Monthly Archives: June 2006

The Inaugural AASC Dissertation Award to Christopher A. Davey -Congratulations!

I am pleased to announce that Dr. Christopher A. Davey of the Desert Research Institute in Reno and with the Western Regional Climate Center was awarded the Inaugural Dissertation Medal in Applied Climatology by the American Association of State Climatologists. This recognition by his peers in the climate community is well deserved.

He has been senior author on several important contributions and his paper

Davey, C.A., R.A. Pielke Sr., and K.P. Gallo, 2006: Differences between near-surface equivalent temperature and temperature trends for the eastern United States – Equivalent temperature as an alternative measure of heat content. Global and Planetary Change, accepted,

was specifically selected as evidence of his significant research as part of his Ph.d dissertation. The abstract of the paper is

“There is currently much attention being given to the observed increase in near surface air temperatures during the last century. The proper investigation of heating trends, however, requires that we include surface heat content to monitor this aspect of the climate system. Changes in heat content of the Earth’s climate are not fully described by temperature alone. Moist enthalpy or, alternatively, equivalent temperature, is more sensitive to surface vegetation properties than is air temperature and therefore more accurately depicts surface heating trends. The microclimates evident at many surface observation sites highlight the influence of land surface characteristics on local surface heating trends. Temperature and equivalent temperature trend differences from 1982- 1997 are examined for surface sites in the Eastern U.S. Overall trend differences at the surface indicate equivalent temperature trends are relatively warmer than temperature trends in the Eastern U.S. Seasonally, equivalent temperature trends are relatively warmer than temperature trends in winter and are relatively cooler in the fall. These patterns, however, vary widely from site to site, so local microclimate is very important.

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On Professor Bill Gray and the Debate on Climate Change

There has been considerable discussion regarding Professor William Gray of Colorado State University regarding his views on climate change, and hurricane trends, as affected by human activity, in particular. The news article in Westwood on June 29th provides a summary of the bitterness that has developed among the individuals who are performing research in this area of science.

I have known Professor Gray for over 25 years, both by reputation before I joined the faculty at Colorado State University (CSU), and during my tenure on the faculty at CSU. He truly is an outstanding investigator in tropical cyclones who has used innovative ideas to utilize observational data in order to better understand these storms. He has published seminal papers in this subject, such as (one example per decade)

Global View of the Origin of Tropical Disturbances and Storms, 1968 Monthly Weather Review by William M. Gray.

Diurnal Variation of Deep Cumulus Convection, 1977 Monthly Weather Review by William M. Gray and Robert W. Jacobson Jr.

Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane Frequency. Part II: Forecasting its Variability, 1984 Monthly Weather Review by William M. Gray

Downward trends in the frequency of intense Atlantic hurricanes during the past five decades, 1996 Geophysical Research Letters by Christopher W. Landsea, Nicholls, Neville, William M. Gray, and Lixion A. Avila.

Trends in Global Tropical Cyclone Activity over the Past Twenty Years (1986-2005)”, 2006 by Phil Klotzbach (who is supervised and directed in his PhD dissertation research by Professor Gray).

For professional colleagues to make statements such as

”’Gray has “brain fossilization,’ Curry told a Wall Street Journal reporter a few weeks ago, and ‘nobody except a few groupies wants to hear what he has to say'”,

is not only completely wrong but is a personal attack which should not have any place in climate science discussions. Judy should apologize to Bill for this statement.

Thus, while I feel that Professor Gray is often blunt and nondiplomatic in his statements, the scientific issues that he raises should be scrutinized objectively, and not dismissed since they do not conform to one’s perspectives on climate variability and change. He has the national and international professional credentials and stature in climate science such that his views are critically important as we debate the science. I have urged him to publish his newer research, and, hopefully, as a result of the furor over the issue of long term hurricane trends and the role of humans activity on their number, intensity, track and societal impact, this will encourage him to complete these much needed peer reviewed articles.

I look forward to their important contributions to the scientific debate when they appear!

