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A Sunburnt Country

Posted on 7 March 2012 by Glenn Tamblyn

I Love a Sunburnt Country

Sometimes we get important insights from the most unexpected of places. Poets & Insurance Companies. Not what we might always connect together. But you never know what they might be able to offer...

In my home country of Australia, one of the iconic poems in our history is often referred to simply as ‘I Love a Sunburnt Country’. Written by Dorothea MacKellar it was originally published in the London Spectator in 1908 as ‘Core of My Heart’. Later she called it simply ‘My Country’. It is often called ‘I Love a Sunburnt Country’ by Australians because, like most of us, we reduce the world around us to simple images and ideas. We loose the vivid wonderful complexity but we gain ease of comprehension. So too it is with Dorothea’s poem. We remember the bits that grab our soul rather than the whole poem.

Few Australians would have ever heard the first stanza of the poem. But lines from the second stanza can still make the hairs on the back of our neck stand up. Young Dorothea wrote this in England where she was travelling with her father and feeling quite homesick.

The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes.
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins,
Strong love of grey-blue distance
Brown streams and soft dim skies
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!

Today many Australians would not even know who Dorothea MacKellar was. But ‘I love a sunburnt country’ and ‘Of droughts and flooding rains.’ still resonate, even though few now know their provenance.

So what has a bit of romantic, patriotic poetry from a century ago to do with Climate Change? Dorothea used a single line that was prescient for our times. She only meant it about Australia. But the consequences of this apply around the world.

‘Of droughts and flooding rains’.

One of the predictions that arise from the theory of Global Warming is that as the climate system warms, as more energy accumulates in various parts of the system, weather in various ways will become more intense and also more erratic.

Storms might be stronger, or more frequent, Droughts more severe or frequent. Simply, the weather becomes harsher. Dorothea revelled in this aspect of ‘her’ Australia. And to a reasonable extent we still do. But anything can be taken too far.

Droughts in the Sahel kill people and devastate crops. Flooding rains kill people and devastate crops. We humans can thrive if the climate is benign. And we might thrill to some ‘climatic excitement’ as Dorothea did.

But not too much. Did the citizens of Bangkok thrill to their floods? Did Texans thrill to their drought and wild-fires? Today as I finish this post, citizens in three states in Australia are not quite  thrilling to floods as they shelter in school gymnasiums.

So, what can we say about what Global Warming is doing to weather, particularly extreme weather events? We expect that the extremes will become more extreme over time. But what are we seeing so far, as opposed to what might happen in the future?

Because we are still only into the early phases of what Global Warming has in store for us. What evidence can we look at now that might give us an indicator of what the future holds?

It is common for people to try and assess current weather patterns and what they may portend for the future. Unfortunately, looking at any particular extreme weather event and asking ‘was this caused by Global Warming?’ doesn’t make a lot of sense. Global warming changes the likelihood of events, the odds. But it doesn’t definitely determine any single event. As one quote puts it, ‘Climate Change trains the Boxer, Weather throws the punches’.

So can we see specific evidence of changes in weather ‘events’. Have Typhoons in the South China Sea become more-or-less frequent or severe? Tornadoes in the US Mid-West? Floods in Central America? Blizzards in Siberia? Droughts in Africa?

Unfortunately each of these sorts of questions relates to particular measures of particular types of weather events in particular regions; none of these are global measures. In principle studies could amalgamate all these indices to try and produce a global index.

Or we could just use the information that has already been provided by groups who already do this!

The Re-Insurers of the world

We might be familiar with our local insurance company, but how many of us have heard of Re-Insurers? These are the companies that insure the insurance companies. They spread the risk around to try and prevent any single insurance company being wiped out by some major event. These are companies such as Swiss Re, Berkshire Hathaway / General Re, Hannover Re and Munich Re. And since they are dealing with insurance companies from all around the world, and their business is totally based on understanding what is really happening to risk out there in the real world, they are a useful source of information because real data about climate risks is central to their business.

Early this year Munich Re released a short report looking at catastrophic events around the world and their trend here.

The most interesting graph, that encapsulates a great deal is this one on page 4:

Natural Catastrophes 1980-2011

They have divided the events up into Geophysical, Meterological, Hydrological and Climatalogical. Here Geophysical is events such as Earthquakes, Tsunami's, Volcanic Eruptions. Obviously not related to the weather or climate. But the other three categories are.

And what Munich Re report is that Geophysical events, although they fluctuate from year to year, haven't meaningfully changed on frequency in 31 years. However, the other three categories have increased in frequency over that time. After removing the Geophysical events, the Weather/Climate related events have roughly tripled in 31 years.

