Climate Science Rift on Severe Weather Attribution

By Keith Kloor | April 26, 2012 12:18 pm

As some might recall, the climate science community split into several camps in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I think similar fault lines are emerging in the global warming/severe weather debate.

In my latest post at the Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media, I discuss this in the context of a popular new frame, which lends itself to those who, as University of Washington atmospheric scientist Cliff Mass wrote recently,”either imply or explicitly suggest” that recent severe weather events are the result of global warming. This is a relatively new climate minefield for reporters to navigate, especially since some of the most outspoken climate scientists forcefully making this case are frequently quoted in the media. Mass has something notable to say about that, too.

What’s going to end up happening, I think, is that climate activists are going to continue to play up the global warming/severe weather angle–with the help of some climate scientists–and this is going to cause a Katrina-like rift in the climate science community. Go read my piece at the Yale Forum and let me know what you think.

 

  • Jarmo

    Of course the extreme weather card is going to be played. How badly it backfires, the future will tell.

  • Jeffn

    This is less a rift than an effort to have it both ways. When the weather’s nasty- here is a list of people willing to claim a connection to the weather. When it’s fine, or there is a cold winter, well here’s a list of people willing to say the opposite.No matter what’s happening outside, it’s man’s fault. And, as the last thread demonstrated, we just label the ones who were wrong “outside the mainstream”. 

  • BBD

    From Cliff Mass’s blog (link in Keith’s article):(2) If we haven’t seen trends in extremes that does not mean that we won’t see them in the future when the impact of anthropogenic greenhouse warming increases substantially.  The earth is only starting to warm up due to mankind’s influence on greenhouse gases.  The big action… including changes in extremes… is AHEAD of us.  Activist types have made a huge mistake in thinking they need to point to observed
    changes in extremes to make their case for dealing with GW.  They are particularly making a mistake when they make claims that have no scientific basis.   Global warming skeptics and deniers have made the huge mistake of assuming that a lack of clear changes in the atmosphere during the past decades says something about what will happen in the future, since most of the GW impacts have not yet occurred  
    Ironically, the activist types are providing the deniers with a potent weapon, since it is pretty easy to disprove many of the activist claims
    of human-induced global warming enhancing past and current extreme weather.

    […]

    I believe the science is fairly clear…the impacts of global warming due to human-enhanced greenhouse gases will be be very significant,
    that the effects will increase gradually at first, but then accelerate later in the century.
      There will be substantial impacts on extremes, but the magnitudes and spatial distributions will be complex, and we don’t necessarily have a good handle on it at present.

  • BBD

    Emphasis as original; formatting sodded up by me.

  • kdk33

    Global warming skeptics and deniers have made the huge mistake of assuming that a lack of clear changes in the atmosphere during the past decades says something about what will happen in the future, since most of the GW impacts have not yet occurred.

    So the warming that has happenned so far has not changed the atmosphere, but the warming in the future will.  We have to act now.  Hurry.  If we wait until we see the damage it will be too late.

    I don’t know why everyone isn’t on board.

  • kdk33

    I’m reminded of MT’s theory that CO2 changed the weather in a way that simultaneously dangerous but not detectable.  You can’t make this stuff up.

  • BBD

    Some people seem to be missing the point here.

    It’s a time-scale thing.

  • Steve Mennie

    @kd33…so a scan detects some barely detectable shadows in your brain…chances are they are malignant but they are so small that they won’t really be a problem for a couple of years…this means there is no urgent need for action right? I mean there is a chance that if we wait to see the damage it will be too late but hey, we got a year or two…what’s the rush?

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    #8, if it isn’t a heart attack it’s brain tumors. But we’re not being apocalyptic, are we?

    If you’re going to use a medical analogy, use an appropriate one. Type 2 diabetes. Chronic obesity. Something that exacerbates other conditions and needs lifelong treatment. Something that is usually caused or accelerated by lifestyle choices.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    You’ve made an interesting prediction Keith. Whose side would you put your money on? Hansen or Mass?

  • Steve Mennie

    Not being apocalyptic at all..only pointing out that small things grow into big things and if detected and dealt with while small, the ‘apocalyptic’ big things can be avoided. Actually I like the analogy with diabetes…we have been on a carbon ‘sugar’ binge as a species for a couple of hundred years and like many diabetics who can carry on with a ‘dangerous but not detectable condition’ (many diabetics go for years without detectable – by them – symptoms) we are waiting for the damage to become obvious…which will likely be too late. I would prefer to use the term ‘significant’ rather than apocalyptic though. 

