Category Archives: Soapbox

Catalina winter rainfall to end by 2035!

I was working on updating our Catalina October through May historical rainfall data with this past season’s total,  when a friend brought this Scientific American article to my attention. Today’s blog title is inspired by the May 25th, 2012, issue of Scientific American, one in which it was pronounced :

“Climate Armageddon: How the World’s Weather Could Quickly Run Amok [Excerpt]

Climate scientists think a perfect storm of climate “flips” could cause massive upheavals in a matter of years.” 

The full, scary article is here.   Sci Am, in this article, created the “perfect storm” of sensationalism….alluding here to their sub-title.   Worst case climate conjectures are piled to dizzying heights.  It has inspired many commentaries like the one I am going to make below.   Be sure to read the many comments at the end of the Sci Am article.

The key word in the title and sub-title is, “could.”  For credibility, the Sci. Am. also used the phrase, “climate scientists” which technically could mean just two of thousands or all of them. They quote a couple of climate scientists, but few climate scientists believe that the horrendous things conjectured in this article will happen “quickly”,  in a “matter of years”;  that there are “tipping points” that will lead to temperatures here that will melt lead (as in metal)!
Now for today’s blog…
I realized as soon as I saw the Sci Am headine that what I was going to write about concerning Catalina’s updated rainfall from this past winter would be pretty lame; not sensational enough.  So I thought I would rework our Catalina rainfall update from this past cool season to better reflect today’s climate reporting modus operandi;  kind of “go with the flow”, grab some headlines, and that MO is reflected in today’s title.
By the way, the majority of the data I am going to show, originate with the folks at Our Garden, a place you should patronize royally for the great local climate records they have kept for us.

What I saw, thinking in the “excitement” vein after the Sci Am article, is that by projecting the trendline (best fit) of our 35 year decline in rainfall we have now just a couple of decades into the future,  is that the trendline would reach the zero rainfall point, the x-axis, before long.  With that intercept at zero comes the unassailable (or is it?) conclusion that it will no longer rain between October 1st and May 31st in Catalina by 2035!

Fantastic!  A show-stopper!   Finally, I will be popular.  But in reporting this I will have to look very sad, upset, but at the same time be glad inside that I have something great that people will want to hear.

Moreover,  these results I am reporting can be expanded beyond Catalina; more excitement!  Catalina is MUCH wetter than surrounding lowland areas in the cool season, about 10 inches vs. 5-6 inches, lower areas that include Tucson, Marana, etc. Therefore, this conclusion can be confidently applied to those lower elevation locations as well, ones that have huge populations:  No more cool season rain by 2035 in Tucson!

But, why stop even there with our local scene?

Why not assert, since no precipitation station “…is an island, entire of itself”,  to paraphrase John Donne, that this trend MAY apply to the entire State of Arizona and adjacent states as well!  Now we’re talkin’ some real excitement, 10s of millions of people getting worked up.

Now for the totality of evidence for my end-of-rainfall claim, this graph1:

 Call a news conference now!


OK, “truth-in packaging”: its not going to happen, relax.

Here is a long term, quite soothing record of Arizona rainfall over the years, courtesy of NOAA via Roger Cohen, who was commenting on a NM wildfire story in the New York Times with his graph:

In our own Catalina rainfall graph, I don’t have enough data to draw any real conclusions about trends, and that’s clear from this long term graph going back into the late 1890s.

Of course, it is also known by the climate mavens out there, and is also shown in the long term graph, that “Mr. and Mrs. Our Garden” began taking records during one of the wettest periods in Arizona history and in the Southwest as a matter of fact, over the past 100 and more years!  Take a look at the NOAA graph above and observe those rainfall values in the late 1970s into the early 1990s.  So, if you moved here then, and think the climate was much wetter back then than it is now, you’re right, but it wouldn’t have been our normal climate, either! Get over it, as The Eagles have told us to do; after all, we live in desert where most years are drier than normal.

So, a downward trend after the first ten years or so of the Our Garden rainfall record was inevitable.  You need at least 50 years to establish climate normals and trends, particularly around mountainous regions, according to the World Meteorological Organizations statements on climate records.

Note, too, that it was consistently DRIER than here during the past 10 years of “drought” in the late 1940s through into the early 1970s, and also at the turn of the century!  Amazing.  Man, those were awful times in AZ!

You can stop reading here since most of the points I wanted to make have been made.
The End1


OK, now to be serious for awhile;  soapbox time, rant time, what-scientists-are-supposed-to-do time, “ideals of science”, etc.  Furrowing brow now…usually people start moving away, etc.

Scientific American is a magazine that tries to be “scientific”, that is, report recent findings in science in an objective manner, and make them understandable for the general public.  Great.

Unfortunately, the temptation for a general audience magazine is always one of trying to get the most readers for each issue (“bang” for the “buck”), and the temptation to phrase article titles in sensational terms to gain readership is always present, as I have done in the title of this blog, trying to expand readership beyond the two I have.   Its understandable.   Even in our best peer-reviewed journals, the hardest ones to get into, Science and Nature, have this temptation to some degree, but mostly avoid it with staid covers and “headlines.”

But going the sensational route has a way of backfiring, like the claims made in the late 1960s into the 1970s about an imminent ice age; that our warm “Interglacial” period between Ice Ages (the Holocene)  was about to end, and “global cooling” was going to wreak havoc with just about everything.

