Monthly Archives: October 2012

“Hurricanes: Their Nature And Impacts On Society” Published In 1997 By Pielke Jr. and Pielke Sr. Available As A PDF

Our book

Pielke, R.A., Jr. and R.A. Pielke, Sr., 1997: Hurricanes: Their nature and impacts  on society. John Wiley and Sons, England, 279 pp.

is available as a pdf. The material is not updated for more recent storms (since 1997) but the recommendations and information on tropical cyclones may useful in the discussion of the impacts of Sandy. Of particular interest related to such late season hurricanes is the text on Hurricane Hazel (1954) where we wrote that

Hazel joined with another storm system to devastate inland communities from Virginia to Ontario, Canada. Washington, DC experienced its strongest winds ever recorded……..In 1954, Hurricane Hazel…..underwent a similar rapid acceleration to a speed of 60 mph (27 meters per second), as strong south to southwesterly winds developed to the west of the storm. Hazel crossed the North Carolina coastline at 9:25 am on 15 October, and reached Toronto, Canada only 14 hours later where it resulted in 80 deaths (Joe et al. 1995). At that time, it was the most destructive hurricane to reach the North Carolina coast. Every fishing pier was destroyed over a distance of 170 miles (270 km) from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to Cedar Island, North Carolina. All traces of civilization were practically annihilated at the immediate waterfront between Cape Fear and the South Carolina state line.

We reported that

“….tropical cyclones can become absorbed into developing mid-latitude storms thereby infusing added moisture and wind energy from the tropical cyclone and resulting in a more intense mid-latitude storm than otherwise would occur.

Clearly, this later behavior is what made Sandy a much stronger storm than either a mid-latitude or hurricane would have been separately. In contrast to Hazel, however, Sandy was not as strong a hurricane. It also tracked towards the west as it interacted with the developing mid-latitude storm rather than accelerating northward as Hazel did.  This resulted in the large fetch of easterly and southeasterly winds into northern New Jersey, Long Island and New Your City which produced the large storm surge.

Our book also discusses the impacts of tropical cyclones which includes extreme winds, storm surge, tornadoes, flash flooding and riverine (i.e. large river) flooding. The analysis has yet to be completed, but I suspect that storm surge will attributed, by far, to  largest economic damage.

Also, with a storm of this magnitude, the National Hurricane Center, the National Center for Environmental Prediction, the media and public officials must be recognized and commended for their early warming. This has resulted in a much lower loss of life than would have otherwise occurred.

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Filed under Books, Climate Change Metrics

Further Analysis Of The Size Of Tropical Storm and Hurricane Force Winds in Sandy

The above outstanding analysis of the wind field of Hurricane Sandy by NOAA’s AOML Hurricane Research Division [h/t Frank Marks] further documents the size of tropical storm and hurricane force winds. As noted in their caption, these winds are valid for marine exposure over water and open terrain exposure over land. Other time periods and analyses can be viewed at their website – Sandy Wind Analysis.

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Filed under Climate Change Metrics

The Size Of Hurricane Sandy – How Does It Compare?

Hurricane Sandy became  a very large tropical cyclone as it morphed into a hybrid large low pressure system. The figure above from our book

Pielke, R.A., Jr. and R.A. Pielke, Sr., 1997: Hurricanes: Their nature and impacts  on society. John Wiley and Sons, England, 279 pp. Hurricane Sandy provides examples of sizes of tropical cyclones that occurred in the past. The largest, Tip in 1979, was from the western North Pacific Ocean.

The size of Sandy, as reported by the National hurricane Center, is given for two time periods late in its lifetime below.

1100 AM EDT SUN OCT 28 2012



1100 AM EDT MON OCT 29 2012



For comparison with the figure from the book, the distance between 5 degrees of latitude in the figure below is 555 km (300 nautical miles or 345 statute miles ).  Tip had tropical storm winds out to ~700km on the east side and  hurricane winds out to about ~175 km from the eye.

The  analyses from NHC [shown below] show that Sandy’s size of tropical storm and hurricane winds were comparable to Tip, but, fortunately, the hurricane winds were much less in Sandy.  Also, the radius of hurricane winds, appears to have contracted substantially at and right after landfall.

Clearly, Sandy was a giant tropical cyclone, and rivals the largest ones in size that occur in the Pacific Ocean. A major difference with Tip, however, is that Tip attained wind speeds of up to 190 mph (305 km/h) and a central pressure of 870 millibars (25.69 inches of mercury) – see, while Sandy was a much more modest hurricane.  This suggests the potential that if a major hurricane (such as Hazel from 1955) followed the same path as Sandy as it merged with a midlatitude storm system, a truly worse-case superstorm could occur.  Thus the worse-case scenario, even with the current climate, did not happen with Sandy.

Regardless, how, or if, the risk from hurricane landfalls of this type increases in the future, a prudent policy path would be to reduce the risk from all plausible hurricane landfalls. through more effective land use planning. 