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @11

    +1

    even a broken clock is right twice a day :)

  • Jack Hughes

    Yeah let’s play doctors. Yes the patient has a new disease that has never been observed before but has symptoms that are at the same time invisible and already catastrophic and anything that the patient does is a symptom of the disease.We must act now !

  • Marlowe Johnson

    to be clear i was referring the value of the analogy offered by our good friend Fuller:Actually I like the analogy with diabetes”¦we have been on a carbon “˜sugar’ binge as a species for a couple of hundred years and like many diabetics who can carry on with a “˜dangerous but not detectable condition’ (many diabetics go for years without detectable ““ by them ““ symptoms) we are waiting for the damage to become obvious”¦which will likely be too late. 

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    The actual danger in all this is that the IPCC will get it in the neck from both sides. It’s not enough that Donna is going after them from the skeptic side (and her book is more carefully written and researched than the title would indicate). Now right after the IPCC tries to inject some sanity into the discussion of extreme weather, the alarmist brigade is going to go up against the from the other side.

    I have been at least as critical of the IPCC as any of the regulars here–especially of its leadership, which has been abysmal. But people on both sides of the fence had better stop and think a minute. If the IPCC folded tomorrow, what would take its place? Think for just a minute before blurting out ‘Nothing.’ Please.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    tom.

    <p<you were="" never="" meant="" to="" ba="" partipant="" in="" the="" drinking="" game.=""

    </p water is your friend. 

  • Marlowe Johnson

    i HATE this comment software. i hope your getting some favors on the side for it keith.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    I’ll bet your driving is impaired, too.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @18

    well played sir.

  • Steve Schuman

    So warming since the end of the little ice age until now has allowed humanity to flourish.  From this point on it will be all bad.  This implies we’ve gone beyond some magic number.  Could someone tell me what that number was and how it was determined.

  • Jarmo
  • BBD

    Jarmo

    It’s a time-scale thing (see # 3 and # 7).

  • Jarmo

    #22,

    Actually, it is a hypothesis. Anyway, we have always had extreme weather and if there is one thing that is certain, now we are better prepared to deal with them than ever and that will improve in the future. Nothing like this will likely ever happen again:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1931_China_floods

    My point is that the suggested increase of extreme events in the future (and in the case of Joe Romm, presently and also in the past) is a tool to activists, aimed at scaring people into taking action and cutting CO2 emissions. Romm is foaming because the IPCC has for once pointed out the uncertainties.

  • BBD

    Actually, it is a hypothesis.

    Spare me the thinly-veiled denialism, please. 

    now we are better prepared to deal with them than ever and that will improve in the future.

    Hand-waving/misdirection. Think drought. That’s weather too.

    a tool to activists, aimed at scaring people into taking action and cutting CO2 emissions.

    Yes, I do get that. As does Mass. Again, see # 3.

    I don’t think you really grasp this at all. See here.

  • BobN

    BBD – I think the point that Mass was trying to make is that it is likely counterproductive to continually attempt to link current extreme weather events to global warming and that the case for action should be made through other means.  By overstating the connection between recent extreme weather events and AGW, you make it easier for those who are unconvinced or unconcerned  to dismiss the science as a whole and run the risk of being considered the Boy Who Cried Wolf.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    > The Boy Who Cried Wolf

    I believe his name was Peter.

    No, not that Peter.

  • BBD

    BobN

    Yes, as I had hoped to make clear already, I do understand that. Which is why I quoted Mass as I did from his blog at # 3. Mass *also* points out that this is a time-scale thing (emphasis as original):

    If we haven’t seen trends in extremes that does not mean that we won’t see them in the future when the impact of anthropogenic greenhouse warming increases substantially.  The earth is only starting to warm up due to mankind’s influence on greenhouse gases.  The big action”¦ including changes in extremes”¦ is AHEAD of us. 

    However, personally, I acknowledge (and agree with) the counter-arguments advanced by Trenberth and others, and summarised at P3 here.

    This is not a free ticket for contrarians either way.

  • Jarmo

    #24,

    I think I am stating the obvious. While droughts, floods and hurricanes remain threats, we are better equipped than ever before to deal with them. We have more material damage than before because we have more people and infrastructure than ever before but much less loss of life.

    Over here Keith has had many posts that have mentioned megadroughts of natural origin far worse than anything seen in the past 200 years, i.e. the time we have been adding CO2 into the atmosphere:

    http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/res/div/ocp/glodech/research9activedunes.html 

  • BobN

    Williard – Peter and the Wolf is not the same as the Boy Who Cried Wolf.BBD – The graph of the change in distribution of NH summer temps was indeed surprising, though I am not sure average summer temps necessarily reflect the type of  “extreme” weather events that seems to be the topic of  Keith’s and Mass’s posts.  I agree that it is a time scale related issue but must point out that, while there are strong reasons to believe that certain types of extreme events (droughts, floods, heat waves)  will increase, the magnitude of any such increase is pretty much speculative at this point.