Or, more recently, that snowpacks in the Pacific Northwest were going to disappear soon, in just decades like my claim above about Catalina rainfall.  Those claims were made by scientists who got carried away by using only some of the data, not all of it, beginning with an era of high snowpacks, as I have done with our Catalina rainfall, starting with an era of high rainfall.

Those snowpack claims, too, were ones that were ripe for a hungry media primed for global warming (or earlier, global cooling) disaster stories which, of course, sell newspapers and magazines and appeared in such media giants as Time, and numerous media outlets.  The greater the catastrophic outlooks, the greater the sales.

Snowpacks in the Pacific NW have been increasing since those claims were made, 5-10 years ago.  Nor could researchers find any evidence that the temperatures over the past few decades at mountain top level were increasing, something that had to happen to support claims of earlier melting off of snowpacks and less deep ones.  If real estate has the mantra, location, location, location, science is supposed to have the mantra, caution, caution, caution.

Now it MAY be that EVENTUALLY snowpacks in the Pacific Northwest WILL decline.  But the scientists who made the original sensational claims were incautious.  They should have pointed out that it will be a very gradual process and many things might come to bear on such an overall gradual decrease that might make it appear that nothing is happening for years at a time due to changes in weather regimes, like the Pacific Decadal OscillationArctic Oscillation, etc.. Those of us who know weather know that there are tipping points in which weather regimes go into a new modes, where low centers like to be changes, and those changes can persist for many years.  Why they happen is not known but being investigated.

These kinds of regime tips from one state to another was anticipated by the “Father of Chaos Theory”, E. N. Lorenz, some 40 years ago (e.g., “Climate Change as a Mathematical Problem” when he pointed out the charateristics of atmospheres that are “transitive” (ones that don’t flip-flop into new modes) and “intransitive” ones that do flip-flop into new modes without much “forcing”.   Flip-floping is just an inherent property that an “intransitive” atmosphere has and is likely represented by the oscillations mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Interestingly, looking back at all the climate flip-flops that had occurred over the eons of the earth’s history, Lorenz ventured that “human (climate) forcings” can likely be ignored since they had not caused the remarkable climate changes in the past.

Those of us who know anything about the global warming future projected know that REGIONAL effects of GW are dicey; not well known.  Some places could really warm up, while some places could even cool off due to, for example, stronger summer sea breezes flowing toward warmer continents, something that may already be under way according to some researchers.

Or, the storm track-jet stream positions might shift and bring cooler weather to a relatively small regions while the globe overall warms up.  We know, for example, that troughs aloft (with their cold air) tend to shift inland to the western US as the northern hemisphere warms up in the spring.  As that happens, storms with cold fronts tend to move more from the northwest to the southeast, delaying the onset of higher spring temperatures in the West that otherwise might happen.

These regional effects are just beginning to be explored with higher resolution models that can capture regional effects better.

Now we’re ALL concerned today about where the climate MAY be heading.

We, the people,  are really wrecking things royally with our air pollution and trace gas emissions.  The sky is awful-looking on a regular basis due to smog in huge parts of the world now.  What’s interesting is how accustomed, and non-chalant we have become to the “white sky” so prevalent in the eastern US on humid days.

The climate system of this planet is extremely complicated and even now it is not known why the earth’s temperature has stopped increasing over the past 10-15 years while there have been huge increases in CO2 and methane, those gases that are mainly responsible for the projected and past global warmings that have occurred.

We, as scientists, should always pause, take a deep breath of “humility”, when something major like this happens, the recent leveling of the earth’s temperature, when we can’t explain it and start to rethink our hypotheses.  No climate model expected this leveling in temperature to happen back when it started.

Here in Catalina we have a “problem” with our climate rainfall data.  Its been drying out for awhile, years, really, in the cooler part of the year  (October through May), and last winter’s precip did nothing to alter this downward trend even though it was wetter than the previous cool season of Oct 2010-May 2011.   That latter one was so dry that there were no spring wildflowers at the end of that awful winter.

Global warming (GW) is the most easily, readily accepted explanation for everything these days, including that big dust devil that went through Catalina a few days ago around 3:30 PM.  In the 1950s, it was “atomic testing” that caused all manner of strange weather inthe popular lexicon, 1960s and 1970s, it was global cooling (with scientists on board), and in the 1980s and 1990s, El Ninos caused EVERYTHING strange, beyond what we know El Ninos really do.

Those were fun times for real meteorologists, familiar with the year to year vagaries of weather, ones that lead to extremes of all kinds.

The End2.


1Since sarcasm is the refuge of a small mind its been said, I have added some more sarcasm to the legends in this graph as well.  I am exulting in the small mind!  Why pretend to be something you’re not?



Let’s talk about May

Now in a really good web site about weather, clouds and climate, we would have talked about May around the first of May.  But let’s face it, this site really isn’t that great.  So now we’ll talk about the climate of May on May 11th.

Below is the rain frequency climate, such as it is, for May here in Catalina.   Surprisingly, to Mr. Cloud-maven person, there is no downward trend in the chances of measurable rain from the very first days of May until the end as was expected.  Instead, each day of the whole month has about the same small chance of rain from the 35 year record mostly made by the folks (Wayne and Jenny) at Our Garden here in Catalina.

