Monthly Archives: June 2006

Complexity of Current Glacial Advance and Retreat

The media reports on “global warming” often highlight widespread glacial retreat as evidence of worldwide warming. For instance, see the quote from the Arizona Daily Star,

“As evidence of global warming’s effects, Gore shows Alaska’s rapidly retreating glaciers…”

However, in a recent trip to southeast Alaska where I revisited several glaciers that I had viewed several decades ago, it is clear that the issue is more complex than indicated by such news releases. The Margerie Glacier in the northwest corner of Glacier Bay National Park, for example, was in nearly the same place as it was 16 years ago. Southeast of the Park,, the Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau had clearly retreated since I visited yet using the display at the Visitor Center, the northern front the glacier had not changed its position significantly since 1995.

The National Park Service, in their Offical Map and Guide for Glacier National Park states that

“Glacial retreat continues today on the bay’s east and southwest sides, but on its west side, two glaciers are advancing.”

This is not the type of information that is reaching the news media. All of Alaska’s glaciers are not “rapidly retreating”.

In a search on the web, other examples of glacial advance in Alaska are presented. This includes the summaries listed below,

The United States Forest Service at Tongass National Forest reports that

“Hubbard Glacier, one of the few advancing glaciers in the world, could block the entrance to Russell Fiord near Yakutat, Alaska, creating a large ice-dammed lake…. Hubbard Glacier retreated to over 1000 feet from Gilbert Point in summer 2005 and remains a considerable distance from closing. The glacier does not start its annual advance until February and USGS will reinitiate monitoring at that time. Glaciologists predict that Hubbard Glacier will again block Russell Fiord; however they cannot predict when this event may happen. Hubbard Glacier has advanced and retreated in the past and there is evidence of a previous overflow event into the Situk River. ”

A Cyberwest magazine article writes that,

“A University of Alaska Fairbanks glaciologist reported that a glacier in the central Alaska Range has surged, or advanced rapidly. The McGinnis Glacier surge was observed by Martin Truffer, associate professor of physics with UAF, who noticed that the lower portion of the glacier was covered in cracks, crevasses and ice pinnacles — evidence that the glacier recently moved forward at higher-than-normal rates. ”

A similar pattern of complexity in glacial advance and retreat has been observed outside of Alaska. A March 2005 paper by Chinn et al in Geografiska Annaler entitled “Recent Glacier Advances in Norway and New Zealand: A Comparison of their Glaciological and Meteorological Causes” has the following abstract,

“Norway and New Zealand both experienced recent glacial advances, commencing in the early 1980s and ceasing around 2000, which were more extensive than any other since the end of the Little Ice Age. Common to both countries, the positive glacier balances are associated with an increase in the strength of westerly atmospheric circulation which brought increased precipitation. In Norway, the changes are also associated with lower ablation season temperatures. In New Zealand, where the positive balances were distributed uniformly throughout the Southern Alps, the period of increased mass balance
was coincident with a change in the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation and an associated increase in El Niño/Southern Oscillation events. In Norway, the positive balances occurred across a strong west-east gradient with no balance increases to the continental glaciers of Scandinavia. The Norwegian advances are linked to strongly positive North Atlantic Oscillation events which caused an overall increase of precipitation in the winter accumulation season and a general shift of maximum precipitation from autumn towards winter. These cases both show the influence of atmospheric circulation on
maritime glaciers.”

The Chinn et al paper is very informative. It provides a discussion of why we need to focus on regional climate change and variability with respect to glacial retreat and advance. The use of a global average concept (such as global warming), and the statement claiming that Alaska’s glaciers are rapidly retreating, is an erroneous oversimplification of the complex behavior of glaciers.

