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And so it begins …

by Colman Thu Feb 17th, 2011 at 07:09:28 AM EST

From Nature:

Interest in attributing the risk of damaging weather-related events to anthropogenic climate change is increasing. Yet climate models used to study the attribution problem typically do not resolve the weather systems associated with damaging events such as the UK floods of October and November 2000. Occurring during the wettest autumn in England and Wales since records began in 1766, these floods damaged nearly 10,000 properties across that region, disrupted services severely, and caused insured losses estimated at £1.3 billion. [...] Here we present a multi-step, physically based ‘probabilistic event attribution’ framework showing that it is very likely that global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions substantially increased the risk of flood occurrence in England and Wales in autumn 2000.
So now we're developing real evidence that global warming attributable to human activity is increasing the odds that we'll have extreme weather events next week, next month, next year, not fifty or a hundred years in the future - and this was for events ten years ago, not the assorted horrors of this year.

Also, from another study in Nature:

Here we show that human-induced increases in greenhouse gases have contributed to the observed intensification of heavy precipitation events found over approximately two-thirds of data-covered parts of Northern Hemisphere land areas. […] Changes in extreme precipitation projected by models, and thus the impacts of future changes in extreme precipitation, may be underestimated because models seem to underestimate the observed increase in heavy precipitation with warming.
But don't worry, it's all just a communist plot to install a one world government and pollute our bodily fluids.

Soon we won't have to qualify our responses when people ask if such-and-such an event was a result of climate change.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Feb 17th, 2011 at 07:11:22 AM EST
This is encouraging:

The public's belief in global warming as a man-made danger has weathered the storm of climate controversies and cold weather intact, according to a Guardian/ICM opinion poll published today.

Asked if climate change was a current or imminent threat, 83% of Britons agreed, with just 14% saying global warming poses no threat.

Compared with August 2009, when the same question was asked, opinion remained steady despite a series of events in the intervening 18 months that might have made people less certain about the perils of climate change. Emails between climate researchers that were released online in November 2009 had led to unfounded suggestions that the scientific basis for global warming was flawed. World leaders also failed to agree to a global deal to combat warming and a mistake over the melting of Himalayan glaciers was handled badly by the UN's science panel.

Supporters of action on climate change, from government to business to campaigners, will be relieved that this series of negative news failed to increase scepticism significantly.


Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Feb 17th, 2011 at 10:06:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... sovereign independent.  I haven't had such fun with a newspaper since the National Enquirer stopped printing alien stories.
by Pope Epopt on Thu Feb 17th, 2011 at 07:50:17 AM EST

(just a drive-by ad hominem... I'll be back when I've read the docs)

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Thu Feb 17th, 2011 at 12:08:58 PM EST
The point I have tried to make on popular sounding claims made by companies and press, that an increase in natural disasters can be contributed to changes in global climate, always was that such claims were made without scientific grounds - so far.

Which is why I have no problem at all with Colman's title.

I'll reserve my own commentary until I've read the publications, but I can recommend reading Revkin's take.

by Nomad (Bjinse) on Thu Feb 17th, 2011 at 04:10:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He always manages to piss me off.

His feelings are so easily hurt :

To me, as a reporter, the authors and journal are trying to have things both ways -- including definitive statements in abstracts and summaries that draw the attention of the press and public, but then saying, no, this is not definitive... please note the uncertainties in the final line (even though that line isn't actually necessarily linked, rhetorically, to the definitive statements).

This reminds me, sadly, of issues I've raised about the way the I.P.C.C. summaries for policy makers [blah blah blah self-important self-back-patting]

So, you read a few paragraphs of Revkin and what do you take away? An unremarkable paper that the authors have tried to sensationalize. Global warming causes storms? Well maybe.

So what's his problem? In his own words :

So what's the issue with the new study of bad storms and warming?

It opens with an extraordinary summation, which is echoed in the news release disseminated by the journal:


Here we show that human-induced increases in greenhouse gases have contributed to the observed intensification of heavy precipitation events found over approximately two-thirds of data-covered parts of Northern Hemisphere land areas.

Just in case there's any doubt in the scientific community, this is the news element in this otherwise creditable, but unremarkable[*], work.

It's a shame and a disgrace that he pours cold water on the paper and the authors, because when he engages with them, and others including Gavin Schmidt on Realclimate, the real picture emerges, and it isn't at all as he portrayed it.

The scientific paper was written by scientists for scientists, and anyone qualified to read it will not be misled by it, as Revkin reluctantly acknowledges. Likewise, he acknowledges that the authors' press release is carefully worded and will not give any false impressions about the certainty of the conclusions.

There are two "bad guys" in this story : the person at Science who wrote the press release about the article (I can't find this press release, which apparently doesn't include enough conditional language); and Andy bloody Revkin, who owes the authors an apology.

He even changes his mind about the "unremarkable" nature of the work :

(Schmidt also took issue with my characterization above of the new work as "unremarkable," and he's right. It really is thorough, innovative and important.)