It is important to remember here that Munich Re are reporting numbers of events per year that they classify as catastrophic. Another graph on page 5 of the report shows dollar value.

A Re-Insurer has no reason to distort their analysis. If they under-report they are in breach of their responsibilities to their share-holders. So to if they over-report. They are about the most honest source one could find for information on this because they have no motive to distort anything - the bottom-line doesn't lie.

It appears from a very simple data source that weather is becoming more extreme. More Storms, more Droughts and Flooding Rains. Just as expected.

And here they have graphed the trends for each category:

Natural Catastrophes 1980-2011

Dorothea's Droughts and Flooding Rains seen to be topping the list.

And for general interest here is where all the events happened in 2011:

2011 Natural Catastrophes

No continent is immune from the effects.

Dorothea may have liked them, but we now seem to be getting more Droughts and Flooding Rains (and Storms and Wildfires and Landslides) than we would like. And the trend is rising.

Perhaps a fairly reasonable indicator of the future under Global Warming.

So on a slightly different note, to end with a bit more poetry - I am a sucker for this stuff.

Rudyard Kipling, 'Gunga Din'.

The hero of the poem, the servant Gunga Din, has died and the poem ends with this:

So I'll meet 'im later on
At the place where 'e is gone,
Where it's always double drill and no canteen;


'E'll be squattin' on the coals
Givin' drink to poor damned souls,
An' I'll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!


    Yes, Din! Din! Din!
  You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!


    Though I've belted you and flayed you,
    By the livin' Gawd that made you,
  You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!


Perhaps we want to avoid needing to get a swig in Hell. Even from someone like Gunga Din. 

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 72:

  1. Humans have continuously occupied Australia's land of 'Drought and flooding rains' for, IIRC, over 40,000 years. I wonder by how much the enlightened westerners who invaded this peaceful land two hundred-odd years ago have materially contributed to most of the country eventually becoming uninhabitable due to increased severity of those floods and droughts?

    As long as Australia remains the world's coal quarry and gas producer, we Australians will punch above our weight in the race to change the composition of the atmosphere. Not a legacy to be proud of.
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  2. That article states that "Earthquakes, Tsunami's, Volcanic Eruptions. Obviously not related to the weather or climate" but I've recently read in Focus (the BBC's lightweight science magazine) that their frequency could increase due to weight changes of water/ice on different parts of the crust. Sounds plausible.

    There is even a book on the subject called "Waking the Giant" although I haven't read it so I don't know if it's based on real research or not. Maybe this explains why the "Geophysical event" line in the re-insurer's graph also had an upward trend?
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  3. Both Munich Re and Swiss Re are convinced of Climate Change on the basis of their own data.

    I think the geophysical events trend a useful proxy "control" for the distribution of population and assets in vulnerable areas effect. There is a caveat: geophysical events and climatological events, with meterological and hydrologic events, do not fully map together.

    yours
    Frank
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  4. Swiss Re discusses earthquake frequency trends here

    http://media.swissre.com/documents/sigma1_2011_en.pdf

    yours
    Frank
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  5. Nice to see that insurance industry analyses have been added to SkS's quiver of denialist debunking points. I used to bring this up elsewhere in the past: now all I need to do is to link to this page (hello to the people whom I have directed here!).

    For the sake of thoroughness though I am curious if there's a methodology that explains whether increasing and/or shifting population factors are accounted for in the definition/detection of an event. This will be the Denialati's first target for debunking the whole field, so it would be useful to know how robust these data are to demographic changes.
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  6. With only a verly slight alteration, I think two lines from the fifth stanza could be considered rather appropriate also, especially considering the statistic from the Munich Re report

    "[In] flood and fire and famine,
    She pays us back threefold"
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  7. Bernard, the Munich Re data in the article is showing number of events... with no consideration of cost or how many people were impacted. Thus, population changes have absolutely no impact on the trends shown.

    Actually, it is interesting that they have started presenting the data this way. Obviously number of people filing claims and total dollar figures are the most important factors for re-insurers and thus have long been carefully studied by them. Presumably they have are showing 'number of events' data precisely to counter claims that the increase in damages is entirely due to rising populations and standards of living. Re-insurers need their share-holders to understand that there is a rising trend not just in the 'cost per disaster', but also in the 'disasters per year'.