  • BBD

    BobN
    I am not sure average summer temps necessarily reflect the type of  “extreme” weather events that seems to be the topic of  Keith’s and Mass’s posts.

    From Hansen, Sato, Ruedi:

    The most important change of the climate dice is the appearance of a new category of extremely hot summer anomalies, with mean temperature at least three standard deviations greater than climatology. These extreme temperatures were practically absent in the period of climatology, covering only a few tenths of one percent of the land area, but they have occurred over about 10% of land area in recent years. The increased frequency of these extreme anomalies, by more than an order of magnitude, implies that we can say with a high degree of confidence that events such as the extreme summer heat in the Moscow region in 2010 and Texas in 2011 were a consequence of global warming.

  • BBD

    I agree that it is a time scale related issue but must point out that,
    while there are strong reasons to believe that certain types of extreme
    events (droughts, floods, heat waves)  will increase, the magnitude of
    any such increase is pretty much speculative at this point.
    From Hansen, Sato, Ruedi:How will the “loading” of the climate dice continue to change in the future? Fig. 4 provides a clear, sobering, indication. The extreme hot tail of the distribution of temperature anomalies shifted to the right by more than +1σ in response to the global warming of about 0.5°C over the past three decades. Additional global warming in the next 50 years, if business-as-usual fossil fuel emissions continue, is expected to be at least 1°C (4). In that case, the further shifting of the anomaly distribution will make +3σ anomalies the norm and +5σ anomalies will be common.

  • BBD

    Sod it. Sorry.

    Keith… please can something be done about the editor?

    I agree that it is a time scale related issue but must point out that,while there are strong reasons to believe that certain types of extreme events (droughts, floods, heat waves)  will increase, the magnitude of any such increase is pretty much speculative at this point.

    From Hansen, Sato, Ruedi:

    How will the “loading” of the climate dice continue to change in the future? Fig. 4 provides a clear, sobering, indication. The extreme hot
    tail of the distribution of temperature anomalies shifted to the right by more than +1σ in response to the global warming of about 0.5°C over
    the past three decades. Additional global warming in the next 50 years, if business-as-usual fossil fuel emissions continue, is expected to be at least 1°C (4). In that case, the further shifting of the anomaly distribution will make +3σ anomalies the norm and +5σ anomalies will be common.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    > Peter and the Wolf is not the same as the Boy Who Cried Wolf.

    Indeed. Peter and the Wolf could very well be the modernist antidote to Aesop’s fable. I could not resist the pun.

    I agree with your previous comment, btw.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #29,

    It’s an interesting graph, but I’m not sure that it isn’t misleading in this context. As a demonstration that the distribution is both shifting and broadening, it’s fine. We can argue about measurement errors some other time. But Tobis seems to be trying to sell the distribution for the average of the entire northern hemisphere summer temperature anomaly as “weather”. I think it should be obvious that +/-3 C isn’t “extreme”.

    I pretty much agree with the text BBD quoted in #3. The position of the more responsible scientists in the climate mainstream is that local weather extremes will be affected in future, probably around the middle to the end of the century, but that the effects are not distinguishable from the noise now. You have to average over continental-sized areas to detect it. Claims to the contrary damage the credibility of those activists making them, in the long run, and of their campaign.

  • NewYorkJ

    So scientists agree certain extremes will become increasingly frequent and intense with global warming.  An appropriate post, with the proper nuance, examines this in more detail:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2011/02/going-to-extremes/ 

    Not all extremes are the same, and they tend to get conflated in media and blogs.  Before the record-breaking 2011 season, there hadn’t been an increase in the strongest U.S. tornadoes and theory is uncertain as to the future direction of those trends.  Through conflating tornadoes with everything else, deniers will point to the tornado data, then claims there are no trends in extremes.

    In contrast, there have been trends in record-breaking heat and extreme rainfall.  Drought has been a subject of study too.  Dai discusses trends in 2 separate studies, the first focusing on drought, with global trends increasing.

    Global aridity has increased substantially since the 1970s due to recent drying over Africa, southern Europe, East and South Asia, and eastern Australia. Although El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), tropical Atlantic SSTs, and Asian monsoons have played a large role in the recent drying, recent warming has increased atmospheric moisture demand and likely altered atmospheric circulation patterns, both contributing to the drying.

