Thursday, February 07, 2008

Cold January 

Whatever your personal weather, around the planet January 2008 was the second coldest in 15 years. The linked post, complete with graphs and everything, does not suggest that this says anything in particular about the climate or the long-term direction of local temperatures.

To me, the most interesting thing about this story is the complete absence of discussion in the mainstream media, which manages to induce a scientist or politician to blame anthropogenic global warming for any bit of idiosyncratic weather. See, if you can stand it, the latest comedy gold from John Kerry.

If you are going to live by idiosyncratic weather, you should die by it. The cherry-picking of specific weather events to bolster the case for greenhouse gas regulation actually makes the advocates and their propagandists in the media look like fools. Among smart people, at least, there would be less skepticism about climate change if the media and activists were not so disingenuous and opportunistic in their publicity of it. But maybe they are not trying to persuade smart people.

CWCID: Maggie's.


By Blogger SR, at Thu Feb 07, 09:07:00 AM:

Maybe they're not trying to persuade smart people, but they've hoodwinked an awful lot of them anyway,  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Feb 07, 09:21:00 AM:

"There are lies, damn lies, and statistics!" - Mark Twain

The narrative remains the same, until the consensus changes. If you have ever been a parent of an infant, you understand the meaning of changing a consensus.


By Blogger GreenmanTim, at Thu Feb 07, 09:37:00 AM:

One of the real challenges that conservation biologists face is how to tease apart and account for the influence of synergistic stressors to natural systems and threatened species.

Take, for example, Hemlock Wooley Adelgid, the invasive pest species that attacks eastern Hemlocks in the US and is spreading inexorably north and south along the range of this tree. In many places where it infests, there is extreme hemlock mortality, but in fact it is a combination of tree pests at work, and in many cases those trying to control the Adelgid find that another co-occurring parasite that was takes advantage of the available niche. Add to that climate variation, which at the northern range of eastern hemlock is sometimes cold enough to knock back the Adelgid and sometimes not, and you have a very complex web of stressors affecting this tree. All, to varying degrees, contribute to its mortality, but it is how they interact with each other that determines the ultimate result, and managing a symptom may not affect a cure.

So, too, with climate change. Even "normal" fluctuation - as far as that has been determined based on the best available evidence - is happening in a dramatically altered environment. The atmosphere is different, the global movement of species is different, the intensity of natural disturbance may be different and the degree of human disturbance definitely is. There are many more stressors at work that simply an increase in global temperature, and many of these stressors are undeniably anthropogenic.

NPR recently aired a story about Joshua Trees observed dying in California. The proximate causes are fire and drought. We know that fire frequency and intensity is influenced by human land use as well as climactic conditions. We know that drought is also influenced by many factors, and not just climactic ones.

The degree to which warmer conditions are the result of natural fluctuation or human assisted climate change has significant policy implications, I will grant you, but the diagnostic challenge still points to multiple environmental stressors, many of which result from human activity.

We cannot control the natural variation in climate. We can modify our behaviors that contribute to environmental stress, and some of these do appear to be amplifying the impacts of climate change, whether or not they are driving it.

It all comes down to what we value and the cost/benefit value of changing behavior. Each of us answers that question differently and demands a different burden of proof. Since we are talking about collective behavior and the potential policy and regulatory means of changing it, I can understand those who require the science to be comprehensive rather than cherry-picked. I can also state with confidence that while there will never be a single smoking gun, the combination of climate variation and the impacts of human activity argues for us to take a hard look at what we can do to mitigate its impacts as well as whether we collectivly wish to do so.  

By Blogger joated, at Thu Feb 07, 11:24:00 AM:

"the most interesting thing about this story is the complete absence of discussion in the mainstream media"

I'm glad you said "interesting" instead of "surprising" as it should come as no surprise that the MSM have ignored this little tidbit. Just have they have managed to ignore the well qualified skeptics to man-made global warming. It just doesn't fit their storyline that we (the mere humans on this earth) need to be controlled by "Those Who Know Better."  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Feb 07, 12:58:00 PM:

Weather is not Climate, so there!  

By Blogger Christopher Chambers, at Thu Feb 07, 01:08:00 PM:

Good God--when are you and the rest of these jaded right wing tools going to (1) grow up and (2) start planning solutions? Yesterday it was 80 degrees in Washington. Tomorrow it could be 30. But the trends are clear, and something needs to be done. Period. Stop your little spoiled girl mates with curmudgeon crap and help!

By the way, there is the media, and nothing. There is no "MSM" or whatever retarded right wing code you fools come up with like so many crazy little boys scheming in a clapboard treehouse with the sign "No GIRLZ Allowed" taped above. I fear the plain ole media (and it's a myth about a "liberal" conspiracy)for different reasons.

