Linking climate change and extreme events

There’s an article in the New Republic called the media’s failure to connext the dots on climate change. I actually came across it via a blog post by Matthew Nisbet in which he argues that [Why] The New Republic is wrong to argue for journalists to label every extreme weather event and disaster as linked to climate change. Not only do I think he slightly misrepresents what the New Republic article is suggesting, I also think what they suggest is mostly quite reasonable. I’ll try to explain why.

Climate change is clearly happening and it is mainly driven by our emission of greenhouse gases (mostly CO2) into the atmosphere. Doing so causes atmospheric CO2 to increase, reducing the outgoing energy flux and causing energy to accumulate in the climate system. This will lead to warming of the surface and troposphere, increasing ocean heat content (and increasing sea surface temperatues), an increase in evaporation, an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events, and a change in the latitudonal temperature gradient that has the potential to influence the jet stream and, hence, weather patterns. This means that in regions that are susceptible to extreme weather events, the conditions will increasingly tend to favour these events becoming more extreme.

I will admit that we could sometimes be more careful about how we associate climate change and extreme events, and there will almost certainly be situations in which it’s not really appropriate to include some discussion of climate change. However, climate change is clearly changing the environment in which these extreme events are occuring and, in many situations, leading to conditions that make it likely that we will see an increase in both the frequency and intensity of such events.

I think it’s important that this is understood. Even if we cannot definitively attribute a climate change link to a specific event does not mean that we can’t discuss how climate change is likely to impact such events and whether or not we’re seeing changes that are consistent with what is expected. If we want to make ourselves more resilient to such events, then it would seem important to understand how climate change is likely to influence them. Furthermore, until we get net emissions to almost zero, the climate will continue to change and we will likely continue to see an increase in the frequency and intensity of many of these extreme weather events.

To be clear, maybe I misunderstand some of what is being suggested. Also, maybe there are subtle reason why avoiding associating extreme events with climate change will somehow help us to become more resilient to these events. On the other hand, I do find it difficult to understand how avoiding discussing a climate change link will somehow help us to develop policies that effectively address this issue. Maybe I’m just a naive physicist (okay, yes I probably am) but if we do want to think about how to address the risks associated with climate change, then we really should be discussing it openly so as to help the public, and policy makers, better understand how it is likely to impact us, both now and in the future.

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48 Responses to Linking climate change and extreme events

  1. I think this is a silly question and framed by folks who are either too naive to understand the complexity of the question they are asking or are working to get a correctly nuanced answer that can be used to sow doubt about the urgency of the AGW problem in the minds of the electorate, so I would answer it this way:

    If you smoke 40,000 packs of cigarettes and then develop lung cancer, would you ask which pack caused the cancer? The issue is about the totality of the danger posed by either smoking cigarettes or flooding the atmosphere and oceans with CO2. In either case, your risk of bad outcomes rises as you continue a foolish and destructive practice, questions about causality are the wrong question and need to be set aside so that we can work on the right questions. Do our risks of terrible weather events rise with continued CO2 emissions? Answer, Yes. and the harder question: how do we stop raising the level of CO2 in the atmoshere and oceans? The second question is the right question.

    The folks who reap short term benefits from activities that raise the CO2 levels have been wonderfully effective at framing the discussion in a way that allows for another business cycle of earnings and profits. Our children and grandchildren will not appreciate that allowed ourselves to be tied up by the wrong questions.

  2. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: A lot of articles about this topic have been published over the past few weeks. If you would like to add a list of them (with links embedded) to the OP, I can send you the ones that I have posted on the SkS FB pge over the past few weeks. Let me know.

  3. MikeH says:

    Nisbet is part of the Breakthrough crowd so his Pielkeism is not surprising,

    From 2012

    “The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be….The air is on average warmer and moister than it was prior to about 1970 and in turn has likely led to a 5–10 % effect on precipitation and storms that is greatly amplified in extremes.”

    Kevin E. Trenberth, senior scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research, in the journal Climatic Change

  4. A side aspect of this, which a read of Dr Jennifer Francis’ review article regarding links between what’s going on in the Arctic and Northern Hemisphere climate, from 2017, reveals amply, is that adequate science demands full Earth climate models, not regional models including only those parameters and processes the scholars think are pertinent.

    So, the problem is there aren’t enough climate models or computation being thrown at these problems, especially the Big Iron, and the people who know how to care and feed these things are in short supply.