Leave a comment

Filed under Climate Change Metrics, Climate Science Reporting

Arctic Tree-line and the Polar Front: Guest Weblog by Professor Harvey Nichols

Professor Harvey Nichols is on the faculty of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

His research interests are summarized on the University of Colorado-Boulder website as

“Research Interests: Paleo-ecology, arctic and alpine environments, and global change, with emphasis on pollen analysis (palynology) as a method of reconstructing past vegetation and climate to understand the present environment and to act as background for current environmental concerns. The program has involved over twenty expeditions into the arctic to study past movements of the arctic tree-line driven by climatic change, which now provides an important perspective and test for the Greenhouse Hypothesis. An agreement has been reached with the Central Siberian Botanical Institute to exchange American and Russian students to explore the Siberian and North American arctic tree-line for signs of atmospheric warming in a long-term research project.”

With his extensive expertise in tree line studies, I invited Professor Nichols to publish one of his very insightful poster presentations on the Climate Science weblog. His knowledge on this subject will inform all of us on the climate metric of high latitude tree line, and its dynamics over time.

The December 2000 American Geophysical Union poster is entitled “Arctic tree-line and the Polar Front: climatic changes past and present, possible sunspot linkage” , and the abstract reads,

“The arctic tree-line is sensitive to climatic changes as indicated by paleoecological studies and it is predicted by global circulation models to respond strongly to greenhouse warming. My Northern Canadian studies of tree-line reproduction in black and white spruce spanning two decades demonstrate a widespread switch from infertility due to cold summers (1960’s-1970’s) to pollen and cone production (1990’s), in line with climatic warming predictions. Ecotonal cone formation is usually sporadic and localized, but this large scale reproductive shift, along a 1500 km transect, suggests widespread biospheric response to climatic warming since the 1970’s across much of the Northwest Territories. Labrador, not included in the original study, has experienced a delayed response in a region of prolonged cooling. In 1995 I tested the hypothesis by examining arctic tree-line at a transect of sites in western Siberia where ecotonal larch trees were reproducing sexually, and greenhouse studies confirm that enough seeds were viable to allow seedling colonization of the tundra. Siberian colleagues noted that the age structure of these “tree-islands” based on tree-ring studies suggested that a recent warming response was identifiable. In 1996 I examined a series of “tree-islands” in the tundra of northern Yakutia in northeast Siberia. All the larch trees bore cones, but greenhouse studies show that seed viability was very low, possibly due to a persistent cold trough in the upper Westerlies. These Siberian studies (at 27 sites) represented only a modest fraction of the Eurasian treeline, but the widespread fertility at so many locations, plus the extensive Canadian evidence, and Fenno-Scandinavian findings, suggest that the predicted polar warming may be responsible, with Labrador and Yakutia showing lagging responses corresponding to troughs in the atmospheric Rossby waves.”

The paper and supplemental material is available at Arctic Tree-line and the Polar Front: Changes Past and Present, Possible Sunspot Linkage.

Leave a comment

Filed under Guest Weblogs

Some Controversial Results on the Radiative Forcing of Our Climate System as Extracted from Model Results for the AMIP-2 and IPCC-FAR and for the Radiation Climatologies of the ISCCP-FD and GEWEX-SRB

An interesting seminar was presented at Colorado State University on June 8 2006 by Dr. Ehrhard Raschke of the University of Hamburg, Germany. The seminar title reads,

“Some Controversial Results on the Radiative Forcing of Our Climate System as Extracted from Model Results for the AMIP-2 and IPCC-FAR and for the Radiation Climatologies of the ISCCP-FD and GEWEX-SRB’

with the abstract

“We analyzed only monthly data as provided for the above-mentioned projects and did no further manipulations. This seminar does not report about sensational speculations or new theories on climate change.

Several modeling groups provided data sets describing the radiation fields at both the top and bottom of the atmosphere. Here we compared only values for the incoming solar radiation and found (a) considerable differences in zonal averages (meridional profiles) of up to 15 Wm-2 over both poles during the transitional seasons, (b) systematic regional anomalies of up to ±1 Wm-2, corresponding to seasonal “pulse” of the TSI of 4 Wm-2, (c) different model results on changes of the TSI due to the leap-year and sunspot activity.

