Extreme weather events

Gavin Schmidt had an interesting Twitter thread about discussing the link between extreme weather events and climate change. I’ve included an image of the thread on the right (click on it to expand) but the basic suggestion (with which I agree) is that there will always be some who try to control the story and deligitimise other voices, but it is generally worth exploring the relationship between climate changes and extreme weather events. This should, however, be grounded in the science.

When it comes to any weather event, asking if it was caused by anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is silly, since this question is ill-posed; it’s not even that we can’t answer it, it’s more that it’s a question that doesn’t even really make much sense. There are, however, links to climate change that are worth exploring. Sea levels are rising, and much of this can be attributed to AGW. Sea level doesn’t rise evenly everywhere, but in regions where it has, storm surges would be higher than they would be otherwise. Warmer air can hold more water vapour, so there is the possibility of more extreme precipitation events.

When it comes to something like a Tropical Cyclone, there is a thermodynamic limit to the maximum wind speed that increases as the climate warms. Hence, climate change makes it possible for there to be more intense Tropical Cyclones (TCs). However, these are very complex systems and there are some indications that we may see fewer TCs overall, but an increase in the frequency and intensity of the strongest ones.

The key point is that even though we can’t make direct attribution claims about individual weather events, we can say something about how climate change might influence these types of events. For example, we expect an increase in the intensity and frequeny of extreme precipitation events, extreme TCs, and we expect sea level rise to exacerbate storm surges. It’s certainly my view that we shouldn’t shy away from discussing these links, even if some regard it as a politically sensitive topic. It really shouldn’t be, given that discussing how climate change might be influencing extreme weather events doesn’t immediately tells us how we should respond to this information. Being aware of this information, however, might make it more likely that the response will be appropriate.

Anyway, one reason I wanted to write this was to post the video below, which shows Kerry Emmanuel discussing how climate change will probably influence tropical cyclones.

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156 Responses to Extreme weather events

  1. One reason why I wrote this post is because I have been following what’s going on in Texas, parts of which are being devastated by Harvey (which made landfall as a category 4 Tropical Cyclone, has broken all sorts of precipitation records). However, there is also flooding in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal that has left hundreds dead and thousands displaced.

  2. jacksmith4tx says:

    Extreme weather events that affect humans are just entertainment. Thanks to 24/7 news cycles, hyperbolic pundits and hysterical politicians combined with a artificial reality created by Hollywood and Madison Ave. wizards we have lost sight of the only issue that matters, the food web.

    “In the next few decades we’ll be driving species to extinction a thousand times faster than we should be,” Dr. Stuart Pimm, conservation ecologist, Duke University.

    According to Dr. Boris Worm, marine research ecologist at Dalhousie University and head of the Worm Lab study of marine biodiversity: The planet has lost 40% of plankton production over the past 50 years, primarily as a consequence of climate change/global warming. “We are changing the geology of the planet. We are changing the ocean chemistry.
    Every 2nd human breath is oxygen produced by phytoplankton. Without phytoplankton, life dies.”

    So we use our technology to measure everything. Temperatures, sea levels, gas concentrations in the air, water, ice and soil, solar flux, the list is endless. If we could just talk to the animals maybe they could tell us the answer to the biggest question of all, when will we cross the last tipping point?

  3. Willard says:

    I rather liked Mosh’s analogy (edited a bit, because Mosh):

    Imagine you sprain your ankle.

    [Doctor] You know Don this is very bad. Your recent weight gain made it worse than it would have been otherwise.

    [Don Don] Hey Doc, as a Kid I weighed less and I had worse sprain.

    [Doctor] Don. Listen to me. THIS TIME, had you weighed 30 lbs less the damage would have been less than it is.

    [Don Don] But once Doc, I was a real tubby just out of high school and I never sprained and ankle.!!!

    [Doctor] Don… focus. We are talking about this one event. It does not matter what happened before. what matters is THIS TIME. and THIS TIME if you had weighed 30 lbs less, the damage would not be so bad. We are talking about THIS SPRAIN and how your weight gain made it worse than it would have been otherwise.

    [Don Don] But doc once I was really thin when I was young and the sprain was really bad, worse than this!

    [Doctor] Try this don. Remember that time when you were thin and had hair and all your parts worked and you sprained your ankle running from bullies?

    [Don Don] Ya Doc thats what Im talking about.

    [Doctor] Well IF you HAD WEIGHED 30 more lbs it would have been even worse.

    [Don Don] I’m lost.

    https://judithcurry.com/2017/08/27/hurricane-harvey-long-range-forecasts/#comment-857270

    Then of course Denizens challenged the claim that being overweight had an impact on ankle sprains.

  4. John Hartz says:

    The US MSM is generating a plethora of articles about the connection between Hurricane Harvey and climate change. Theis will raise public consciousness of climate change in much the same way as did Hurricane Katrina. In a twist of fate, Al Gore’s first documentary about climate change was released fairly soon after Hurrican Katrina and his second was released just before Hurricane Harvey.

  5. Steven Mosher says:

    there is no “not” trying to conyrol the discourse.
    some folks want to steer the discussion to climate science. some of want to steer it toward planning adaptation and insurance,some want to steer it toward asking for help.

    if events spoke for themselves we would not have this problem.

  6. Steven Mosher says:

    thanks willard.
    on twitter folks complained that medical science was better thsn climate science.

    still no one gets the counter factual.

    i have another idea

  7. John Hartz says:

    Since Hurricane Harvey’s landfall, I have been posting links to numerous articles about the climate change-hurricane connection on the SkS Facebook page. One of the better ones that I have come across to date is:

    Climate change did not “cause” Harvey, but it’s a huge part of the story by David Roberts, Energy & Environment, Vox, Aug 28, 2017

  8. guthrie says:

    When it comes to any weather event, asking if it was caused by anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is silly, since this question is ill-posed; it’s not even that we can’t answer it, it’s more that it’s a question that doesn’t even really make much sense.

    This statement is part of the communication problem, because a large part of the populace think it’s a perfectly good and reasonable question. A leads to B leads to C, simple and logical. Also wrong, but unless you take their limitations in seeing how things work, all the interesting discussions won’t make any sense to them.

  9. BBD says:

    Perhaps most people can understand that although climate change didn’t cause the storm, it probably made it worse.

  10. One of the contributory factors to the Texas flooding has been the astonishing amount of subsidence that has taken place around Houston over the last century due to water abstraction—as much as twelve feet in places. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/For-years-the-Houston-area-has-been-losing-ground-7951625.php

    While the subsidence didn’t cause the flooding, like climate change, it sure made it much worse.

  11. Joshua says:

    While the subsidence didn’t cause the flooding, like climate change, it sure made it much worse.

    It is interesting that many of those who have so much trouble accepting that climate change made it worse (despite also saying that they don’t doubt that the GHE affects the climate to some extent), point to the fact that subsidence made it worse, at the drop of a hat.

    It just goes to show how functional a binary mindset is for those engaged in climate change bickering.

    How is it, exactly, that someone who claims that they don’t doubt that the GHE has an impact on the climate doesn’t accept, as a matter of course, that ACO2 emissions generally make storms such as Harvey (if not Harvey in particular) , worse?

    The human mind is a work of art and a thing of beauty.

  12. John Hartz says:

    More about the Houston metro area’s ability to handle severe rain events…

    “Houston is the most flood-prone city in the United States,” said Rice University environmental engineering professor Phil Bedient. “No one is even a close second — not even New Orleans, because at least they have pumps there.”

    The entire system is designed to clear out only 12 to 13 inches of rain per 24-hour period, said Jim Blackburn, an environmental law professor at Rice University: “That’s so obsolete it’s just unbelievable.”

    Also, Houston’s Harris County has the loosest, least-regulated drainage policy and system in the entire country, Bedient said.

    Houston drainage grid ‘so obsolete it’s just unbelievable by Seth Borenstein & Frank Bajack, AP News, Aug 29, 2017

  13. JCH says:

    Subsidence took place over the same period of time that infrastructure was adjusting to it, and subsidence could actually improve drainage.

  14. Magma says:

    Reporter: Was climate change the cause of Harvey’s record-shattering rains and flooding?
    Scientist 1: [very long, involved, technically correct but unusable answer amounting to “it’s complicated and we need more data but maybe partially”]
    Reporter: Uh, what?
    Scientist 2: Yes, it was.

    Given the current level of public political, scientific and policy discourse in the U.S., I prefer the second approach, at least for now.

  15. Magma says:

    @ John Hartz

    The entire system is designed to clear out only 12 to 13 inches of rain per 24-hour period, said Jim Blackburn, an environmental law professor at Rice University: “That’s so obsolete it’s just unbelievable.”

