Global Warming Hype Process

Here is the current global warming hype process as it exists today:

  1. Identify a 2 or 3 sigma weather event.  Since there are 365 days in the year and hundreds of different regions in the world, the laws of probability say that some event in the tail of the normal distribution (local high, local low, local flood, local drought, local snow, local tornado, local hurricane, etc) should be regularly occurring somewhere.
  2. Play weather event all over press, closely linked as often as possible with supposition that this is due to manmade CO2.  If the connection to global warming is too outlandish to make with a straight face (e.g. cold weather) use term "climate change" or "climate disruption" instead of global warming.
  3. Skeptics will point to actual data that this event is not part of a long term trend, e.g. there is no rise in tornado activity correlated with 20th century rise in temperatures so blaming one year of high tornadoes on global warming makes no sense.    Ignore this.
  4. Peer reviewed literature will emerge 6-12 months later demonstrating that the event was not likely due to man-made global warming.  Ignore this as well.  Never, ever go back and revisit failed catastrophic predictions.
  5. Repeat

Last year's Russian heat wave is a classic example.  Here is an example of the hype and the tie to man-made global warming in Time.  And here, 12 months later, is the study saying that weather was just weather:

Reference
Dole, R., Hoerling, M., Perlwitz, J., Eischeid, J., Pegion, P., Zhang, T., Quan, X.-W., Xu, T. and Murray, D. 2011. Was there a basis for anticipating the 2010 Russian heat wave? Geophysical Research Letters38: 10.1029/2010GL046582.

Background
The authors write that "the 2010 summer heat wave in western Russia was extraordinary, with the region experiencing the warmest July since at least 1880 and numerous locations setting all-time maximum temperature records." And as a result, they say that "questions of vital societal interest are whether the 2010 Russian heat wave might have been anticipated, and to what extent human-caused greenhouse gas emissions played a role."

What was learned
The nine U.S. researchers determined that "analysis of forced model simulations indicates that neither human influences nor other slowly evolving ocean boundary conditions contributed substantially to the magnitude of the heat wave." In fact, they say that the model simulations provided "evidence that such an intense event could be produced through natural variability alone." Similarly, on the observation front, they state that "July surface temperatures for the region impacted by the 2010 Russian heat wave show no significant warming trend over the prior 130-year period from 1880-2009," noting, in fact, that "a linear trend calculation yields a total temperature change over the 130 years of -0.1°C." In addition, they indicate that "no significant difference exists between July temperatures over western Russia averaged for the last 65 years (1945-2009) versus the prior 65 years (1880-1944)," and they state that "there is also no clear indication of a trend toward increasing warm extremes." Last of all, they say that although there was a slightly higher variability in temperature in the latter period, the increase was "not statistically significant."

Not sure I find the computer model work comforting one way or the other but the complete lack of any observational trend seems compelling.

  • Sean

    The weather events of the last few years have something in common, higher north south component of the polar jet stream and blocking patterns that lock weather for extended periods of time rather than just pass on by. Is there anything in the global circulation models that predict this kind of behavior in the atmosphere when it gets warmer? Certainly weather history shows these events are more likely associated with cold PDO and cooling trends in the data.

  • DrTorch

    I find the honesty that they reported their computer modeling work, comforting.

  • caseyboy

    Of all the topics you cover, I think you are best on this issue. I always learn something new. Your business and regulations blogs are also good, but I am pretty well versed on that topic myself and have the scars to prove it.

  • Henry Bowman

    “the 2010 summer heat wave in western Russia was extraordinary, with the region experiencing the warmest July since at least 1880 and numerous locations setting all-time maximum temperature records.”

    The implication of this statement is that the region was at least as warm in 1880. I'm sure that the 1880 warmth was due to increased carbon dioxide, right?

  • T J Sawyer

    This has been going on for longer than I suspected. I recently came across an article in the Bakersfield Californian headlined, "Man-made CO2 Suspected as Hurricane Cause." It begins: A scientist suggests that man himself may be partly to blame for the recent jump in the number of hurricanes that hit the East Coast.

    The date on the article is March 15, 1956.

    The article features the scientist testifying before the House Appropriations Committee and at the end notes, "The subcommittee was asked to put up $28 million, in addition to $12 million already appropriated to finance U.S. participation in the 55-nation IGY.

    At least nowadays they don't connect the appeal for more research money so directly to the description of oncoming catastrophe.