ISCCP-FD and GEWEX-SRB radiation products, as they were available until about December 2005 (!) at TOA and at the surface, were simply compared. We found two major errors which need firstly to be removed completely:

(a) ISCCP time series until the data-year 2002 are primarily based on a skin temperature estimate showing a systematic decrease over the entire zone between about 60N and 60S by up to 16 Wm-2, as the inclusion of more recent data, released in April 2006, demonstrates. There are systematic differences in various results on the cloud effect (CRF ) on such products.

(b) GEWEX-SRB data on incoming solar radiation at TOA were often by more than 1% lower than concurrent ISCCP data. This error propagates through all further results on solar radiation budget. It now has been removed in part after a few consultations with the author making the recent data release (2.6) more useful for further studies. Both data sets need a complete reanalysis over both polar regions.

Further, none of both data sets has been validated in detail against satellite measurements of the ERB at TOA. Validations of surface data need a further re-analysis.

We suggest that in future climate studies all model results and climate data sets must be based on the same (well proven) routine for computing the incoming solar radiation at TOA over regions of the earth. Strategies need still development making effective use of ground-based measurements and observations combining the potentials of different networks: e.g. BSRN, ARM, SURFRAD, national and other regional data sets.

`Positive impacts’ of our studies: The GEWEX modelers have invited to report at their workshop on systematic errors in climate models; SRB has done a reanalysis of their solar data during the past 6 months. ISCCP is planning to re-analyze all their radiation products. Our results have been published in Raschke et al., GRL, 2005 and 2006.”

The titles and abstracts of the two papers read,

“How accurate did GCMs compute the insolation at TOA for AMIP-2?”

“Monthly averages of solar radiation reaching the Top of the Atmosphere (TOA) as simulated by 20 General Circulation Models (GCMs) during the period 1985–1988 are compared. They were part of submissions to AMIP-2 (Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project). Monthly averages of ISCCP-FD (International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project – Flux Data) are considered as reference. Considerable discrepancies are found: Most models reproduce the prescribed Total Solar Irradiance (TSI) value within ±0.7 Wm−2. Monthly zonal averages disagree between ±2 to ±7 Wm−2, depending on latitude and season. The largest model diversity occurs near polar regions. Some models display a zonally symmetric insolation, while others and ISCCP show longitudinal deviations of the order of ±1 Wm−2. With such differences in meridional gradients impacts in multi-annual simulations cannot be excluded. Sensitivity studies are recommended. ”


“An assessment of radiation budget data provided by the ISCCP and GEWEX-SRB”

“The projects ISCCP and GEWEX-SRB compute global data sets of radiation budget components at the top of the atmosphere and at the surface. Time series range from July 1983 to June 2001, and to October 1995, respectively. Comparing monthly averages over broader zones we find that the SRB underestimates the incident radiation at TOA by more than 2–5 Wm−2 over the tropics and up to 40 Wm−2 over polar regions. The ISCCP infrared radiation fluxes near the surface and at TOA, in particular over both polar zones, are higher than those of the SRB. Clouds in the ISCCP appear optically less effective than in the SRB. Interannual and month-to-month variations are observed indicating serious errors in ancillary data. Complete reprocessing is recommended. End products need validation within this large domain in space and time with correlated radiation budget measurements at TOA and at ground. ”

There is a very important conclusion from the Raschke et al. studies. As is stated in the seminar abstract
“We suggest that in future climate studies all model results and climate data sets must be based on the same (well proven) routine for computing the incoming solar radiation at TOA over regions of the earth.”

Regional comparisons would provide a more appropriate quantitative comparison of the multi-decadal global climate models. The ability (or lack of) of regional skill in the global climate model simulations would be crucial information to provide to policymakers. As currently communicated to them, they are presented with regional multi-decadal climate simulations as if they are skillful forecasts for the coming decades. They are not.