I end up with the impression that this nitwit will give a good write-up to whoever last took him out to lunch.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Feb 18th, 2011 at 05:50:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Real Climate: Going to extremes
Let's start with some very basic, but oft-confused points:
  • Not all extremes are the same. Discussions of `changes in extremes' in general without specifying exactly what is being discussed are meaningless. A tornado is an extreme event, but one whose causes, sensitivity to change and impacts have nothing to do with those related to an ice storm, or a heat wave or cold air outbreak or a drought.
  • There is no theory or result that indicates that climate change increases extremes in general. This is a corollary of the previous statement - each kind of extreme needs to be looked at specifically - and often regionally as well.
  • Some extremes will become more common in future (and some less so). We will discuss the specifics below.
  • Attribution of extremes is hard. There are limited observational data to start with, insufficient testing of climate model simulations of extremes, and (so far) limited assessment of model projections.
The two new papers deal with the attribution of a single flood event (Pall et al), and the attribution of increased intensity of rainfall across the Northern Hemisphere (Min et al). While these issues are linked, they are quite distinct, and the two approaches are very different too.


Both papers were submitted in March last year, prior to the 2010 floods in Pakistan, Australia, Brazil or the Philippines, and so did not deal with any of the data or issues associated with those floods. However, while questions of attribution come up whenever something weird happens to the weather, these papers demonstrate clearly that the instant pop-attributions we are always being asked for are just not very sensible. It takes an enormous amount of work to do these kinds of tests, and they just can't be done instantly. As they are done more often though, we will develop a better sense for the kinds of events that we can say something about, and those we can't.

Keynesianism is intellectually hard, as evidenced by the inability of many trained economists to get it - Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 17th, 2011 at 03:23:20 PM EST
I've now leaved through the Salon, where I got annoyed quickly. Not that it is that hard to get me there, but still.

France24 - Increased flooding driven by climate change: study

Global warming driven by human activity boosted the intensity of rain, snow and consequent flooding in the northern hemisphere over the last half of the 20th century, research released Wednesday has shown.

Two studies, both published in Nature, are among the first to draw a straight line between climate change and its impact on potentially deadly and damaging extreme weather events.

Australia, Sri Lanka, Brazil and Pakistan have all been recently ravaged by massive flooding, raising questions as to whether global warming was at least partly to blame .

With my emphasis. Reporting seems to fly off the rails already in the first sentence, because the abstract of the second paper Colman's links to does not mention consequences of flooding. So I'll look for that when I read the paper, but I strongly suspect the press already jumps the gun right there.

And I suspect that with this paper out, attributions and speculations to climate change induced flooding will be bountiful - even when there is no evidence to show for, even when it makes perfect sense for scientists to see dramatic flooding in Australia, Sri Lanka or Brazil during a strong La Nina year...

I really have my work cut out for me, don't I...

by Nomad (Bjinse) on Thu Feb 17th, 2011 at 04:39:49 PM EST
Well, with La Nina you'd expect global warming to make the effect worse, wouldn't you? I'm not sure how high intensities of rain wouldn't translate to worse flooding, by the way?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 18th, 2011 at 04:08:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nomad's point is that nobody has proven that it does. "Bleedin' obvious" doesn't count.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Fri Feb 18th, 2011 at 05:54:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
'bleeding obvious' has no merit. Try getting an article in Science by that argumentation.
by Nomad (Bjinse) on Fri Feb 18th, 2011 at 09:06:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But as you probably well know, in climate science you can't take one exceptional year and make claims about it on a phenomenon that can only be reliably analyzed  by a long-term, thirty years period.

As to precipitation. From the top of my head, intensified precipitation does not directly equate to worse flooding, because the two topics are first connected by stream flow distribution. You can't make claims about flooding based on precipitation figures, if you disregard the effects of stream flow distribution.

I don't know yet if the Nature studies do this.

by Nomad (Bjinse) on Fri Feb 18th, 2011 at 09:01:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Um, if you get rain that leads to flooding anyway, and that rain is intensified then, pretty often, you're likely to get worse flooding.

At this stage, asking if climate change is worsening these events seems eminently reasonable, especially since the general expectation from the models is that this is exactly what will happen.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 18th, 2011 at 09:25:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't write that it wasn't reasonable. I do indicate that in the sciences you can't correlate one topic directly to the other, but that there's a factor in between. That distribution factor will have to be quantified for the area under consideration before precipitation in that area can be tied to statements on flooding in that area. That is not a problem just made up, but is a topic of research that is taken quite seriously.

I don't think the Nature scientists attempted to quantify distribution, and they don't seem to discuss increased occurrences of flooding - which would be the correct way to discuss the subject. The press clip, however, does make the jump to flooding. Perhaps because it all sounds so reasonable. Except it looks that it is not what scientists found out.

But I still have to read, so all of my judgments so far remain indefinite.

by Nomad (Bjinse) on Fri Feb 18th, 2011 at 11:32:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Incidentally, you can make claims. Testing them is the fun bit.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 18th, 2011 at 09:26:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can you provide a link that defines "stream flow distribution"?

Thanks in advance.

by det on Fri Feb 18th, 2011 at 11:27:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See, for instance, hydrograph (wikipedia).

Keynesianism is intellectually hard, as evidenced by the inability of many trained economists to get it - Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 18th, 2011 at 11:30:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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