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Dumb question: what's up with the weather?

by Colman Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 07:25:55 AM EST

I've looked around in the hope of putting together a story talking about the current weird weather in Europe and its causes but I can't find anything coherent.

Do any of our many resident experts have suggestions?


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This one doesn't even count as Socratic ...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 07:26:32 AM EST
What exactly are you looking for?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 07:32:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some sort of understanding of what factors are causing it and to what degree (if any) it can be attributed to global warming.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 07:36:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Answer: we just dunno

Second Answer: Models of cliamte cna not udnerstand particuar variations. We have a chaotic system in our hands.

Third Answer: If you want to save the face and pretend that we know everything, youc an laways say that is el NIño or whatever....

Fourth Answer: No fricking clue

Fifth Answer: When change the metabolism of a cell it can do unexpected things... it could happen the smae with CO2... and again... it is chaotic so..

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 07:39:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Did you check the Weather Underground blogs?

Jeff Masters: Storms and heat in Europe (January 19, 2007)

Europe's strange winter weather continues to generate headlines, as a powerful low pressure system brought hurricane-force wind gusts to England, Germany, the Czech Republic, and many other European countries on Thursday. The powerful extratropical cyclone, now centered over western Russia, has a central pressure of 960 mb--the kind of pressures commonly seen in Category 1 and 2 hurricanes! At least 41 people have been killed in the storm, mostly motorists in England and Germany. The storm shut down the German train system for the first time in history. The last winter storm with comparable winds in Europe occurred in January 1990. The latest computer forecast models point to the first significant snows and cold for Europe next week, when a major low pressure system is expected to finally tap into some cold Artic air and pull it southwards over much of Europe.
This entry has over 500 comments.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 07:45:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I forgot about them! Thanks ...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 07:53:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The comments are useless though.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 08:17:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 08:24:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I forgot about http://www.realclimate.org as well.

In reality, the individual roles of deterministic factors such as El Nino, anthropogenic climate change, and of purely random factors (i.e. "weather") in the pattern observed thusfar this winter cannot even in principle be ascertained. What we do know, however, is that both anthropogenic climate change and El Nino favor, in a statistical sense, warmer winters over large parts of the U.S. When these factors act constructively, as is the case this winter, warmer temperatures are certainly more likely. Both factors also favor warmer global mean surface temperatures (the warming is one or two tenths of a degree C for a moderate to strong El Nino). It is precisely for this reason that some scientists are already concluding, with some justification, that 2007 stands a good chance of being the warmest year on record for the globe.(Real Climate)

And useful comments ...

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 08:35:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You know, that article in Real Climate deflects the question in a really bad way. It argues
The reality, as we've often remarked here before, is that absolute statements of neither sort are scientifically defensible. Meteorological anomalies cannot be purely attributed to deterministic factors, let alone any one specific such factor (e.g. either global warming or a hypothetical long-term climate oscillation).
My problem with the article is that it basically uses the fact that this is all about statistics to say that you can't say for certain either way, so stop asking and let us get along with our climate science. You can qualify it as much as you want and talk about prior beliefs and model dependence, but there has to be a statistically sound way (with confidence levels and such) of answering the question "is this caused by anthropogenic forcing"?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 06:16:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It gives me the impression - which matches my initial instinct, so heavy confirmation bias here - that they don't think it's caused by antropogenic forcing very much at all. Not that I don't think global warming is real, just that I don't think it's having these effects yet.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 06:20:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If we have a case of stochastic resonance, effects might be felt way before they are expected based on their size.

Also, there's a story today about the Greenland ice sheet melting 3 times faster than expected.
Metro: Arctic melt 'could sink our cities' (January 22, 2007)

...

A melt of 80km3 was predicted for 2006 but the latest figures show 287km3 has disappeared - almost three-and-a-half times more than expected.

...

Martin Truffer, a glaciologist at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, said: 'The general thinking until very recently was that ice sheets don't react very quickly to climate.

'But that thinking is changing right now, because we're seeing things that people have thought are impossible.'

But Richard Alley, a geosciences professor at Pennsylvania State University, insisted there was no need to panic.

'There is no consensus on how much Greenland's ice will melt and no computer model that can accurately predict the future of the ice sheet,' he said.