Leave a comment

Filed under Climate Change Metrics, Climate Models

New Christy and Spencer Report on Satellite Temperature Data

A very useful overview of the research of Dr. John Christy and Dr. Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama at Huntsville entitled ” Satellite Temperature Data” was prepared for the Washington Roundtable On Science and Public Policy on April 17, 2006 .

Regardless of your perspective on the climate change issue, it provides an insight and informative summary of their research conclusions. Their talk stated

“Today we are going to show you some of the latest research that has just been published, some that will be published soon and some that hasn’t been published yet, but which gives you an idea where this information is going.”

Among their conclusions are:

“Surface warming has been observed in many regions of the world (not all) in the past century In some of these locations, the warming is more consistent with land-use change, rather than our understanding of greenhouse gas forcing”

“Upper air warming has likely been modest, especially in the tropics Current UAH versions of the data are consistent with balloon-station data while other versions of the satellite data are not.”

The most recent summary of the UAH satellite analyses can be viewed on the UAH website. The current global anomaly (with respect to the periof 1978-present), for example, using the most recent version of their analysis (May 2006) is +0.28C. Their highest global monthly anomaly was +0.77C in April 1998 and the lowest was -0.49C in September 1984. As recently as August 2004 the global anomaly was less than zero.

Leave a comment

Filed under Climate Change Metrics, Climate Science Reporting

Comparison of North Atlantic Sea Surface Temperatures Between 2005 and 2006

As presented on a NASA summary entitled “Initial Conditions for the 2006 Atlantic Hurricane Season” , images are presented that,

” contrast sea surface temperatures on May 30, 2006, top, and May 30, 2005, bottom, as measured by the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-EOS (AMSR-E) on NASA’s Aqua satellite” .

There are several items that are of interest. First, the sea surface temperature (SST ) anomalies across the tropical Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico are substantially less this year. Most of the Gulf of Mexico is cooler than average. Secondly, the central Atlantic is warmer than last year. Thus the SST anomalies are more diffuse this year.

In the context of long term climate predictions, it is this type of regional, and interannual and interdecadal, SST information that must be skillfully predicted, if it is to be useful as a component of long-term hurricane number, track and intensity forecasting. In addition, models need to adequately explain the reason for the difference between 2005 and 2006.

The Climate Science weblog urges NASA to continue to provide these comparisons of SST anomalies each month through the upcoming (and subsequent) Atlantic Hurricane seasons. This is a very useful climate change metric.

Leave a comment

Filed under Climate Change Metrics

New Paper on Surface Temperature Trends As Related to Land Use/Land Cover Change

A new paper was just published by Geophysical Research Letters by R. C. Hale, K. P. Gallo, T. W. Owen, and T. R. Loveland entitled “Land use/land cover change effects on temperature trends at U.S. Climate” (subscription required).

“The abstract reads,

Alterations in land use/land cover (LULC) in areas near meteorological observation stations can influence the measurement of climatological variables such as temperature. Urbanization near climate stations has been the focus of considerable research attention, however conversions between non-urban LULC classes may also have an impact. In this study, trends of minimum, maximum, and average temperature at 366 U.S. Climate Normals stations are analyzed based on changes in LULC defined by the U.S. Land Cover Trends Project. Results indicate relatively few significant temperature trends before
periods of greatest LULC change, and these are generally evenly divided between warming and cooling trends. In contrast, after the period of greatest LULC change was observed, 95% of the stations that exhibited significant trends (minimum, maximum, or mean temperature) displayed warming trends. ”

Among the findings in the paper are,

“Significant warming in minimum temperatures was associated with a dominant LULC conversion of forest to urban at nearly twice the rate expected from chance alone. This conversion type also was strongly associated with significant warming in maximum temperatures.”

The paper concludes with the statement,

“While there is strong correlation between increases in temperature trends at Normals stations and nearby LULC changes, this does not necessarily imply that the LULC changes are the causative factor. Further analyses are currently being undertaken to establish or refute causality.”

