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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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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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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