    I really don’t understand that particular quote. I don’t want to assume Blackburn doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but “12 to 13 inches of rain per 24-hour period” is a huge amount almost anywhere, let alone for a region the size of the Greater Houston metropolitan area.

  16. angech says:

    Thanks Magma,
    To requote
    “12 to 13 inches of rain per 24-hour period” is a huge amount almost anywhere,”
    Of the top of my head I would say that that would be a one in 500 year event for most places around the world and probably one in 150 years for Houston.
    Based on one hurricane event every 30 years and only one in 5 as rainy as Harvey.
    Very few places in the world could cope with the cost (waste ) of building to those specifications.

  17. Steven Mosher says:

    “It is interesting that many of those who have so much trouble accepting that climate change made it worse (despite also saying that they don’t doubt that the GHE affects the climate to some extent), point to the fact that subsidence made it worse, at the drop of a hat.”

    You beat me to that Joshua.

    Its a huge mental blind spot.

    we are not talking mental floaters in your vision, but a gaping, black hole of a blind spot
    — to mix three metaphors

  18. Steven Mosher says:

    ‘Perhaps most people can understand that although climate change didn’t cause the storm, it probably made it worse.”

    The fascinating thing is watching the ‘minds” at work.

    The claim is ‘made it worse”

    and they all respond: there were worse storms, or hurricans are natural, or you cant prove
    AGW caused it.

    It strikes me as trivially true that climate change has made it worse. Not even worth debating.

    What is worth debating is what do incidents like this say about the balance between mitigation
    and adaptation.

  19. JCH says:

    Subsidence on net, in the watershed, once properly analyzed, could easily have improved drainage. It could make it better. Right now it’s possible nobody knows, but the flood-control experts think subsidence has little to no effect. Subsidence probably worsened the flooding in the northwestern suburbs, but that could be good for the eastern parts of the city.

  20. Extreme weather events are supposedly explained yet no consensus explanation for El Nino, which routinely drives extreme climate behaviors.

  21. Steven Mosher says:

    “Extreme weather events are supposedly explained yet no consensus explanation for El Nino, which routinely drives extreme climate behaviors.”

    consensus is built over time by researchers publishing, attending conferences, and sharing
    their finding with others.

    One simple thing to do is to check out the code of a GCM,
    modify it to represent the physics you propose and then
    test it.

    pudd(proof)ing

    http://www.cesm.ucar.edu/models/ccsm4.0/

  22. Greg Robie says:

    Give what I was taught about hurricanes in the mid-60s in Earth Science, the stall that Harvey did was not possible. IBID, Sandy’s left hook, and Matthew’s loop-the-loop. The fact that these events are now possible, and are related to Rosby Wave changes due to a decreasing thermal gradient on the planet. Isn’t this also something the science can talk about?

  23. JCH says:

    Tropical Storm Allison dumped a huge amount of rain on Houston in 2001, and it did not really stall. What Houston is waiting for is Allison-Rita (veered away at the last possible moment)-Ike (the forgotten monster)-Harvey: horrendous rain (say 75 inches in 5 days); extreme wind (135 mph in Houston); extreme storm surge (30 feet in Galveston); stall (six days).

    Then Trump can rebuild it again. All of it. Because it will all be gone.

  24. Tim Palmer said it best: The main problem with Harvey was that it did not move, kept dumping water in the same spot. We know very little about how hurricanes will move in a future climate, because all the important stuff is below model resolution.

  25. BBD says:

    Steven

    What is worth debating is what do incidents like this say about the balance between mitigation and adaptation.

    That adaptation is going to be much more difficult and vastly more expensive than some people seem to imagine. But now we are going to be stuck with a massive adapt-or-die bill anyway.

    Thanks to decades of denial and obstruction by vested interest, the total economic and human cost will be significantly higher.

  26. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    It strikes me as trivially true that climate change has made it worse. Not even worth debating.

    What is worth debating is what do incidents like this say about the balance between mitigation
    and adaptation.

    Agree with the first bit – but the second not so much.

    Extreme events are… extreme. Even if they are becoming somewhat less rare over time.

    Most of the serious and irreversible consequences of climate change will be ‘deaths-by-a-thousand-cuts’ – – slow and steady sea-level rise, slow and steady ocean acidification, slow and steady desertification, slow and steady ecocide…

    It will, of course, always be possible to point to a few specific events (the extinction of certain species, the flooding of certain cities) and have another debate.

    But extreme incidents have far less to tell us about the balance between mitigation and adaptation than the the slow and steady march of the trends that we have set in motion.

  27. I can’t find where Tim Palmer is quoted as saying what Richard claims, but he is mentioned in this article, which says:

    The damage has worsened as a result of the duration of the deluge. Harvey appears to have parked above Houston, pumping huge volumes of water from the sea to the sky to the city. Will stationary storms like this become more common in the future?

    This is the single most important question posed by Harvey, according to Tim Palmer, Royal Society Research Professor at the University of Oxford. There is not yet a clear link between this and climate change. But scientists have observed a general slowdown of atmospheric summer circulation in the mid-latitudes as a result of strong warming in the Arctic. “This can make weather systems move less and stay longer in a given location – which can significantly enhance the impacts of rainfall extremes, just like we’re sadly witnessing in Houston,” noted Stefan Rahmstorf, a co-chair at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

  28. A few findings that I don’t think anybody can argue with;

    1. None of the software that constitute the GCMs have input provisions or configuration parameters for lunar and solar tidal forcing. I’ve looked, but you can double check.

    2. That’s because anybody doing conventional tidal analysis would find applying a GCM overkill. Current harmonic analysis tools work perfectly fine for predicting tides with high precision.

    3. The bulk of ocean overturning circulation is due to tidal forcing [Munk and Wunsch, 1998].

    Based on that, it’s no wonder that GCM simulations have never been able to capture the ENSO dynamics precisely. There is a big hole in the geophysics model somewhere in between conventional tidal analysis and how overturning circulation works.

  29. KarSteN says:

    @ATTP: Typical Richard Tol, picks the phrase he likes the best and ignores everything else. And of course he is dead wrong (as usual). The thermodynamic effect has undeniably played a role and there is no one with a sane mind out there who disputes it (not even Tim, who clearly says so in his statement as well … which Richard would certainly have mentioned, wouldn’t he?). Fredi (Otto) has a nicely balanced article on the subject matter: http://www.climatechangenews.com/2017/08/28/link-hurricane-harvey-climate-change-unclear/

    In contrast to Tim, she is an attribution expert 😉

    Adding my two cent: We can disentangle thermodynamic and dynamic effects by looking at circulation analogs, i.e. cases with similar stall periods and see how the rainfall odds change. Either with large ensembles (that’s what we do) or with conditioned experiments (which is what for example Meredith et al. 2015 did: http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v8/n8/abs/ngeo2483.html).

    The same large ensemble allows us to identify circulation changes. This is, admittedly (and I agree with Tim on that one too), not an easy task as it depends on many factors, one of them is model choice. But there are robust large scale dynamic features that do allow reliable attribution statements re dynamics in many regions. The Gulf region is not necessarily the easiest target region for such studies (to put it mildly).

  30. KarSteN says:

    P.S.: Tim’s interview is at the end of Fredi’s articl (Editors note).

  31. Karsten,
    Thanks, I hadn’t seen the Editor’s notes.

  32. Steven Mosher says:

    “A few findings that I don’t think anybody can argue with;

    1. None of the software that constitute the GCMs have input provisions or configuration parameters for lunar and solar tidal forcing. I’ve looked, but you can double check.

    2. That’s because anybody doing conventional tidal analysis would find applying a GCM overkill. Current harmonic analysis tools work perfectly fine for predicting tides with high precision.

    3. The bulk of ocean overturning circulation is due to tidal forcing [Munk and Wunsch, 1998].

    Based on that, it’s no wonder that GCM simulations have never been able to capture the ENSO dynamics precisely. There is a big hole in the geophysics model somewhere in between conventional tidal analysis and how overturning circulation works.”

    get to work and prove that the deficiencies matter.

    and learn to look better. It was in the first GCM I checked

  33. Richard,

    This my source: http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/experts-react-to-hurricane-harvey/

    I think that is the same as the Editor’s notes at the end of Friederike Otto’s article, that Karsten highlighted. Your paraphrase rather changes – in my view – what Tim Palmer was suggesting. I’ll quote what he actually said

    What has made Harvey so disastrous for Texas is the fact that it has stalled and the circulation patterns are continuously feeding moist air from the Gulf of Mexico up over Texas. So perhaps the single most important question for attributing Harvey to climate change is whether such stationary hurricanes will become more commonplace in the future.