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Filed under Climate Science Misconceptions, Climate Science Reporting

Climate Science?

There were several news releases on June 26th that warrant comment. Jeremy Lovell of Reuters wrote an article entitled “US has duty to lead on global warming”. The news release contained the text,

“Addressing a meeting of international climate scientists and policymakers, John Houghton, a former senior member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said urgent action was imperative.

‘If only the U.S. administration could flip from denial to acceptance it could save the world,’ he said. ‘If the Americans continue to do nothing then we have a big problem — therefore they must do something.'”

What could the U.S. administration do to “save the world”? Where is the climate science in this quote?

A second article, released by MSNBC, was entitled “Justices to hear global warming case 12 states want Bush administration to regulate carbon dioxide emissions” which included the text,

“The Supreme Court agreed Monday to consider whether the Bush administration must regulate carbon dioxide to combat global warming, setting up what could be one of the court’s most important decisions on the environment.

The dozen states, a number of cities and various environmental groups asked the court to take up the case after a divided lower court ruled against them.

They argue that the Environmental Protection Agency is obligated to limit carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles under the federal Clean Air Act because as the primary ‘greenhouse’ gas causing a warming of the earth, carbon dioxide is a pollutant.”

If the legal claim actually states that CO2 is the “primary ‘greenhouse’ gas causing a warming of the earth”, this claim is in error. An increase in water vapor, concurrent with the increase in CO2 and other warming climate forcings (these other climate forcings are summarized on the Climate Science weblog; see), is the primary greenhouse gas!

These two articles have flaws in their representation of climate science.

A third article in the June 24th-June 30th Economist entitled “Bolton v Gore” (subscription required) is a valuable report on climate, and environmental, science. The article includes the text,

“…….over the weekend, Mr Bolton sat down with UN diplomats from seven other countries, including China and India but no Europeans, to rank 40 ways of tackling ten global crises. The problems addressed were climate change, communicable diseases, war, education, financial instability, governance, malnutrition, migration, clean water and trade barriers.

Given a notional $50 billion, how would the ambassadors spend it to make the world a better place? Their conclusions were strikingly similar to the Copenhagen Consensus. After hearing presentations from experts on each problem, they drew up a list of priorities. The top four were basic health care, better water and sanitation, more schools and better nutrition for children. Averting climate change came last.

The ambassadors thought it wiser to spend money on things they knew would work. Promoting breast-feeding, for example, costs very little and is proven to save lives. It also helps infants grow up stronger and more intelligent, which means they will earn more as adults. Vitamin A supplements cost as little as $1, save lives and stop people from going blind. And so on. ”

This report parallels the “vulnerability” concept which has been emphasized on this weblog (see). I also asked a similar question on how funds should be spent in environmental issues in one of my powerpoint presentations (see slide 49 ). It is this type of question that needs to be posed if we are to move forward in effective environmental (including climate response) policy.

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Climate Summaries for 2005 Published

The publication “The State Climatologist 2005 edition” is now available. It contains the standard NCDC perspective, but also has a valuable collection of summaries from Regional and State Climate Officies.

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The Weather Where You Live

David A. Robinson, State Climatologist of New Jersey has provided a very valuable summary of publications on the weather for a number of states and regions in the United States (and one for Canada). He refers to this summary as “The Weather Where You Live”. It is a very useful resource of local climate information. If you know of other publications which he does not have listed, I recommend that you send the titles to him, as he requested,

“Should you know of any other appropriate publications, it would be greatly appreciated if you would contact me with the reference ( I will continue to update the list as new references arrive.”

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Lags in the Climate System

The statement is often made that (e.g. see; Comment #3)

“Because of lags in the climate system, the climate of the next few decades has already been determined by prior emissions. Emissions reductions currently being discussed will therefore have an effect primarily on the climate in the 2nd half of the 21st century.”

This perspective is used to conclude that the radiative effect of anthropogenic CO2 is a particularly pernicious influence on the environment, which is much greater then due any of the other climate forcings.