So sorry about Mitt by the way. Now I guess your choices are McCain or the Holy Roller Hick (who has his own baggage)...  

By Blogger jj mollo, at Thu Feb 07, 01:14:00 PM:

The graph of irradiance vs. temperature disagrees pretty dramatically from NASA evaluation of the relative impact of several sources of variance. The linked Powerpoint shows that they think changes in greenhouse gases have 4 or 5 times the impact compared to changes in solar irradiance.

I think that the relatively cold global temperatures this year are a data point against the GW hypothesis, but not very strong evidence compared to the melting of the sea ice in the Arctic. As a matter of fact, the two may be linked, since the phase transition from ice to water absorbs a lot of energy. Where will that energy go when there's no more ice to melt? Let's hope that the temperature trend is unrelated to greenhouse gases and that the ice melt was a fluke, but let's plan for the possibility that the climate is in trouble.  

By Blogger David M, at Thu Feb 07, 01:35:00 PM:

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 02/07/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.  

By Blogger Georg Felis, at Thu Feb 07, 06:10:00 PM:

I'm more worried about the report from the Canadian Space Agency reporting Solar Flux Density values low enough to cause an ice age (like the little ice age about 400 years ago) if they continue. After all, global warming is actually caused by that big Fusion generator just 8 light-minutes away from us, if the thermostat goes down there, we will feel it here.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Feb 07, 09:02:00 PM:

It'd feel a lot less cold if I said that it was the THIRD coldest January in 16 years  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Feb 07, 09:52:00 PM:

Christopher Chambers,

Your comment is rich source of insults, ignorance and wishful thinking. It does do a good job of showing why combining those traits is generally not a good habit.

So lets take a look at an archeologist's review of history and what we do know.

if we look at the geological record, we see that the climate changes of the last 1000 years -- both warmer and colder, wetter and drier -- are more radical than most anything the global warming alarmists are predicting.

Look at the last 15,000 years and you've got an ice age with a mile-deep sheet of ice covering most of North America north of the 40th parallel, and a millenium-long drought that had open blowing sand extending from western Wyoming to central Nebraska. None of that climate change can be realistically attributed to anthropogenic causes.

Maybe it would be wise to learn to adapt to climate change since we know it has occurred long before man showed up, independent of any human produced greenhouse gases.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Feb 07, 10:02:00 PM:

Christopher Chambers said,

Good God--when are you and the rest of these jaded right wing tools going to (1) grow up and (2) start planning solutions?

Maybe the folks you are urging to grow up already have and follow that ancient principle that maybe the proposed solutions should not make the situation worse.

In fact many of the "fixes" for climate change are causing massive amounts of environmental destruction.

What about the land?

The hype over biofuels in the U.S. and Europe has had wide-ranging effects perhaps not envisioned by the environmental advocates who promote their use.

Throughout tropical countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, and Colombia,

rainforests and grasslands are being cleared for soybean and oil-palm plantations to make biodiesel, a product that is then marketed halfway across the world as a "green" fuel.

By Blogger jj mollo, at Fri Feb 08, 12:45:00 AM:

You think that environmentalist solutions are stupid, and there may be some justice to what you say. The first question, though, is whether Global Warming is actually happening. A lot of people still doubt that assertion even though the President, himself, has indicated he believes it. If you don't think Global Warming is a problem, then every solution is going to seem stupid.

At any rate, I got interested in looking at the extreme highs and extreme lows. We had a recent record high in Philadelphia. It was 3 degrees F higher on that particular day than it had been since we started recording. Now, I guess that's not too surprising. If the numbers were random, you would expect, out of 365 days, to have a record or two every year. But you should also expect to find highs and lows with equal frequency.

I located a dataset of extreme temperatures in Philadelphia by day-of-year for 1874 to 2001. It turns out that the average year of maximum temperature is 5.7 years more recent than the average year of a minimum temperature. This is statistically significant at 93%. So, looking at Philadelphia at least, we can be pretty sure that temps are going up.

We don't necessarily know why, but you could do the same for any place where they keep track.  

By Blogger davod, at Fri Feb 08, 05:23:00 AM:

"So, looking at Philadelphia at least, we can be pretty sure that temps are going up."

Look Chicken Little, the sky is falling - until next year.

As stated in an earlier entry (rainforests and grasslands are being cleared for soybean and oil-palm plantations to make biodiesel, a product that is then marketed halfway across the world as a "green" fuel.), the most destructive effect on climate will be the long term effect of our efforts to alter the climate.  

