A Peaceful Easy Storm Season

We read today that insured losses are low this year. Among the reasons was a very quiet hurricane season. A single year means nothing, of course. (See if you can find any patterns in this list of the worst hurricanes.) But people think it does and one reason they do are all those unscientific pinheads who said that Katrina was caused by global warming.

Collateral damage from the climate change debate has been the idea of scientific objectivity. We were appalled during the Karina aftermath to hear people claim that hurricanes like that were the result of global warming or that hurricanes were becoming more frequent or destructive.

Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation Timeseries, 1856–2008

This misuse of science was bad for at least two reasons. The first was obviously that it was just dishonest or ignorant. But the second was perhaps more damaging. It is like the old story of the little boy who cried wolf. Constant attempts to make the problem seem more acute would corrupt the ability to make the true argument about the problem. And this has happened.

Hurricanes are unpredictable years ahead. Bad hurricane years may be followed by benign ones. Katrina’s year was a bad year and Katrina hit at exactly the right political time. But you have to be careful overselling these things. The years since have been relatively benign.

Climate hysterics led the public to believe that things were going to get worse and worse. It is hard to feel sorry for them when they are trapped in their own hyperbole when their predictions didn’t come to pass. People like Al Gore are looking a little pale and sounding a little tinny. Although Al Gore, Greenpeace and their ilk certainly deserve our scorn, this is not a good thing for our world to mislead ourselves just because they tried to mislead us. Climate change is a serious problem; it just is not as immediately serious as the Al Gore crowd implies or says outright.

Even if they are dishonest about the extent of the problem, they are pointing in the right direction. Let’s forget about Gore. He has become a tainted messenger, but let’s do the right thing, which would mean working to lessen our dependency on fossil fuels.

This year was a cool year w/o major hurricanes. Scientists understand those fluctuations. Don’t mistake Al Gore for one of them. Don’t throw out the baby with the dirty bathwater.

Posted by Christine & John at December 22, 2009 8:28 PM
Comment #292974

Shameful. Use one selective years data to attack a distiguished,selfless,internationally respected American as a “pinhead”.Is this “attack the messenger” or just belated resentment that you have had to finally admit he had a point and that point calls for action, an anathema to conservatives by definition and even more frightening to you all because it threatens dearly held power bases.
Your data is regional. Its a big world. Sticking your head in the sand will not change that.Here in the Philippines we were hit with two devastating typhoons(hurracaines). Both carried nearly unpredented amounts of rainfall and unprecedented amount of destructions. This is in a country used to typhoons.It has long been known that warmer ocean temperatures produce more rainfall. While you quibble many are busy digging up bodies.Again, shame.

Posted by: bills at December 22, 2009 10:51 PM
Comment #292977

Tom L.
Do not dispair. With the passage of the health care bill you should have an easier time accessing mental health services.

Posted by: bills at December 22, 2009 11:05 PM
Comment #292978

“This year was a cool year w/o major hurricanes.”

What are you talking about? With a month to go, 2009 is clocking in as the 5th warmest year on record.

Without major hurricanes? It’s global warming, and as bills notes, the Pacific has seen huge typhoons. For shame.

AGW does not predict that hurricanes will be more frequent. It predicts they will be more intense. There is a difference between frequency and intensity. Allow me to explain:

Frequency involves the number of hurricanes. This means counting how many happen. Like this: one, two, three…

Intensity involves the strength of hurricanes. The storms are measured on a scale of one to five, with category five being the strongest.

No one event can be attributed to AGW with complete certainty; however, Katrina does, in fact, fit AGW predictions about hurricane intensity.

Tom L,
If I mention “carbon dioxide” will you understand what I’m referring to? Hint: it is not a religious term.

Posted by: phx8 at December 23, 2009 12:12 AM
Comment #292979

Tom L.-
Seems very odd, and very unlikely. Most people would take that as good reason to reject such outlandish claims.

Climate Change is real, and what Scientists have seen of it in the climate data does not support the notion that climate change is gentle, predictable, or something that occurs slowly in relation to human events. You can call that religion, but I don’t know how many religions openly encourage their followers to appeal to natural causes, and make guesses about them that can be put to the test.