    The next study focuses on both extreme dry and wet conditions

    The percentages of dry and wet areas over the global land area and six select regions are anticorrelated (r = −0.5 to −0.7), but their long”term trends during the 20th century do not cancel each other, with the trend for the dry area often predominating over that for the wet area, resulting in upward trends during the 20th century for the areas under extreme (i.e., dry or wet) conditions for the global land as a whole (∼1.27% per decade) and the United States, western Europe, Australia, Sahel, East Asia, and southern Africa. The recent drying trends are qualitatively consistent with other analyses and model predictions, which suggest more severe drying in the coming decades. 

    Yes – the data, especially between regions, is noisy, but the signals are emerging.  

    Other analysis involves determining attribution of specific extreme events (such as the Russian event) to global warming, and there’s robust debate in that area.  Attribution of individual weather events is always hard.  Consensus is that events like the Russian 2010 event, currently a once-in-thousand-years type of event, will become much more common.

    Contrary to what denier types imply, the existence of uncertainty does not equate to “we know nothing”.

    On a related note, I’ve seen many posts of Keith and the denier crowd (I don’t put Keith in that crowd) that mock “activists” for supposedly over-confidently stating a link between certain weather events and climate.  Setting aside the fact that some of these events have studies supporting a link, I see a hefty double standard being applied.  I recall some cold/snowy weather in recent U.S. winters that deniers used as evidence against global warming.  Gore was advised to build an igloo.  While some won’t hold them accountable, with the last 12 months being the warmest on U.S. record, their credibility ultimately is shattered among most of the public.  Polls show that more are connecting the dots.

    Refs: 

    Drought under global warming: a review (Dai, 2011)

    Characteristics and trends in various forms of the Palmer Drought Severity Index during 1900″“2008 (Dai, 2011)

  • Nullius in Verba

    NewYorkJ,

    So we have:

    1) Tornadoes. As you say, there is no detectable trend in tornadoes. I’m not sure why you bring them up.

    2) Trends in record breaking heat, extreme rainfall, and drought. The only trend reported here is at the staggering rate of 1.27% per decade, and that’s the difference between the 1970s and now. But all this really says is that the number fluctuates, and so far by a few percent globally. We knew that.

    3) There’s a debate on about connecting weather like the Russian event to global warming. I agree there’s a debate. But I think even most of the scientists on your side say you can’t connect them.

    4) Gore’s igloo. The joke is that if hot weather is proof of global warming, as the media loudly insists, then logically cold weather must be disproof. We know it’s nonsense, but by making the jokes we force believers to acknowledge the principle. Weather is not climate. That’ll make it harder for them next summer when they reverse.

    5) The last 12 months in the US. Oh dear. When it’s cold weather, only 30+ year trends over the entire globe will do. But a single warm year on less than 2% of the world’s surface area and people are “connecting the dots”. No. Sorry. You’ve only got one dot there.

    Weather-is-not-climate. You burn credibility every time you try.

  • BobN

    BBD – Heat waves are but one type of extreme weather event and while interesting, I don’t think Hansen Seto &Ruedy is the last word on the potential magnitude of future heat waves and their conclusions regarding the 2010 Moscow heat wave and 2011 Texas heat wave are at odds with other competent climate scientists.

  • BBD

    NIV

    From Mass’s blog (again) emphasis as original:

    If we haven’t seen trends in extremes that does not mean that we won’t see them in the future when the impact of anthropogenic greenhouse
    warming increases substantially. 
    The earth is only starting to warm up due to mankind’s influence on greenhouse gases.  The big action”¦
    including changes in extremes”¦ is AHEAD of us.

    It’s a time-scale thing.

  • BBD

    BobN

    Fair enough, but I see a picture emerging even if you prefer to look the other way. But it is still and only my personal perspective. We’ll let the scientific debate go where it goes. But do you feel… comfortable arguing the ‘it’s okay, nothing to worry about’ corner these days?

  • Nullius in Verba

    #38,

    Yes, that’s what I said in #34.

  • NewYorkJ

    NiV,

    1. Tornadoes are one type extreme.  I bring them up to show that not all extreme events should be treated the same, as media and blogs often do, but that should be obvious.

    2. A positive global trend over the course of the 20th century is more than an indication that merely “the number fluctuates”.  Not even a good effort there. There’s still noise around the signal but signal is beginning to emerge, with confidence levels increasing.