    So, basically, what I’m urging is rather than worrying about extreme event and climate linkages, let’s put the money behind the climate work which then would permit solid predictions of big events using AGW climate models.

    That’s a funding issue. As pessimistic as I am it getting traction under the present Presidential and Republican Congressional hegemony, it might, and we can judge it after it gets done.

  5. The problem with linking climate change with extreme events is the age-old problem of not fully understanding the mechanisms of variability to begin with.

    The analogy is to a noisy circuit. Can you imagine if we were trying to determine variations in an output signal without any idea where the 50 or 60 Hertz hum was coming from? And to make it harder, say the hum was not fixed to 50 or 60 Hz but appeared erratic.

    At least we know some of the spontaneous climate variations are coming from the Pacific ocean, and that these are from ENSO and PDO, which are not fixed in frequency. Some think ENSO is caused by shifts in the wind, but what causes the shifts in the wind? The point is that climate science is still at a relatively primitive stage and trying to isolate an extreme event is mired in conflating factors.

    That’s why what HyperG says is good guidance:

    “So, basically, what I’m urging is rather than worrying about extreme event and climate linkages, let’s put the money behind the climate work which then would permit solid predictions of big events using AGW climate models.”

  6. Hyper,

    So, basically, what I’m urging is rather than worrying about extreme event and climate linkages, let’s put the money behind the climate work which then would permit solid predictions of big events using AGW climate models.

    Yes, I think I agree. A great deal of the attribution work seems to be motivation by a sense that we need to do it to convince people of the link, despite (I think) most scientists already accepting the link. It might be better to be spending this money on something that will have more benefit.

    Yes, if you wanted to send some of the links, that would be good. Thanks.

  7. Dave_Geologist says:

    what about extreme hail

    Of course. Stronger convective storms. Which is not to say that it caused each individual hailstone in each individual storm. Just as you can’t point to the one puff of the one cigarette which triggered your lung cancer. But you can say that lifelong smoking greatly increased your risk.

  8. Dave_Geologist says:

    The sixth stage of Denial.

    1) The globe isn’t warming.

    2) It’s not our fault.

    3) It will be good for us (plant food, warmer winters in Minnesota, etc.).

    4) Bad stuff won’t happen.

    5) Bad stuff isn’t happening.

    6) The bad stuff that’s started happening is just weather. Or bad forest or water management. Or leprechauns. Or whatever.

    Are there only seven stages? I hope so.

  9. Steven Mosher says:

    I had no clue about hail.

    The answer was not what people expected

    fewer hail days,
    but bigger hail.

    That will lead to some fun on skeptic sites.

    same as the increases in lake effect snow

  10. Dave_Geologist says:

    fewer hail days,
    but bigger hail.

    That’s pretty much what is expected for convective storms in general. Fewer big ones, but they’ll be really big. It may not be what CNN expected, but it’s what I’ve expected for at least a decade. Crudely, I suppose, the increased ferocity of the storms outweighs the extra water available through Clausius-Clapeyron, and the system runs out of water faster than it can be replaced. Until the next big one.

  11. Dave_Geologist says:

    For instance
    Climate Extremes: Observations, Modeling, and Impacts (from 2000).
    Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events; Implications for Food Production, Plant Diseases, and Pests (from 2001).

    There is no scientific consensus so far, that extreme events have changed in frequency on a world-wide basis, although some regional changes have occurred. It is extremely unlikely that significant shifts in the means of weather distributions will take place without shifts in the tails

    (my bold, and typo corrections).

  12. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    . Not only do I think he slightly misrepresents what the New Republic article is suggesting,…

    I think it’s more than “slightly.”

    From Nisbett’s piece…

    Emily Atkin in a July 25, 2018 article at The New Republic took to task NPR and other news media outlets for not labeling in every news report this summer’s extreme weather events and forest fires as linked to climate change.

    That’s a misleading and exaggerating paraphrase that promotes an alarmist interpretation of the other article, with a counterproductive effect that gives ammunition to “skeptics, ” and foments a “backlash” effect…

    … wait a minute….

    … hmmmm…

  13. Steven Mosher says:

    Though the researchers weren’t surprised there would be less hail in the future, they were surprised it would be more damaging, he said.

    huh, dave knew that a decade ago.