I guess calling it a religion is easier than arguing against it on a rational level.

Christine and John-
The number of storms in that terrible season was probably not the result of global warming, and nobody knows exactly whether Katrina was made stronger. However, as this quote from a NASA site says:

It is likely that greenhouse warming will cause hurricanes in the coming century to be more intense on average and have higher rainfall rates than present-day hurricanes.

Visualize a patchwork of water temperatures on the ocean surface. Warmer surfaces are already known to feed hurricanes and make them stronger. Anything that raises ocean temperatures, by implication, feeds both the strength and the rainfall that will come out of the Hurricane.

I would not venture to say that having a cool year, though, makes for fewer hurricanes, any more than a warm year makes for more.

The primary reason that I’ve heard for their being fewer tropical storms this year is that Atlantic Oscillation tied to the El Nino event going on right now. Those variations in Atmospheric and oceanic conditions have a way of producing wind-shear that lops off the top of Hurricanes before they can properly form.

The reason, we should observe, that we call it Climate Change, rather than Global Warming alone, is that temperature in our atmosphere does things. It creates pressure differences. It evaporates water. It gives storms, whether they’re Tropical or Winter, the motivating force they need.

In certain places, too, it can counterintuitively drive weather systems that drop temperatures for a region, that bring cooling moisture.

But as for Climate Hysterics?

Let me put this plainly: I have seen more harm done by those who badmouth global warming, than by those who oversell it.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 23, 2009 12:26 AM
Comment #292980

I think you are all missing the point.

First, let me admit that I don’t like Al Gore personally. He is a pompous fat ass hypocrite. But what he did is worse than his personal foibles. He misused science and by doing so compromised it.

I believe global warming is a serious issue. Al Gore is on the extreme of the disaster side. He is not truthful, since his own lifestyle denies what his words say.

If someone is really so concerned about some disaster, they take personal steps.

My specific complaint was about Katrina. It was no different than many other storms except that it hit a very vulnerable place. Some people made political and environmental hay from that. They got a short term gain. But they planted the seeds of future doubt and are harvesting that now.

IMO - misleading on a grand scale, even in a good cause, is wrong. It interferes with realistic solutions.

BTW - if we really believe the Al Gore projections, we should certainly be immediately banning most air travel, building nuclear power stations, taxing carbon and not insuring anybody who lives near a beach or major river. From the Katrina legacy, we should not rebuild anything else in New Orleans and not allow the people to return to the lower ninth ward. Is Al Gore really advocating those things?

Posted by: Christine at December 23, 2009 7:20 AM
Comment #292983

You don’t know him personally. You know him through a right-wing media and a right-wing filter that immediately assigns the worst of attributes to those who oppose the party, regardless of their previous career or politics. Gore is no exception.

As for what you say about Al Gore’s projections? He’s sticking with the IPCC numbers.

But what should we do then? Banning air travel is not practicable. But maybe we can brew up some fuels, or find a way to go electric. Building some nuclear stations might help, but the safety concerns, both real and imaginary, make them tough to build, and they won’t necessarily catch up to our fossil fuel emissions quickly enough. We have a cap and trade bill, which essentially raises the costs of carbon emissions and rewards efficiency.

Should we just chuck it all away in the face of the natural environment? I should hope not. Here’s what I would say: the quicker and more effectively we take ourselves off of fossil fuels, the cheaper the bill will be a century from now for the changes that are bound to happen. We’ll lose fewer cities and economic centers, deal with fewer resource wars and the geopolitical disruption that comes with them, and we’ll face fewer challenges in where we get our food and water ourselves.

Some people in your party have done everything to convince themselves that this is either a politically motivated fraud, or an inevitable change that might have some benefits.

But what you fail to consider is that we’re driving this change, and we can take our foot off the accelerator. We have the technology to do so. The will is another matter.

For some reason, on matters of national import, the Republican Party seems to play the role of the devil on a person’s shoulder.

