Newspaper column: Climate forecasts not any better than weather forecasts

Earlier this month the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration breathlessly reported that 2012 was the hottest year in a century of weather data for the 48 contiguous states of the United States. In fact, the temperature was a full 1 degree Fahrenheit hotter than the previously hottest year of 1998.

One of 86 large wildfires in Nevada in 2012, this one near Denio. (AP Photo/U.S. Bureau of Land Management)

Hard on the heels of this startling revelation came the National Resources Defense Council with its compilation of smashed heat records state by state, which lists Nevada as setting the sixth highest percentage of new heat records with busted heat records in 12 of 17 counties, as reported in this week’s newspaper column available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press.

A National Resources Defense Council senior scientist, Kim Knowlton, said, “2012’s unparalleled record-setting heat demonstrates what climate change looks like. This extreme weather has awoken communities across the country to the need for preparedness and protection. We know how to reduce local risks, improve our lives and create more resilient communities. Now our leaders must act.”

The NRDC also pointed out:

• The summer of 2012 was the worst drought in 50 years.
• Wildfires burned more than 9.2 million acres in the U.S., including 86 large wildfires in Nevada.
• Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge height, 13.88 feet, broke the all-time record in New York Harbor.

This week Bjorn Lomborg, author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist,” addressed all three of these in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.

An analysis of wildfires worldwide reveals that since 1950 the frequency has decreased 15 percent, a study found that globally there has been little change in drought conditions in 60 years and the total energy of hurricanes is at the lowest ebb since the 1970s, Lomborg reports.

As for global warming, Patrick Michaels, Cato Institute’s director of the Center for the Study of Science and editor of the book “Climate Coup: Global Warming’s Invasion of Our Government and Our Lives,” says “we are now in our 17th year of flat temperatures.” He predicts there will be at least a quarter century of flat temperatures.

In fact, the United Kingdom’s Met Office, one of the sirens of the global warming stampede, reports global temperatures haven’t increased in 15 years. “Although the first decade of the 21st century was the warmest on record, warming has not been as rapid since 2000 as over the longer period since the 1970s,” the Met concedes.

Therefore, the current story about records in the U.S. and Nevada isn’t about climate, but merely about weather.

Read the entire column at the Ely or Elko websites.

39 comments on “Newspaper column: Climate forecasts not any better than weather forecasts

  1. brucefeher says:

    The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

  2. Vernon Clayson says:

    Global warming is caused by fat bloated individuals like Al Gore. Maybe I should have written global warming is the cause that has enriched him.

  3. nyp10025 says:

    “Using number of global fires as a metric of climate-induced wildfire dynamics is wrong, in that most fires globally are human-caused for agricultural clearing. The better metrics are length of active wildfire season, which has increased by about 2 months in the western US in the last 40 years, and area burned, which has also doubled … Future projections indicate a dramatic increase in area burned.” Steven Running, Regents Professor, Forest Ecology, College of Forestry & Conservation at the University of Montana, and Director of the Numerical Terradynamics Simulation Group
    “The area of drought worldwide is not really very relevant when it is particular areas being impacted with greater and greater intensity … When those regions are particularly important to society, such as major grain-growing regions, the impacts can be very severe.” Mike MacCracken, Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs with the Climate Institute, former senior global change scientist to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, former President of the International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences
    “Lomborg’s allusions to hurricane response to climate change are misleading in a number of respects. While it is true that one published report indicates decreasing global accumulated cyclone energy (ACE), that report was based on a hurricane data set known to have strong biases outside the North Atlantic region. Independent analyses based solely on satellite data show that the proportion of high intensity hurricanes has been increasing in most places. As to the projected decline in hurricane damage as a fraction of GDP, an even casual reading of the relevant paper shows that while actual damage is predicted to increase in most places, GDP is forecast to go up even faster, so that the ratio declines. That paper’s projection of increased hurricane damage is consistent with numerous scientific studies that project increasing numbers of the most destructive hurricanes.” Kerry Emmanuel, Professor of Atmospheric Science in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science at MIT

  4. Vernon Clayson says:

    I don’t know if Professor Emmanuel has consulted with Al Gore, that would be wise on his part as Al Gore won a Nobel Peace Prize for noticing that weather happens and seasons change, and that was after the fact, not before the fact like Obama.