By Blogger davod, at Fri Feb 08, 05:28:00 AM:

I should also say that Global warming is no longer a creature of science, it is now an ideology. The truth doesn't matter, much like the effects of Marxism, Communism and Socialism. The seeds have been sown. It will take a generation to stop the new ideology. In that time, as with past failed ideologies, untold millions will die as a result of blind adherance to the party line.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Feb 08, 08:05:00 AM:

This Christopher Chambers is a Professor at Georgetown U? Wow, has the education system failed. I could spew better drivel when I was in junior high and I assumed he is.
I could believe AGW is real if I believed that Man could affect what God has made.  

By Blogger Cosmo, at Fri Feb 08, 08:07:00 AM:


So, of course, we should rush to do whatever the statist control freaks in Brussels or the UN tell us to do since, of course, bureaucrats always know what's best or the rest of us.

Real or not, 'climate change' is bing used by those who produce nothing to get control over those who do. If you can't see that, then I'm afraid YOU are the tool.

Go live on your knees if you want, but don't expect the rest of us to call it virtue.

Besides, whatever happened to questioning authority?  

By Blogger Moneyrunner, at Fri Feb 08, 08:12:00 AM:

I abandoned the Food Channel to watch a National Geographic program on the disastrous effects of a possible ice age. The program started logically enough with the observation that the earth has gone through several cooling and warming cycles. It then went on to illustrate the effects of cooling on modern civilization with a report of an ice storm in Montreal, a city which is by nature prepared for cold weather.

People were reduced to burning the wooden legs of their dining room tables in wood stoves before the power came back on.

But as the program neared its conclusion, National Geographic made the case that global warming would be the trigger for the next ice age! You see, ocean current would be disturbed by melting ice which would lead to global cooling and bring in a thousand year ice age. It was all neatly scientific with diagrams of ocean currents and pictures of the British Houses of Parliament shrouded in ice with snowmobiles in the foreground. It was all sweetly scientific until your drew back and realized the ridiculousness of it all.  

By Blogger Cosmo, at Fri Feb 08, 08:31:00 AM:

I'd add that during the last century, 'scientific marxism' claimed to understand the causes of poverty and inequality, and that if the means of production were just turned over to the state . . . well . . . 100 million corpses later most of the sane world concluded that massive, centralized economic engineering was a failure.

Still, the dream lives on.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Feb 08, 08:35:00 AM:

Regarding Philadelphia, this reminds me of an authentic scientific statistic noted by Michael Crichton in his novel "State of Fear" - the average temperature in New York City over the past 100 years (I'm recalling from memory) is up + 5.5 degrees F. The average temperature of Albany, New York, for the same period, is up + 0.5 degrees F (again, I'm recalling from memory). The reason, inferred by Crichton and scientists, is that the growth of the urban landscape in NYC caused most of that temperature increase - if global warming is truly a "global" phenomenon, why isn't it happening everywhere?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Feb 08, 08:48:00 AM:

If C. Chambers is really a professor his students are being short changed. I learned how to use name calling as argument in grade school.  

By Blogger Jody, at Fri Feb 08, 09:07:00 AM:

For those referencing the arctic sea ice, you do know that we're currently basically at the average level of sea ice for this time of year and were recently well above average, correct? (See here)

Really, this is only reinforcing the climate versus weather point of this thread, specifically where for AGW proponents it's weather if a phenomenon counter-indicates AGW, but it's climate if a phenomeon indicates AGW.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Feb 08, 09:13:00 AM:

One statistic that cannot be denied, "half the people are dumber than average".  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Feb 08, 09:31:00 AM:

"The first question, though, is whether Global Warming is actually happening. A lot of people still doubt that assertion even though the President, himself, has indicated he believes it."

Now that's a landmark in the AGW campaign. When did Al Gore acknowledge that George W. Bush was the man in the know?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Feb 08, 09:57:00 AM:

"Besides, whatever happened to
questioning authority?"

That was THEN - when they were determined to challenge the status quo. Now THEY decide what the status quo is - and you'd damn well better not challenge it!

However - if you take a look at the paper on anthropogenic global warming by Ruddiman - http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Publications/PDF_Papers/Ruddiman2003.pdf - it looks like global warming began right about the dawn of agriculture. And it's a good thing - since without it, we'd be testicle-deep in a pretty heavy ice age right NOW.

So I'd say we've got a couple thousand years, according to Ruddiman's cyclic theories, born out by observational data, to get our act together on greenhouse gasses.

Go read the article - pay special attention to Chart B in Figure 1, and other charts (especially Figure 7, correlating the drop in methane emissions with the Little Ice Age) showing correlation with CO2 and methane DROPS and severely cold temperatures shortly afterward.

We're in the middle of an ice age - but it's the greenhouse gasses that are keeping us warm.  

By Blogger davod, at Fri Feb 08, 10:14:00 AM:

"We're in the middle of an ice age - but it's the greenhouse gasses that are keeping us warm."

So we are having an adverse effect on the climate. we had better get back to normal.  