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Filed under Climate Change Metrics

Wind Turbines and Clouds – Another Human Climate Forcing

Figure caption: Normally invisible, wind wakes take shape in the clouds behind the Horns Rev offshore wind farm west of Denmark. (Credit: Photo courtesy of Vattenfall)

In my posts

Comments On A Study By Ron Prinn and Chien Wang On The Effect Of Wind Turbines On Climate

Significance And Correction Of Misinterpretation By The Media Of The Zhou Et Al 2012 Paper “Impacts Wind Farms On Land Surface Temperature”

New Paper “Impacts Of Wind Farms On Land Surface Temperature” By Zhou Et Al 2012 Documents An Effect Of Local And Regional Landscape Change On Long Term Surface Air Temperature Trends

I presented a discussion of how local near surface temperatures can be affected by wind turbines, but not larger scale weather. However, a photograph  provides evidence of a larger scale effect (due the creation of clouds). Such clouds could travel large distances from where they are generated. These clouds are formed when the mixing layer height is reached as a result of vertical mixing; i.e. see Section 4.2.7 in

Pielke Sr., R.A. 2002: Synoptic Weather Lab Notes. Colorado State University, Department of Atmospheric Science Class Report #1, Final Version, August 20, 2002.

The figure at the top of this post from the article

Wind Turbines: In the Wake of the Wind 

This is an example of how wind turbines can feedback and directly affect at least local and nearby regional weather (and, therefore, climate).

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New Book “Institutions And Incentives In Regulatory Science” (Edited by Jason Scott Johnston, 2012).

There is a very informative new book that has appeared. It is

Institutions and Incentives in Regulatory Science (Edited by Jason Scott Johnston, 2012).

Available at, as well as other online sites.

The book summary reads [highlight added]

From endangered species protection to greenhouse gas regulations, modern regulatory interventions are justified by science.  Indeed, legislators look to science for simple answers to complex regulatory questions.  This regulatory demand for scientific answers collides with the scientific reality that on the frontiers of science, there are no simple answers, only competing hypotheses and accumulating but as yet often inconclusive evidence.   Given inevitable scientific uncertainty, regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are put in the position of adjudicating unresolved scientific controversies.  As the contributions to this volume show conclusively and in great detail, such agencies (and other assessment organizations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC) are far from unbiased in how they assess regulatory science.   They instead act as advocates for those scientific positions that further the regulatory agenda of promulgating new regulations and increasing the scope of the regulatory state.

The book describes many facts about how regulatory agencies use science to justify their regulations that may surprise and even shock many readers:

  • In the area of climate science, where the IPCC is advertised as an objective and unbiased assessment body, the facts are that the Lead Authors for IPCC Assessment Reports are chosen by political representatives on the IPCC, and have no duty to respond in any way to the comments of outside reviewers of IPCC draft chapters.  The oft-repeated claim that there are “thousands” of scientists involved in outside review of IPCC Assessment Reports is patently false, with generally only a few dozen truly independent outside reviews submitted even on key chapters.  Perhaps most strikingly, the Editors with responsibility for overseeing the decisions of chapter Authors are themselves chosen by the same people (Working Group Chairs) who pick the Authors.  An outside audit of the IPCC commissioned by the IPCC itself (done by the Interacademy Council) concluded that some body other than the IPCC should choose the Review Editors but acknowledged that there is no such outside body.
  • Perhaps more than any other U.S. environmental law, the Endangered Species Act looks to science for clear answers regarding which species are imperiled and how to protect them.  But as this book shows, for even the most basic threshold question – as to whether a population constitutes a species or sub-species – there is no scientific answer.  As for the definition of a species, there are over a dozen competing definitions, and the categorization of a sub-species is even more problematic, with a plethora of approaches that have allowed the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and its biological advisers in the U.S Geological Service (USGS) to effectively declare sub-species at will, as even slight morphological or genetic differences are seized upon to indicate reproductive isolation and the propriety of categorizing a population as a sub-species.   Even more seriously, the book recounts how USFWS peer review in cases of controversial taxonomic classification has involved the selective disclosure of underlying data to outside peer reviewers and has been actively controlled by USGS scientists with a strong self-interest in USFWS determinations.  The book’s ESA chapters clearly show how supposedly scientific disagreement about whether a population is or is not a legally protected sub-species in fact reflect differing policy preferences, different weights that scientists attach to potential errors in triggering, or failing to trigger, legal protection.
  • Perhaps the most dramatic case studies in the book come from the area of chemical toxicity assessment by the U.S. E.P.A. and National Institute for Environmental Health (NIEH). The book shows how the EPA has made determinations of chemical toxicity that deliberately ignore the most recent and most methodologically sound studies when those studies fail to support the agency’s preferred, pro-regulatory result of significant health risk at low doses.  The case studies here include formaldehyde, where the National Academy of Science (NAS) itself concluded that EPA’s risk assessment “was based on a subjective view of the overall data” and failed to provide a plausible method by which exposures could cause cancer, a failure especially problematic given “inconsistencies in the epidemiological data, the weak animal data, and the lack of mechanistic data.”  Equally dramatic is the story of EPA risk assessment for dioxin.  Here, the agency continues to apply its decades-old assumptions that cancer risks at low doses can be extrapolated linearly from those actually observed in animal studies at high doses, and that there is no threshold level of exposure below which excess risk falls to zero.  EPA continues to maintain these assumptions despite the NAS’s admonition that “EPA’s decision to rely solely on a default linear model lacked adequate scientific support.”  Perhaps most disturbingly, the book provides examples of how supposedly unbiased outside scientific advisory panels are tainted by conflicts of interest. In the case of bisphenol A, for example,  the NIEHS awarded $30 million in grants to study that chemical to scientists who had already  publicly stated that the chemical’s toxicity was already well-researched and reasonably certain.

