Attrbibution of the Warm Winter To Global Warming – An Example Of The Mistatement Of Reality By Some Climate Scientists

There is a news article with the header

Not just March, but start of 2012 shatter US records for heat, worrying meteorologists

by Seth Borenstein

Excerpts from the article read [with my comments inserted]

It’s not just March.

“It’s been ongoing for several months,” said Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

Meteorologists say an unusual confluence of several weather patterns, including La Nina, was the direct cause of the warm start to 2012. While individual events cannot be blamed on global warming, Crouch said this is like the extremes that are supposed to get more frequent because of man-made climate change. Greenhouse gases come from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

My Comment:  The highlighted text is yet another example where unsubstantiated claims are made to infer that these extremes are a result of added CO2. Yet what Mr. Crouch ignored is that in March, the global average lower tropospheric temperature anomalies were only +0.11C above the 30 year average for March (see)! The lower tropospheric anomalies are ~0.4C cooler than in early 2010.

The magnitude of how unusual the year has been in the U.S. has alarmed some meteorologists who have warned about global warming. One climate scientist said it is the weather equivalent of a baseball player on steroids, with old records obliterated.

“When you look at what’s happened in March this year, it’s beyond unbelievable,” said University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver.

My Comment: Andrew Weaver is failing to communicate that extreme cool and warm anomalies occur often in specific geographic regions. If he wants to make the case that this warm event was “beyond unbelievable” he should do this with quantitative analyses, such as we did in our paper

Chase, T.N., K. Wolter, R.A. Pielke Sr., and Ichtiaque Rasool, 2006: Was  the 2003 European summer heat wave unusual in a global context? Geophys.  Res. Lett.,  33, L23709, doi:10.1029/2006GL027470.

rather than make unsubstantiated claims in the media.

The news article continues

NOAA climate scientist Gabriel Vecchi compared the increase in weather extremes to baseball players on steroids: You can’t say an individual homer is because of steroids, but they are hit more often and the long-held records for home runs fall.

They seem to be falling far more often because of global warming, said NASA top climate scientist James Hansen. In a paper he submitted to the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and posted on a physics research archive, Hansen shows that heat extremes aren’t just increasing but happening far more often than scientists thought.

What used to be a 1-in-400 hot temperature record is now a 1 in 10 occurrence, essentially 40 times more likely, said Hansen. The warmth in March is an ideal illustration of this, said Hansen, who also has become an activist in fighting fossil fuels.

My Comment: Jim has, as with Andrew Weaver, failed to quantify his statement with real world observations as shown in the figure at the top of this post. This figure shows that much of the planet, in terms of areal extent, was cooler than average. Weaver’s comment below shows that he is ready to endorse any claim which supports his view, regardless of the scientific rigor in which it has been examined.

Weaver, who reviewed the Hansen paper and called it “one of the most stunning examples of evidence of global warming.”

Seth did include the important caveat in the middle of his report that reads

It is important to note that this unusual winter heat is mostly a North America phenomenon. Much of the rest of the Northern Hemisphere has been cold, said NOAA meteorologist Martin Hoerling.

My Comment: This statement by Martin in the news report is refreshing as it does properly place the warm March in the United States and Canada in it proper perspective. Martin should be commended for this objective statement, and Seth should be acknowledged that he included this so as to provide a bit of balance in the article.

My recommendation for future press articles of this sort, however, is to be more inclusive of credentialed climate scientists who can provide a complete view of such weather extremes. Such internationally respected colleagues include Joe Daleo, Bill Gray, Peter Webster,  Judy Curry, Pat Michaels and Klaus Wolter should also be interviewed.

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