  14. Dave_Geologist says:

    The specific modelling is new and state-of-the-art. Previously it was “bigger, taller, more intense thunderstorms” from which it was reasonable to infer that all-things-thunderstormy would increase. IIRC the size of hailstones depends on how long they spend suspended in the appropriate part of the cloud. More energy, other things being equal should let them stay up for longer. And more water per storm keeps them supplied with source material. “Surprise” or “surprising” is not mentioned in the paper. However:

    Because of these challenges, no research has explicitly modelled the response of hail and large hail to ACC. Instead, focus has been placed on deriving empirical relationships for the current climate between various large-scale atmospheric parameters and days with damaging hail 19 . These statistical relationships are then applied to future environments from climate model output to infer how the occurrence and severity of hail might be affected 19–21 … Another challenge is that whereas several studies in Europe 20,21,23 and Australia 24 have found evidence for an increase in hail events, or hail damage potential, from the middle of the twenty-first century onwards, other studies have found evidence for fewer hail events or damage potential over the same regions 25,26 .

    Here we undertake the first study to explicitly model the response (including partial or total melting) of a range of hail sizes to ACC over most of North America, which represents a significant advance over previous methodologies.

    So I would see it as like Callender giving way to Hansen. Callendar would not have been surprised at the general tenor of Hansen’s findings. The others who’d previously made projections by analogy or simple correlations rather than with a hailstone model would not be surprised at the hail-model outcome. Nor would they be surprised, I suspect, to find that other things are not always equal and that for some, the new hail model would predict a different outcome. Having overall losers on average doesn’t preclude the existence of a few lucky winners.

    Fig. 1. Nomogram developed by Renick and Maxwell (1977) that relates the maximum observed hail size on the ground to the forecast maximum updraft velocity and the temperature at the updraft maximum. Numbers 1–6 correspond to shot- through greater-than-golfball-size hail. Adapted from Renick and Maxwell (1977)

    Thunderstorms with higher updraft velocities and taller, colder tops make bigger hailstones. As was known empirically by weathermen in 1977. Plug more energy and water into a given thunderstorm and I’d expect you to move up and to the right on that diagram.

  15. John Hartz says:

    Hot off the press and directly related to the OP…

    The summer of 2018 has not been a normal summer. Throughout June and July an extended heatwave set record-breaking high temperatures across the northern hemisphere. In Japan, more than 22,000 people were taken to hospital with heat stroke as the country recorded its highest-ever temperature of 41.1 degrees Celsius. In California, Portugal and as far north as the Arctic Circle huge wildfires, encouraged by months of unusually dry conditions, followed the searing heat.

    For years, climatologists asked to explain these kind of extreme events have fallen back on a well-worn phrase. “It’s impossible to attribute a single weather event to climate change,” the refrain goes. And they’re right. Weather is by its very nature unpredictable – extreme events will always happen in one place or another, regardless of global temperature levels, and they’re not necessarily tied to one particular cause.

    For Friederike Otto, deputy director of the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) at the University of Oxford, this response has its drawbacks. “If scientists don’t answer, someone else gives an answer and it’s usually people who aren’t interested in the size and have their own agenda,” she says. Instead, Otto wondered if scientists could start saying whether climate change had made certain extreme weather events more or less likely.

    Scientists are finally linking extreme weather to climate change by Matt Reynolds Wired UK, Aug 24. 2018

  16. John Hartz says:

    Dave: Is there a seventh stage? You have only listed six.

  17. It seems pretty easy to say: This heat wave is what global warming looks like. This is the weather we get in a warmed world and it’s going to get worse as we continue to emit CO2 and drive even more global warming.

    Answer the question the way politicians would: with a canned response that avoids the poorly framed question to a certain current but still conveys the important message about global warming and CO2. When asked again about causation, repeat: This heat wave is what global warming looks like. Heatwaves (substitute in torrential rains, drought, etc) is what the climate models have predicted. This event is what global warming looks like and it’s going to get worse if we don’t start reducing the CO2 in the atmosphere.

    Simple declarative statements that are simply true and convey the situation and its dangers are the way to go imho. Keep it simple. We have to change the narrative from “did AGW cause this massive thunderstorm?” to “this is what AGW looks like and it’s going to get worse if we don’t make significant changes now.”

  18. John Hartz says:

    Here’s my take on the climate-weather event connection.