All told, the institutional details and facts provided by the authors’ of Institutions and Incentives in Regulatory Science paint a picture of a serious crisis in the scientific foundations of the modern regulatory state.   But the authors go beyond this, by providing suggestions for reform.  These proposals span a wide range.  In climate science, author proposals range from calling for a much more open and adversary presentation of competing work in climate science to the abolition of the IPCC as a standing body.  In endangered species regulation, proposals range from more strictly science-based thresholds for sub-species determination to a separation of the science of species determination from the  legal consequences of listing under the ESA.  In environmental regulation, some authors call for a more open and transparent process of scientific assessment in which agencies such as the EPA publicly acknowledge and fully discuss the science on both sides of complex regulatory decisions, while others call for the strict separation of scientific assessment from regulatory authority.

The authors possess a unique combination of expertise and experience: Jamie Conrad is a principal of Conrad Law & Policy Counsel and author editor of the Environmental Science Deskbook (1998);

Susan Dudley, former Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in OMB, is the founding Director of the Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University’s Trachtenberg School of Public Policy;

George Gray, Professor of environmental and occupational health and director of the Center for Risk Science and Public Health at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Sciences, was formerly science advisor at the U.S. E.P.A. and Executive Director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis;

Jason Scott Johnston is the Henry L. and Grace Doherty Charitable Foundation Professor of Law and the Nicholas E. Chimicles Research Professor in Business Law and Regulation at the University of Virginia Law School and the author numerous articles appearing in both peer-edited law and economics journals and law reviews;

Gary E. Marchant, formerly a partner at Kirkland & Ellis is Lincoln Professor of Emerging Technologies, Law, and Ethics and Executive Director and faculty fellow at the Center for Law, Science and Innovation in Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University;

Ross McKitrick, Professor of Economics at the University of Guelph is the author of Taken by Storm: The Troubled Science, Policy and Politics of Global Warming (2003) and of numerous articles appearing in peer-edited climate science journal such as Geophysical Research Letters ;

Rob Roy Ramey II, principal of Wildlife Science International, has consulted on several of the most significant Endangered Species Act listing decisions of the past decades and is the author of numerous scientific papers appearing in journals such as Science and Animal Conservation;

Katrian Miriam Wyman, Professor of Law at New York University Law School, is the editor and author (with David Schoenbrod and Richard Stewart) of Breaking the Logjam: Environmental Protection that Will Work (2010).

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Pielke Sr Summary Of Several Climate Science Issues – October 2012

For the next two weeks, I am on travel and will not be posting. In this post, I want to summarize some of my viewpoints on climate science.

i) There has been global warming over the last several decades. The ocean is the component of the climate system that is best suited for quantifying climate system heat change.  The warming has been  less than predicted by the multi-decadal global model predictions; e.g.

Pielke Sr., R.A., 2008: A broader view of the  role of humans in the climate system. Physics Today, 61, Vol. 11, 54-55.

R. S. Knox, David H. Douglass 2010: Recent energy balance of Earth  International Journal of Geosciences, 2010, vol. 1, no. 3 (November) – In press doi:10.4236/ijg2010.00000

Levitus, S., et al. (2012), World ocean heat content and thermosteric sea level change (0-2000), 1955-2010, Geophys. Res. Lett.,doi:10.1029/2012GL051106.

Comment On Ocean Heat Content “World Ocean Heat Content And Thermosteric Sea Level Change (0-2000), 1955-2010″ By Levitus Et Al 2012

Comment On “Levitus Data On Ocean Forcing Confirms Skeptics, Falsifies IPCC” At Niche Modeling

ii) The use of a global annual average surface temperature is an inadequate metric to quantify global warming and cooling.  The documentation of the poor siting quality over land is one reason it is such a poor metric. For examples of papers and weblog posts that document this issue, see

Pielke Sr., R.A., 2003: Heat storage within the Earth system. Bull. Amer.  Meteor. Soc., 84, 331-335.

Pielke Sr., R.A., C. Davey, D. Niyogi, S. Fall, J. Steinweg-Woods, K. Hubbard, X. Lin, M. Cai, Y.-K. Lim, H. Li, J. Nielsen-Gammon, K. Gallo, R. Hale, R. Mahmood, S. Foster, R.T. McNider, and P. Blanken, 2007: Unresolved issues with   the assessment of multi-decadal global land surface temperature trends. J. Geophys. Res., 112, D24S08, doi:10.1029/2006JD008229.