Want to waste gas? Go ahead, that will show those liberals!

Want to pollute the environment? Go ahead, if they complain, we’ll call them tree-huggers and claim they’re marxists.

Want to stand by as Wall Street firms and CEOs cheat people of millions? Go ahead! Don’t those commies understand you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette? They should stop whining about getting new regulations, things will settle out on their own.

Whatever it seems that might be wise or prudent, mannerly or sensible, it seems the Republicans are opposing, simply because Democrats are such advocates of the orderly governance of our nation. The need to disagree has overruled the imperative to figure out whether disagreement is good or wise.

The time has come to ditch this Contrarianism, and recognize that we liberals are not trying to destroy the country, and not likely to get very far in doing so inadvertantly before people would kick us out. The Republicans need to have more faith in the American people to make decisions for themselves, even when they’re not making decisions with them.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 23, 2009 8:15 AM
Comment #292987

Tom L.,

And speaking of hot air…

“If liberals would stop exhaling hot air, Carbon Dioxide levels might fall.”

It seems you choose to believe that if humans continue on the path we are now on everything will be cool and anyone that disagrees with you is an idiot (your choice of the word), including the author of this thread, BTW.

Are we to assume that you believe humans have had absolutely no impact on this planet what so ever?

In my humble opinion, such “black and white” thinking is the sign of a zealot, and is one of the reasons humans find themselves in the predicament we are in.

Perhaps we can set you up in a sealed room and see how long you can last in a CO2 rich environment.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at December 23, 2009 9:09 AM
Comment #292988

I have been a watchblog reader since before the Bush/Kerry campaigns and have always though this was one of the better political debate blogs but lately the level of discourse has plummeted. I understand the right and left have diferent points of view but back up your claims with facts people. If you are going to disregard science for whatever reason show some proof. This whole nonsense with these emails from the UK does not suddenly mean the climate change initiatives are a big waste. Al Gore did not suddenly become some profit only zombie hell bent on making money off global warming. These baseless claims made by the same people that think Dick Cheney is the conservative of the year. Hello, Haliburton anyone, no bid contracts. These are the real profiteers. If you dont like al Gore whatever, no one is forced to like everyone. But present some legitimate arguements but calling some a fat ass hypocrite. You wont win anyone over in a debate with nonsense like that. Critique the message not the messenger, blogger or not.

Posted by: The other Paul at December 23, 2009 9:47 AM
Comment #292991

Tom L,
The IBD article you link does not address Global Warming. It discusses how renewable energy sources are not as cheap as fossil fuels. It does not do that in an honest manner, because the article ignores factors such as the hidden costs of oil (national security, defense spending, vulnerability of supply), Peak Oil, and the financial consequences of Global Warming and Climate Change.

There is no ‘belief’ involved in Global Warming. There is nothing ‘sacred’ involved. In general, scientists are not known for advocating beliefs. Just the opposite- they rely on a process that is only valid if it can be duplicated by another.

Scientists are also not known for their participation in politics. Does anyone know of an example where a scientist (any field) served in the House or Senate?

Posted by: phx8 at December 23, 2009 11:47 AM
Comment #292994

Tom L.-
Religion by definition appeals to supernatural causes and effects. Global Warming science posits Carbon Dioxide, a gas, and its properties as the cause in a measured rise in average global temperature.

What a religious, supernatural explanation of an natural event!

If we were saying it was SATAN, BELCHING UP HEAT FROM HIS THRONE IN HELL, that would be a religious explanation.

You’re trying to use people’s staunch resistance to your claim as a means of discrediting them. The issue here, though, is why they resist, and whether the grounds for the resistance are credible.

That’s the argument you don’t want to have. You cite isolated anecdotes (It SNOWED. Global Warming’s over!) and unproven theories (Cosmic Rays!), and even some already discredited explanations (There’s no Global Warming, It’s the sun, it’s the sunspots, it’s natural sources of greenhouse gases alone, Carbon Dioxide doesn’t trap heat, etc.)

And when people talk to you about that, show you those things, do you change your mind?