    Weather does not occur in a vacuum. Rather, weather always occurs within the Earth’s climate system. Mankind’s emissions of greenhouse gases and the destruction of forests are causing the Earth’s to change rapidly. Therefore, all weather events are impacted to some degree by man-made climate change. (I believe there is a distinction between “impacting” a weather event and “triggering” a weather event,)

  19. Dave_Geologist says:

    John, I kinda hope the seventh stage is “OMG it’s real, whatever was I thinking before?” and the eighth is “we’ve wasted so much time, better get cracking on doing something about it.

    Eight-Fold Path rather than Twelve Steps.

  20. for Paul and HG: snipped from above:

    The analogy is to a noisy circuit. Can you imagine if we were trying to determine variations in an output signal without any idea where the 50 or 60 Hertz hum was coming from? And to make it harder, say the hum was not fixed to 50 or 60 Hz but appeared erratic…

    That’s why what HyperG says is good guidance:

    “So, basically, what I’m urging is rather than worrying about extreme event and climate linkages, let’s put the money behind the climate work which then would permit solid predictions of big events using AGW climate models.”

    I think the context for the question has to do with how AGW is covered by the press. An appeal for more research money to prove linkages seems like it would fall really flat as a quote from a scientist in response to a question about linkages of events and AGW. If you are a climate scientist and you have opportunities to field questions from the press, I hope you will have a clear and simple statement or two ready to go and that those statements will be useful to the readers of media in understanding the threat and impacts of AGW rather than highlighting the uncertainties and underfunding of hard science. If you want to inform, prepare to inform. if you want to influence, prepare to influence. Keep it simple and direct or you lose 80% of the readers immediately.

  21. Dave_Geologist says:

    A closer look at the Renick and Maxwell (1977) nomogram shows that the simple relationship breaks down where updraft height plateaus. Maybe you can have too much energy and they whiz around so much they break each other up? Or some get flung out of the cloud? Or maybe the data gets unreliable at such extreme conditions, especially bearing in mind we’re talking pre-1977 so pre-satellite observations? Does that plateau height no longer exist and we continue the upward slope past 6 to 7? That’s why we need the likes of Brimelow et al 2017. Regardless, other things being equal I’d expect 2’s to become 3’s, 3’s 4’s etc.

  22. To JH: This is the kind of simple and clear statement that makes sense to me: “Mankind’s emissions of greenhouse gases and the destruction of forests are causing the Earth’s to change rapidly. Therefore, all weather events are impacted to some degree by man-made climate change.”

    This statement leads with emissions and forest destruction, then moves to weather. I would add: This is what global warming looks like.

  23. @smallbluemike,

    Thanks, but I wasn’t proposing a public appeal for funding. What I would suggest, though, is that to the degree policynakers and business leaders complain there isn’t enough definition of risks or a to me time table of risks, they should understand that to the degree the international climate science enterprise is underfunded — which it clearly is — is the degree to which ambiguity and lack of time table will persist.

    If I were wholly cynical I’d suggest maybe they don’t want that definition and clarity. But I’m not, and I think science, certainly in the U.S. and UK, is massively underfunded no matter what the field.

  24. Perspective.

    Extreme events were not zero at pre-industrial and they are not infinite during summer ( summer is an analog to global warming since it includes the two fatctors you have listed above: 1. increased temperature and 2. decreased pole to equator temperature gradient ). In fact, most people tend to enjoy summer.

    You list extreme precipitation events above, by which I take to mean events of very heavy precipitation. There are probably errors and biases in the measurements, but here is what the GHCN precipitation data looks like:

    Some increase in 10 centimeter precipitation events, though at r=0.47.
    Very little change and no significance of 15,20, or 30 centimeter events.

    There’s intimation but no clear definition of other extreme events
    As I’ve noted before, Manabe’s first gcm papers indicate that with AGW, we might expect
    1.) reduced temperature variability and
    2.) reduced kinetic energy

    Given this, we might expect:
    * Fewer events of extremely low temperature due to increasing mean and decreasing variability of temperature.
    * Perhaps little change in events of extremely high temperature due to increasing mean but decreasing variability of temperature.
    More dynamic events are necessarily less predictable, but the overall ( albeit slight ) reduction in kinetic energy might indicate fewer violent storms.

  25. TE,

    More dynamic events are necessarily less predictable, but the overall ( albeit slight ) reduction in kinetic energy might indicate fewer violent storms.

    The expectation is that we will see more heatwaves, and increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events, and an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme tropical cyclones. Also, if we see an increase in the frequency of extreme precipitation events, then if an area is prone to flooding then – all else being equal – flooding risk will increase. Similarly, we expect to see enhanced evaporation, which could impact regions susceptible to droughts and wildfires.