  34. I have a great deal of respect for Tim, and like him personally, so perhaps we should note that there is a second paragraph:
    “This is a question about possible changes in circulation and hence dynamics, rather than changes in the moistness and warmth of the air per se and hence thermodynamics. Unfortunately it is not a question that can be answered with a great deal of confidence from current-generation global climate models since their spatial resolution is typically inadequate to address such regional matters with any degree of reliability. There is still uncertainty about many aspects of the dynamics of climate change, and this will only be addressed by investment in climate models and the top-of-the-range supercomputers needed to run them. This is an area where UK scientists must continue to collaborate strongly with their colleagues in Europe.”

    My second sentence paraphrases the first half of the second paragraph.

  35. JCH says:

    Tropical storm Allison killed an enormous number of laboratory rats in the Houston Medical District. They spent a great deal of money on the flood-control systems in that neighborhood, which is adjacent to Brays Bayou. It was also my neighborhood, and I watched them build a great deal of it.

    As of the last report I got, Harvey has killed zero laboratory rats. Now Trump is going to do the same for the humans.

  36. My second sentence paraphrases the first half of the second paragraph.

    I don’t think it quite does, as my reading of the second paragraph is simply that the stalling is mainly a dynamics issue, rather than a thermodynamic issue. It’s not really suggesting that thermodynamics are not an important, as you appeared to imply.

  37. Nonsense. Palmer says first that Harvey caused havoc because it stalled. Then he says that current climate models cannot say much about the probability of hurricanes stalling.

    Palmer could have added that stalling here is stalling on the edge of land and sea.

  38. Richard,
    Noone is disputing that Harvey stalling played a major role in the devastation. However, this is a dynamic effect and Palmer’s point is that we still don’t know whether or not something like this will become more common in a warmer world. This, however, doesn’t suddenly mean that thermodynamic factors aren’t still important. Try reading Karsten’s comment.

  39. JCH says:

    Lol. 21st-century Houston; just the big ones: Allison; Ike; Memorial Day Flood; Tax-Day Flood; Harvey; next up.

    The stall is on.

  40. “Adding my two cent: We can disentangle thermodynamic and dynamic effects by looking at circulation analogs, i.e. cases with similar stall periods and see how the rainfall odds change.”

    It turns out, of Atlantic storms, Harvey had the longest stall in the record ( since 1850 ), so there are no comparables.

    Harvey set record precipitation not because of record rates, but because of record duration over a location. Occam’s razor:

    Harvey stalled because it was blocked at the surface by a polar air mass, the stationary front of which appears on the weather map ahead of Harvey:

    Such air masses are not unheard of on the Gulf in August, but relatively denser polar air masses are not the stuff of global warming.

  41. I did find where the lunar tide was added to the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model by NCAR in 2012.
    This was done to model effects in the ionosphere, mesosphere, and thermosphere.

    This is not the ocean but then again the impact of the lunar tidal forcing is even more obvious in the stratosphere than the ocean, where the QBO cycle of 2.3 years directly results from the lunar nodal cycle.

    Maybe someone added these lunar parameters to the ocean model recently but I can’t find it.

  42. TE,

    Such air masses are not unheard of on the Gulf in August, but relatively denser polar air masses are not the stuff of global warming.

    Pray, tell us, what is the stuff of global warming?

  43. @wotts
    No one claimed that thermodynamics are not important. It is a hurricane.

    Climate models suggest that hurricanes will become more intense as the world warms. Perhaps, with a lower concentration of carbon dioxide, Harvey would have been Cat 3 rather than Cat 4. But, as you may have noticed, Corpus Christi came out fairly well. It wasn’t the wind that did most of the damage. It was the rain.

  44. John Hartz says:

    Another aspect of the Hurrricane Harvey-climate change connection is adressed in this article…

    Harvey Shows How Planetary Winds Are Shifting by Eric Roston, Bloomberg News, Aug 30, 2017

  45. Joshua says:

    TE –

    Why did you post this picture over at Judith’s?

    https://judithcurry.com/2017/08/27/hurricane-harvey-long-range-forecasts/#comment-857201

    You said that flooding was “nothing new” for Houston, and posted a pic of flooding from a storm that dumped 15 inches there.

    Why did you post that pic? Were we to conclude from that pic that a storm that dumps over 50 inches in Houston is “nothing new?”

  46. Joshua says:

    TE –

    Also: “Harvey set record precipitation not because of record rates, but because of record duration over a location. “

    In order to calculate rate you have to select a time period. Why did you pick the particular time period you used to calculate rate?

    Lemme ask you another question. Do you think it is likely that the GHE from ACO2 contributed to the severity of Harvey?

  47. John Hartz says:

    Another unresoled issue about the Hurrricane Harvey-climate change connection…

    Research suggests a warming world will have less frequent, more intense tropical cyclones.

    Does Harvey Represent a New Normal for Hurricanes? by Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, Aug 29, 2017

  48. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    But, as you may have noticed, Corpus Christi came out fairly well. It wasn’t the wind that did most of the damage. It was the rain.

    Folks living in Louisiana may thank you for not using the past tense in your learned assessments.

    As you may not have noticed, this storm ain’t over yet.

  49. JCH says:

    The storm hit Rockport. It did not come out okay.

  50. Climate models suggest that hurricanes will become more intense as the world warms.

    So, at what advance do hurricanes become predictable?

    Remember, Harvey was modeled to only be a Category 1 storm even about 24 hours before landfall. And the much-finer-than-GCM-resolution forecast models included the observed SST in Harvey’s path. Why would you believe climate models could predict hurricane intensity?

  51. TE,
    You do get the difference between climate and weather, don’t you?

  52. Pray, tell us, what is the stuff of global warming?
    Arctic amplification is supposed to lead to fewer and less intense polar air mass creation, right?

    Harvey Shows How Planetary Winds Are Shifting
    The jet stream is normally far removed from Houston in August and the pattern wasn’t particularly stagnant (waves were moving ). There was a polar air mass that blocked Harvey ( see above ).
    And check Figure 4 around 30N ( Houston Latitude ) of Mann et. al. – increased zonal wind, not decreased. That means tropical cyclones should stall less at the latitude of the Gulf Coast.

  53. TE,

    Arctic amplification is supposed to lead to fewer and less intense polar air mass creation, right?

    I don’t actually know. It’s just interesting how certain you are about things that can’t be caused by AGW. I thought attribution was difficult?

  54. JCH says:

    By 2100 or by 2017?

  55. TE writes: “Remember, Harvey was modeled to only be a Category 1 storm even about 24 hours before landfall. And the much-finer-than-GCM-resolution forecast models included the observed SST in Harvey’s path. Why would you believe climate models could predict hurricane intensity?

    For Harvey, this is an ill-posed question. The damage has had little to do with Category; it’s been a result of speed and path. NOAA and ECMWF both predicted that Harvey would move inland, stall, move back slihtly over the ulf, then make landfall a second time. It’s the slow speed and duration that have caused the massive rainfall and flooding. This was predicted regardless the Category (which is simply a measure of windspeed).

    Also, why do you believe Harvey was blocked by an arctic air mass? What I’ve read is that the stall was the result of a weakened jet-stream which has been one of the predictions of AGW. Weather systems become more persistent as they’re moving more slowly.

  56. Joshua says:

    TE –

    Allow me to explain why I asked this question.

    Lemme ask you another question. Do you think it is likely that the GHE from ACO2 contributed to the severity of Harvey?

    You see, it has to do with what I wrote above. It seems to me that you might be one of those “skeptics” who (who likely because of a binary mode of thinking) says that he accepts the basic physics of the GHE but makes arguments that are inconsistent with such an acceptance.

    I think it is misleading to post a pic of Houston flooding after 15 inches of rain to then suggest that there’s “nothing new” about the city flooding after more than 50 inches of rain. It is possible for there to be extreme flooding after 15 inches of rain AND for more than 50 inches of rain to be something “new”.

    I think it is misleading to cherry pick a time frame to make conclusive statements that it wasn’t the rate of precipitation that was the problem in Houston, as it was certainly the rate of rain over a 5-6 day period that caused almost all of the problems. I think that it is possible for the rate of precipitation from Harvey over any given short period of time to not be particularly unusual AND for the rate of precipitation over the last 5-6 days of Harvey to have been highly significant.

    And I think that if you accept that the GHE from ACO2 potentially alters the climate, then you shouldn’t then act as if ACO2 isn’t likely to influence many if not most relatively anomalous, extreme weather situations.

    I would say that policy should be based on the probabilities associated with the magnitude of the effect of the GHE, but you can’t even get to that discussion if people who say they accept the GHE as a fundamental scientific phenomenon then turn around and act as if the GHE doesn’t have a likelihood of making extreme weather more extreme.