Fall, S., A. Watts, J. Nielsen-Gammon, E. Jones, D. Niyogi, J. Christy, and R.A. Pielke Sr., 2011: Analysis of the impacts of station exposure on the U.S. Historical Climatology Network temperatures and temperature trends. J. Geophys. Res.,  116, D14120, doi:10.1029/2010JD015146.Copyright (2011) American Geophysical Union.

McNider, R.T., G.J. Steeneveld, B. Holtslag, R. Pielke Sr, S.   Mackaro, A. Pour Biazar, J.T. Walters, U.S. Nair, and J.R. Christy, 2012: Response and sensitivity of the nocturnal boundary layer over   land to added longwave radiative forcing. J. Geophys. Res., doi:10.1029/2012JD017578.

Torpedoing Of The Use Of The Global Average Surface Temperature Trend As The Diagnostic For Global Warming

Comments On “The Shifting Probability Distribution Of Global Daytime And Night-Time Temperatures” By Donat and Alexander 2012 – A Not Ready For Prime Time Study

iii) The involvement of citizen scientists to document the siting quality is a very significant achievement; e.g. see

Roger Tattersall’s   Surface Stations Survey

Watts Up With That

iv) The human addition to CO2 into the atmosphere is a first-order climate forcing. It is the largest  annual-global averaged positive  human radiative forcing.

IPCC: Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 2007.

v) However, global warming is not equivalent to climate change. Significant, societally important climate change, due to both natural- and human- climate forcings, could occur even without global warming or cooling.

I propose these definitions be adopted in our statement

“Global Warming” is an increase in the global annual average heat content measured in Joules.

“Climate Change” is any multi-decadal or longer alteration in one or more physical, chemical and/or biological components of the climate system.


vi) The correct summary statement on climate, in my view, is that

Natural causes of climate variations and changes are important. In addition, the human influences are significant and involve a diverse range of first-order climate forcings, including, but not limited to, the human input of carbon dioxide (CO2). Most, if not all, of these human influences on regional and global climate will continue to be of concern during the coming decades.

In addition to greenhouse gas emissions, these other first-order human climate forcings that are important to understanding the future behavior of Earth’s climate are spatially heterogeneous and include the effect of aerosols on clouds and associated precipitation, the influence of aerosol deposition (e.g., black carbon (soot), and reactive nitrogen), and the role of changes in land use/land cover. Among their effects is their role in altering atmospheric and ocean circulation features away from what they would be in the natural climate system. As with CO2, the lengths of time that they affect the climate are estimated to be on multidecadal time scales and longer.

Examples of reports and papers that document this more scientifically robust perspective include

Kabat, P., Claussen, M., Dirmeyer, P.A., J.H.C. Gash, L. Bravo de  Guenni, M. Meybeck, R.A. Pielke Sr., C.J. Vorosmarty, R.W.A. Hutjes, and S. Lutkemeier, Editors, 2004: Vegetation, water, humans and the climate: A new perspective on an interactive system. Springer, Berlin, Global Change – The IGBP Series, 566 pp.

National Research Council, 2005: Radiative forcing of climate change: Expanding the concept and addressing uncertainties. Committee on Radiative Forcing Effects on Climate Change, Climate Research Committee, Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, Division on Earth and Life Studies, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 208 pp.

“Inadvertent Weather Modification” An Information Statement of the American Meteorological Society (Adopted by the AMS Council on 2 November 2010).

Pielke Sr., R.A., A. Pitman, D. Niyogi, R. Mahmood, C. McAlpine, F. Hossain, K. Goldewijk, U. Nair, R. Betts, S. Fall, M. Reichstein, P. Kabat, and N. de Noblet-Ducoudré, 2011: Land use/land cover changes and limate: Modeling analysis and observational evidence. WIREs Clim Change 2011, 2:828.850. doi: 10.1002/wcc.144.

Avila, F. B., A. J. Pitman, M. G. Donat, L. V. Alexander, and G. Abramowitz (2012), Climate model simulated changes in temperature extremes due to land cover change, J. Geophys. Res., 117, D04108, doi:10.1029/2011JD016382

Pielke Sr., R., K.  Beven, G. Brasseur, J. Calvert, M. Chahine, R. Dickerson, D.  Entekhabi, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, H. Gupta, V. Gupta, W. Krajewski, E.  Philip Krider, W. K.M. Lau, J. McDonnell,  W. Rossow,  J. Schaake, J.  Smith, S. Sorooshian,  and E. Wood, 2009: Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases.   Eos, Vol. 90, No. 45, 10 November 2009, 413. Copyright (2009) American   Geophysical Union.

McAlpine, C.A., W.F. Laurance, J.G. Ryan, L. Seabrook, J.I. Syktus, A.E. Etter, P.M. Fearnside, P. Dargusch, and R.A. Pielke Sr. 2010: More than CO2: A broader picture for managing climate change and variability to avoid ecosystem collapse. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 2:334-336, DOI10.1016/j.cosust.2010.10.001.

vii) Natural variations and longer term change have been significantly underestimated.  Also, climate prediction is an initial-value problem.