  5. Steve says:

    All that ignores Lomborgs primary overriding point. Adaptation is key. Adaptation is being ignored. Adaptation is the best bang for the buck. AGP by CO2 may or may not be the main cause but mitigation should not be the main battlefront. It should be behind adaptation. But the IPCC insists their way is the only way, to the absolute exclusion of any others. Others like Lomborg.

  6. Anonymous says:

    “As for global warming, Patrick Michaels, Cato Institute’s director of the Center for the Study of Science and editor of the book “Climate Coup: Global Warming’s Invasion of Our Government and Our Lives,” says, We are now in our 17th year of flat temperatures.”

    You have a short memory, Thomas. I already shot this idiot down and didn’t hear a peep from you. Now, you bring him up again. Here are the rankings for top ten globally warmest years in recorded history from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
    1 – 2010
    2 – 2005
    3 – 1998
    4 -2003
    5 – 2002
    6,7, &8 – 2006, 2007, 2009
    9 – 2004
    10 – 2012

    This is why I don’t trust the Cato Institute. I’m sure the lunatic fringe thinks the NOAA is part of the “Great Worldwide Conspiracy” and the Cato Institute is a knight in shining armor, but I give you credit for far more than that, Thomas. Michaels was ALMOST accurate in his efforts to direct people away from the truth. He is, after all, funded by Exxon. #3 is 1998 (15 years ago, not 17), which was an unusually hot year due to el nino. While it’s true that 1998 was hotter than most of the 2000’s, the long term trend is obvious. Unless you can find some good figures from a trustworthy original source, Thomas, I’d rather trust the NOAA, a trusted scientific agency of long standing than the Cato Institute, an organization with a very obvious political agenda.

  7. Steve says:

    Still nothing but problem identification/rebuttal. Nothing in the way of actionable adaptation. I say the only constant is change. There. Now what to do about it? Nyp. Nyp?

  8. Rincon says:

    Sorry. In case it wasn’t obvious, I’m anonymous. As for Lomborg, I’m not impressed. He builds a straw man and then knocks him down. Nyp’s research points to the fact that Lomborg merely cherry picks his data.

    For some reason, no one has challenged my main assertions (hint: none of these are controversial in the scientific community):

    1) Carbon dioxide has the intrinsic effect of trapping heat on the Earth. The extent of the effect on the planet is very difficult to predict due to numerous confounding factors such as changes in cloud cover, reflectivity of snow and ice, etc.
    2) The atmospheric CO2 today is 395 ppm and has been steadily rising since measurements began in 1958. The highest CO2 at any other time in the PAST 800,000 YEARS was about 310 ppm.
    3) 100% of the change is due to manmade CO2. We’re monkeying with an active part of the atmosphere and have no good way to be sure of the consequences. By definition, we’re performing an experiment on the planet.
    4) The Earth has heated up substantially in the past 100 years or so and is continuing to do so.
    5) Since CO2 lasts for perhaps a hundred years or so, it is not reversible in any practical sense.

    You don’t even have to pick sides. Half measures are OK in this situation. A CO2 of 450 ppm is still a lot better than 500 ppm. This means that conservation measures that save money for example, are worthwhile as are inexpensive, but efficient mitigation measures. Going whole hog in either direction is extreme. Unfortunately, that’s precisely what we’ve been doing for the past 30 years.

  9. Steve says:

    That is at least and acknowledgement of Lomborgs main point. Adaptation. This is being ignored it should not be plan B it should be integral to plans period . . . as in period.

    Like I say the only constant is change. Once this basic fact is known and accepted then and only then can all sides begin to accept ideas offered from each other.