No. Then by your definition, you argument, too, is the result of a religious belief, since all strong beliefs, regardless of the kind of evidence or quality of logical inference MUST be religious.

As for this?

If memory serves me correctly, it is what humans exhale. If liberals would stop exhaling hot air, Carbon Dioxide levels might fall. So now we must all be hysterical about Carbon Dioxide simply because Obama’s EPA says we should. What a bunch of idiots and I must say any liberals who believe this crap are idiots also.

You must be some guy to be able to blow out as much carbon dioxide in a day as a car blows out in its tailpipe. Our society has been burning carbon rich fuels of one kind or another, for quite some time now, and it’s more than the carbon sinks (you know, the trees and oceans that take in our CO2 that we Liberals breath out with our hot air) have been able to absorb.

It’s just like having a storm drain get too much rain all at once. And what we’re doing, all over the world, is burning a few hundred million years worth of trapped carbon. There hasn’t been a concentration like this for fifteen million years. The world looked like this, and the Panama Isthmus wasn’t even closed yet.

And no, it’s not a small matter just because we little ole humans are doing it, because we’re even out emitting the volcanoes of the world, and this is a gas that works its wonders even at trace amounts. This world would be too frigid to even inhabit if there was no CO2, and that’s at 382 parts per million. That’s about 3.3 hundredths of a percent of our atmosphere. If we double that amount, we won’t necessarily double the heating, but is it really so implausible that we could heat up the planet by a few degrees on average?

This is not about being hysterical about CO2, it’s about being reasonable in the face of those who throw all kinds of doubt to avoid facing the uncomfortable, dare I say it, inconvenient truths about what our Carbon Emissions are doing to our atmosphere and climate. People aren’t examining chicken guts here, they’re building scientifically accurate models, and measuring them against the real world to see how well they’re working. The pity is, some are just so captured by the political and business interests that they cannot even acknowledge what most Climate Scientists acknowledge: that the preponderance of evidence backs global warming theory.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 23, 2009 1:20 PM
Comment #292999

The other Paul,

While I won’t disagree that Cheney is a piece of crap, and that Haliburton overbilled and did other corrupt things in Iraq, the reason for the no bid contract isn’t really that suspicious. Haliburton has done this sort of work for years and is one of a kind in providing these services. I suspect a bidding process could have occurred later on, for portions of the contracts, and should have by now, but this to me seems a rather empty charge.

Posted by: gergle at December 23, 2009 2:11 PM
Comment #293000

Great links Tom L.
A clearly biased site called “climatechangefraud”. geez i wonder what side of the debate they are on. The other an article about a well known and respected environmentalist versus a fictional writer.
Might as well link to your own opinion posted on your facebook profile. You might want to find some better sources to back up your arguements. You havent converted anyone.

Posted by: The other Paul at December 23, 2009 2:17 PM
Comment #293001


I believe global warming is a serious issue. Al Gore is on the extreme of the disaster side. He is not truthful, since his own lifestyle denies what his words say.

What? You mean being rich means you cannot fly in a jet AND believe global warming is a serious issue?

So, in your mind, flying on jets, and living in a big house is only OK if you completely ignore science.

Wow, talk about socialist and authoritarian. Does this mean you can’t talk about being for freedom anymore, at least, not without being called a big fat liar?

Posted by: gergle at December 23, 2009 2:17 PM
Comment #293002

Cheney has conflict of interest in awarding these contracts since he can make money.
Haliburton issues settlement due to overbilling.
If it wasn’t true why would they pay?
Pleas enote these links are to news outlets not opinion pieces or biased websites. Although i’m sure you wont agree as the are not fox news articles.

Posted by: The other Paul at December 23, 2009 2:23 PM
Comment #293003

Tom L,
Here is your chance to convince me there is no such thing as Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW).

1. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas. Is this correct?

2. C02 persists in the atmosphere for seven or more decades. Is this correct?

2. CO2 currently makes up 385 parts per million of the atmosphere. For the past 600,000 years (or longer), it has ranged between 150 ppm and 280 ppm. Is this correct?