Where the rising temperature graph for May, you ask? Well, I don’t do temperature. I am cloud and rain person. A nice graph of the temperature trend for May, which we know is upward on average for the whole month, can be found here at the Western Regional Climate Center, housed at the cloud seeding-inclined Desert Research Institute of the University of Nevada which issues misleading PR pieces on cloud seeding which they conduct for the State of Nevada (no, you won’t find them, in spite of being an academic institution, doing proper randomized cloud seeding experiments, but rather bogus-style “operational” seeding.  They’d be AFRAID of doing a proper long-term, double blind randomized experiment using independent evaluators!  If I was them, I would be afraid, too, about what such an experiment might tell their long term funders!  Don’t get me started on cloud seeding discussions!

Now, where was I?

Oh, yeah, climate.  Don’t get me started about the parallels between some aspects of the purveyors of global warming info (I’m talking exaggerations, not the prospect of it which I have to grudgingly go along with, “grudgingly” because I really hope there’ll be an ice age tomorrow when I read some of the exaggerations that come out for the purpose of scaring people,  like this or that storm or tornado was due to global warming.

Yes, there are parallels between cloud seeding claims and some of the GW ones, mostly, in this writer’s opinion, driven by the need for funding.

Now, an hour later,  back to that graph at DRI….  You can see that the temperature at the U of A rises steadily throughout May on average.   We knew that already, so there really wasn’t much point in showing it, but I feel a lot better now having exhausted some hot air myself.


The End.




The Myth: Climate scientists were not on the global cooling bandwagon in the 1970s

Advisory:  heavy reading ahead…have to fill time during current cloud drought

In an article published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) in 2008, it was asserted that there was no “concensus” on global cooling in the 1970s.  Why address this now?  I was busy before now….

Overall response to this BAMS assertion:

Hogwash!  Rubbish!  Bilge!  (I’m pretty “excited” here).

In fact, perhaps the most outrageous statement I have ever seen in a peer-reviewed journal was that of the BAMS Editor, quoted below in red.  In defense of the Editor, he was only parroting the conclusions of a major article in that BAMS issue purporting this distortion.  The appearance of such an article can be seen as a failure of peer review.   Here is what the BAMS Editor wrote in summarizing that bogus claim:

“In this issue, (the authors-names omitted) show that we were indeed misled about global cooling–but not by scientists. (emphasis added by the present writer).   Rather, we are confused about the recent history of our own science.”

I wanted to gag when I read this.  I was doing decadal climate studies in the early 1970s and so I was “pretty familiar” with the literature.

First of all, what were scientists really saying about climate change back then?  I will cite two major sources from the 1970s:

Below, a quote by Wilmot N. Hess, then the Director of 11 NOAA programs,  from the preface of  Chapter F on Climatic Change in the book, Weather and Climate Modification, published by Wiley Interscience in 1974.  (The volume, a collection of essays by experts,  targeted senior-level college students in the sciences and engineering, or working scientists or engineers who don’t know much meteorology.)

“It has been suggested recently that we are near the end of an integlacial period.  Studies of climate changes are in their infancy.  We know that there have been four episodes of glaciation in the recent past covering a period of about 1,000, 000 years.  A conference at Brown University in January 1972 discussed this problem and the MAJORITY (the font can’t be big enough here!) of the participants concluded that:

Warm intervals like the present one have been short-lived and the natural end of our warm eposch is undoubtedly near when considered on a geological time scale.   Global cooling and related rapid changes of environment, substantially exceeding the fluctuations experienced by man in historical times must be expected within the next few millenia or even centuries.‘”

Here’s what those climate scientists were looking at over just the past 100, 000 years of the earth’s climate.   Their concern will be obvious.  Note the “present” is on the left, not right as per normal.  The numbers “4” and “5” represent “interglacial” warm periods, the first the present one, called the Holocene, and “5”, the Eemian interglacial period.  Look, too,  how the temperature was trending DOWNWARD over all that glacial time until our present interglacial.  Source:  National Academy of Sciences, 1975.

Now imagine you are a journalist at that Brown University Conference…and you also learn that the earth’s temperature has been falling for more than 25 years (not shown in the above graph).  Futhermore, the CO2 people also inform you that the recent decline in temperatures over that 25 years would even be GREATER if it wasn’t for the mitigating effect of CO2!

What are you going to tell your public?   It’s obvious.

So how did such a scientific distortion get published in BAMS in 2008 by supposedly knowledgeable authors? Were they themselves confused about the history of climate change?  Was it due to their methodology?  Or was it a propaganda piece all along, a revisionist history resembling something analogous to the type of pieces that came out of Pravda of the former Soviet Union, a piece written to correct an earlier error,  so that that we scientists look like we had it right all along?  Probably all of these, in this writer’s opinion.

Lets look at what the authors did.   The full article is here.  In support of their phony claim, the authors of the BAMS article used a “bean counting” approach, the results of which they display in a contingency table.   They tabulated articles on climate change and its likely causes in peer-reviewed journals, looked at the conclusions, and if the article concluded that CO2 was going to warm the world, it would be placed in the warming world column, if the conclusion was ambiguous they gave it a nul ranking, and if the article concluded we were headed for a cooling, it went into that column.  The authors then told us that because they were more articles about CO2 and warming than nul or cooling articles, that must be what everyone believed, a major fallacy in reasoning.

