclusion — because they said so. Nice theory though. There might even be something to it…but not from the AIRS data. Yet.

    NOAA has a nice link to an article that did some rigourous comparisons of hurricane data, storm intensity trends, in the Atlantic for the past 100 years or so:
    http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/Landsea/landsea-eos-may012007.pdf

  108. @Jeffersonian “The track record for nuclear power is better than hydro and coal. There are almost 500 nuclear plants running every day including 104 in the US. Yet there has never been a leak in a modern atomic power plant. What people fear is only what they imagine, but not supported by the facts.”

    Chernobyl does not exist only in our imagination. It really happened. Many towns in the Ukraine will be permanentaly uninhabitable for centuries due to the radiation danger. Now, of course you will be telling us that it was not a modern power plant.

    Well, what about the Davis-Besse plant in Toldeo, Ohio. On March 12th, 2002 all that prevented a core meltdown was 3/16th inch of steel. If the plant had continued to operate for another few weeks boric acid would have eaten through the reactor vessel and a melt-down would have ensued. We got lucky that time because the corrosion was detected in time. We cannot count on being lucky the next time.

    http://www.animatedsoftware.com/environm/besse/davisbe7.htm

    “On March 12th, 2002 it was discovered that the entire six-inch Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV) at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Reactor (Ohio) had been CORRODED THROUGH by boric acid which dripped onto it from “circular cracks” in reactor nozzles (flanges) which stick out from the top of the RPV. All that held back the 2200 PSI hot water on the other side was the 3/16’s inch Inner Stainless Steel liner (originally reported as 3/8ths of an inch thick, then as 1/2 inch thick, but they seem to have finally agreed on a number and it’s only 3/16ths of an inch). The liner had already bulged about 1/8th of an inch. We were very near a LOSS OF COOLANT ACCIDENT possibly leading to a CORE MELTDOWN…”

  109. @IVAN3MAN “Would that include fusion power, DrFlimmer? I don’t think we should rule that out.”

    Since we don’t have a working nuclear fusion power plant at the moment, some of what I’m about to say is speculative. Nevertheless, the assumption that nuclear fusion would be entirely “clean” is probably unwarranted. Probably the easiest fusion reaction to get going would be deuterium-tritium. Under such high energies there will be quite a lot of separation of neutrons from the nuclei and so a pretty intense neutron flux will be leaving the reactor vessel since neutrons won’t be constrained by the magnetic fields. The surrounding material, being bombarded by neutrons, will be subject to neutron activation and some of it will become radioactive. The amount of radioactive waste from a nuclear fusion reactor is likely to be much less than from a fission reactor, but it won’t be zero. It won’t be as clean as solar, wind, hydroelectric, and geothermal energy.

  110. Katie DeSellier

    I guess global warming is a bad thing. But what do we do now? Just wait to die or do something? Anybody know what to do?

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