3. The increase of atmospheric C02 is due to human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels. There is no natural explanation for the increase of C02 in the atmosphere.

The conclusion is obvious: humanity is introducing persistent greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and they are causing warming on the land and in the sea, and measureable acidification of the ocean as it absorbs C02.

If you disagree with any of the above I can provide credible documentation.

Posted by: phx8 at December 23, 2009 4:04 PM
Comment #293004

Tom L.-
Oh, I get it. We can ignore the gravitational readings out of the glaciers and the disproportionate rises in temperature because somebody storms out of a talk radio show!

Why didn’t I see the contradictory power of that assertion before?

The author asks why Hansen said “the longterm prediction of future climate states is not possible”?”

This is what Hansen really said:

Explore more fully the probabilistic character of future climate states by developing multiple ensembles of model calculations. The climate system is a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore the long-term prediction of future exact climate states is not possible. Rather the focus must be upon the prediction of the probability distribution of the system’s future possible states by the generation of ensembles of model solutions.

Exact is the operative word.

In meteorology and climatology, we are dealing with a chaotic system, one we model iteratively.

What does iterative mean here? Well, you start out with a temperature, a certain amount of humidity, cloud cover, and other things. You plug them into a set of equations, which tell you how they change over a certain period of time. Then you take the changed conditions, and plug them back in, and do everything all over again.

The trick with climate and weather systems is what’s called “sensitive dependence on initial conditions.” Another way of putting it is that the longer you go in time, iterating the models, the twitchier they get to very small differences in the conditions you started out with.

So, to put things plainly, a precise prediction of such systems, given enough time, will usually be wrong.

On the other hand, though, while they’re twitchy, these systems are not random. They behave fairly consistently within a range of outcomes. You will rarely see a hurricane go through New England in December. You will rarely see snow, as we did a few weeks ago, in Houston.

If you content yourself in dealing with Climate change over time, and satisfying yourself with a range of possible outcomes, then you can do some kind of predictions.

But you will never get a reliable prediction if you’re looking to nail it precisely over long timeframes. Nature is just too, well, twitchy, for such predictions to be successful.

As for Glaciers growing? Maybe a few, but for the most part, No.

That’s just to start.

You folks make appeals from your own suffering (we’ve been denied a hearing, denied credibility, etc.) Appeal to paranoid visions of whole bunches of folks who are just out to destroy capitalism, Appeal to personal disbelief.

You’re not even intent on proving another consistent theory, really. As with many other matters, y’all are simply trying to cast doubt, convince others to oppose those you see as your enemies. Thus the talk of religion. It makes it into a holy war of true believer, rather than an argument where fact and credible research rule the day, rather than just the strength of personal claims.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 23, 2009 4:18 PM
Comment #293007


I saw Al Gore’s inconvenient truth and the truth was sure inconvenient for him. A lot of people have picked apart the details. Suffice to say that it was science they way something featured in tabloids is science.

His very cool graphics were based on worst case projections.

I am been an environmentalist all my life. When I was young, I was panicked by the limits of growth and the population bomb. Those things turned out to be manageable. I have come to understand that steady knowledge-based action beats passionate intensity, since the environment is not swayed by politics. You have to look to the real problems. The real problem for the future is spelled C-h-i-n-a.

We in the U.S are actually on a decent trajectory and if we pretend that we can solve our problem by talking at it and by raising awareness, we have more serious problems.

You are right that I don’t know Al Gore, but I would pit my commitment to an environmental lifestyle up against his any day. I have also seen what works in conservation and what doesn’t. Nature Conservancy works, for example.Greenpeace doesn’t. And Al Gore, for all the sound and fury, on balance doesn’t work.

Posted by: Christine at December 23, 2009 8:12 PM
Comment #293008

The other Paul

Balance of anger – you will notice this shift. I have been reading blogs for years. For a long time, the left had most of the anger. They called the president names and generally castigated the powerful. Now that has shifted right. Now the right calls the president names and castigates the powerful.

I was just getting my feelings re Al Gore out there because if I talk about what he says people just accuse me of not liking him. Better get it out there.