However, either out of ignorance of our science hierarchy,  or having an axe to grind, they counted prestigious reviews with the same as that assigned to a single publication by “Joe Blow”, somebody who might never have been heard from again.   So when they counted an 1975 assessment by the National Academy of Sciences, an organization that periodically reviews subjects of critical interest, employing dozens of experts and reviewing dozens of peer-0revied articles, the authors assigned that review the same weight as the other publications.   It was like assigning an elephant the weight of a flea.

Nor did the authors mention the 1968 American Meteorological Monograph, The Causes of Climatic Change; not ONE paper in that tome discusses CO2 and its possible effect on climate!

And, of course, they did not cite the Wiley-Interscience volume with its contents concerning climate,  quoted above.

But why were scientists in the 1970s concerned with global cooling and not paying so much attention to CO2?

By 1975, the earth’s temperature had been in DECLINE for about 30 years!   This was in spite of massive increases in CO2 during that 30 years.   The cause of that decline has not been ascertained even as of today.  That decline in temperatures was reversed in the late 1970s,  as has the cause of the leveling of the earth’s temperature during the past 10-12 years, also in spite of increasing CO2.  Furthermore, some authors attributed that reversal to changes in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation which occurred in the late 1970s, not to CO2.

Against that background of a long term decline in temperature by the mid-1970s, it was known that the current “interglacial” period we are in (also known in science-speak as the “Holocene”)  would not last forever.   In fact, it had gone on about as long as the earlier one about 100, 000 years ago, called the Eemian (number “5” in the figure above), or about 10-12,000 years.  This was of concern to paleoclimatologists in the mid-1970s against the backdrop of declining temperatures.   Recall we departed from ice age conditions in fits and starts only about 18,000 years ago, and after a few thousand years reached the current Holocene “warmth.”

Here’s what the National Academy of Sciences (Understanding Climatic Change) had to say in 1975, p188:

“One may still ask the question:  When will the present interglacial end?  Few paleoclimatologists would dispute that the prominent warm periods (or interglacials) that have followed each of the terminations of the major glaciations  have had durations of 10,000 +-2,000 years.  In each case, a period of considerably colder climate has followed immediately after the interglacial interval.  Since about 10,000 years has elapsed since the onset of the present period of prominent warmth, the question naturally arises as to whether we are indeed on the brink of a period of colder climate.   Kukla and Mathews (1972) have already called attention to such a possiblity.  There seems little doubt that the present period of unusual warmth will (emphasis in the original) eventually give way to a time of colder climate, but there is no consensus with regard to either the magnitude or the rapidity of the transition.  The onset of this climatic decline could be several thousand years in the future, although there is a finite probability that a serious worldwide cooling could befall the earth within the next hundred years.”

So, global cooling is in our future, no doubt about it.  However, the NAS pointed out that the bad for us cooling might be offset by CO2, or, if there was a further warming, that before the eventual cooling, that CO2 would exacerbate that.  To me, what was being written by the NAS was vastly different than the mere “0” assigned to that piece by the BAMS authors.

Now, when a journalist reads a statement by the prestigious National Academy of Sciences that there is a possibility of a “climatic decline” (that’s how cooling was looked at, namely, it would be worse weather for us than we have now in the Interglacial) in just a hundred years, what is he going to write?  If he wrote about that for, say,  Time magazine, that global cooling was “in the bag” and might even happen within a 100 years,  he would have gotten it  from our highest scientific organization.

In sum, there WAS widespread concern among climatologists and scientists about global cooling, particular in the early 1970s.   It was no myth.



A short rant about another “hide the decline” incident in the climate domain with a short rebuttal


If you are queasy, don’t like reading about what the author perceives as “broken science”, hit the back button now.



1)  The “Hide the decline” phrase alluded to in the title above came out of the “climategate” e-mails.  Specifically, “hiding the decline” was about  climate scientists deliberately hiding a recent divergence between tree ring widths, ones that they were using as temperature proxies for a record of the past climate over many hundreds of years,  and measured temperatures over the past 50 years or so.  Those miscreant scientists wanted to hide a divergence in those two parameters;  namely, the tree ring widths were not responding in the same way in modern times as those scientists had assumed they did over in their past temperature reconstruction.  This divergence, or as they called it, a “decline” in the quality of the relationship between those two parameters was embarassing because if it was pointed out, it would have raised the need for tricky discussions about the use of tree rings to reconstruct the past several hundred years of temperature.  (Please read The Hockey Stick Illusion by A. W. Montford and ClimategateThe Crutape Letters by Steven Mosher and Thomas W. Fuller,  for the awful details about what these climate scientists were doing.)

2)  Point of view of the writer:  Still on the GW bandwagon, if grudgingly, due to the erosion of ideals of science in that domain.  What are those ideals?  Go to the NAS and their pub, “On Being a Scientist“, a primer for those considering a science career.  There are some senior scientists in the climate domain who need to go back and read this.


Complaint Department

Another apparent “hide the decline” chapter in addition to the one described above has just been encountered by the author when a friend sent a link to the University of Alaska’s website on climate change.

What “decline” was hidden you ask?  The temperature one since the 1920s and 1930s in AK.

Now the plot for the period of supposed fast runnup of temperatures due to CO2, the “blade” of the infamous “Hockey Stick” for AK after 1976:

See anything going on there with the temperature?  Where’s the “blade”, the sharp runnup in temperatures at these sites?

Nope, you don’t see anything going on except for three very warm years in the early 2000s followed by cooler years up to the present.