    So I’d appreciate it if you’d answer all my questions, but in particular I’d like it if you’d answer that last one. Here, let me repeat it again so you won’t likely miss it.

    Do you think it is likely that the GHE from ACO2 contributed to the severity of Harvey?

    It’s not really that complex a questions, is it?

  57. Hyperactive Hydrologist says:

    I work in flood risk management and this seems to be another event that you simply can’t design for. However, you can plan and manage for it in advance, in addition critical infrastructure such as highways, substations and bridges can be better protected to avoid cascading failures. Also in low lying flat areas like Houston and New Orleans the US could take a leaf out of the Bangladesh adaption strategy and provide emergency shelters for all neighbourhoods. These should be elevated well out of the flood plain either ideally on raised ground or on stilts as the Bangladeshis do. The emergency shelter can also double up as a community centre, church or school for everyday use.

    In addition the communication of flood risk needs to be improved. The use of 1 in 100 or 1% Annual Exceedance Probability (AEP) is meaningless to most people and worse it can be easily misunderstood even by those in positions of power. An alternative known as the encounter probability should be used. For example if you buy a house that is at risk of flooding in the 1% AEP flood then over the course of your 35 year mortgage there is a 30% chance your house will flood at least once – approximately same chance as rolling a 1 or 2 on a six sided dice. This is known as the encounter probability and while it is not perfect it is more tangible to the average person.

    I also looked at the effects that climate change might have on the encounter probability based on future projections of river flows in Northumbria, UK. Under a 2oC scenario the risk increases to 40% and 60% for the 4oC scenario for the same 35year mortgage scenario and this is from now not decades in the future!

  58. @TE
    “Remember, Harvey was modeled to only be a Category 1 storm even about 24 hours before landfall.”

    This is just not true.

  59. Jim Hunt says:

    @RichardTol – UK scientists are working on the resolution issue:

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/news/2017/science-upgrades-to-met-office-high-resolution-uk-models

    “Unified model” and all that.

  60. Jim Hunt says:

    TE – You’re banging the same drum in here as at Prof Judy’s.

    Allow me the same privilege:

    http://tos.org/oceanography/article/winter-2015-16-a-turning-point-in-enso-based-seasonal-forecasts

  61. John Hartz says:

    It’s not just us!

    Katrina. Sandy. Harvey. The debate over climate and hurricanes is getting louder and louder by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Aug 30, 2917

  62. “Remember, Harvey was modeled to only be a Category 1 storm even about 24 hours before landfall.”

    This is just not true.

    I was off, but by one day.

    Harvey made landfall August 26, 3Z
    The forecast from August 24, 0Z, no model indicated any strength above cat 1.

    These models all “knew” what the SSTs were in the gulf.

    The point is, do GCMs really predict tropical cyclones?
    Obviously 48 hours is not predictable whether an existing storm will be a major hurricane or not,
    even “knowing” that the SSTs are anomalously high.
    And there’s no duration beyond that which will improve the forecasts.

  63. TE,

    The point is, do GCMs really predict tropical cyclones?

    Are you suggesting that GCMs should be able to predict individual, specific TCs? The point (which I assume you know) is that there is a difference between understanding how weather systems might change under warming, and being able to predict the exact properties of a specific weather system. If you have a moment, maybe you could have a go at addressing Joshua’s comment.

  64. “Harvey Shows How Planetary Winds Are Shifting “

    Why couldn’t Lindzen determine what caused the 2.33 year period of the QBO wind reversal? He based his entire career on this quest and never found the answer.

    As a coincidence, interesting that the USGS has defined 2.33 years as the mean flood return period based on years of historical data.

  65. Hyperactive Hydrologist says:

    TE,

    Can you define what the difference is between weather and climate?

  66. Ragnaar says:

    Emitted CO2 made Hurricane Harvey worse.

    “Development decreased the amount of wetlands in the city by almost 50 percent over the last 25 years. All that hard, impermeable pavement means there’s less land to soak up rainfall after a major storm.”

    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/harvey-why-is-houston-so-prone-to-major-flooding/

    It’s my opinion you want marshes. They can serve as holding ponds. However what works in Minnesota probably will not apply in all cases to Houston, trying to handle 10s of inches of rainfall. Drainage seems a bit iffy if you also have a storm surge. What may handle the most future cases is retaining and even converting lowlands to ponds and marshes, that outlet to creeks and rivers. If they have drought, your house might just overlook muck, until it rains. Ponds and marshes are generally thought of as water quality improving features. It also my thought that anything that holds water rather then drains it, help the aquifers refill. In Minnesota, the beginning of all this water quality, you are building a holding pond for that new development deal, was pushed by the hippies. Turns out they were right. And Lake Minnetonka is better than it would otherwise be.

    So the geography of Houston is suggested to have been made worse, and opportunities passed by to at least not make things worse in total. I suppose there are hydrological models that civil engineers use, and someone will say how much worse it was because their development path.

    I good watershed? Doable, low tech. Many other benefits.

  67. Ragnaar says:

    “A” good watershed? Doable, low tech. Many other benefits.

  68. Joshua,

    the December flood is apt, because is points out so much.
    First, flooding in Houston is nothing new. “A major flood still occurs somewhere in Harris County about every two years.”

    Second, it was December, when SSTs are lower, but still came the flood.

    Third ( I posted that a few days ago ), Houston got rains for four days.
    If they’d had the same rate – 15 inches in one day for four days, they’d have had 60 inches.

    Do you think it is likely that the GHE from ACO2 contributed to the severity of Harvey?

    Why would one think this? If the atmosphere warms at the same rate as the surface, there is little change in potential energy. And the atmosphere is modeled to warm at roughly twice the rate as the surface, meaning less convective potential energy.

  69. JCH says:

    Houston soils do not absorb much water. That is why the video of the 1935 looks like it does. In 1935 they realized the natural drainage system was not adequate, so the state legislature established the Harris County Flood Control District. One of the first things that did was to build the two dams that were prominent in the news of Harvey flooding. The HCFCD engineers indicate development has led to better drainage.

  70. TE,

    If the atmosphere warms at the same rate as the surface, there is little change in potential energy. And the atmosphere is modeled to warm at roughly twice the rate as the surface, meaning less convective potential energy.

    Oh, come on. You know that this isn’t just about the energy of the storm, there’s also aspects like sea level rise, and water vapour content that are also influence by AGW. Furthermore, if you watch Kerry Emmanuel’s video, he says very clearly that the maximum wind speed is expected to increase under warming.

  71. Can you define what the difference is between weather and climate?

    Can you explain at what lead time you believe hurricanes are predictable, and why?
    Can you explain at what lead time you believe hurricanes over a (year,decade,century) are predictable, and why?

  72. TE,

    Can you explain at what lead time you believe hurricanes are predictable, and why?
    Can you explain at what lead time you believe hurricanes over a (year,decade,century) are predictable, and why?

    Can you explain why your question is remotely relevant? It’s entirely reasonable to expect that a model can be used to understand how a system might respond to changes without expecting that model to necessarily be able to predict a specific event. Having said that, I don’t know what people expect for hurricane predictions, but I don’t think it is necessarily relevant to questions about how they might evolve under warming.

  73. Hyperactive Hydrologist says:

    TE,

    Maybe you can answer my question first?

    It might help you to understand the question you asked.

  74. Steven Mosher says:

    more GCMs out there THAn NCAR.
    something suggests you might not
    care too much about working with others

  75. I don’t see you working at the Azimuth Project, which is the place to go for socializing indie physics and math research.

  76. Ragnaar says:

    To add to what I said earlier.
    Assume in a 50 mile radius, all water flows to Houston and then flows from there to the Gulf. You can start to add holding ponds up to 50 miles away from Houston. Any rainfall 50 miles away, then does not shortly afterwards end up in Houston. The way they do it in Minneapolis suburbs is to wait for someone to develop raw land into housing. They present a plan to the City Council. The City Council says, do all these watershed friendly things, or forget about your project.

  77. John Hartz says:

    Excerpted from the article cited below…

    Item: Houston has been a flooding calamity waiting to happen for decades. The local and state governments stubbornly have refused to prepare it for a perfectly predictable meteorological catastrophe. Between its wild west zoning practices, its lascivious and unregulated romance with the petrochemical industry, and the fundamental facts of its underlying geology, the fourth-largest city in America essentially has sprawled itself across a dry lake bed, the consequences of which, we are finding out now, include the discovery that political obstinance, like water, inevitably finds its own level.