  26. Dave_Geologist says:

    So, to paraphrase, TE, because zero is not infinity, none of the integers or real numbers are meaningful and we can ignore them?

  27. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Perhaps the term “extreme precipitation events” covers this but we’ve recently witnessed large hurricanes and typhoons moving slowly across the surface and hence dropping more moisture on a given area. Hurricane Harvey is a prime example.

  28. John Hartz says:

    Dave: I like your Eight-fold Path, May incorporate it into remarks I will be making on Sep 8 to a local Rise for Climate Rally here in Columbia, SC?

  29. John Hartz says:

    Another hot of the press article directly related to the OP…

    As Hurricane Lane’s outer rain bands deluged the Hawaiian Islands this week, scientists looked to the ocean temperature for evidence of connections to climate change and clues to what may be ahead for this region where hurricane landfalls have been rare.

    Climate scientists have been warning that warmer oceans and atmosphere will supercharge tropical weather systems. Globally, they generally expect fewer tropical storms overall but an increase in the most intense storms. But they also say it’s important to understand that there will be regional nuances.

    In some areas—including the waters near Hawaii—hurricanes will probably become more common by the end of the century, said Hiroyuki Murakami, a climate researcher with the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton University who focuses on extreme weather.

    Hurricane Lane Brings Hawaii a Warning About Future Storm Risk by Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News, Aug 25, 2018

  30. angech says:

    Something about tropical cyclone post june 1 2018
    “Increasing EINT in a warmer year shows that this environment further inhibits the TC occurrences over the region, but TCs that form tend to discharge stored energy to the upper troposphere with stronger intensities. As the increasing intensities compensate for the loss of ACT by decreasing number of TCs, the ACT remains largely unchanged.”‘

  31. smallbluemike said:

    ” Keep it simple and direct or you lose 80% of the readers immediately.”

    That is science in general, and 80% is too low an estimate. You play to the few anyway.

  32. From Science:

    Kelvin Droegemeier got exactly one hardball question at today’s Senate hearing on his nomination to be director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). It came from Senator Ted Cruz (R–TX), who believes the planet is not warming and that climate change has been fabricated by those “who want to expand government control over the economy.”

    “Are you familiar with the empirical data from satellite measurements that show no statistically significant warming over the past 18 years?” Cruz asked. And Droegemeier, a professor of meteorology at The University of Oklahoma in Norman and an expert on severe storm prediction, chose to sidestep the question.

    “I’m familiar with some of those studies,” he replied. “But I don’t study climate.”

    Either a very limited viewpoint or a convenient excuse. Weather variations are primarily derived from climate, whether it be seasonal or amplified by El Nino type climate phenomena.

    Moreover, how can this guy direct any science or technology policy ?

  33. Dave_Geologist says:

    Of course John, although I fear it will be more like Twelve Steps than the Eight-fold Path. But with a bit of luck steps nine to twelve will be the various stages of dealing with it not more procrastination.

  34. Dave_Geologist says:

    angech, are you really trying to argue that fewer, more intense and powerful hurricanes will be no more damaging and disruptive the the status quo ante? By analogy, that ten 20mph car crashes carry the same risk as four 50mph crashes or two 100mph crashes?

  35. John Hartz says:

    Dave: The audience for my remarks will be a mixed-bag of people whose perspective on climate change could probably be distributed among the eight fold path, Our remarks are to be limited to 5 minutes so I may not be able to use the concept afterall. Regardless, thanks for stimulating my brain cells. It may be worth fleshing out a twelve step program about climate change. I have a vague recollection that I have come across something like that before.

  36. Dave_Geologist says:

    Probably John. One thing you can be sure of on the blogosphere: someone, somewhere has said it before 😉 .

    On risk from extreme events, I favour an actuarial approach to quantifying the risk. It works for healthcare, cancer attribution and insurance. IOW if a heatwave that has killed 20,000 people was made twice as likely by climate change, you can attribute half the deaths in each heatwave to CC (as opposed to 0% in one and 100% in the other – but you don’t know which is which). If the return time has decreased from 100 years to 25 years, CC has made things four times worse. If an event more extreme than anything recorded before kills 70,000 people, and the next-most-extreme killed, 20,000, you can attribute 50,000 deaths to CC, or say that it made things three-and-a-half times worse. Even if it was only 10°C hotter than a normal summer vs. 9°C. IOW CC was to blame for 10% of the excess heat but for 71% of the excess deaths. Last straw, camel’s back, etc. That also brings home to people the consequences of “just that one more degree”. At least to those who will listen 😦 .