    Adaptation, this is key and it will effect todays generation where mitigation will not be felt until the next generation or even a generation after that. Both ideas are needed, equally.

    But those who call for adaptation are constantly called out as heretics and naysayers, sadly this will have no positive effects because the “really bad” stuff does not happen for 100 years.

  10. Would you trust NASA scientists?


  11. Steve says:

    If Science were truly consensus then the Theory of Relativity is not accepted.

  12. Rincon says:

    You guys are making this easy.

    1) Adaptation will be necessary. Let’s do it when it’s needed – which is not now. Although we pay relatively little penalty if we delay adaptation, delaying prevention reduces its usefuleness drastically.

    2) Actually, I quoted NOAA, but there are several countries’ science agencies keeping track of global temperature. All you have to do is find one that disagrees with NASA and NOAA. Otherwise, why wouldn’t I believe those thousands that actually measure the temperature rather than a Danish statistician, 20 old farts from NASA that may or may not know anything about climatology, and a small band of rogue scientists funded by Exxon? We should examine their arguments, but to buy their line hook, line, and sinker puts you in league with the Sasquach, Bermuda Triangle, and UFO chasers. Are we sure that NASA ever actually ever landed a man on the Moon?
    3) As for Vin, we agree that local events on their own tell us nothing about global climate. He also makes the same ridiculous claim that the warming has stopped for the past 17 years. Have you found me wrong when I disputed unsubstantiated claim? I can’t hear you! Either find evidence to back it up or put it to bed. Why do you bother reading from a guy that doesn’t bother to check the accuracy of his sources?

  13. Rincon says:

    Oh, I forgot. I’m STILL waiting for someone to tell me that I’m wrong with my 5 statements above.

  14. The years you sight, without any temperature figures, are statistically insignificant, Rincon.


  15. Steve says:

    My response, Rincon, was your points had nothing to do with what I was saying.

    Many agree change is happening the difference is, many do not agree the accepted cause is settled science.

    Adaptation, as Lomborg constantly calls for, is key. And even you call it plan B.

  16. Rincon says:

    You’re getting a little forgetful, Thomas. This exchange started when your idiot, Patrick Michaels made the false claim that the Earth has not warmed in the past 17 years as if warming had conclusively stopped. It obviously has not stopped as evidenced by the NOAA figures. I posted them to prove Michaels dead wrong, not to make some claim about temperatures. How many times do I have to prove him wrong before you stop trying to convince us by quoting this idiot?

    I assume that your “statistically insignificant” comment came from that ridiculously inaccurate Fox News story, which I debunked earlier without protest from any of you. While you’re at it though, you might want to clarify what you mean by statistical insignificance. It has at least two meanings. The fact that ten out the past 15 years have all been hotter than ANY year in the previous 100 or more years is hardly insignificant by the commonly accepted definition. Anyone with an ounce of sense can see that it’s an unlikely coincidence at the very least.

    Steve, I believe that I have already responded to your points. We already agreed that adaptation will be necessary and that prevention, if not expensive, is also a reasonable additional strategy – or have I misinterpreted your words?

    I agree that the cause of the warming cannot be proven beyond a doubt at this time; only that the evidence is substantial and that in affairs of state, waiting for absolute proof of anything before acting is very poor leadership. Acting too late is often disasterous.

    I’m still puzzling as to why no one will respond to the 5 points I made. Maybe it’s because the facts in them are true. Or maybe you guys just like your heads in the sand.

  17. Steve says:

    No its because they are the consensus and that what we are disputing. Along with quite a few other scientists in the minority.
    You said betting on the outsider was a bad bet but in cases of obstinate world view consensus groups the outsiders have been shown correct in big ways many times. For instance (as an example of one a bit more recent from the flat earth consensus) the originator of the theory of relativity.

  18. According to NOAA 1998 was warmer than 2012.


  19. Steve says:

    Query, if we could remove all the human caused CO2 of the last 3 centuries, would we be in an ice age today? Would most of the northern hemisphere be under a glacier?