    We’re Nowhere Near Prepared for the Ecological Disaster That Harvey Is Becoming by Charles P Pierce, Esquire Magazine, Aug 30, 2017

  78. Joshua says:

    Apropos of nothing in particular, but I thought this is pretty cool:

    http://hint.fm/wind/

  79. Joshua says:

    =={ First, flooding in Houston is nothing new. “A major flood still occurs somewhere in Harris County about every two years.” }==

    Ok. I guess it was foolish for me to think you might address this point. Referring to past floods from much, much, much less rain, and saying that flooding is nothing new is basically irrelevant. It is obvious at many levels, but perhaps the most obvious is that it fails to account for any infrastructure changes over the past 82 years.

    Please read Mosher’s comments at CE and above.

    Sheesh.

  80. Ragnaar says:

    Assume a port’s watershed is a complete mess and then a tropical storm stalls over it and drops 40 inches of rain and the mess is the news cycle for a week. Then we argue that we need to mitigate to help the port avoid future disasters. Then the complete mess of their watershed remains. The port’s answer is now some distant leveling off of CO2 levels, while the Republicans keep fighting that.

    I got the answer, the Texas Pivot. Start fixing your watershed Houston. Don’t worry so much about emissions.

  81. Joshua says:

    Ragnaar –

    =={ Then we argue that we need to mitigate to help the port avoid future disasters. }==

    Is that what people are arguing? Or are they arguing that mitigation might help prevent future disasters from being more severe? Is there a difference?

  82. JCH says:

    A nice graphic. Since 1975, Galveston County has reduced groundwater mining by ~97%:

  83. JCH says:

    Trump has provided the solution. He is going to fix Houston better than ever before. Houston has the best flood insurance program in the history of the earth: the showoff and all of you. Get out your wallets. This one is going to be a lot bigger than this one was.

  84. Ragnaar says:

    Joshua:

    Let me try to remember mainstream science. Hurricanes will be less frequent and more severe. Let’s say that was true for heart attacks. Would that be a good thing?

    Let’s assume it will prevent future hurricanes disasters from being more severe. But there’s still this long time frame. And the people of Houston may want to see something in the next 10 years. Even if that’s a claim that, whatever comes will be 10% less than what would’ve come.

    The existence of the problem, and admission of it, I think leads to adaptation and resilience policies. Some explanation of Houston putting up a few megawatts of solar panels on its public buildings, would leave people scratching their heads. That’s going to do what?

  85. @TE
    Thanks for that.

    The rain forecasts were early and accurate too.

  86. Steven Mosher says:

    “I don’t see you working at the Azimuth Project, which is the place to go for socializing indie physics and math research.’

    i dont see you adding GCMs which is where your work belongs.

    I pretty much stick to my own field. You can take my suggestion or leave it. My suggestion is
    if you want to make an impact you have to play on the field the other big boys are playing on.

    I’ll put a open question to you.

    What physical parameters would have to be added to a GCM..

    Bigger problem might even be that a GCM year is 360 days

  87. I work directly with Laplace’s tidal equations.

    That gets me thinking. I wonder if Pierre-Simon Laplace was a “big boy” back in 1776?

  88. Steven Mosher says:

    you didnt answer the question.

  89. Nobody in the research literature did the obvious and input the main long-period tidal forces to Laplace’s tidal equations and solved for the tidal height. If they did, they would find that the ENSO behavior would pop out.

  90. Hyperactive Hydrologist says:

    Ragnaar,

    No one is suggesting it is either a case of mitigation or adaptation we need to do both.
    You make some sensible suggests with regards to flood management, however no flood protection infrastructure would have protected Houston against Harvey. You can plan for and manage these types of disasters and there is more individuals can do to protect their own homes and make them more resilient to flooding.

    This is the issue with climate change we are increasing the risk of hazards that we can not protect against.

  91. Steven Mosher says:

    Or you could build on this work.

    from what i have seen GFDL has the best work, seems like they too like Laplace,
    but they avoid too much name dropping.
    they just work

    https://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/bibliography/related_files/hls0401.pdf

  92. Steven Mosher says:

    is it hard for you to specify the paramaters you would add and how you would add them.

    There is prior work, and prior modelling.

    get the code, add and improve.

    big boy pants.

    wear some

  93. Hyperactive Hydrologist says:

    geo,

    What are the long term tidal forces?

  94. HH, The two long-period tidal forces are the Draconic month, which describes the frequency of the nodal crossing of the moon of 27.2122 days, and the Anomalistic month, which describes the perigee to perigee time of 27.5545 days. The precision I give is important because the ENSO behavior is synched to these periods over the entire instrumental record of 140 years. Like ocean tides, the interaction with the solar period is important. Hoewever, for ENSO the solar interaction is seasonal and not diurnal or semidurnal as it is with conventional tides.

    This long-period nature has everything to do with the inertial properties of the Pacific ocean’s thermocline. Conventional tides can interact on a daily basis, but the thermocline interacts on scales of fortnightly and greater because of the spatial scale involved.

  95. Chubbs says:

    TE – Harvey was stalled due to weak steering currents between 2 subtropical high pressures not a “polar” air mass.

  96. There are parallels in ENSO research and recent earthquake research with respect to Mosher’s “big boy” science. And this also has a relevance to how science establishes correlations between cause and effect.

    Last year a group at the USGS discovered that the fortnightly lunar cycle was synchronized to the triggering of earthquakes.
    http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-la-me-earthquakes-tides-san-andreas-20160718-snap-story.html

    Yet it turns out a retired scientist in India found an even deeper lunisolar/earthquake correlation 5 years earlier and reported it in an obscure global tectonics newsletter. Anybody interested in orbital mechanics will find it an eye-opener. The correlations are almost hard to believe, and if they are to be believed, you have to wonder why it took so long to find them.

    I think it has to do with our use of software to be able to find patterns in the data. These patterns are not always visible unless the right data transformation is applied.

    The lesson to be learned is be patient. It can take a while for the big boys to catch up.

  97. TE – Harvey was stalled due to weak steering currents between 2 subtropical high pressures not a “polar” air mass.

    No. Harvey had forward motion until after landfall.
    It stalled when it encountered the stationary front after landfall ( see above graphic ).
    Fronts mark the leading edges of polar air masses.

  98. @TE Thanks for that. The rain forecasts were early and accurate too.

    ??? The strength forecast were highly INaccurate 48 hours out!
    I don’t think you understand atmospheric modeling very well.

    It’s entirely reasonable to expect that a model can be used to understand how a system might respond to changes without expecting that model to necessarily be able to predict a specific event.

    In “climate change” people distinguish between climate and weather.
    What this really means is that change in global mean temperature may be predictable because it is constrained by a more predictable phenomena, being net radiance at the top of the atmosphere. However, circulation phenomena within the atmosphere ( which can include the 1 to 3 days of mid latitude cyclones, months of Rossby wave anomalies, decades of ocean circulations and probably century and millenial scale ocean fluctuations as well ) are not constrained by net radiance and are not predictable or at least significantly less predictable.

    People try to forecast the number of storms and the number of major storms every season ( most forecasts seem to gravitate towards the mean number ). So even the number of storms, with knowledge of existing conditions for a forward 6 months proves difficult. Certainly, any claim of predictability should be questioned by evidence of accuracy. Emmanuel offers a test of that by predicting increased intensity over twenty years. But if the effect, as Landsea assess, is only 1 or 2%, it will not be discernible from natural variation, and is probably not significant compared to all the other variations that can an do occur.

  99. TE,

    In “climate change” people distinguish between climate and weather.

    Yes, I know. I wasn’t sure if you did.

    Certainly, any claim of predictability should be questioned by evidence of accuracy.

    Might be nice if someone actually made such a claim before you got on your high horse and decided to lecture people about it.

  100. Willard says:

    [Junior] This #ClimateBall piece by BretS on Harvey is the best thing after slice bread.

    [Genevieve] Hold my beer.

  101. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Hey – if it cites Junior, links to a martyrdom bio by Junior, and mentions the “climate lobby’s hyperactive smear machine”, it’s gotta be good for you.
    Honest brokers everywhere oughta know.

  102. Chubbs says:

    TE – You need to look at upper air charts to determine steering not the surface. The impact of the subtropical highs is explained at the 5 minute mark in video below.

  103. Ragnaar says:

    We recognize the names of climate scientists commenting on Hurricane Harvey. I’ve looked around for civil engineers also commenting and I do not recognize their names but they are getting into the news.

    Regional impacts of climate change are difficult to figure out. Much more tractable are regional impacts of weather such as this hurricane.