I think that there is some justification with attacking Al Gore’s lifestyle. He and many of the climate folks live very well. They travel by air all the times and waste enough energy to fuel the industries in whole cities. I am not saying that the messenger is the message, but it is hard to take advice from people who obviously don’t think enough of it to do it themselves. You mention Dick Cheney. He had no direct financial stake in Halliburton after he became VP, but still it hurt his credibility. How much so Al Gore who has direct and ongoing interests in firms that make money from his hysteria creation.

Re the science – I think global warming is a serious issue. It is in fact too serious to be misused as it has been.

Posted by: Christine at December 23, 2009 8:14 PM
Comment #293009


Senators U.S. Senator John Barrasso and Tom Coburn are Medical Doctors, which is a type of scientist. John Sununu is an engineer.
I suppose it depends on what you mean by scientist. Are you talking about someone with a degree in the hard sciences? Or is it someone who has worked in a scientific field?

The concept of scientist is a overbroad and overrated. We watch too much scifi. We no longer produce the Ben Franklin type scientists. A modern scientist tends to be very specialized and world class biologists may know no more about geology than the average person.

The danger of calling yourself a “scientist” may be that your confidence exceeds your knowledge.

An actual decision maker needs to balance all the information against priorities and values. Science may tell us that the evidence points to a rise of 1 degree, but it doesn’t tell us what to do about it. We may decide that this is an acceptable amount. I find that when people say “let science decide” they believe that a particular decision is the best one.

In the global warming debate, for example, science indicates that the earth is getting warmer and that humans are contributing. It gives us a range of values. We have to decide priorities based on that. How much is it worth to prevent an inch of sea level rise? Are we willing to accept slower development to protect polar bears? Should we rebuild New Orleans when global warming will flood it again anyway? Who should pay for any mitigation? Those are not scientific questions and scientists cannot answer them any better than anybody else.

Posted by: Christine at December 23, 2009 8:15 PM
Comment #293010


We don’t mind being called liars, but not big and fat. John is a little overweight (although not as bad as Al Gore) and nobody would dare call Chrissy fat-assed, at least not me. (of course you know that John and Christine both use the “team” moniker. Climate change is one of John’s subjects so he is writing here).

Seriously – I think that Al Gore’s palatial lifestyle distracts from his message. It is like the fat guy giving diet advice or Bernie Madoff teaching an ethics class. Gore has tied his own persona so closely with his cause that the two sometimes overlap.

Posted by: Christine at December 23, 2009 8:16 PM
Comment #293014

http://www.adn.com/front/story/916689.html A THAW AND ROT CYCLE

“Permafrost — tundra soil frozen year-round and covering almost one-fifth of Earth’s land surface — runs anywhere from 160 to 2,000 feet deep in this region. Entombed in that freezer is carbon — plant and animal matter accumulated through millennia.

As the soil thaws, these ancient deposits finally decompose, attacked by microbes, producing carbon dioxide and — if in water — methane. Both are greenhouse gases, but methane is many times more powerful in warming the atmosphere.”

Posted by: Rodney Brown at December 23, 2009 8:54 PM
Comment #293021

Global warming as a religion? How does that work? Let’s take better care of our home, the Earth. By doing so, we, our co-inhabitants and the Earth will be happier and healthier.


Let us rape the earth and exploit it all we can for our short term benefit. Let us dump our poisons and pollutants in the Earth’s land, water and air. Then we shall wait for our God-savior to come down from heaven and save a few of us. What a pathetic religion. One with two Gods.

Posted by: jlw at December 24, 2009 3:12 PM
Comment #293022

Exxon-Mobil is now a green corporation. They are removing some of the CO2 from their methane, releasing the CO2 into the atmosphere and promoting their product as clean natural gas.

If one were to believe all the advertising, most of the corpocracy has already gone green.

Posted by: jlw at December 24, 2009 3:26 PM
Comment #293064

Are we aware ” The Solar minimum has arrived” since the end of 2006..

Posted by: Rodney Brown at December 26, 2009 1:07 PM
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