    Could it be our CO2 emissions are preventing a devastating ice age from occurring today?

    After all, its only in the last 4 years computer models have been working on data and modeling for 21,000 years ago through today.

    There remains much to learn and we do not know exactly what the CO2 humans have, so far emitted, has actually done. We do know it will take more than one generation to find out.

    This means adaptation is key while mitigation very well could bring on the next ice age before humans are ready.

  20. Rincon says:

    Fine, Thomas. What is your conclusion from this fun fact?

    We’ve been over this Steve. We better hope that manmade global warming isn’t what forestalled the coming ice age. If our paltry emissions and deforestation prior to the 20th century had the power to prevent an ice age, then we’ve already overshot the mark by a mile. The changes wrought by man prior to the 20th century are infantesimal compared to those after 1900. We would expect the effects on climate to be roughly proportional if this theory is correct.

  21. Steve says:

    Maybe (hopefully) so, but the new data is making it harder to predict, not easier.

  22. Steve says:

    “In about 300 years, all available fossil fuels may well have been consumed.Over the following centuries, excess carbon dioxide will naturally dissolve into the oceans or get trapped by the formation of carbonate minerals. Such processes won’t be offset by the industrial emissions we see today, and atmospheric carbon dioxide will slowly decline toward preindustrial levels. In about 2,000 years, when the types of planetary motions that can induce polar cooling start to coincide again, the current warming trend will be a distant memory.”

    The very first hit on that Google Search.

    Indicates 300 years and another 1700 after that! C’mon we ARE talking Keynesian (we are all going to be dead anyway) climate predictions for crying out loud. Lets get some adaptation going and keep the CO2 burning as long as it takes to be ready, say 3 to 10 generations, OK?

  23. Rincon says:

    1) This manmade ice age thing is a far more shaky theory than that of global warming, so why would you base your response on it?

    2) It takes the oceans a long time to absorb CO2, and our temperatures aren’t just stable at present; they’re rising rapidly, so burning our fossil fuels more slowly may prevent a sudden rise in temperatures followed by a nosedive when the fuels run out We’re already overshooting the mark and it’s likely that we’ve overshot it by a mile already as I previously stated. Adaptation will be easier if it cools slowly than if it warms and then cools rapidly.

    3) This paper apparently looks only at fossil fuels, but neglects the vast quantities of methane hydrates that are available at the ocean bottom and the methane release likely to be triggered by a warming arctic. These will likely both magnify the warming greatly, especially because methane is (I think) 28 times more potent than CO2.

    4) If we do indeed have an ice age, wouldn’t it be wiser to hoard our fossil fuels so we can get maximum benefit by burning them to keep us warm while it generates the CO2 that we’re going to need?

    5) Adapting to cold will likely be easier than adapting to hot. Burning fossil fuels more rapidly, triggering the release of undersea methane, and diminishing snow reflectivity are all easier than the geoengineering solutions that I’ve seen so far.

    6) Unless there’s a compelling to burn our fossil fuels now, you’re neglecting another important reason not to burn these fuels all at once. Maybe our descendants would appreciate it if we left them a little instead of depleting it completely.

  24. Steve says:

    You did not look at the links in the Google Search.
    I based my response on the links, not one paper.
    New data is showing it to be much more difficult to make climate predictions even as the IPCC is concerned and one of those links is directly to an IPCC report on Ice Age theory confirming the new data, even as it calls for mitigation trying to support earlier data.
    Generation of CO2 appears to be effecting warming for a hundred years out, staving off an ice age. Constant use is what keeps this effect in place so continual use of fossil fuels is indicated while adaptation is developed.
    With an oncoming ice age warming balances the cold and we have stagnating global average temperatures or very little fluctuation, even with fresh water dumping into the Atlantic.
    Steady use of fossil fuels is indicated and should last 300 or so years by some estimates, by then other technology will be available from simple advancement, you and I will not be alive unless you medical guys are coming up with some kind of life extending technology today… :mrgreen:

    One thing is sure with the new more powerful computers working on far longer stretches of time, the more we learn about climate, the more questions we have to find answers for.