    “The most important policy that coastal towns can do to prepare for extreme storms and flooding is to protect high-risk coastal areas and floodplains from urban development. By protecting this natural infrastructure we can eliminate a great deal of destruction. The second most important policy is to limit urban sprawl.”
    https://www.utoronto.ca/news/u-t-experts-tropical-storm-harvey-pounding-texas-and-louisiana

    Them’s fightin’ words

    At the rural/suburban boundary you have farmland or something like that rather than being worth $3000/acre as agricultural land can now be worth $50000/acre developed. With so much money at stake, concessions can be got from the landowners and developers. There is your better watershed. In Texas, maybe not so much.

  104. Joshua says:

    From Brett’s editorial:

    =={ By contrast, more than twice as many such storms made landfall between 1922 and 1969. Make of that what you will, but remember that fear is often a function of unfamiliarity. }==

    Now I’m not saying that the lack of landfall from such storms has any particular scientific significance (after all, it could just be an artifact of an irregular distribution not an indication of a trend), but some people do point out that there was a drought of major hurricanes as a way to diminish the impact of climate change on extreme weather. Not that I would do that. Of course not. I wouldn’t point to the much higher rate of such storms in the past to suggest that we should dismiss the potential of climate change to make extremes more extremes. That might be what deniers might do, but I wouldn’t cherry pick to point to the much higher rate of such storms from 1922 to 1929 to make any particular point. Of course not. And I wouldn’t say that people shouldn’t be concerned about the impact of extreme storms, but I would say that if people aren’t used to extreme storms they tend to have a stronger response when they do occur. Now some might argue that people are over-reacting to Harvey, and that if we had been experiencing major hurricanes recently at the same rate as we experienced them in the past then the reaction to Harvey wouldn’t be as strong as it has been. I wouldn’t argue that, but some others might.

    Just sayin’.

  105. Joshua says:

    Ragnaar –

    –{ Let me try to remember mainstream science. Hurricanes will be less frequent and more severe. Let’s say that was true for heart attacks. Would that be a good thing? }==

    Of course, that would depend. Does more severe take them to fatal from non-fatal? Does it take them from relatively inexpensive to treat to being incredibly expensive to treat? So the point is that the debate should be had, rather than, when people point out that the heart attacks will be more server, simply saying that the heart attacks will be fewer, as if that means that concerns about increased severity should simply be dismissed.

    =={ Let’s assume it will prevent future hurricanes disasters from being more severe. But there’s still this long time frame. And the people of Houston may want to see something in the next 10 years. Even if that’s a claim that, whatever comes will be 10% less than what would’ve come.

    […]
    The existence of the problem, and admission of it, I think leads to adaptation and resilience policies. Some explanation of Houston putting up a few megawatts of solar panels on its public buildings, would leave people scratching their heads. That’s going to do what? }==

    So isn’t that a discussion that should be had? The problem, IMO, is that we can’t even get to those discussions (which I like to call stakeholder dialog) if people hypocritically claim to believe there is a GHE and then act as if the existence of subsidence means that ACO2 emissions have no effect.

  106. JCH says:

    The severe talk is usually centered on Cat ~2 versus Cat ~5. What is becoming obvious is the most lethal is the one that everybody evacuates for, Rita, only for it to miss: whoops. Next up, and by far, are storm surge and rain.

    I would expect that any society of civil engineers would rate flood control in the D range for all 50 states. And a state grade does not really tell one anything about Houston. While I lived by Brays Bayou in Houston around 500 million was spent on flood control for that neighborhood alone.

    Guess this is all North Dakota’s fault?

  107. Turbulent Eddy:

    If the atmosphere warms at the same rate as the surface, there is little change in potential energy. And the atmosphere is modeled to warm at roughly twice the rate as the surface, meaning less convective potential energy.

    One of the factors that influences the strength of a hurricane is the difference between the temperature of the ocean and the air above it. That the global average land surface temperature warms twice as fast as the marine surface temperature (or sea surface temperature) is irrelevant.

  108. Tony Banton says:

    T E said…
    “Harvey stalled because it was blocked at the surface by a polar air mass, the stationary front of which appears on the weather map ahead of Harvey:”

    Sorry that’s wrong……

    Notice the 1000-500 mb TT lines?
    You do know what they mean?

  109. angech says:

    Steven Mosher says: August 31, 2017 at 5:45 am
    “Bigger problem might even be that a GCM year is 360 days”

    Now that is a can of worms.
    In the simplified world that climate models represent the Gregorian calendar of 365/366 days is not always used. For historic reasons some GCMs have been set up to have a ‘simpler’ calendar. Some models omit the leap day and use a calendar of 365 days. And a few models use a 360 day calendar in which each month is assumed to be 30 days.

    So much for yearly energy balances then.
    Do they take the whole years 365 days heat and stuff it into 360 days?
    No wonder the world is heating up

  110. Ragnaar says:

    “But protecting Fargo means flooding more than 2,000 acres in Minnesota that currently sit safely above the flood plain.”
    Fargo is near the river. Our run off is about 1/2 of the problem judging only by land area of the watershed. The diversion project looks to me to be a through put answer. Zen not so much. I’d prefer reducing run off. The problem has been made worse by all the farming and the drainage ditches.
    The Waffle solution:
    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0ahUKEwiMz9LxwYLWAhWEw4MKHcKvDasQFggrMAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.undeerc.org%2FExpertise%2Fpdf%2FWaffle-Overview.pdf&usg=AFQjCNECYN9QBu6Fff3zgkV-WSf-d2l94Q

    Section roads form the waffles. Section roads currently allow run off under and through them in most cases. Your basins are mostly constructed already.

  111. TB: Look at the SLP. There is dominant surface high pressure over the East, courtesy of two polar air masses, which is entirely consistent with the trough indicated by the thickness.

    By the way, the Northernmost of these two polar air masses gave International Falls MN a near record for the date low temperature of 33F. This was an anomalously cold air mass.

    Thunderstorms and Tropical Cyclones are different, of course.
    The scales are different, TCs are a large vortex, thunderstorms may not be.
    But both are circulations unto their own with motion vectors.
    Calculating a thunderstorm motion vector involves determining the motion of the lowest layer of the troposphere, not the highest. So it is with TCs.
    Convection from the surface, poking into the upper levels determines what happens above, so it stands to reason surface motion determines motion aloft.

  112. Steven Mosher says:

    [Please, Mosh. – Willard]

    I read your stuff. You seem proud of that fact that you dont work well with others.
    And you try to thrust yourself into a selfie with Laplace.

    You claim to have looked at GCMS but its clear you didnt.

    Its also clear after reading your methods and models why you dont want to put them
    in a physics based model

    Also everyone gets accepted to show their stuff at AGU ( speaking session is the trophy cup)

    Still your work is fun to read as far as solver type results from excell go.

    When your ready to take the training wheels off let us know

  113. Steven,
    I am working with my two co-authors on a book called Mathematical GeoEnergy to be published by Wiley under the AGU series. We sold the book in part based on our expertise in being able to simplify earth science models using first-order physics. The blog geoenergymath is a group blog that was set up for the book. So we’re deliberately in a niche separate from your “big boys” of science world. We have no interest in working out GCMs or other intensive numerical computations because we don’t need that to characterize the behaviors we are describing in the book.

    I agree we are using “training wheels”, as its a good analogy. Statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, maximum entropy, forced responses, boundary conditions, conservation principles, etc are all ways to cheat the system and not have to work that hard to achieve results.

    Saying all that, we are looking for potential reviewers for the book, so if you know of people that might enjoy critiquing this area of research let us know.

  114. dikranmarsupial says:

    “So much for yearly energy balances then.
    Do they take the whole years 365 days heat and stuff it into 360 days?
    No wonder the world is heating up”

    The angech hubris machine trundles on…

    Common sense would suggest the answer to the question is “no, of course not”. Climate Modellers are bright chaps and will have thought of that sort of thing, for instance by including solar forcing into the model in the form of Watts per square meter (that would be my intuition, so I suspect it has ocurred to them as well), Watts measure the rate of energy transfer, not the total amount of energy over the course of a year, so if you make the year 360 days long, the total amount of energy automatically gets scaled by 360/365.25 as you have effectively scaled time by 360/365.25. This is not exactly rocket science.

    Your can of worms is empty, perhaps you’ve been doing too much fishing? ;o)

  115. dikranmarsupial says:

    “I agree we are using “training wheels”, as its a good analogy. Statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, maximum entropy, forced responses, boundary conditions, conservation principles, etc are all ways to cheat the system and not have to work that hard to achieve results”

    That sort of dismissive attitude really doesn’t encourage me to read the book.

  116. Jim Hunt says:

    TB – I keep on asking Prof. Judy to cast her expert eye over TE’s hypothesis, but she keeps on ignoring me.

    Could you explain in words of (preferably!) one syllable what “the 1000-500 mb TT lines” indicate in this instance?