However, this view, in the context of climate science, fails to recognize that a variety of diverse climate forcings have very significant long term influences on the climate.

The reason for the focus on the radiative effect of added CO2 is associated with the emphasis of climate assessments on the atmospheric portion of the climate system. However, as clearly described in the 2005 National Research Council Report , the climate system also includes the oceans, land, and cryosphere, in addition to the atmosphere.

The claim that aerosols could be eliminated as a climate concern in the climate system in just a few weeks (through atmospheric cleansing if their emssion is halted), fails to recognize that the aerosols are just being transfered to a different component of the climate system, and their effects can last for decades and even longer!

Three examples of long term climate forcings, beyond the radiative forcing of anthropogenic caronf dioxide inputs, include:

nitogren deposition (e.g. see )

land use/land cover change (e.g. see )

black carbon deposition (e.g. see )

Each of these climate forcings persist with long term effects on all aspects of climate including weather patterns. The nearly exclusive focus on the climate forcing of the atmospheric component of the climate system (i.e. the radiative forcing of CO2) with respect to long term lags is scientifically flawed.

This also means that we can not treat the climate system different from weather in that both are sensitive to initial conditions (e.g. see

Pielke, R.A., 1998: Climate prediction as an initial value problem. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 79, 2743-2746.).

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Further evidence regarding role of land use on precipitation: urbanization as a missing component in current climate models

A new paper highlighting the importance of the urban land surface representation in numerical weather prediction (NWP) models has been accepted by the Journal of Geophysical Research. For this study the authors coupled an explicit urban canopy energy balance model with a photosynthesis based land surface model. These land surface models were then in turn coupled to a high resolution NWP model. This modeling system was used to simulate a mesoscale convection and precipitation event that was observed in the vicinity of Oklahoma City during a field experiment. The authors conclude that considering urban land surface explicitly improved the ability of the model to simulate precipitation and other model features. Without the explicit consideration of the urban model, the coupled system underpredicted rainfall, and had errors in the the location of convection as well as in accurately simulating the intensity of the temperature differences due to the urban heat island. Current NWP models- including GCMs (and also, therefore, climate models) do not explicitly consider urban areas and could have large errors due to this neglect in and around regions which have urban concentrations.

Dev Niyogi, Teddy Holt, Sharon Zhong, Patrick C. Pyle, Jeffery Basara, Urban and Land Surface Effects on the 30 July 2003 MCS Event Observed in the Southern Great Plains, Journal of Geophysical Research, accepted.

The abstract reads,

” The urban canopy of excess heat, water vapor, and roughness can affect the evolution of weather systems, as can land-vegetative processes. High-resolution simulations were conducted using the Coupled Ocean/Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System (COAMPS(r) ) to investigate the impact of urban and land-vegetation processes on the prediction of the mesoscale convective system (MCS) observed on 30 July 2003 in the vicinity of Oklahoma City (OKC), Oklahoma. The control COAMPS model (hereafter CONTROL) used the Noah land surface model (LSM) initialized with the Eta Data Assimilation System and incorporates an Urban Canopy Parameterization (UCP). Experiments assessed the impact of land-vegetative processes by: (1) adding a canopy-resistance scheme including photosynthesis (GEM) to the Noah LSM, and (2) replacing the UCP with a simpler urban surface characterization of roughness, albedo, and moisture availability (NOUCP).

The three sets of simulations showed different behaviors for the storm event. The CONTROL simulation propagated two storm cells through the OKC urban region. The NOUCP also resulted in two cells, although the convective intensity was weaker. The GEM simulation produced one storm cell west of the downtown region, whose intensity and timing were closer to the observed. To understand the relative roles of the urban and vegetation interaction processes, a factor-separation experiment was performed. The urban model improved the ability to represent the MCS, and the enhanced representation of vegetation further improved the model performance. The enhanced performance may be attributed to better representation of the urban-rural heterogeneities and improved simulation of the moisture fluxes and upstream inflow boundaries.

This study, although focused on numerical weather prediction, provides another example of the important role of the land surface as a climate forcing.

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