    Meanwhile I feel certain the next few generations will be just fine and adaptation will win over mitigation as technology continues to advance and people who are not of the climate sciences take the data and create things to work on solutions other than those being pushed by politicians and the scare tactic news media keep trying to jam down everyone’s throat.

    Now if you have some life extending technology drugs or tech then I, for one, would hope you would follow your fairness doctrine shown in the way you describe fair taxes and be certain to share it with the masses.
    You can start with me. 😎

  25. Rincon says:

    I did read the link, but in my opinion, the author used poor judgement because he tacitly assumed, as you have, that our present rate of fossil fuel consumption will just exactly balance the cooling trend. I saw no calculations of any kind to buttress that opinion. Without other evidence, I consider the odds of that coincidence to be small, especially with the rapid changes in CO2 that we’ve seen in the last century. I contend that it is not only possible, but likely that our present fossil fuel consumption is far greater than what is required to maintain consistent temperatures. It just won’t last very long.

    As for the next generations being just fine, I suspect the Greeks and Romans expected progress to continue, taking their societies into a golden age. After all, they had 2000 years of progress while we’ve only had several hundred. Had they lived, I suspect the Dark Ages would have disappointed them. I predict a darker time due to resource scarceness – not energy, but more likely, mineral resources. It might be a long time though. Scientists and engineers are pretty clever, even though many of us think that the majority are usually wrong.

  26. Steve says:

    Not the link. The links in the search link. I only posted one of them.
    Being an engineer, I have some connection with innovations. Its also why I suspect the specialists in climate theory for the answer they demand of society.
    Once a problem is identified, most of the time a majority only slows the eventual, successful solution. Its why we don’t put multiple engineers on site to solve a problem, they would be too busy arguing over what they should do to fix things. The best inventors tend to be loners.
    I know there are or will be other ways to accomplish most of this.
    You should peruse a few of those other links, there is more meat in the others.

    The Greeks and Romans had societal and political problems. Once empires, they began the inevitable rot, like a fish from the head down. That’s happening to the US today. For a simple example look at what presidential pens used to cost compared with the one Harry tried to pilfer. Once ceremony becomes more important than substance we can see the sickness, bu a majority wont do anything about it because they are busy with their own lives, like the lady I met at CES setting up our booth. Her vote was based on 2 things (she was very clear) 1) How “presidential” they “looked” and 2) Skin color. She voted based only on those things. I kid you not. This is the nature of the “majority”.
    Politicians operate on consensus, science does not. Politicians relying on, or even controlling, a consensus controlled science community are doomed to failure. It narrows their vision and blinds them to other ideas.

    Consider Via Motors, building full size electric hybrids. That should have been from the start but government pushed for small cars (perceived as fuel efficient) But a truck can carry a far larger battery and achieve the same average gas mileage while appealing to the large portion of american drivers. We like big cars and trucks. The blinders prevented most from looking at this from the start and the stigma remains today, damaging hybrid electric vehicle sales.
    This is a great example of this effect in today’s market. but its the same as the flat earthers, Einstien’s theory of relativity, Galileo showing the earth revolves the sun and Newton with gravity. Among many others.
    The majority gets comfortable in the assurance of numbers they are right and they refuse to look at things from the inventors perspective.

  27. Rincon says:

    Global warming theory was initiated by those same kind of individuals. Do you think some committee got together one day and manufactured an imaginary crisis? It’s only when the pioneers accumulated sufficient evidence that the theory gained acceptance by the mainstream. The theory has been around for a hundred years. It’s only in the last 30 or so that the evidence has become convincing enough.

    Does this mean that if the rogues that dismiss global warming today manage to convince the majority, then that acceptance will suddenly make them wrong since they will then be in the majority?