So why would the University of Alaska edit their temperature record on the web to show only a rise in temperature that begins with the cold-in-the-Arctic spell of the late 1940s and 1950s, and omit the earlier warm spell in Alaska?  Perhaps they want the public to think that no one had a thermometer before 1950 in Alaska.  It would seem like it.

But, in reality, of course, just as the “hide the decline” climate scientists tried to avoid tricky discussions about tree rings and temperatures, ones that would inevitably lead to unsatisfactory conclusions, the folks at the U of AK apparently decided that they did not want the public who visit their web site to know that it was quite warm in Alaska prior to the late 1940s, indeed warmth that rivals the warmth of the 1990s into the early 2000s.

How would they explain that warmth?  Not very easily because then natural variations in temperature, ones that are not explicable today, would have to be addressed head on.  This would raise havoc with their “straw man” simple rise in temperature graph that begins in the 1950s in an apparent attempt to demonstrate the monolithic effect of global warming in Alaska.

To reprise a comment I left weeks ago on Judy Curry’s Climate Etc web site, this except from the Federal Trade Commission on deception in the consumer realm.  It should be applied to science reporting, and I am fervently hoping that the American Meteorological Society will adopt this in the Code of Ethics (aka, “Guidelines for Professiosnal Conduct”).  The  FTC statement below, re-written for science,  is being considered by the AMS for inclusion in their Guidelines:

“Certain elements undergird all deception cases. First, there must be a representation, omission or practice that is likely to mislead the consumer.”

When I see a graph like the one shown on the U of AK climate website it makes me think that today we are better protected as consumers of goods than we are as “consumers” of science.

The U of AK temperature graph is clearly meant to “mislead” those ignorant of the AK climate prior to 1949.  Good, conscientious science MANDATES that all of the data be shown on an educational site like that at the U of AK.  After that, they can show any graph they want, including the edited temperature graph that begins in 1949.  Then, if they can, explain why the edited one is so much better than showing ALL OF THE TEMPERATURE DATA THEY HAVE.  No one would have a problem with that.


Acknowledgements:  The graphs of Arctic temperatures that are contrasted with that shown on the U of AK website are due to Mark Albright who has unceasingly worked to “clarify” so many dubious/exaggerated climate claims out there.  Mark is something of a hero to me for this work.  As are other scrutinizers of climate claims and data like McIntrye, Montford, Watts, Michaels, Ballinger, Judy Curry, Lindzen, Pielke, Sr., Jr. and so many more for their courage in taking on dubious “fire in the theatre” climate science claims in the first place.  We are all the better off for it, even those of us like me who still think that we have a gradually “global warming” future ahead with natural meanderings along the way.


Comment received at Word Press by someone not selling me something about this “rant”.  This expert says that I went too far re U of AK and GW.  Must be posted since it makes some astute observations that I missed in my “heat”, so here it is.

“if you read the text on the university of Alaska’s web-site on “temperature change in Alaska” you’ll see that they emphasize the step-like change in the late 1970s and the PDO — and contrast this with what you might expect as a consequence of increasing trends in CO2 concentrations:

“Considering just a linear trend can mask some important variability characteristics in the time series. The figure at right shows clearly that this trend is non-linear: a linear trend might have been expected from the fairly steady observed increase of CO2 during this time period. The figure shows the temperature departure from the long-term mean (1949-2009) for all stations. It can be seen that there are large variations from year to year and the 5-year moving average demonstrates large increase in 1976. The period 1949 to 1975 was substantially colder than the period from 1977 to 2009, however since 1977 little additional warming has occurred in Alaska with the exception of Barrow and a few other locations. The stepwise shift appearing in the temperature data in 1976 corresponds to a phase shift of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation from a negative phase to a positive phase. Synoptic conditions with the positive phase tend to consist of increased southerly flow and warm air advection into Alaska during the winter, resulting in positive temperature anomalies.

Doesn’t sound like they are trying to sell the idea of anthropogenic climate change to me, but maybe that’s just me.
There are some locations with Alaska station data that begin prior to the 1940s,  you can access some of these from the Alaska Climate Research Center’s web-site at:

Climate change: what they were saying, 1974

An early anticipation of a possible climate castastrophy

One of the great books of our time on weather modification and climate change came out in 1974:  Weather and Climate Modification by Wiley-Interscience Press. It was edited by Wilmot N. Hess, Director of the Environmental Research Labs under NOAA.   Hess oversaw 11 ERL programs.   The contributors to this book read like a who’s who of those fields back then.   The discussion of climate and climate change in this volume involves Joseph Smagorinsky on Global Atmospheric Modeling and the Numerical Simulation of Climate, Les Machta and  K. Telegadas on Inadvertent Large Scale Weather Modification, and Helmut Landsberg on Inadvertent Atmospheric Modification through Urbanization–the heat island phenomena.  The book was reviewed by numerous equally outstanding scientists of that era, some of whom are still active today.  In re-reading this volume, meant to bring a sophisticated lay audience up to date on progress in these fields in 1974, I came across this introduction to Section F on global climate, likely written by Hess,  p631-632.  Please pay particular attention to the phrase below, “..the majority of participants…” at the end of the first paragraph.