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

Rial, J., R.A. Pielke Sr., M. Beniston, M. Claussen, J. Canadell, P. Cox,  H. Held, N. de Noblet-Ducoudre, R. Prinn, J. Reynolds, and J.D. Salas,  2004: Nonlinearities, feedbacks and critical thresholds within the Earth’s  climate system. Climatic Change, 65, 11-38.

“The Climate Is Not What You Expect” by S. Lovejoy and D. Schertzer 2012 [submitted to BAMS]

vi) Attempts to significantly influence impacts from regional and local-scale climate based on controlling CO2 emissions alone is an inadequate policy for this purpose.  With respect to CO2 [and for all other human climate forcings], the emphasis should be on supporting technological developments to mitigate these threats; e.g. see

The Climate Fix, 2010: R. Pielke Jr. Basic Books

vii) Policymakers should look for win-win policies in order to improve the environment.  The costs and benefits of the regulation of the emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere need to be evaluated together with all other possible environmental regulations.  The goal should be to seek politically and technologically practical ways to reduce the vulnerability of the environment and society to the entire spectrum of human-caused and natural risks including those from climate.

Pielke, R. A., Sr., R. Wilby,  D. Niyogi, F. Hossain, K. Dairuku,J. Adegoke, G. Kallos, T. Seastedt, and K. Suding (2012), Dealing with complexity and extreme events using a bottom-up, resource-based vulnerability perspective, in Extreme Events and Natural Hazards: The Complexity Perspective, Geophys. Monogr. Ser., vol. 196, edited by A. S. Sharma et al. 345–359, AGU, Washington, D. C., doi:10.1029/2011GM001086. [the article can also be obtained from here]

viii) Global and regional climate models have not demonstrated skill at predicting multi-decadal changes in climate statistics on regional and local climate in hindcast studies; e.g. see

Pielke Sr., R.A., and R.L. Wilby, 2012: Regional climate downscaling – what’s the point? Eos Forum, 93, No. 5, 52-53, doi:10.1029/2012EO050008.

Examples of the substantial inadequacies of the climate models to provide skillful multi-decadal predictions are presented in the peer-reviewed papers reported on in these posts

Quotes From Peer Reviewed Paper That Document That Skillful Multi-Decadal Regional Climate Predictions Do Not  Yet Exist

What we recommend in our Pielke et al (2012) paper in terms of an approach to mitigation and adaptation is, as written in its abstract,

“We discuss the adoption of a bottom-up, resource-based vulnerability approach in evaluating the effect of climate and other environmental and societal threats to societally critical resources. This vulnerability concept requires the determination of the major threats to local and regional water, food, energy, human health, and ecosystem function resources from extreme events including climate, but also from other social and environmental issues. After these threats are identified for each resource, then the relative risks can be compared with other risks in order to adopt optimal preferred mitigation/adaptation strategies.

This is a more inclusive way of assessing risks, including from climate variability and climate change than using the outcome vulnerability approach adopted by the IPCC. A contextual vulnerability assessment, using the bottom-up, resource-based framework is a more inclusive approach for policymakers to adopt effective mitigation and adaptation methodologies to deal with the complexity of the spectrum of social and environmental extreme events that will occur in the coming decades, as the range of threats are assessed, beyond just the focus on CO2 and a few other greenhouse gases as emphasized in the IPCC assessments.”

When I return, I look forward to assessing further the above issues, and also invite readers on my weblog to submit guest posts to appear after I am back, which refute any of the above conclusions.

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Filed under RA Pielke Sr. Position Statements

The Importance Of Land Use/Land Cover As A First Order Climate Forcing

In answer to a question I was e-mailed on the importance of land use/land cover change on climate, I am presenting today excerpts from a NASA article of several yeard ago titled

Deep Freeze and Sea Breeze: Changing Land and Weather in Florida, NASA Earth Observatory

In that NASA article, with respect to the importance of land use/land cover change, it is reported that [highlight added]

Local or Global Problem?

Though their results drew national media attention from many sources, all the scientists involved in the research agree that the scientific arena is where the results should be evaluated. Pielke hopes these results will convince scientists to give the land cover-climate connection more attention. In the past, he has been frustrated by the lack of attention to the topic.

Gordon Bonan is a climate modeler for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. “It’s definitely true that historically, the emphasis in global climate change research has been on other climate forcings—greenhouses gases, solar variability, aerosols—and that the role of land cover has been neglected. Roger’s work, his persistence, has really played a large role in bringing people around to the importance of it.” Bonan thinks people are finally beginning to listen.

So far, what research has been done on the global-scale influence of land cover change on climate seems to suggest it plays a minor role. That’s not surprising, says Bonan, considering how small the Earth’s land surface is compared to its oceans and that our most common metric for climate change is global mean temperature. Even significant changes in the temperature where we live can get “washed out” (at least for a while) in the global average of a world mostly covered by oceans.