    Re-insurers compete with each other and thus are always striving to set their reinsurance premiums as low as possible. Yet they also have to charge enough to build reserves sufficient to cover projected future losses. They are thus always looking for the best possible analysis and projections and, as the article indicates, would be at a serious disadvantage if they planned based on faulty estimates.

    If any of the major re-insurers believed that 'global warming is all a big hoax' or 'it will not be that bad' then they could plan for fewer future disasters and significantly undercut their competitors on price and make a killing. Yet none of them are doing that. So not only must they all be in on the 'biggest conspiracy in history'... they are all participating in it against their own financial interests.

    Either that or deniers are crazy people. It's a tossup.
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  8. Sapient Fridge at 20:33 PM on 7 March, 2012 says

    Maybe this explains why the "Geophysical event" line in the re-insurer's graph also had an upward trend?

    I'd say that all of them should have upward trends, because of the larger population and larger populated areas (assuming the graph plots events with human relevance).

    So I would understand the Geophysical event line as the baseline. The steeper trends from the other ones is the telling detail in the whole graph.
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  9. I wonder what the presumed rising premium costs passed on to the reinsurance buyers amounts to annually.I don't suppose that AGW 'skeptics' like to include those figures in their cost benefit analysis.
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  10. Is it possible that the trend graph is based on cost as opposed to frequency?

    As mentioned in the post, the geophysical events portion of the bar chart is reasonably level, considering that it must, by its nature, fluctuate. Yet the trend for the same component is shown as rising, which is either wrong, or the product of some other influence and the only thing that comes to my mind is cost inflation.
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  11. @10 Funglestrumpet. The last points are pretty close to unchanged, but broadly the number of events are higher than in the initial years. If the trend went up then went down, fitting a single trend would still appear upward....

    There's an interesting cost graph in the docs linked by fpjohn@4, and it looks like the costs in recent years are highly variable, mostly due to major earthquakes. In fact the Tohoku earthquake was something like 80% of insurance paid out for all disasters in 2010. However, they didn't break down disasters by climatological vs. geological and instead did man-made vs. natural, so it's not easy to directly infer from the doc if climate-related disaster costs are also rising.
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  12. CBDunkerson @7

    I have to disagree with your post about the meaning of the Munich Re graphs. They are of Natural Catastrophe's not actual events.

    An F5 tornado in a field that causes no damage is a natural event and potential catastrophe but will not be logged as one unless it causes some damage or kills someone.

    If you do not believe me here is something from Re itself.

    On this Google link (I can't link directly to the document)
    Google link.

    Click on the NatCatSAV1 link 4 down and you can read what a catastrophe is yourself and it definately involves people and property.
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  13. Hi Glen,

    I too am Australian and this poem has always been a favourite of mine. I also used to live in Wagga Wagga, and I watched as the area surrounding my house went under water.

    Just a small point though, and as much as I hate to be a pedant, could you please change 'loose' in the second paragraph to 'lose'. Cheers
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  14. Norman - I would agree that these are "observed catastrophes" affecting people and property, and I would likewise agree with CBDunkerson that they are event counts, not costs.

    All such events will scale with observational coverage (population growth, property expansions) - and as Glenn Tamblyn has pointed out, the differences in trends between geophysical events (which should be unaffected by the climate) and others shows a clear climate influence.

    I think CBDunkerson could have stated it better by noting that population and property expansion should have no impact on the difference in trends.
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  15. However - how much of their "trends" are due to better data and better reporting.

    In fact looking close to John's home, the Queensland coast, tropical cyclones making landfall have markedly declined since the 1970s and we know the trends have high decadal/multi-decadal variability as well as variation with ENSO.

    www.cawcr.gov.au/.../fd/.../Power_SPCZ_wshop_Apia_2010.pdf

    www.cawcr.gov.au/staff/sbp/.../Callaghan_and_Power_CD_2010.pdf

    "The extent to which global warming might be also be partially responsible for the decline in land-falls—if it is at all—is unknown." they say

    And is not the general AGW modelled future for tropical cyclones/hurricanes/typhoons for fewer or the same number events but an increase in intensity?
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  16. The geophysical data can easily include clusters of events, particularly earthquakes, that are related and this can look like an increase when we look at timescales of a few decades. If a major fault line is under stress, a quake at one point on the fault can relieve the stress at that location but then result in a section further along the fault being under higher stress and resulting in a later quake. So a fault line can conceivably 'unzip' progressively releasing stresses over years or decades. Then it might be stable for centuries while the stresses build up again. Possibly the best recent example of this is the Boxing Day Earthquake & Tsunami in Indonesia. Since then there have been several more significant quakes further along the fault line running through Indonesia. Another region that has seismologists worried is Norther Turkey. Over decades there have been some major quakes, each occurring along the same major fault, each a bit further west. And this fault-line is pointed like an arrow at Istanbul.