I only point this out because there has been a bit of an attempt to “re-write history” regarding what our best scientists were thinking in those days when the earth’s temperature was in decline, one that began around 1940 or so, a decline that continued into the 1970s with no explanation and counter to increases in CO2 concentrations of those days.  Much WAS published concerning CO2 and about its global warming affect, but it wasn’t being observed.  Mostly, it was just EASY to perturb the atmosphere in the crude models with something like CO2 with its well-known radiative attributes, hence, maybe get a publication.   However, not much else was known about what perturbed the exceedingly complex global climate system and caused the modest temperature meanderings, such as those shown in the third insert.

Yes, its true.   Back then (late 60s into the 70s) we were starting to think about global cooling in a visceral way based on obs.

When I say, “we”,  I am not referring to myself; I was merely a forecaster-meteorologist with in a large randomized cloud seeding experiment in those days in Durango, Colorado.  Weather and Climate Modification was important to me in the years after 1974 because of the sections on cloud seeding, not because of the climate change discussion here which I have re-discovered.  (Please excuse the highlighting, done decades ago.)

Below (third insert) is the northern and southern hemisphere’s mean temperature record as deduced by NOAA’s J. Murray Mitchell in those days; these charts appear on  p719 of this volume, and were well known at the time.  Its easy to see from these graphs why there was so much concern about global cooling in those days when you look at the decline in both hemispheric temperatures after 1940.


Another bit of interest today is the essay by Machta and Telegadas (Chapter 19, p687) in this book.  Their essay concludes with a summary by H. H. Lamb  (a well-known East Anglia University climate researcher) that contains predictions of NATURAL (emphasized by the present writer)  climatic changes and a brief evaluation of those predictions.

What was particularly remarkable was the evaluation, apparently by Lamb, in the section, “Actual Forecasts“.   In this section, seven attempts to forecast the future climate from periodicities deduced in past data are briefly evaluated.   In today’s lingo, some of these efforts might be called early detections of pressure “oscillations”, that is,  shifts in modes of circulation patterns, where high and low pressures like to reside (footnote).  These “actual forecasts”, ones that appeared in the journal literature, were based on such parameters as changes in circulation patterns deduced over decades, patterns in oxygen and hydrogen isotope ratios in ice cores that were then subject to Fourier analysis,  climate forecasts based on projected sunspot activity, another on particle radiation from expected solar flares, patterns of “meridionality” or, north and south components in the wind, and “local” circulation patterns over Europe, and that latter in a paper published in 1939!  And, of course, the old standby,  tree ring patterns, again looking for harmonics or cycles in those data.   Most of this kind work, deducing cycles in past data in the way that it was done in these papers would be taken with a grain of salt, or not taken seriously at all.

SO, WHY even mention these studies?

Lamb finds most of the predictions were CORRECT in anticipating the colder weather ahead over coming decades after these studies were published!  Its really stupefying to read this section today and see an assessment of “correct” assigned to these forecasts based on no real underlying physical mechanism, such as why did the wind, the pressure pattern change, or on sunspots?  (It was interesting to note that the sunspot based forecast was deemed “correct” for weather, but totally wrong on sunspot activity!)

Well, it does make one wonder how these forecasts could have been correct.  Were a few researchers on to something that we have missed, or have also “re-discovered”, framing our findings today in more sophisticated terms such as “oscillations” instead of “cycles”?

Or were these forecasts “correct” because they were the only ones of hundreds of such forecasts (in which it would be expected that a few would be “correct” just by chance)?   The authors of this Chapter 19 do not divulge how many forecasts were examined.

However, those early forecasts based on circulation pattern changes over decades, should grab the attention of today’s “oscillators” if they haven’t already.


Footnote:  It sometimes seems as though almost every climate researcher today has his own personal “oscillation”, from the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, North Atlantic Oscillation, Arctic Oscillation, Southern Oscillation, on and on.  More will be reported.  (Maybe I should have one!)  ((Actually, I do have my own climate oscillation, but its not been published, probably never will be.))


































Weathering extremes: what goes around comes around

Some brutal storms over the past year or so, such as the recent one that dropped 1-2 feet of snow from Tulsa to Chicago and beyond with sometimes hurricane force winds, have been labeled with all sorts of monikers, “Frankenstorm”, “snowmageddon”, etc.,  to emphasize how bad, and perhaps, how unique they were.  Some incautious observers have assigned such events to signs of global warming.  Moreover,  there have been seemingly oxymoronic,  perhaps ad hoc statements due to recent record cold spells that purport that it will be getting colder as it gets warmer (that is, we’ll have more severe cold winters as global warming progresses).

The impact of global warming to date is “relatively” slight, and no one can discern that a particular flood, typhoon, tornado, drought, that cloud over there, etc.,  was due to global warming.

We meteorologists know that “what goes around comes around”; that the “50 year”, the “100 year” floods will recur.  Namely, we know that extreme events will occur without the need to implicate global warming.

Furthermore, proxy climate records, such as tree rings that are rather good at delineating past droughty and wet periods–they are problematic in reconstructing temperature–but,  you can get quite a good handle on the precipitation regimes of the past few hundred years.  These, too, can tell us about the extremes of past climate over hundreds of years, and therefore, what to expect in the future sans global warming effects.

Perhaps one of the most important papers published in this proxy climate domain in this writer’s opinion was in 1994.  It was a study of rainfall epochs deduced from tree rings in central California by Haston and Michaelsen, published in J. Climate.  It is fortunate that this study was published before the global warming “media blitz” in which otherwise reasonable people/media assign all kinds of anomalous weather events to signs of global warming.