“Nobody experiences the effect of a half a degree increase in global mean temperature,” Bonan says. “What we experience are the changes in the climate in the place where we live, and those changes might be large. Land cover change is as big an influence on regional and local climate and weather as doubled atmospheric carbon dioxide—perhaps even bigger.” That’s the idea Pielke says he has been trying to get across for years. “Climate change is about more than a change in global temperature,” he says. “It’s about changes in weather patterns across the Earth.” Even if it turns out that land cover change doesn’t significantly alter the globally-averaged surface temperature of the Earth, it’s still critically important. “The land is where we live. This research shows that the land itself exerts a first order [primary] influence on the climate we experience.”

In 2012, finally this issue is receiving the attention it deserves, although there ares still scientists who continue to insist that the radiative effect of CO2 and a few other greenhouse gases are the only major human climate forcings that we need to be concerned about. Examples of this attention include the multi-authored papers

Pielke Sr., R.A., A. Pitman, D. Niyogi, R. Mahmood, C. McAlpine, F. Hossain, K. Goldewijk, U. Nair, R. Betts, S. Fall, M. Reichstein, P. Kabat, and N. de Noblet-Ducoudré, 2011: Land  use/land cover changes and climate: Modeling analysis  and  observational evidence. WIREs Clim Change 2011, 2:828–850. doi: 10.1002/wcc.144.

Pielke Sr., R., K.  Beven, G. Brasseur, J. Calvert, M. Chahine, R. Dickerson, D.  Entekhabi, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, H. Gupta, V. Gupta, W. Krajewski, E.  Philip Krider, W. K.M. Lau, J. McDonnell,  W. Rossow,  J. Schaake, J.  Smith, S. Sorooshian,  and E. Wood, 2009: Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases.   Eos, Vol. 90, No. 45, 10 November 2009, 413. Copyright (2009) American   Geophysical Union.

McAlpine, C.A., W.F. Laurance, J.G. Ryan, L. Seabrook, J.I. Syktus, A.E. Etter, P.M. Fearnside, P. Dargusch, and R.A. Pielke Sr. 2010: More than CO2: A broader picture for managing climate change and variability to avoid ecosystem collapse. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 2:334-336, DOI10.1016/j.cosust.2010.10.001.

source of image

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New Report “Gulf Coast Climate Information Needs Assessment” By Hal Needham and Lynne Carter

There was an interesting survey of stakeholders in the report

Gulf Coast Climate Information Needs Assessment

by Hal Needham and Dr. Lynne Carter.

Here are two examples of a question and the answer:

Research Question: Coast region today ….Identify present weather/climate issues impacting your community today AND if you have any interest in how other communities are dealing with similar issues.

Most significant climate-related issues in region today:

1. Hurricanes
2. Storm Surge
3. Rainfall Flood
4. Wind Storm
5. Sea level rise

Most significant climate-related issues for the region in the future?

1. Hurricanes
2. Storm surge
3. Rainfall Flood
4. Sea level rise
5. Windstorm

They also asked

Have you noticed any changes related to a changing climate

and they summarized as

Nearly even split between ‘yes” and ‘no’ responses

Many ‘yes’ respondents provided specific examples

Of the 26 ‘no’ responses, 16 further noted that they had seen changes but they were due to natural cycles.

With respect to the use of climate models, they wrote

About one-half said they might be interested in using climate outputs but their time frames were much shorter than the 25 and 100 year outputs

While few respondents are using long-term climate projections in their decision making, many provided examples of how they might use such information in the future.

Of the total of 48 responses to this question, 21 stated clearly they were not interested in using long-term climate model projections.


Time frames: mostly shorter than the 25-100 years for most climate models, rather more like two-weeks to one year.

We need more such assessments by stakeholder, as this fits in the bottom-up, resource-based perspective that we have urged be adopted in our paper

Pielke, R. A., Sr., R. Wilby,  D. Niyogi, F. Hossain, K. Dairuku,J. Adegoke, G. Kallos, T. Seastedt, and K. Suding (2012), Dealing with complexity and extreme events using a bottom-up, resource-based vulnerability perspective, in Extreme Events and Natural Hazards: The Complexity Perspective, Geophys. Monogr. Ser., vol. 196, edited by A. S. Sharma et al. 345–359, AGU, Washington, D. C., doi:10.1029/2011GM001086. [the article can also be obtained from here]

source of image

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Quotes From Peer Reviewed Paper That Document That Skillful Multi-Decadal Regional Climate Predictions Do Not Yet Exist

As I have posted on many times; e.g. see

The Huge Waste Of Research Money In Providing Multi-Decadal Climate Projections For The New IPCC Report

there is an enormous amount of money being spent to provide multi-decadal regional climate forecasts to the impacts communities. In this post, I select just a few quotes from peer reviewed papers to document that the climate models do not have this skill. There are more detailed on this post also (e.g. see).

As the first example, from

Dawson A., T. N. Palmer and S. Corti: 2012: Simulating Regime Structures in Weather and Climate Prediction Models. Geophyscial Research Letters. doi:10.1029/2012GL053284 In press.

We have shown that a low resolution atmospheric model, with horizontal resolution typical of CMIP5 models, is not capable of simulating the statistically significant regimes seen in reanalysis, …….It is therefore likely that the embedded regional model may represent an unrealistic realization of regional climate and variability.