    3. I disagree.http://climateandsecurity.org/2012/03/06/the-russian-heat-wave-revisited-more-evidence-of-a-climate-link/

    4. It’s worse than that for deniers.  The igloo was built in response to a big D.C. snowstorm, which in northern climate winter seasons, is partly a product of heavy precipitation, and climate models show winter snow increases in the U.S. northeast, for example.  So deniers are doubly wrong.  Now the recent NYT poll shows 60% of Americans say bigger snowstorms are tied to global warming, so I’m not sure the igloo was effective propaganda for you.More to the point, people are getting that climate is trending warmer and heavier precip events are occurring.  Citing the those extremes as examples of what is expected with global warming is hardly controversial.  Citing a few cold events to imply it’s not really warming is seen as disingenuous and dishonest.  It’s like trying to convince fans that the Charlotte Bobcats are a good team by pointing to a few wins.   Sure, they win a few games once in a while, but over the course of the season, they’ve mostly lost. Your hope in duping the public relies on the assumption that everyone has a very short memory.

    5. A year does not make a trend, but I think you’re being obtuse to the point.  After proclaiming global warming isn’t happening and citing cold and snowy weather as evidence, the record heat is a massive PR backfire for deniers. If Inhofe’s igloo for Gore was meant for humor, it seems to be self-deprecating.

  • BobN

    BBD – Don’t know that I am looking the other way.  The apparently large number of record or near record events over the past two years along with the dramatic amount by which some of the records were broken certainly makes one wonder…

  • BobN

    BBD – Don’t know that I am looking the other way.  The apparently large number of record or near record events over the past two years along with the dramatic amount by which some of the records were broken certainly makes one wonder…

  • Nullius in Verba

    #41,

    1. Whatever.

    2. Detecting a trend signal depends on your model of signal and noise. They haven’t detected a trend, they’ve just rejected the ‘no change’ hypothesis. Not all changes are trends.

    But as I said, while changes can be detected (barely) by averaging over large areas and long intervals, you can’t detect it at the local, anecdotal level where people experience weather.

    3. Yes, there are a bunch of people still desperately trying to connect weather to climate. But they burn your credibility every time they do so.

    4. There is no conceivable type of weather that does not confirm global warming predictions. If it’s hot and dry, that proves global warming. If it’s cold and snowy, that proves global warming. If it rains a lot, that’s because of global warming. If it stops raining, that’s because of global warming.

    Sorry, but it looks ridiculous.

    5. That’s a perfect example of what we’re joking about. One year of record heat, in a subset of one country and here you are once again ‘connecting the dots’. Believers have been using the hot-weather-proves-global-warming meme since Hansen turned the air conditioning off in 1988. The ‘snow as global warming’ joke is built on that. It’s not about saying global warming has stopped, it’s about the illogical inconsistency of the activists’ arguments.

  • NewYorkJ

    1. Ditto2. Whatever3. Since the studies cited in my #3 dealt with scientists analyzing relative attribution of specific extreme weather events, your characterization “bunch of people still desperately trying to connect weather to climate” makes you look desperate, and not particularly knowledgeable of the science. If you have a rebuttal, submit to the appropriate journal.4. No single weather event is inconsistent with global warming.  That is true.  Tell that to your fellow deniers.5. If you don’t want record U.S. annual heat to make your crowd look like fools – if you don’t think it’s to your advantage to focus on cold or snowy weather when climate is continuing to warm (more heat-related records), then using a snowstorm as a reason to doubt global warming is inadvisable.“If, in fact, global warming is taking place, its kind of hard on a day like today and the last few days to be talking about global warming,” Inhofe declared on the Senate floor, on that snowy February day. “I often say, where is it when you need it?”
    Inhofe’s grandchildren built the igloo down the street from the Capitol and the family attached a sign, which jokingly called it Al Gore’s new home. On his website is his “Minority Report” on why he says climate change is a hoax.
    If you don’t want your crowd to look like fools, you have some work to do.  You can’t have it both ways.

  • BBD

    BobN @ 42

    Me too.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #45,

    I don’t think you’ve quite got my point yet. I’ll illustrate it again using your argument here.

    5. If you don’t want cold and snowy weather to make your crowd look like fools ““ if you don’t think it’s to your advantage to focus on hot weather anecdotes when climate is continuing to flat-line (last 10-15 years), then using a record hot year as a reason to believe global warming is inadvisable.

    Do you see the symmetry?

    Hot years and cold years have always occurred, and always will. Their frequency and magnitude has always varied, on short and long time scales, and it always will. It would be stupid to pin your entire credibility on individual weather events, knowing that next year there’s quite likely to be a reversal. And yet you keep on doing it, and seem blind to the inconsistency.