    The reason it seems that the majority is often wrong is clear. Science is generally evidence driven and convincing the majority to shift opinions is a demanding process – as it should be. We can’t have the scientific community embracing every quack theory that comes by. This means that even valid theories initially encounter skepticism. The stronger the evidence, the more likely that a theory will become accepted.

  28. Rincon says:

    I forgot to ask, what kind of engineer are you?

  29. Steve says:

    Finally, you acknowledge the individual.

    I never stated its not real. I make very clear its suspect motives for the sudden (comparatively) crisis mode being pushed by politicians and the media. I understand the media motive, they love to hype things. That’s how they sell commercial time.

    Politicians are somewhat muddy in this matter. Many have made lots of money from this and you guys only reward them for it while conservatives who make money are slime. Some politicians actually want to have a positive effect and they get swallowed up in the attempt, I liked Al Gore back in the 80’s during the fight for C band access to TV signals. I think he may have been one taken by the money but its no excuse. Yet you guys have nothing but good things to say for his hype show, albeit very profitable, movie. That’s only one example, I could dig up a bunch more, for both ends of the argument.

    I do state the conclusions being forced are very suspect and when climate is the study we are talking about far more than 100 years of intense study can prove, hell we find them saying things like 300 to 2000 years out in the newest models based on 21,000 year models run on supercomputers Kasparov would not play chess with unless they were hobbled. Even these machines take a few weeks to complete each model. We are barely scratching the surface and predictions are not coming true. In many cases the opposite continues to happen.

    My background is electronics. It actually goes right to my childhood, my father worked in computers. My brother and I actually saw one of these Honeywell invented one of the first “self learing” computer systems. The first thing it “learned” was tic tac toe and I think it was the basis for the movie Wargames. I saw that computer demo’d in the early seventies at a trade show.

    I stayed in electronics in high school and my first computer was the DEC PDP-8e. In Junior High I used a remote time share terminal to do some programming. Later I became a computer monitor in high school where the mainframe was and I used a Silent 700 remote terminal (Accoustic Coupler!) from home to work in this computer after hours and on the weekends. From High School I continued in a tech school then the Air Force where I was an Integrated Avionics F15 Manual Test Station and Component Specialist. Radar, Radio, Indicators and controls. The whole front end and cockpit of the jet. The only fighter that can actually dead stick. Check it out. From there it was all component electronics in consumer and commercial systems. My favorite paper is from Nintendo, we serviced those for a while in the nineties. I traveled to Seattle and spent a week with Nintendo. I saw the tip line people 700 of them. A dream job for many a kid back then. I have enough paper to cover walls if I really wanted. Today its all about commercial big iron installations. These are what I work on today and this is my employer.

  30. Rincon says:

    Thanks for the bio. It’s nice to know a little about the people behind the words. I suspect this relates to why you and I are always the last ones typing on the science issues. Sounds like, as has been the case in the past, we agree more than we disagree. I agree that detailed predictions with climate are a fool’s game. I do consider it to be a risk that is somewhat likely to become very expensive, just as I did 35 years ago about arab oil.

    Our big difference seems to be philosophical. I believe there are several cheap prevention schemes that would likely be partially effective. You seem more pessimistic about that. And of course, you embrace adaptation as the only or perhaps primary strategy whereas I call it plan B. It is good to discuss this topic with a Conservative that has his facts straight. There’s a fair amount of misinformation on both sides, which confuses the societal dialogue.

    I think the money you refer to is small change compared to the sums flying around in the rest of politics and commerce. Even Solyndra would have been chump change for Exxon or Berkshire Hathaway – or in the Medicaid or Medicare programs.

    As a fig leaf for Al Gore, he claims that he was influenced by a college professor in the late ’60’s, who was researching global warming at the time. I think he would have made a lot more money as a consultant or lobby director than he did with his road show, so I think his heart is probably in it. Talk about no win; if he’s right, things are going to hell and if he’s proven wrong, he’ll be regarded as an idiot.

  31. Steve says:

    He is already being thought of as another Dan Quayle.

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