    See also my link to Cohen, Francis et al. above.

  117. I discovered, via Twitter, that ClimateHawk1 – who commented here from time to time – died a few days ago. My condolences to his family and friends.

  118. Tony Banton says:

    “TB: Look at the SLP. There is dominant surface high pressure over the East, courtesy of two polar air masses, which is entirely consistent with the trough indicated by the thickness.”

    TE: Thicknesses of 564 Dm even 558 Dm are not polar air-masses!
    The 558 line runs through the Great Lakes.
    In the U.K. thickness would give daytime maxes in the high 20’s as is very definitely a tropical airmass.

    There was a long-wave trough (colder air) over the eastern half, and a very hot airmass over the SW US. What “blocked” the progression of the storm was simply the lack of any drift of winds over the storm at JS levels – a consequence of the barotropic nature of the air in the vicinity.

    http://www.nbcdfw.com/weather/stories/Why-Hurricane-Harvey-Stalled-for-Days-Over-Texas_Dallas-Fort-Worth-442189023.html

    “By the way, the Northernmost of these two polar air masses gave International Falls MN a near record for the date low temperature of 33F. This was an anomalously cold air mass.”

    Where is Int Falls. Anywhere near the Gulf?

    “Thunderstorms and Tropical Cyclones are different, of course.
    The scales are different, TCs are a large vortex, thunderstorms may not be.
    But both are circulations unto their own with motion vectors.
    Calculating a thunderstorm motion vector involves determining the motion of the lowest layer of the troposphere, not the highest. So it is with TCs.
    Convection from the surface, poking into the upper levels determines what happens above, so it stands to reason surface motion determines motion aloft.”

    No, the motion of a thunderstorm is best predicted by the wind at the level at around midway it’s depth … often between 700 and 500mb.
    Stands to reason ?? … Ok, then I spent 20 years as an on the bench meteorologist with the UKMO, entirely missing that “stands to reason”.

    And you don’t appear to have read properly what was said about storm motion on your link ….. ” a supercell thunderstorm drifts along in accordance with the mean cloud-layer wind (the wind at 500mb is frequently used).

    Analysis needs to be made in depth and my linked chart shows that the nearest baroclinicity lies over the Central plains and therefore where there are JS winds of any consequence.

  119. Just in case TE doesn’t realise, Tony Banton is – I think – a retired meteorologist who used to work for the UK Met Office.

  120. Tony Banton says:

    Thanks ATTP … you are correct.

  121. JCH says:

    The explanations for why Tropical Storm Allison also wandered around the Gulf Coast in 2001 (huge rain numbers) are almost identical to the reasons put forth in the Tropical Tidbits video Chubbs posted. In that video he seems to be setting up a contest between the two ridges; the winner being what would determine which way the storm would eventually move.

    So can that contest be quantified? It moved to the NE.

    These are numbers for the Tax-Day Flood, April 17-18, 2016. Was that front also stalled? If so, by what?

    International Falls – coldest city in the lower 48. The place is the butt of 1,000s of regional jokes.

  122. Re: “That sort of dismissive attitude really doesn’t encourage me to read the book”

    Have problems with my use of the word “cheating”? In physics, that’s a shorthand euphemism for “clever approximation”.

    A reminder that lots of people were offended by “Mike’s Nature Trick” too.

  123. Willard says:

    Were I in the market of buying anything from textbook publishers that exploit captive buyers each year, dear Web, it’s stuff like “Have problems with my use of the word” that’d put me off.

    Words matter little compared to what you do with them.

  124. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    Have problems with my use of the word “cheating”?
    In physics, that’s a shorthand euphemism for “clever approximation”.

  125. TE: Thicknesses of 564 Dm even 558 Dm are not polar air-masses!The 558 line runs through the Great Lakes. In the U.K. thickness would give daytime maxes in the high 20’s as is very definitely a tropical airmass.

    Tony, it was August. Air masses modify beyond rules of thumb.
    I never said anything about how high the air mass extended, only that it was a polar air mass, marking denser air which blocked Harvey.

    There was a long-wave trough (colder air) over the eastern half
    Tony, a cold trough? Like the kind associated with polar air masses?

  126. For all intents and purposes, conventional ocean tidal analysis is considered “cheating”. Lord Kelvin was the first cheat when he invented harmonic analysis that would take the known astronomical forcing periods and matched it to known data. He could then extrapolate and make predictions.

    The basis for doing this is well-founded. The forced response maintains the fundamental input periods but the transfer function causes changes in modulation in a smooth fashion. No GCMs required, as we well know since adequate numerical tidal predictions have been made since the early 1900s.

    The question is whether one can do this for phenomena such as ENSO and QBO.

    A different lord, this time Lord Rayleigh was the first to explain the period doubling in forcing response that Faraday had observed in liquid sloshing experiments. The key to doing ENSO analysis is combining period doubling in the annual forcing with the lunar harmonic forcing. That’s how the ENSO response emerges.

    Perhaps GCMs will see this in the response. They already tend to show the sharply peaked biannual 2 year sloshing response. They probably just need to add the lunar forcing to see the richer spectra that is observed.

  127. dikranmarsupial says:

    geoenergymath writes:

    “Have problems with my use of the word “cheating”?
    In physics, that’s a shorthand euphemism for “clever approximation”.”

    really? These physicists are a bit odd, aren’t they? I am not sure in what way a “conservation principle” is a “clever approximation” (e.g. mass/energy?). Nor “forced response” for linear systems. Thermodynamics and statistical mechanics I would agree are approximations. MaxEnt isn’t so much an approximation as an assumption (at least in probability).

    “A reminder that lots of people were offended by “Mike’s Nature Trick” too.”

    True, but then “trick” in that sense already had an everyday non-pejorative meaning, as in “tricks of the trade”, so the offense was largely spurious, but I don’t think the same really applies to “cheat”, especially as in “cheat the system”. You can “cheat death”, I suppose, but that doesn’t seem like the same sense of the word.

    Appologies for the misinterpretation, I am willing to believe that physicists are just as odd in their use of language as statisticians.

    FWIW Steve Mosher is giving you valuable advice in how to get people to take your ideas on board, and what he says seems very reasonable to me. I wish all those who disagreed with me were so helpful about it! ;o)

    P.S. I looked at the website, the “Sorry to disappoint Willard” was also not encouraging my interest in an academic monograph.

  128. Willard says:

    > I don’t think the same really applies to “cheat”

    https://www.supercheats.com/

    ***

    > “Sorry to disappoint Willard”

    I took it to mean that Web acknowledged bringing another sock at AT’s.

  129. dikranmarsupial says:

    Thanks Willard and appologies again to geoenergymath, I’m obviously too grumpy to be at the keyboard today! ;o)

    SM’s advice still seems good to me though.

  130. Sorry, this is the only way I can comment here. Somehow my main WordPress account when used here to login has been inoperative the last couple of years. At some point the comments were not making it through. Trying again with this account did the trick.

  131. I have tried to post comments without success for most of the past 3 months – maybe 10% appear

  132. Willard says:

    When you have problems commenting with an ID, please report to Akismet:

    https://akismet.com/support/

    It helped me. It helped Nick Stokes.

  133. My advice to Steven Mosher is to contribute to a forum such as the Azimuth Project. What I use that for is to socialize ideas for developing physics and math models. Azimuth is really good in that one can add math markup and charts and actually keep a thread going.

    Here is the ENSO+QBO thread that’s been going for the last three years!

    https://forum.azimuthproject.org/discussion/1471/qbo-and-enso

    John Carlos Baez started an initiative on Azimuth called Experiments in El Nino Analysis and Prediction sometime in 2014. I joined in a little bit later after John suggested I was good at this stuff.

    It’s really interesting reading that thread I started trying to find relationships between ENSO and QBO. One can go through it sequentially and see all the weird ideas we discussed, all the machine learning experiments, and some of the dead ends. Right now, the discussion has slowed down quite a bit, but that’s mainly because people tend to branch out in different directions.

  134. JCH says:

    I can’t post at Moyhu.

  135. Willard says:

    > I can’t post at Moyhu.

    For Blogger, the best is Name and URL. The other methods have problems.

  136. Tony Banton says:

    “Tony, it was August. Air masses modify beyond rules of thumb.
    I never said anything about how high the air mass extended, only that it was a polar air mass, marking denser air which blocked Harvey.”

    TE:
    Stop digging hole for yourself.
    There are experts who know stuff beyond the average contrarian Googler.

    A Polar air-mass would NEVER “modify to become 558 dm thick! certainly not as soon as it gets only as far as the Great Lakes – even in August !!!!
    To call air than had sourced originally to the north but had modified, many days later to have thickness of that magnitude makes a mockery of the term “Polar”.