    Of course doing attribution properly is hard work, e.g. Reconciling two approaches to attribution of the 2010 Russian heat wave, Attributing human mortality during extreme heat waves to anthropogenic climate change.

  37. Dave_Geologist says:

    I also find the dice analogy useful for demonstrating the rapid increase in tail risk. Let’s say you throw a pair of dice. 10 is the threshold for a fatal heatwave, 11 for a severe heatwave and 12 for a heatwave causing mass casualties.

    With 36 possible combinations, in any given year we used to have a 1:12 chance of casualties, a 1:18 chance of severe casualties and a 1:36 chance of mass casualties. Now we’re 1°C warmer, one of the dice goes from 2 to 7. We now have a 1:9 chance of casualties, a 1:12 chance of severe casualties and a 1:18 chance of mass casualties. Severe casualties are now as common as casualties were before, and mass causalities as common as severe casualties were previously. And we face a 1:36 chance of mass casualties plus – i.e. on a scale never seen before.

    If we implement Paris strongly enough to hold at 2°C through the second half of this century, both dice will go from 2 to 7. Our grandchildren will face a 1:7 chance of casualties, a 1:9 chance of severe casualties, a 1:12 chance of mass casualties and a 1:18 chance of mass casualties plus. Mass casualties will be as common as severe casualties are today, and as common as any-old-casualties were in our grandparents’ time. At 1:36, a new category of mass causalities plus plus will be as common as mass casualties were in our grandparents’ time.

    Fatal heatwaves (all of the above categories) will have gone from 1:6, i.e. once or twice per decade, through 1:3.6 today, about three times per decade, to 1:2.4 in our grandchildren’s time, almost every other year. Mass casualties or worse will have gone from once per generation or so in our grandparents’ time (1:36) to about once per decade (1:12) today. Mass casualties or worse will go from about once per per decade (1:12) today, to about twice per decade (1:6) in our grandchildrens’ time.

    Only it’s worse than that. Temperature distributions are fatter-tailed than Gaussian.

  38. angech says:

    It was a frequency of occurrence thing Dave, taken from a recent ATTP post.
    A scientific view on the frequency was all.
    As for your comment on car crashes we are talking severe so perhaps 60,80 and 100 km would be a better analogy. Then you can do the sums. Basically if frequency times damage is x and y the frequency does become important as to which way it moves away from the status quo. You may well be right.

  39. @WHUT,

    Yeah, here’s the story from AAAS. Excerpt:

    Conventional wisdom says Droegemeier’s decision not to offer any substantive response may be a good strategy for winning confirmation. But some climate scientists are disappointed Droegemeier didn’t defend the vast body of science that contradicts Cruz’s position on climate change. They also worry that his tepid answer signals that Droegemeier has decided to remain mum on an issue that pits most of the scientific community against President Donald Trump and his administration.

    “It’s only one political data point, but it’s unfortunate,” says meteorologist David Titley, who rebutted an identical claim by Cruz when he testified at a December 2015 hearing Cruz chaired on “promoting open inquiry” on the topic. “Only time will tell how Kelvin will be on climate change,” says Titley, a professor at Pennsylvania State University in State College and the director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk there.

    Cruz’s question to Droegemeier relates to the controversy surrounding a 2015 Science paper by U.S. government scientists that refutes claims of a “pause” in global warming for a 16-year period beginning in 1998. Climate contrarians say atmospheric data from satellites back up their position.

    “Cruz was trying to imply that there is no warming,” says Andy Dressler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University in College Station. “That’s not true, of course.”

    Titley says Cruz has “cherry-picked” the data by starting with 1998, when global temperatures were at a peak following a powerful El Niño season, and by suggesting those satellite measures are the only indicators of global warming. “The satellite data can be hard to interpret,” he acknowledges. “But the running trend from 30 to 40 years of satellite data is clear, and along with all the other indicators, the evidence [for warming temperatures] is overwhelming.”

    At the same time, Titley says he would understand if Droegemeier chose to “not pick a fight with Cruz” by giving a bland nonanswer. “The purpose of a confirmation hearing is to say as little as is humanly possible and still get confirmed,” he says. “And that’s what Kelvin did.”