Other examples, include

Taylor et al, 2012: Afternoon rain more likely over drier soils. Nature. doi:10.1038/nature11377. Received 19 March 2012 Accepted 29 June 2012 Published online 12 September 2012

“…the erroneous sensitivity of convection schemes demonstrated here is likely to contribute to a tendency for large-scale models to `lock-in’ dry conditions, extending droughts unrealistically, and potentially exaggerating the role of soil moisture feedbacks in the climate system.”

Driscoll, S., A. Bozzo, L. J. Gray, A. Robock, and G. Stenchikov (2012), Coupled Model Intercomparison Project 5 (CMIP5) simulations of climate following volcanic eruptions, J. Geophys. Res., 117, D17105, doi:10.1029/2012JD017607. published 6 September 2012.

The study confirms previous similar evaluations and raises concern for the ability of current climate models to simulate the response of a major mode of global circulation variability to external forcings.

Fyfe, J. C., W. J. Merryfield, V. Kharin, G. J. Boer, W.-S. Lee, and K. von Salzen (2011), Skillful predictions of decadal trends in global mean surface temperature, Geophys. Res. Lett.,38, L22801, doi:10.1029/2011GL049508

”….for longer term decadal hindcasts a linear trend correction may be required if the model does not reproduce long-term trends. For this reason, we correct for systematic long-term trend biases.”

Xu, Zhongfeng and Zong-Liang Yang, 2012: An improved dynamical downscaling method with GCM bias corrections and its validation with 30 years of climate simulations. Journal of Climate 2012 doi:

”…the traditional dynamic downscaling (TDD) [i.e. without tuning) overestimates precipitation by 0.5-1.5 mm d-1…..The 2-year return level of summer daily maximum temperature simulated by the TDD is underestimated by 2-6°C over the central United States-Canada region.”

Anagnostopoulos, G. G., Koutsoyiannis, D., Christofides, A., Efstratiadis, A. & Mamassis, N. (2010) A comparison of local and aggregated climate model outputs with observed data. Hydrol. Sci. J. 55(7), 1094–1110

“…. local projections do not correlate well with observed measurements. Furthermore, we found that the correlation at a large spatial scale, i.e. the contiguous USA, is worse than at the local scale.”

Stephens, G. L., T. L’Ecuyer, R. Forbes, A. Gettlemen, J.‐C. Golaz, A. Bodas‐Salcedo, K. Suzuki, P. Gabriel, and J. Haynes (2010), Dreary state of precipitation in global models, J. Geophys. Res., 115, D24211, doi:10.1029/2010JD014532.

“…models produce precipitation approximately twice as often as that observed and make rainfall far too lightly…..The differences in the character of model precipitation are systemic and have a number of important implications for modeling the coupled Earth system …….little skill in precipitation [is] calculated at individual grid points, and thus applications involving downscaling of grid point precipitation to yet even finer‐scale resolution has little foundation and relevance to the real Earth system.”

Sun, Z., J. Liu, X. Zeng, and H. Liang (2012), Parameterization of instantaneous global horizontal irradiance at the surface. Part II: Cloudy-sky component, J. Geophys. Res., doi:10.1029/2012JD017557, in press.

“Radiation calculations in global numerical weather prediction (NWP) and climate models are usually performed in 3-hourly time intervals in order to reduce the computational cost. This treatment can lead to an incorrect Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI) at the Earth’s surface, which could be one of the error sources in modelled convection and precipitation. …… An important application of the scheme is in global climate models….It is found that these errors are very large, exceeding 800 W m-2 at many non-radiation time steps due to ignoring the effects of clouds….”

Ronald van Haren, Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, Geert Lenderink, Matthew Collins and Wilco Hazeleger, 2012: SST and circulation trend biases cause an underestimation of European precipitation trends Climate Dynamics 2012, DOI: 10.1007/s00382-012-1401-5

“To conclude, modeled atmospheric circulation and SST trends over the past century are significantly different from the observed ones. These mismatches are responsible for a large part of the misrepresentation of precipitation trends in climate models. The causes of the large trends in atmospheric circulation and summer SST are not known.”

As reported in

Kundzewicz, Z. W., and E.Z. Stakhiv (2010) Are climate models “ready for prime time” in water resources managementapplications, or is more research needed? Editorial. Hydrol. Sci. J. 55(7), 1085–1089.

they conclude that

“Simply put, the current suite of climate models were not developed to provide the level of accuracy required for adaptation-type analysis.”

Unless the NSF, Linda Mearns and her co-authors, ect can refute these peer reviewed findings, if they continue to ignore these studies and persist in presenting their multi-decadal climate predictions to the impacts communities, they are failing to serve as objective scientists. I wholeheartedly endorse the assessment of multi-decadal predictability. The papers I list earlier in this post as excellent examples of quality science in this context

However, providing predictions (i.e. projections/forecasts) to the impacts communities and policymakers, in which they are claimed to be skillful, is not a robust scientific endeavor.