    “There was a long-wave trough (colder air) over the eastern half
    Tony, a cold trough? Like the kind associated with polar air masses?”

    Err, reading comprehension I fear.
    I said “colder” – in the sense that falling thicknesses are caused by the air-mass being, err, colder.
    So NO, not “associated” with polar air-masses.
    You can have varying degrees of “warmth” within Tropical air-masses, like when a maritime air-mass is heated overland and advected north.
    Oh and all “troughs” contain “colder” air – Look up basic meteorology.

    For the last time… Polar air did NOT block Harvey it was simply that the trough over the E half of the States could not engage it – was too far away.

  137. dikranmarsupial says:

    “My advice to Steven Mosher is to contribute to a forum such as the Azimuth Project. ”

    SM has already done something rather better which was to do something practical that would be noticed (and be useful for) the research community. SM’s advice (which is basically for you to do the same) is still good, even if you do reject it in a rhetorical manner with counter-advice.

  138. Tony Banton says:

    TE:
    BTW: You actually have your argument in exact contradiction of basic physics/meteorology.
    A TS in order to enter into mid-latitude flow NEEDS to encounter colder air. That is how it engages with the PF JS.
    Air is denser in polar air but the physics behind a TS entering the mid-latitude flow is the contrast between the air within it and that that it engages ALOFT.
    Horizontal DeltaT.
    Precisely because of said density differential.
    You do know how a JS occurs?
    Were the trough over the W half of the US it would have.

  139. Jim Hunt says:

    TB – Thanks for all the syllables!

    Don’t you think it’s strange that ex Prof. Judy still hasn’t mentioned any of that stuff? Perhaps she’s suddenly decided to become an ex weather forecaster too?

  140. Curry is involved with weather forecasting with her husband, who is an ENSO expert

    Twitter @cfanclimate

    Do a Google scholar search with ENSO and find that he wrote the most cited research on connections between ENSO and monsoons

    I interacted with him a bit on the early ENSO modeling we were doing and he politely scoffed at it suggesting that “ENSO is a nonlinear property of climate, naturally varying but the onset of a phase is unpredictable”.

    In retrospect, that was probably useful advice as we concentrated on the nonlinear aspects of the wave equation. Eventually, we added seasonal modulation to the forcing, interacting with the lunar forcing. That’s certainly what leads to the seasonal aliasing observed in the ENSO and QBO time-series frequency components.

  141. Jim Hunt says:

    GEM – “Curry is involved with weather forecasting with her husband, who is an ENSO expert”

    I’m aware of that. If I knew how to insert a tongue in cheek smiley on here I would have done so. That’s one of the numerous reason I keep mentioning Cohen, Francis et al. 2017 over there, but she keeps on refusing to take the bait. Same story with TE’s “polar air mass”pronouncements 😦

  142. Just my opinion but climate scientists need to start with the equator and understand equatorial processes first before trying to predict higher latitudes. The equator has characteristics such as the coriolis forces cancelling that lead lead to simpler math formulations. Yet there is no consensus in models for ENSO and QBO, which are large-scale equatorial processes. Moreover, it appears that hurricanes spin off as vortices from the equator, and crazily that polar vortices are synched to the QBO. That makes them important as first steps for forecasting.

    At last years AGU I talked to poster presenters that were presenting research on high-latitude circulation patterns and asked why they weren’t concentrating on doing the equatorial models first. They didn’t have a good answer other than that was what they were funded to work on.

  143. Hi Jim.

    Same story with TE’s “polar air mass”pronouncements

    That “Harvey stalled because it was blocked at the surface by a Polar Air Mass”
    is matter of the observed record. The polar air mass that impeded Harvey was recorded in its progression from high latitudes on
    Aug 19, Aug 20, Aug 21, Aug 22, Aug 23, Aug 24, and Aug 25.

    That this polar air mass was “the kind of which one would expect to be less dense with global warming” is probably subject to some refinement. Global warming is modeled to include “Arctic Amplification”, which should diminish the intense cold ( and so diminish intense density ) of polar air masses. However, Arctic Amplification is very strongly seasonal. Arctic Amplification occurs when reduced sea ice during the cold season leads to increased rates of freezing with the latent heat of freezing released to the atmosphere. This effect is zero during the melt season. You can see this in the temperature anomaly trends since 1979. Notice that during the melt season, the temperature anomaly trends of the Arctic and Houston’s latitude around 30N are the same. Since Harvey occurred during the melt season, one wouldn’t necessarily expect any difference in this case of the relative density of polar air masses wrt lower latitudes.

  144. Here is the seasonality of temperature trends of “Arctic Amplification” from GISSTEMP:

  145. Tony Banton says:

    Jim Hunt:
    Sorry did not see your ask of me ….

    The 1000 – 500mb Total thk is a measure of an air-mass’ average temp for that layer. Colder air having a “thinner” thickness. Generally speaking polar air has thickness of around 534 dm (UK) and lower, with 522 generally regarded as being able to produce snow down to sea level in a well mixed airmass ( say in U.K. From a N to NW’ly direction where maritime influence is maximised). On the hot side thickness of up to the low 580’s are achieved over the Tropics.
    The lines themselves can be said to depict a “Thermal wind”, that is the vector difference between the top and the bottom of that layer and so when either placed on a surface (isobar) synoptic chart or on a 500mb contour chart the angle of incidence shows the level of “advection” of that airmass.
    In my posted chart, the isobars and the Thk lines as not far off parallel over the SE States and so little advection of airmass is taking place, whereas the NE states show warm advection (isobars crossing the lines from high to low)

    http://weatherfaqs.org.uk/node/152

    BTW: where that link gives the standard levels colours, it is amusing to me they are wrong (academic I know) as I spent some part of my early career colouring those said lines when they came in on fax machines!

    The Cohen et al and paper relates to the influence of snow cover development through the month of Oct over the Eurasian continent and the link with the Siberian high and it’s persistence through the winter. There is a strong relationship with early/fast development with a strong/persistent high that will often migrate to the Arctic and give rise to Arctic outbreaks further south in Europe and the E US. This allied with warmer more open E Siberian Seas into the start of winter gives a dipole that also encourages blocking development. ….. the warmer seas having allowed more moisture to fall as snow over Eurasia.

    As for Curry’s place – I try not to post, though I do read (the sensible posters). As long as a certain poster (Ellison) is allowed to spam the threads with his “tablets of stone” and get away with his arrogant nastiness to any that deign to demure, I’ll demure also.

  146. Discussion of Ellison may be suited for the most recent thread. He’s a bully and Curry’s bouncer when it comes to anybody that wants to find patterns in climate data. To him, everything is chaos and no one should attempt to try anything new because Curry’s colleague Tsonis says that it’s impossible to model chaos. And Tsonis is an AGW denier, which makes you wonder about their agenda — could they want to suppress scientific process?

  147. JCH says:

    He’s a thug, and she always has her apron handy to protect her little bevy of thug enforcers. It’s CargoCult Etc. They’re a tribe and their witchdoctors, and she’s one of them, have promised them a cargo plane full of global cooling is about to arrive soon.

  148. John Hartz says:

    If you have not already done so, you may want to check out…

    6 Weather Images That Capture Harvey’s Disastrous Strike on Texas by Chris Dolce, The Wether Channel, Aug 29, 2017

  149. Tony Banton says:

    I had a ‘discussion’ with Ellison some time back re the connection of the AO and the stratosphere – a subject I am interested in and keep abreast of through the NH winter. He went so far as to accuse me of ad hom in a post that was no longer there (as I pointed out) and said that Curry had removed it. I suggest he asked her about it, which he declined. Refused to apologise. A nasty, nasty POS, as I’ve recently told him there, while at the same time commenting that it seemed OK with Curry that he behaved as he did there, but held out no real hope she would moderate him.

  150. Tony Banton says:

    “That “Harvey stalled because it was blocked at the surface by a Polar Air Mass”
    is matter of the observed record. The polar air mass that impeded Harvey was recorded in its progression from high latitudes on”

    Again TE … NO it was not.

    Go do a Flynn then and state that there is no such thing as the GHE, at least from CO2.
    You are displaying your ignorance as a badge of honour gained from Googling.

    As I said, Cooler mid-latitude air does not ‘block’ a TS – it does the opposite. It engages it into the flow.

  151. Willard says:

    > Go do a Flynn then and state that there is no such thing as the GHE, at least from CO2.

    I think you mean:

    CO2 has no intrinsic ability to heat anything.

    https://judithcurry.com/2016/07/06/is-much-of-current-climate-research-useless/#comment-795166

  152. BBD says:

    … but it does have the intrinsic ability to slow the rate at which some things cool…

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