This very interesting study is consistent with our research where we have demostrated temperature trends in response to LULC changes (e.g. see and see). The Hale et al paper should be a wakeup call to climate assessments such as the CCSP Report “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences”, that they missed a critical issue in their study.

Leave a comment

Filed under Climate Change Metrics

More Evidence of The Complexity of Interpreting Multi-decadal Surface Temperature Trends

Another paper has appeared, brought to our attention by Timo Hämeranta, that further identifies that the use of surface temperatures to assess climate trends is more complicated than reported in the CCSP report “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences“. The new 2006 paper is by de Laat, A. T. J., and A. N. Maurellis is entitled “Evidence for influence of anthropogenic surface processes on lower tropospheric and surface temperature trends” (subscription required) and has appeared in the International Journal of Climatology.

The abstract for the paper reads,

” In de Laat and Maurellis (2004), a new framework was introduced in the form of a spatial-thresholding trend technique for analyzing the correlation between anthropogenic surface processes (e.g. changes in land use, albedo, soil moisture, groundwater levels, solar absorption by soot or energy consumption) and lower tropospheric and surface temperature trends for the period 1979-2001. In situ measured surface and satellite-measured lower tropospheric temperature trends were shown to be higher in the vicinity of industrialized regions, while such higher trends were not found in enhanced greenhouse gas (GHG) climate model simulations of temperature. It was suggested that surface and lower tropospheric temperature trends appeared to be influenced by anthropogenic non-GHG processes on the earth’s surface.

In this paper, we verify the robustness of the thresholding technique and confirm our earlier conclusions on the basis of an extended analysis and two additional data sets. We confirm the presence of a temperature change-industrialization correlation by analyzing the data with an additional statistical method and further confirm the absence of the above correlation in climate model simulations of enhanced GHG warming. Our findings thus provide an important test of climate model performance on regional scales. These findings suggest that over the last two decades non-GHG anthropogenic processes have also contributed significantly to surface temperature changes. We identify one process that potentially could contribute to the observed temperature patterns, although there certainly may be other processes involved. ”

The paper concludes,

“Anthropogenic heat is not the only process that can or may explain the correlation between temperature trends and industrial CO2 emissions. There are a few other possible processes that may play a role: changes in land use that could change the surface albedo and also soil moisture and thus the surface energy balance and also groundwater levels; absorbing aerosols like soot, cloud cover or cloud optical properties all are
potentially plausible explanations. Natural causes can also not be excluded at the moment, although at first instance they are less probable because of the large spatial variations in industrial CO2 emissions. Finally, we point out that it seems unreasonable to assume that the ‘classical’ urban heat island (different heating due to different land cover) is the cause of the enhanced surface warming over industrialized regions since the area coverage of urbanized regions is far too small to explain the spatial extent of the regional temperature trend enhancements discussed in this paper.”

In the regions of elevated CO2, the resultant reduction of long wave cooling at night would also result in the elevation of minimum temperatures (see).

The continued ignoring of scientific papers that raise issues with respect to the robustness of the surface temperature trend data used in assessments such as the CCSP Report should be a concern not only to all scientists, but to the policymakers and politicians who are using the surface temperature trend as the icon of climate change.

Leave a comment

Filed under Climate Change Metrics

Clarification to the June 5 2006 Denver Post Column Entitled “Chill out over global warming”

Today’s Denver Post published a column by David Harsanyi entitled “Chill out over global warming“. The column was quite constructive in communicating that there are a diversity of views on climate science.

However, there are two significant corrections that need to be made. First, as I emphasized emphatically in August 2005 in response to a news article by Andy Revkin, The use of the term “climate skeptic” inaccurately describes my perspective on climate change. The column stated that,

“Roger Pielke Sr. at the University of Colorado, is also skeptical.” ”

Our research, and that of my colleagues, has documented a diversity of first-order human climate forcings. I agree with the findings and conclusions in the 2005 National Academy Report “Radiative Forcing of Climate Change: Expanding the Concept and Addressing Uncertainties” . The very significant implications of this Report in the discussion of the human role in climate variability and change have been completely ignored by the media.