    Global warming at the moment is like a biased coin that comes up heads fifty one times out of a hundred. With enough data, you can detect the difference. But any individual outcome proves nothing. Joking that it’s just come up tails so the coin is not biased is only a funny joke after somebody has said it came up heads so it is.

  • NewYorkJ

    It would be stupid to pin your entire credibility on individual weather eventsWho’s doing that?  The evidence for gobal warming, the human impact, and the effects extend far beyond individual weather extremes.  That is one small piece.  You don’t like pointing it out because extreme weather is something that we all experience and gets people’s attention, and leads to public concern.I hate to say it, but you (NiV) could actually use a lecture from Al Gore from 2005, who deniers hold up as an example of the height of overstatements.  While I’m not saying he’s never overstated anything, his talks tend to be well off your characterization of climate concerned.Here’s what I think we here understand about Hurricane Katrina and global warming. Yes, it is true that no single hurricane can be blamed on global warming. Hurricanes have come for a long time, and will continue to come in the future. Note the bolded part.  You insist that the climate concerned hold up individual events as absolute proof of global warming or its impacts.  You’re not alone as many media sources build this strawman.  In your case, you’re using it as some sort of defense of deniers doing the same.  I’m not seeing it.  I do see noting some extreme events as example of what to expect with global warming or as examples of a trend that has occurred (more heat extremes, heavy precip events).  If one argues that the Charlotte Bobcats are a lousy team, showing some of their losses as examples is acceptable, even if not definitive proof.  It’s certainly part of their trend of more and more losses throughout the season.  A denier would point to one or more of their few wins to shed doubt on the assertion that they stink.  That is not only dishonest, but when the Bobcats continue their trend of more losing (even with a few more wins included), the denier looks like a fool.Yes, cold weather will continue, as will years with less heavy precip events.  Cold records certainly aren’t disappearing but the ratio between heat to cold is growing.  Pointing that out in a formal study caused Watts and Co. to blow a gasket.  Given the extra number on the dice, which will be followed by more numbers the odds aren’t in your favor to emphasize it as evidence against global warming.  More and more, people tend to notice your track record.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #48,

    “The evidence for gobal warming, the human impact, and the effects extend far beyond individual weather extremes. That is one small piece.”

    I’m not arguing at the moment with the case for global warming. I’m arguing with this one small piece. Why use a bad argument at all if you’ve got so many better ones?

    “You don’t like pointing it out because extreme weather is something that we all experience and gets people’s attention, and leads to public concern.”

    On the contrary. I love people pointing it out, because it’s an easy win.

    “I hate to say it, but you (NiV) could actually use a lecture from Al Gore”

    Heh!

    It’s a politician’s technique. If you make a series of unrelated statements, listeners will try to fill in the gaps to make it into a logical argument. It’s a natural part of understanding speech, and one reason why computers have such a hard time doing it. But from a politician’s point of view, it’s ideal because you can say things without actually saying them.

    Here’s an example.

    “Of course when the oceans get warmer, that causes stronger storms. We have seen in the last couple of years, a lot of big hurricanes.”

    The implication is that the last couple of years of hurricanes were caused by the warmer oceans. Warm ocean = more hurricanes. Simple, right?

    Except of course that he didn’t say it. And it obviously doesn’t follow – the large number of hurricanes might have been for other meteorological reasons, or just clustered by chance. But a lot of people walked out of the cinema thinking he’d said it. Scientists had warned there would be more hurricanes in future (like, in about 2050) and here were more hurricanes, and Katrina was a disaster because the Bush government ignored the scientists’ warnings.

    “How in God’s name could that happen here? There had been warnings that hurricanes would get stronger. There were warnings that this hurricane, days before it hit, would breach the levees and cause the kind of damage that it ultimately did cause. And one question that we, as a people, need to decide is how we react when we hear warnings from the leading scientists in the world.”

    Do you see how Kerry Emmanuel’s models have been transformed into a warning about Katrina?

    Katrina in fact was a perfectly standard hurricane, like hundreds before it. A couple of years with a lot of big hurricanes is also perfectly normal. And no scientist could or would have predicted them. But as a result of this presentation, many people now think they did.

    It’s a powerful technique, but risky. Now that people have equated hurricanes to global warming, a run of several years with no landfalling hurricanes, and a drop in global accumulated cyclone energy to a 40-year low becomes a powerful argument against global warming. It’s nonsense, of course. More hurricanes or less hurricanes, it’s got nothing to do with it. But now that you’ve deceived people into believing it, it’s exploitable.