What was the main conclusion of that J. Climate paper regarding rainfall regimes over the past 600 years in California???

It was astonishing.

The authors concluded that the California water retention and flood control infrastructure had been built based on an unusually low degree of climate variability during the instrumental record, largely confined to the period after 1900.  The longer tree ring record, however,  CLEARLY indicated that much LARGER fluctuations in the rainfall regimes of California had occurred prior to the instrumental record.   These findings led the authors to suggest that California was not likely to be well prepared for the floods and droughts of the future since it can be assumed that larger variability in rainfall found in the past will occur in the future.

The record rains of the 1997-98 El Nino and 2004-2005 rainfall seasons accompanied by an almost unheard of water flows into the basins of Death Valley in 2005,and  the “unprecedented” drought of the 2001-2002 rainfall season in which some coastal southern California sites received less than 2 inches (!) were largely foretold by those 1994 findings.   Moreover, due to the “teleconnection” aspect, the larger climate variance found in central California prior to record keeping can be expected to have repercussions in the adjacent states.

What “goes around”, has already begun to come around.

But in today’s world, these anomalous weatther events will not be seen as just,  “what goes around comes around”, but rather will be labeled en toto as evidence of the pernicious effects of global warming.

That’s just plain wrong, and most meteorologists understand this.

The extreme events of late, if you are onboard the GW bandwagon, could reasonably have been said to have been “tweaked” by GW at best.  Perhaps without GW, that snowstorm in Chicago would have dropped “only” 18.3 inches instead of 20  associated with overall slightly higher temperatures and the attendant enhanced moisture content.

The late Prof. Joanne Simpson, former president of the American Meteorological Society, warned, in the early days of global warming claims in 1989,  claims that many scientists were dubious of at that time, about the dangers of exaggeration.  She recounted her experiences with the exaggerated claims promulgated in the cloud seeding domain in which she worked.   In her talk at the Conference on Statistics and Probabilty in the Atmosphere, Monterrey, 1989, and as President-elect of the American Meteorological Society, Dr. Simpson warned:

“Lacking that lesson, our community has once again stumbled into the weather modification paradox concerning global warming-where again we may be damaging our credibility again for the same basic reason.

“What is the weather modification paradox?  It is the tendency to exaggerate man-made alterations to the atmosphere owing to the great difficulty in distinguishing definitively between natural variability in the system and anthropogenic effects-whether the perceived man-made change is small-scale rain produced produced by intentional cloud seeding or whether in it long-range global warming as a by-product of industry and agriculture.”

and, near the end of her talk that day, she re-emphasized this point:

“While it is not entirely clear what the decision makers of the world can and should do, I hope at least that we meteorologists have learned some hard lessons.  I hope that we have learned enough from the harm that we and our colleagues have caused over the years by exaggerated claims and exaggerated scare stories.  I hope that we will be more cautious in how we express ourselves, especially to the media–that is a difficult challenge to say the least.”

Joanne Simpson was not too skeptical about a global warming future, but she was concerned about how we spoke to the public about it.


PS:  Prof. Simpson’s full address, which she provided to me soon after it was delivered, can be found here:  all of Joanne Simpson’s banquet talk wx mod and GW_1989.


BTW, and unexpectedly, global temperatures have stabilized over the past 10 years or so in spite of continuing increases in CO2, as many of you knowWhat happened to GW_Sci_Oct 2, 2009.  One explanation posited for this is a drying of the stratosphere, something that would allow more of the earth’s heat to escape into space–Solomon et al. 2010,  Science). Another explanation for at least part of this “stabilization” arises from an climate model using recent ocean current data.  The output from this model predicted that cooling of the northern hemisphere continents was due to a recent slowing of Atlantic Ocean currents, and furthermore, that this slowing and continental cool spell was likely to last 10-20 more years (Keenleyside et al. 2008 in the journal Nature, summarized by Richard Kerr in Science).  Finally, we have an aerosol “wild card” out there. Aerosols are thought to have the net effect of lowering global temperatures, but the models used by the IPCC4 were only able to crudely parameterize those effects.  One down-sized climate model (20-25 km grid spacing instead of 200-250 km), in preliminary runs has suggested a larger role for aerosols in cooling the planet, a kind of inadvertent “geoengineering.” (These latter results have not been published that I know of, and so this comment can only be considered little more than gossip at this time, but it was from a good “insider” source.)

However, imagine how pathetic such a smoggier world would be, with smog everywhere, views of the Grand Canyon mucked up, even thin, smog-laden stratocu looking dark and ugly on the bottom as as more light was reflected back into space from their tops due to smaller drops, etc.   Getting upset here even thinking about how awful that smoggier, less warm, world would be!  Don’t “geoengineer” in this way!!!


Montford’s The Hockey Stick Illusion, p269: climate change meets cloud seeding

“McIntyre’s first step in trying to replicate a paper was to collate the data.   While data might be cited correctly and accurately in the papers, it was always possible that what had been used was different in some way to the official versions, whether due to an error in the archive or one made by the authors.”

Almost at every turn in this monumental exposé by A. W. Montford, I see parallels in the many cloud seeding reanalyses I did at the University of Washington with Peter Hobbs.  The two sentences quoted above from Montford’s book, so fundamental a step in checking results, literally leapt off the page since that is exactly where the most basic replication starts, and where we always began in our cloud seeding (CS) reanalyses.