I also add, this issue is independent of the debate as to the importance of CO2, and other human climate forcings, on the regional climate in coming decades. It means, however, that providing regional multi-decadal predictions is not only without a demonstrated skill, but is misleading the impact and policy communities as to what are the actual risks that we face.

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September 2012 Lower Tropospheric Temperature Anomaly Analysis From The University of Alabama At Huntsville

Phillip Gentry has provided us with the September 2012 lower tropospheric temperature anomaly analysis from the University of Alabama at Huntsville. It is presented below [click each image for a clearer view]. Note the large spatial variations in the temperature anomalies.

Global Temperature Report: August 2012

Changing satellites as instruments die

Global climate trend since Nov. 16, 1978: +0.14 C per decade

September temperatures (preliminary)

Global composite temp.: +0.34 C (about 0.61 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for September.

Northern Hemisphere: +0.35 C (about 0.63 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for September.

Southern Hemisphere: +0.33 C (about 0.59 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for September.

Tropics: +0.15 C (about 0.22 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for September.

August temperatures (revised):

Global Composite: +0.21 C above 30-year average

Northern Hemisphere: +0.21 C above 30-year average

Southern Hemisphere: +0.20 C above 30-year average

Tropics: +0.06 C above 30-year average

(All temperature anomalies are based on a 30-year average (1981-2010) for the month reported.)

Notes on data released Oct. 8, 2012:

September 2012 was the third warmest September in the 34-year satellite temperature record, according to Dr. John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. Three of the last four Septembers were warmer than September 1998, during the El Niño Pacific Ocean warming event “of the century.” The last September that was cooler than the 30-year baseline seasonal norm was in 2000.

Compared to seasonal norms, the coldest spot on the globe in September was (again) at the South Pole, where the Antarctic spring temperature averaged 3.31 C (almost 6 degrees Fahrenheit) colder than normal. The “warmest” spot was just north of Monbetsu, Japan, where temperatures in September averaged 3.72 C (about 6.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than seasonal norms.

The temperatures reported in this report are from different instruments than have been used in the recent past, Christy said.

“Some things are just out of our control,” he said. “In the past three years our backbone satellite – NASA’s AQUA, which has been operating since 2002 – has experienced an increase in ‘noise.’ Until now, however, the differences between temperature values recorded by AQUA and two other satellites, NOAA 15 and NOAA 18, were within 0.1 C. That is within our typical margin of error for monthly global values and not of much concern.

“In September, the difference jumped to 0.2 C. Looking at the daily values, that gap was increasing as the month ended. It appears that for our climate project, AQUA is no longer useful.”

AQUA has on-board propulsion that allows it to maintain a stable orbit, which means the temperature data it collected was also stable. Orbital drift (east or west) and orbital decay cause systemic changes in temperature data, either warmer or cooler depending on which way the satellite’s orbit is shifting. While the UAHuntsville team has developed and published techniques for correcting errors caused by orbital drift or decay, data from a satellite in a stable orbit is easier to process and should be more reliable.

There is, however, no technique to correct for a failing instrument.

“We haven’t used NOAA-15 or NOAA-18 in the past few years because they each are drifting in orbit,” Christy said. “NOAA-15 is moving to slightly warmer temperature and NOAA-18 to slightly cooler. It is clear, however, that the slight differences between the temperature values they report (less than 0.1 C) are small and their average will be very close to the actual temperatures, as their errors will cancel each other out.

“We have implemented a simple solution for the data problem, which we will call version 5.5 of the UAHuntsville satellite dataset,” Christy said. “For the data beginning in January 2010 we will use the average of NOAA-15 and NOAA-18, and will leave out AQUA. The only change is the source of data. As it turns out, the long-term global climate trend doesn’t change, because the real problem only developed in the past month.”

The UAHuntsville team is working now on version 6.0 of the dataset, which will more precisely account for issues like the small orbital drifts in NOAA-15 and NOAA-18. There is no schedule for the release of the new dataset: “We are taking our time and having an independent scientist write the new code from scratch, to insure that it is testable and transportable. That takes time. Until the new version is released, the values provided by version 5.5 will give us more accurate information than relying on the instrument on the AQUA satellite.”

Archived color maps of local temperature anomalies are available on-line at:

The processed temperature data is available on-line at:

As part of an ongoing joint project between UAHuntsville, NOAA and NASA, John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center (ESSC) at The University of Alabama in Huntsville, and Dr. Roy Spencer, an ESSC principal scientist, use data gathered by advanced microwave sounding units on NOAA and NASA satellites to get accurate temperature readings for almost all regions of the Earth. This includes remote desert, ocean and rain forest areas where reliable climate data are not otherwise available.

The satellite-based instruments measure the temperature of the atmosphere from the surface up to an altitude of about eight kilometers above sea level. Once the monthly temperature data is collected and processed, it is placed in a “public” computer file for immediate access by atmospheric scientists in the U.S. and abroad.

Neither Christy nor Spencer receives any research support or funding from oil, coal or industrial companies or organizations, or from any private or special interest groups. All of their climate research funding comes from federal and state grants or contracts.

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