    What we want is to get the message out there that weather is not climate; to break down this equivalency the AGW campaigners have built up in the minds of the public. But we don’t have the same access to the media and government and the authority of the scientific establishment, so we use political judo and get you to do it. We pull exactly the same trick you just did, forcing you to explain why connecting weather to climate is a bogus argument.

    The combination of the gradually understood logic of your refutation, along with your ever more visible flip-flopping every time the weather changes, breaks down credibility in the argument. And believers are far more dependent on unquestioned credibility than sceptics. We’d be quite happy for people not to believe us about the Gore Effect if it’s because everyone knows weather is not climate.

    Journalists like Keith here are starting to notice. The severe weather angle has become a minefield because it’s becoming well known that such claims usually later turn out to be wrong. And those who pride themselves on being genuinely fair and open-minded are experiencing cognitive dissonance. Having painfully explained the weather-is-not-climate logic to their readers last time it snowed in Saudi Arabia or the Sahara, they cannot now forget it when you show up talking about a hot summer in Texas. Interesting times.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    NewYorkJ,

    You should feel privileged to receive a response of this quality.

    I believe it’s important to ponder on this:

    > What we want is to get the message out there that weather is not climate; to break down this equivalency the AGW campaigners have built up in the minds of the public. But we don’t have the same access to the media and government and the authority of the scientific establishment, so we use political judo and get you to do it. We pull exactly the same trick you just did, forcing you to explain why connecting weather to climate is a bogus argument.

    I believe the symmetrical trick can be identified with this claim:

    More hurricanes or less hurricanes, it’s got nothing to do with it.

    Of course, hurricanes happenstances must have something to do with it.

    The only way to believe otherwise is to believe in magic.

    Why say it, then?

    One reason, I surmise, is that it’s tempting to try to refute magic.

    But how?

    Tough to say exactly.

    Even tougher to say in layman’s terms.

    Selling statistical inferences might always remain a mystery.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    In the spirit of openness of Nullius’ comment, I will forewarn that the discussions of the multifarious relationships between weather and climate will more sooner than later enter this kind of debate:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/dualism/

    Auditors ought to pay due diligence to the bookkeeping of Plato’s footnotes.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Willard,

    So you’re saying that the recent reduction in hurricane landfalls and global ACE is evidence against global warming??

    Heh.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    No, Nullius, I’m saying that climate causes weather.

    Nice try.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #53,

    Oh, right. We’re playing semantics.

    Would it not be as correct to say that weather causes climate? Is weather an instance of climate, or is climate a description of weather? Chicken or egg? Distribution or sample?

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    #55,

    We’re not playing semantics, but a game with a long tradition and many opening books.

    But we could, if you want. There are many games of semantics. There’s even a game semantics. One must choose and be ready to play. Using “playing semantics” in a dismissive gist is rarely a good move, more so if it’s to challenge someone without ever opening an opening book.

    Take for instance:

    Now that people have equated hurricanes to global warming

    The word “equates” deserves due diligence. Does that refer to an equivalence relationship? An equivalence relationship is symmetrical, reflexive and transitive.

    Is this the case here? We can doubt it. What is it?

    The word “people” is also interesting. To what does it refer exactly? The concept of reference has also been paid due diligence by the bookkeepers of Plato’s footnotes. So much to do, so little time.

    Perhaps the chicken and egg paradox can be explored by way of the famous distinction between types and tokens:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/types-tokens/

    In any case, I have a deadline this week-end. My time’s up.

    Have fun,

  • Nullius in Verba

    I’m guessing what you’re referring to is climate as the soul of the weather. Climate, being the statistical distribution of the weather, constitutes a collection of conceptual counterfactuals of weather that might have been. Are counterfactuals real, by definition? If climate can change from moment to moment, can we assume the weather ergodic? Is it subject to Bayesian subjectivity, or is will Zeno allow it to be a shifting Frequentist thirty-year ensemble? Is mind over matter, or are minds what brains do? If the tropics hiccup an extra hurricane, does that change the distribution, or does it only happen because the distribution changed? Or was it a counterfactual that wasn’t and the climate hasn’t changed at all?

    ‘Equates’ does deserve due dilligence. Let us see. Symmetrical – if global warming equals hurricanes, then hurricanes equal global warming. That is I think what was being implied. Reflexive – hurricanes equals hurricanes, and global warming equals global warming. Check. And transitive – global warming equals hurricanes and hurricanes equal disaster, so global warming equals disaster. Check, mate. So should I open a book now on when you’ll play with me some more?

    I really don’t mind. You win some, lose some, it’s still the same to me. The pleasure is to play…

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    So disasters equal hurricanes?