There was a story about the Anctarctic ice sheet a few months back in which they said that basically people had been modelling the ice sheet as a single solid block of ice, but in reality it behaves like a very viscous fluid (here, geologists studying convection in the Earth's mantle could say a few things about solid rock behaving like a fluid). An ice cube will react to temperature changes rather more slowly than compressed amorphous slush.

And the fact that there is no consensus and no correct models should be no cause for comfort.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 06:31:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Did someone say, "Models"?  ;0

It passes my understanding why disciplines who know damn well their object of study is a Chaotic System routinely ignore that fact when creating their Models.  Further, various subsidary parts of these Models are incorporated incorrectly as well, Migeru's example of glaciers being essentially viscous fluids is a case in point.

I'm sure it's all great fun to spend one's time creating bogus Models, crank the math around, and then publish papers and reports saying how wonderful the modelers are.  However, when the object of study is a dire problem - such as Global Climate Change - I submit this silliness is completely irresponsible.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 12:29:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I submit this silliness is completely irresponsible.

Which part of "there is no need to panic" didn't you understand? No wonder he's the Penn State professor, and not us.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 12:35:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, we're only facing total collapse of the environment, destruction of the global economy, and, arguably, World War III ... but what the hell, no reason to panic.

Perhaps my bad attitude is why I never get invited to the best parties?

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 12:42:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Stop hyperventilating, there is no consensus and no computer model that can predict the things you're afraid of.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 12:45:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm using hyperbole to make a point.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 12:52:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm just using you to make fun of the poor professor.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 12:54:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The last winter storm with comparable winds in Europe occurred in January 1990.

Comparable in what? In wind speeds, there was one winter storm every year or two at comparable or higher level.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 11:01:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
After New Orleans was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, there was a news story about how some climatologists hypothesized that with warmer ocean surface temperatures, hurricanes forming over the ocean would acquire more kinetic energy, and thus be more powerful on average. That seems to be a simple direct link between global warming and extreme weather. Cyclone Cyril formed over North America, so if the surfare temperature of the north Atlantic is indeed higher than it used to be, that would explain the severity of the storms.

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns
by Alexander on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 02:48:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What's weird? That people are complaining when it's hot, and complaining when it's warm? They always do.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 08:00:08 AM EST
I'm sort of concerned by a perceived tendency in the news to attribute this rather warm winter to global warming, which I'm pretty sure isn't very much the case. Which means that next year, when we get a really cold winter, people will start saying "what global warming".
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 08:08:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In Sweden, the tendency of late has been to attribute the crazy and quickly shifting weather (today is snow and sunny, like it should be, a week ago it was almost +10 degrees (C) which was very odd) to climate change.

This conceptual change has occured in the mainstream during the last year or so, but it has finally occured.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 08:38:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem with that is that next year, when we get extra cold weather in October (or whatever) people will start saying climate change was a sham.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 08:42:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But the same idea of extreme, quirky weather from day to day can be extended to year-to-year.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 08:48:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure, if we had journalists and media willing to explain that.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 08:49:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And in Sweden we are getting there. The common view is tilting towards climate change being strange weather, not warmer weather, and journalists and media this autumn tilted en mass - this is a rather typical page during november in Aftonbladet, the largest evening paper. It is a chat with Erland Källén, professor in meteorologi at Stockholm university. The right column is filled with other related news - the papers protestlist against climate change (it is an evening paper after all), an op-ed on climate change, questions to scientists and their answers, and so on, ending with "Five simple tips for your home - save environment and money".

Within that discuorse a cold winter will naturally raise the question of if it is uncommonly cold. Could the Gulf Stream be slowing down already?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 09:43:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I should add that I got quite surprised when the papers started to compete with climate change this autumn. But it is the same as with changing political discourse, the whole field can shift at once when there is enough momentum. This can probably be observed in many other areas. Humans being pack-animals and all.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 09:46:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... next year, when we get a really cold winter, people will start saying "what global warming".

That is why I prefer to use the term 'Global Climate Change.'  People get fixated on the gerund - "warming" - and forget the adjective - global.  "Global warming" as a Chaotic system means any particular geographical location could end-up being colder or warmer or the same.  The local affect is unknowable although it can be stated, with a high degree of confidence, climate is moving towards higher temperatures overall.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 12:43:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This was suppsoed to be a joke


people are complaining when it's hot, and complaining when it's warm


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 11:45:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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