I am not skeptical of a substantial human forcing of climate change including the subset of climate change that is referred to as “global warming”!

The second correction is that the quote

“Plenty of young people tell me they don’t believe it,” he says. “But they won’t touch this at all. If they’re smart, they’ll say: ‘I’m going to let this run its course.’ It’s a sort of mild McCarthyism. I just believe in telling the truth the best I can. I was brought up that way.”

is by Bill Gray. It is not clear who made the quote in the column the way it is written.

Finally, I have posted my summary perspective of climate change in the Header to the Climate Science weblog. I repeat them here:

The needed focus for the study of climate change and variability is on the regional and local scales. Global and zonally-averaged climate metrics would only be important to the extent that they provide useful information on these space scales.

Global and zonally-averaged surface temperature trend assessments, besides having major difficulties in terms of how this metric is diagnosed and analyzed, do not provide significant information on climate change and variability on the regional and local scales.

Global warming is not equivalent to climate change. Significant, societally important climate change, due to both natural- and human- climate forcings, can occur without any global warming or cooling.

The spatial pattern of ocean heat content change is the appropriate metric to assess climate system heat changes including global warming.

In terms of climate change and variability on the regional and local scale, the IPCC Reports, the CCSP Report on surface and tropospheric temperature trends, and the U.S. National Assessment have overstated the role of the radiative effect of the anthropogenic increase of CO2 relative to the role of the diversity of other human climate climate forcing on global warming, and more generally, on climate variability and change.

Global and regional climate models have not demonstrated skill at predicting climate change and variability on multi-decadal time scales.

Attempts to significantly influence regional and local-scale climate based on controlling CO2 emissions alone is an inadequate policy for this purpose.

A vulnerability paradigm, focused on regional and local societal and environmental resources of importance, is a more inclusive, useful, and scientifically robust framework to interact with policymakers, than is the focus on global multi-decadal climate predictions which are downscaled to the regional and local scales. The vulnerability paradigm permits the evaluation of the entire spectrum of risks associated with different social and environmental threats, including climate variability and change.
Posted November 4, 2005

I do appreciate that David Harsanyi took the time to write a column on this subject, and look forward to other columnists and reporters presenting information on the wide diversity of views that exist on the issue of climate change. The presentation of such diversity has, unfortunately, been seriously lacking. Interviews with senior climate scientists who have not been visible on this issue would be very valuable.

Leave a comment

Filed under Climate Science Reporting

A Perspective on the Role of Aerosols in the Climate System

A June 2, 2006 Science Perspective article on the role of aerosols has been published in Science by Daniel Rosenfeld entitled “Aerosols, Clouds, and Climate” (subscription required). It is an excellent short article, as is always the case with Dr. Rosenfeld.

The article discusses the significance of the paper in the same issue of Science by Dusek et al entitled “Size Matters More Than Chemistry for Cloud-Nucleating Ability of Aerosol Particles “ (subscription required) which has the abstract,

“Size-resolved cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) spectra measured for various aerosol types at a non-urban site in Germany showed that CCN concentrations are mainly determined by the aerosol number size distribution. Distinct variations of CCN activation with particle chemical composition were observed but played a secondary role. When the temporal variation of chemical effects on CCN activation is neglected, variation in the size distribution alone explains 84 to 96% of the variation in CCN concentrations. Understanding that particles’ ability to act as CCN is largely controlled by aerosol size rather than composition greatly facilitates the treatment of aerosol effects on cloud physics in regional and global models. ”

The Rosenfeld Perspective has the interesting statement that,

“These aerosol effects are poorly quantified and represent the greatest uncertainty in our understanding of the climate system.”