  • Nullius in Verba

    #57,

    Good one! :-)

    That would seem to be the logical implication. You remember the cover picture on AIT?

  • Jarmo

    #35Consensus is that events like the Russian 2010 event, currently a once-in-thousand-years type of event, will become much more common. 

    Living next to Russia, I can assure you similar heatwaves happen here more than once in a millennium. The last time before this one was 1914. Back then, people wrote of a stiff wind from Russia, the smell of burning forest, temperature rising above 35 C…. just like in 2010. However, there was something else going on back then that was vastly more interesting than weather….

    Thermometer records are mostly less than 200 years old. Not 1000 years.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    No, I don’t recall. You have a link?

    I believe that, like all good stories, the relationships are directional.

    More warming, more hurricanes.

    But more hurricanes, more warming?

    Really?

    Now, I really have to go.

    I agree with JonasN about your comment on the other thread. No time to find it back.

    Bye,

  • laursaurus

    The weather vs. climate argument goes like this:
    1.) Climate alarmist: Record low temperatures, blizzards, etc are weather, NOT climate.Storms, floods, droughts, heatwaves, tornadoes, mild winters, are proof of CAGW for the climate alarmists. The level temperatures of last decade are natural variability causing a pause in the catastrophic warning, aka weather-NOT climate.

    2.) Climate skeptic: Basically the exact opposite in what they consider weather vs. climate.

    3.) Scientists: Weather is weather. Climate is the consistent long term average. Arid vs. humid. Tropical vs. polar. Tundra vs. jungle. Tornado alley vs. hurricane prone. Plains vs. forests. Wetlands vs. dried lake beds.
    Didn’t an IPPC scientist named Landsea openly resign over Trenberth’s deliberate public misrepresentations of the science? Despite the decrease in frequency and intensity of hurricanes, Trenberth warned the public that nature would soon unleash her wrath with unprecedented devastation.
    Let me find a link…
    http://cstpr.colorado.edu/prometheus/archives/science_policy_general/000318chris_landsea_leaves.html.

    Now cross fingers this posts right.

  • BBD

    NIV

    And believers are far more dependent on unquestioned credibility than sceptics.

    Here was me thinking that ‘believers’ took their cue from the current best scientific understanding and its implications rather than contrarian blogs and professionally isolated researchers producing flawed papers.

    we use political judo and get you to do it. We pull exactly the same trick you just did, forcing you to explain why connecting weather to climate is a bogus argument.

    A ‘bogus’ argument? This is a dangerous tactic with a high risk of implosion in the next decade. Nor do I buy the ‘clever us’ argument. Contrarians didn’t cause the hurricane debacle. They simply exploited it. An obligate reliance on opportunism is not masterful strategy. Luck and inflated self-belief will only carry you so far.

    And those who pride themselves on being genuinely fair and open-minded are experiencing cognitive dissonance.

    Amen.

  • NewYorkJ

    I’m not arguing at the moment with the case for global warming. I’m arguing with this one small piece. Why use a bad argument at all if you’ve got so many better ones?If you can demonstrate it’s a bad argument, maybe you will have a point.  But when you resort to strawman arguments like this “It would be stupid to pin your entire credibility on individual weather events”, it reveals you have no credible argument. On the contrary. I love people pointing it out, because it’s an easy win.Among who, one wonders?  Scientists have already pointed the connection to global warming and some extreme events, so you’re not winning the argument there.  Public polls show the general public is getting it.  Who would find your argument a win?http://www.forbes.com/sites/eco-nomics/2012/04/19/poll-most-americans-now-link-extreme-weather-to-climate-change/What you repeatedly miss is when deniers claim global warming is occurring, or there’s no link between global warming and certain extreme weather events, when a huge event occurs, you look silly.  People remember those events, more so than the lack thereof.  Some tend to notice that they are becoming more frequent or intense.  They notice more deluges, the fact that there is a trend towards an expanding ratio of record highs and lows.   When deniers say “look, there’s no big event this year”, or “it was cold in NYC”, and when such an event returns, they look like the Boy Who Cried Sheep.  At the very least, their credibility as a reliable source diminishes.  It’s also bad for the repetition of skepticism in science in general, when skepticism is hard to distinguish between denialism or ideological advocacy.

  • NewYorkJ

    Didn’t an IPPC scientist named Landsea openly resign over Trenberth’s deliberate public misrepresentations of the science?Landsea has recently “warmed up” to the hurricane intensity link.http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang/2010/02/new_hurricanes_study_unites_fo.html

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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