By Blogger AMac, at Fri Feb 08, 10:43:00 AM:

For "Compare and Contrast," two notable comments are those left by "Greenman Tim" (2/7/08 9:37am) and shortly afterwards by "Christopher Chambers" (2/7/08 1:08pm). I hope they each check back.

Greenman, you describe how multiple inputs can lead to deleterious changes in a natural system--and how difficult it can be to confidently assign effects to particular causes. This has clear implications for analyses of AGW. For instance, all quantitative predictions of the extent and rapidity of warming rely on sophisticated, complex models, which must make exactly these sorts of cause-and-effect assignments.

Those of us who are not computer scientists and climatologists cannot evaluate the models, so we must decide how much we should trust the modelers' contributions to the debate.

* How reliable are the paleotemperature records, which are almost all proxies (e.g. O isotope ratios)?

* How skeptical is the climatology community in evaluating the input data?

* Are the mathematics used in the models adequate to describe past climates? Given time's arrow (no re-runs), how confident should modelers be in their creations' predictions? How confident are they?

* How does the modeling community handle controversy? What behaviors do modelers display when (the inevitable) errors are discovered?

* Is there an AGW Consensus, and does this consensus share traits with Groupthink? If so, should that reduce the lay public's confidence in modelers' predictions?

FWIW, I think it's clear that AGW is a real phenomenon. Years ago, that poster child for the Two Minute Hate--Bjorn Lomberg--came to the same conclusion. However, granting that global warming is occurring does not obviously point to a particular set of policy choices. Robert Samuelson is cynically elegant on this point. Grappling with that issue is made harder by the seeming prevalence of faith-based initiatives on the part of the AGW research and social-activist community (singular).

If I had more confidence in the impartiality and the rigor of the modelers, I'd have more trust in their predictions.

As for Mr. Chambers, snippy comments on blogs are hardly cause for alarm. It's the dreary predictability with which true believers offer quips (Stop your little spoiled girl mates with curmudgeon crap and help!) in place of reasoned discussion. And the seeming failure of AGW partisans to notice the caliber of the arguments used to advance their cause.  

By Blogger Red River, at Fri Feb 08, 10:48:00 AM:

“The average temperature in January 2008 was 30.5 F. This was -0.3 F cooler than the 1901-2000 (20th century) average, the 49th coolest January in 114 years. The temperature trend for the period of record (1895 to present) is 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit per decade.”


And further, check out www.surfacestations.org for some real eye openers.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Fri Feb 08, 10:58:00 AM:


FWIW, I attend the church of AGW, insofar as I do believe that man's activities are affecting the planet's climate. I am, however, a "consequences skeptic," meaning that I do not believe the catastrophe scenarios, and I believe that we do not in fact know the point where global warming moves from a good thing to a bad thing. What I do know is that there is no a priori perfect climate -- it depends where you live -- and that the climate changes a lot over time regardless of man's influences. So the questiton is whether the proposed policies to reverse the human-induced part of climate change will actually do what their proponents claim, and whether the costs, all in, will not overwhelm the benefits.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Feb 08, 12:09:00 PM:


So we are having an adverse effect on the climate. we had better get back to normal.

You didn't even bother to check out the article, did you?

If normal is a glaciated Canada and upper US, and a glaciated Europe, that's pretty simple. Kill off all the hoo-mans, and within about 2 centuries we'll be at 'normal' for a deep ice age.

Won't be anyone around to appreciate it, but what the hell, right?

Failing that, all we have to do is quit farming and burning anything with carbon.

There's no one temperature the Earth would stay at without man's influence. It's always changing.

As Tigerhawk says, we have to weigh supposed results versus expense, and figure out if the cost is worth the benefits.

Personally, I'd rather see a greatly increased reliance on nuclear power than coal or oil - but the environmentalists have made that pretty much impossible in the US, though France doesn't seem to have any problem with it.

It's going to be time, eventually, to figure out what the acceptable options are, and not take ANY off the table because someone has a knee-jerk reaction to them.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Feb 08, 11:01:00 PM:


Interesting post.

My understanding is that increasing forest fuel load caused longterm fire suppression efforts has markedly changed fire behavior and increased its destructiveness.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Feb 08, 11:23:00 PM:

Biofuels, once seen as a useful way of combating climate change, could actually increase greenhouse gas emissions, say two major new studies.

I am convinced that the policies being enacted to combat AGW will

1. Not lower greehnouse gas emissions

2. Cause far more environmental destruction then they prevent

This destruction will be happily sped along by the efforts of technically ignorant but politically motivated folks like Christopher Chambers.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Feb 11, 12:42:00 PM:

See, if you can stand it, the latest comedy gold from John Kerry.


The guy only has one shtick.  

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