In our re-evaluation of perhaps the most important randomized wintertime cloud seeding experiments ever conducted, those at Climax, Colorado, 1961-1970, we started with the raw data that the experimenters said they had used.  This was precipitation measurements at the cloud seeding target gage that were taken by an independent organization and archived by NOAA, thus making it publicly available.  The experimenters high lighted this independence in their publications.

But when those values from NOAA were used in the re-evaluation of those Climax experiments, discrepancies were found, just as Montford reports that Steve McIntyre found so often in his proxy raw data examinations.   In our case, the seeded days generally had more snow in the experimenters’ data at the NOAA target gage, and control days less than was actually the case according to the NOAA data.   Furthermore,  these discrepancies were only observed in the second “confirmatory” experiment (1966-1970) on the days that were supposed to respond the most to seeding.  In our re-evaluation of the second experiment (aka, Climax II) the use of the NOAA precipitation values, along with other data corrections,  degraded the results so badly that they did not confirm the first five season experiment after all.   The experimenters had previously reported that Climax II had been a confirmation of the first (aka, Climax I) experiment.

As one might imagine, the initial reports of a the “confirmation” of the earlier “exploratory” CS experiment gave those two experiments together a great deal of caché as strong evidence that snow could be increased on a determinant basis through wintertime cloud seeding.   And they were cited as having done so by the prestigious National Academy of Sciences Panel on Climate and Weather Modification in 1974.    (As an interesting aside, the NAS Panel was also concerned at that time about the “…recent equatorward shift in ice boundaries.”)

Further work “de-constructing” those experiments at Climax, that is, the discovery of more discrepancies, can be found here.

Eventually the experimenters acknowledged the source of their errors in precipitation at the target gage in a journal exchange in 1995.


However, unlike the situation that McIntyre repeatedly encounters in Montford’s HSI account, where climate researchers refuse to honor requests for raw data, in our re-analysis of cloud seeding experiments in Colorado, the experimenters at Colorado State University were totally cooperative in supplying data that was occasionally requested by the present writer.  They did this even though they KNEW that the requestor was a critic/skeptic, might challenge their earlier results.  To their great credit, the ideals of science were given a higher priority than their egos by those at CSU and that finding problems and discrepancies were recognized as a way of advancing science, not hindering it.



The FAA and the Ideals of Science


Today, its not unusual to see researchers publishing seemingly important findings in journals accompanied by a global news release at the time the article appears.  At this point, such research has perhaps been reviewed prior to journal publication by only several individuals.

However, it has become fairly common for researchers asscociated with globally impactful findings to withhold methodologies that led to them.   The natural result, particularly in the climate change domain, is a firestorm since critics in that research domain are SURE that there are misdeeds or errors due to “confirmation bias.”

An example in point is the important “Hockey Stick” paper by Mann et al. 1998 (Nature), one that was to have tremendous influence before it could be checked by outsiders on how exactly it came about.  This paper showed a sharp rise in global temperatures during the past 30-40 years, one commensurate with the thought that rising CO2 concentrations were already having a noticeable effect on global temperatures.   Eventually, a number of errors were found in this paper, and the Hockey Stick, as presented, was thrown in doubt.  It should be kept in mind, however, that just because the original paper was flawed, that there is not going to be such a rise–the author tends to agree with this proposition that global temperatures will gradually rise in the future.

This long, tortured chapter involving the “Hockey Stick” should not have happened.   It was clearly due to the original researchers believing that their results were too important for others to learn how they got them.   Sadly, in this writer’s opinion, it is a position of the National Science Foundation well that researchers can hide their methodologies and the exact data they used under a “proprietary” umbrella.  A scientific horror story in concerning the Hockey Stick has been laid out in detail by A. W. Montford, in “The Hockey Stick Illusion”, a book I highly recommend.

Withholding methodologies and data suggests that something is wrong with the outcome of the research, and, furthermore, is anti-science.  Imagine, a lab announces that it has cured cancer, but can’t tell us exactly how they did it, and so no one can replicate their results!  In the domain of medicine, this would be a ludicrous, surreal example; it wouldn’t happen.  It should not happen in the important climate change domain,  either.

On the other hand, the view that opening the door to skeptics of your work can lead to a lessening of conflict in research domains, and even more likely,  an improvement in the robustness of the orignal work, is one that is shared by numerous scientists.

Who among us as science workers, is so arrogant that we think our work cannot be improved upon?

While we depend on peer-review to catch errors, it has been this writer’s experience that hundreds of pages of peer-reviewed literature in the domain of cloud seeding research can reach the journals and stand untouched, uncritiqued for years at a time.   This is because peer-review in conflictive environments can easily fail with soft reviews by advocates of the conclusions being reached in a manuscript.  No scientist reading this doubts this.

The Federal Aviation Administration is fully aware of the hazards of “soft reviews”.  The attached statement at left concerning work on the writer’s former research aircraft at the University of Washington might well be a metaphor for our science environment.   “….there will be a paper trail.”   “…there will be an inspection by someone other than the person doing the work.”

We all know that these kinds of rules established by the FAA is to protect us from plane crashes.   But imagine, that there is no “paper trail”, no documentation of what’s in and what’s off the aircraft!  That’s how we get journal “plane crashes.”

It is the same with journal articles on scientific results.  How our results were arrived at is mandatory for purposes of replication, of which the first, most basic step is to use exactly the methodologies and data that the original researcher (s) claimed they used and see if you get the same result.