  40. DG said this and more: “On risk from extreme events, I favour an actuarial approach to quantifying the risk.”
    The dice analogy is very useful and easy to understand. When asked about causation, it would be easy and effective to say:

    The risk of this kind of extreme event rises with global warming. We are already well over 1 degree of warming and the risk of catastrophic events like this one just goes up with the rise in CO2 and global warming. This catastrophic event is what global warming looks like. This is the new normal if we could stop CO2 rise today. It only gets worse as we cause more warming with carbon emissions.

    Please don’t respond about the demands for certainty when weighed against science underfunding. That approach is true, but it will feed anti-science sentiment. Tell the journalists what you know to be true about global warming. Global warming is caused by human carbon emissions, it destroys the current web of life and it is catastrophic to our species.

    Keep it simple and direct if you want to be effective and have impact on public policy. Create effective memes when you talk publicly about global warming. I think the idea of meme creation, being simple and direct, is generally out of step with the usual careful and nuanced language of scientists. Put on a public policy hat when you speak publicly about global warming. Put your scientist hat back on when you do science.

    If people ask the wrong question, give the answer to the question(s) that they should have asked. The causation question is a version of the “when did you stop beating your wife” question. You can’t win by trying to respond to this kind of question, you have to give a simple and direct respons that informs and influences the questioner without getting dragged into the weeds created by wrong-headed questions.

  41. Dave_Geologist says:

    Well if I wanted to check if someone was a master at fraccing, as opposed to self-promotion, my first port of call would be Google Scholar. Nope, nothing. Not even if I include patents.

    My next port of call would be the SPE. A few conference hits, but titles like “Executive Perspective on Unconventional Resource Development” doesn’t sound like what people on a science site would consider an expert, let along a master (Mastery is generally rated higher than Expertise). Sounds like a manager or money-man. Let’s try OnePetro (SPE technical papers). One hit from 2011. Assuming it’s the same Chris Faulkner he used to be at Halliburton. As a cementing engineer. A non-peer reviewed conference paper on using glass microbeads to lighten cement. Nothing to do with fraccing then, although useful in the onshore where shallow formations are underpressured due to a depressed water table, and neat cement can exceed the fracture gradient even before you start pumping (one reason all those Alberta cement jobs in anoilmans’s PPT link went bad). But not especially novel. We were already using oil-based carriers to get the frac fluid less dense than water, despite the presence of proppant, in the 1980s.

    Nope, probably not the same Chris Faulkner. He’d surely have mentioned if he had an industry background as a cementing engineer at Halli.

    I’ve been an entrepreneur since my teens, I’ve studied biomedical engineering, business, mathematics and information sciences, and I got into the oil and gas industry by way of a computer program I designed to better locate oil and gas plays.

    Snake-oil alert! Snake-oil alert!

    If the victims had hired me as a consultant I could have saved them $80M with a few hours work (I didn’t spend hours on this, but if I was getting paid I’d do more due diligence).

  42. Russell Seitz says:

    Smallbluemike asks :
    “If you smoke 40,000 packs of cigarettes and then develop lung cancer, would you ask which pack caused the cancer?”

    Hardly a two pipe problem : at a pack a day, the question would arise a century after you started.

  43. angech says:

    Russell Seitz says: “If you smoke 40,000 packs of cigarettes and then develop lung cancer, would you ask which pack caused the cancer?” at a pack a day, the question would arise a century after you started.”
    Funny how short we actually live. 30,000 days would get you close to 90 years or 10,000 days is close to 30 years.
    A book a day and I would barely be able to read let alone retain the information from a bare 30,000 books.
    Very annoying.
    Also a reminder of how quick real climate change time can change.

  44. JCH says:


    Andy Dessler gives a seminar on his recent ECS papers:

  45. Pingback: The ECS is probably above 2K. | …and Then There's Physics

  46. Mal Adapted says:

    Paul Pukite (@WHUT):

    Moreover, how can this guy direct any science or technology policy ?

    Perhaps the more salient question is “who directs him?” Sadly, Droegemeier’s appointment is politics as usual in the USA. For you non-USAnians, the OSTP is attached to the Executive branch of the federal government, so its director is chosen to advance the President’s political agenda. Confirmation by the Senate is required under that body’s constitutional advice and consent role. That is, confirmation is also politically driven. For better or worse, this is how we implemented popular sovereignty 8^}!

    Having said that, I happen to know at least one conscientious scientist who has spent most of her career in the OSTP.

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