This uncertainty is associated with the regional influence of the aerosols on climate, which is a theme that has been emphasized on the Climate Science weblog. As another example of why aerosols are so important, see the 2002 Science paper entitled “Climate Effects of Black Carbon Aerosols in China and India” (subscription required) by S. Menon, J. Hansen, and L. Nazarenko and Y. Luo. The abstract of the paper reads,

“In recent decades, there has been a tendency toward increased summer floods in south China, increased drought in north China, and moderate cooling in China and India while most of the world has been warming. We used a global climate model to investigate possible aerosol contributions to these trends. We found precipitation and temperature changes in the model that were comparable to those observed if the aerosols included a large proportion of absorbing black carbon (“soot”), similar to observed amounts. Absorbing aerosols heat the air, alter regional atmospheric stability and vertical motions, and affect the large-scale circulation and hydrologic cycle with significant regional climate effects. ”

With Jim Hansen’s emphasis on the use of global average temperature as the preferred climate metric to communicate to policymakers (e.g. see), it would add to what he communicates to policymakers on the climate change debate if he would also refer to this regional issue associated with how aerosols (and other heterogeneous climate forcings, such as land use/land cover change) alter regional weather patterns. He clearly recognizes this issue, since he is a co-author of the Menon et al paper, yet does not clearly communicate this regional perspective of heterogeneous climate forcings to policymakers.

Leave a comment

Filed under Climate Change Forcings & Feedbacks

A Missed Opportunity To Highlight The Vulernerability Perspective

A news article on June 1, coinciding with the start of the Atlantic hurricane season, focused on greenhouse gas emissions as a way to reduce the threat of hurricanes on Florida. The article is entitled “Scientists Say Warming Threatening Fla.” and is by David Royse of the Associated Press.

Excerpts from the article read

“TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s governor cautiously entered the debate Wednesday over whether rising global temperatures are to blame for an increase in the number of strong hurricanes, meeting with two researchers who say global warming is threatening Florida with a long-term future of more bad storms.’

“Bush met with Peter Webster and Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology, who published research last year showing an increase in global hurricane intensity, with a doubling of the number of Category 4 or 5 hurricanes since 1970. That increase coincides with a rise of nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit in ocean surface temperatures, they say.”

“Besides, in hurricane alley, Florida has more to gain from lower emissions than the country as a whole if Webster and Curry’s findings are right , said Jerry Karnas of the Florida Wildlife Federation, which set up the meeting.”

“But Webster said the patterns are going beyond the natural variation.”

‘Anybody who doesn’t put into their risk analysis the possibility of increasing hurricanes in the Southeast, in the Gulf states, is probably a little irresponsible,’ Webster said.”

“‘Even if there’s only an 80 percent that we’re right,’ Curry added, ‘it’s a serious risk.'”

The message from Jerry Karnas of the Florida Wildlife Federation is that if Florida adopts CO2 emission controls, “Florida has more to gain from lower emissions than the country as a whole if Webster and Curry’s findings are right.”

This is an amazing conclusion. While emission reductions on CO2 from fossil fuels, the adoption of alternative fuels, and energy efficiency clearly have benefits, such as a reduction of dependence on fuel supplies from foreign countries, Florida’s risk to hurricanes can be much more effectively addressed by other means. This include a new law in Florida, that all gas stations have power generators so that gasoline stations can pump gas even in a power outage, and the encouragement of residents with sales tax free days to purchase hurricane supplies. These are just two examples of newly adopted effective means to reduce the vulnerability of Florida to hurricanes, regardless of the number in the future.

The team of Webster and Curry, who are both well respected scientists within their discipline, have unfortunately decided to becomes involved in the promotion of CO2 emission reductions by itself rather than providing the proper balanced perspective on the vulnerability of Florida to hurricanes, and presenting effective solutions to deal with this risk (if their presentation to the Governor involved more then the CO2 emission issue, I welcome their correction to the news article).

CO2 emission reduction has other benefits, but it is certainly is well down the list of beneficial policy actions for Florida to reduce the risk from hurricanes. This more inclusive perspective should have been the message communicated to Governor Bush.

Leave a comment

Filed under Climate Science Reporting, Vulnerability Paradigm