    So related geophysical events can easily create a 'bulge' in events over decades that then subsides away again. And this data, at several decades, is still relatively short. In this context, the time scales needed to discern any trends are probly much longer than the scales needed for Climate - centuries & millenia rather than decades. So personally I don't read anything into Munich Re's trend for geophysical.

    Global warming might have a very small impact on geological events due to changes in mass distribution. But this is likely to be very slow. Several things could cause a possible impact. As major ice sheets melt, the crust beneath them that has been supporting that weight starts to rise slowly - this is called Isotatic Rebound. But it is very, very slow. Scandinavia for example is still slowly rising, recovering from the weight of the Ice Sheets that melted 1000's of years ago. As this rebound occurs it could slowly change the stresses associated with fault-lines, possible triggering tremors or quakes. But a lot would depend on how close to fault lines the uplift zones are.

    And localised melt of glaciers that happen to be near faults might have an impact.

    Secondly, melt of large amounts of ice, particularly Greenland & Antarctica redistributes that water into the world oceans. This adds extra total weight to the oceans, although trivially small compared to the total ocean mass. However another effect is that the extra mass of that ice sitting there creates localised regions of slightly higher gravitational fields, in turn slightly attracting more sea water to that area. So sea levels near large masses - land and ice - will on average tend to be a bit higher than far from those masses. So if ice melt of the large ice sheets is removing ice from those regions and spreading it out around the worlds oceans as water, the slight decline in the local field then tends to lower the local bulges in the ocean in those regions as well, increasing the local rebound effect.

    Both these effects however happen very slowly. So there well could be geophysical events caused by this but the rate of change is very slow. This doesn't mean that a cluster of geophysical events couldn't happen because of AGW, but the clustering is going to be due to geological links between the events rather than any change in the underlying rate of stress accumulation due AGW.

    A process that could trigger geophysical events, particularly at a local scale is changes in local water storage. This is both depletion of ground aquifers, and construction of surface dams - concerns have been expressed for example about the impact of the 3 Gorges Dam in China and furure planned ones. These type of changes may not involve the masses of ice sheets but could be locally significant. And this process could happen on time scales of decades. However, this isn't caused by AGW. Anthropgenic yes - we are using the water. But not Climate Change related yet.

    If climate changes increase temperatures enough this could alter precipitation levels that influence water table accumulation. But this would probably be a process over centuries - all but the most shallow aquifers tend to need this long to recharge.
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  17. LukeW

    I doubt that better monitoring is the likely cause, not over this time scale. Rather an event triggers insurance claims and this data is extremely well recorded - it is essentially the actuarial basis that insurance is based on.

    Although their are predictions regarding specific events like Hurricanes, the Munich Re data covers a much larger range of weather/climate impacts - drought, forest fires, flooding and land-slides etc. That is why it is a useful metric. Prediction of the changes in rate of individual types of events is one thing.But this is giving the aggregate over all classes of events.
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  18. Writing in New Scientist, Richard Fisher argues that crustal sensitivity to mass redistribution is greater than generally supposed.

    In his recent book Waking the Giant, Bill McGuire comes to a similar conclusion. A couple of short articles in New Scientist worth a read are at:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20327273.800-climate-change-may-trigger-earthquakes-and-volcanoes.html?full=true
    and
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21328522.500-climate-change-may-stir-geological-mayhem.html
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  19. So is there any published papers (as opposed to magazines/book articles) to support this? The big earthquakes in recent times have taken place pretty much where they always have, and the really big ones on oceanic crustal boundaries. I dont buy it.
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  20. scaddenp: Published papers? That research was published in the well-known and authoritative voice of science, the Wall Street Journal.

    What is stunning is this line is also embraced by those who say climate change isn't real. That it's simultaneously not happening and causing earthquake or volcano clusters is a bit of a paradox, but what of that?
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  21. KR @14

    It is not so easy to find data of actual events independent of people to see if the trend is increasing as stated in the OP.

    Here is one attempt to show actual event numbers for global flooding. It only covers 1998 to 2008 but it has a graph of total events that have taken place within this document.

    On page 419 of this linked document they show a graph of global flood events. This is the only valid type of data to access if conditions are truly getting worse as the globe warms. Disaster amounts are biased with humans involved (life and property). I have stated before since population and property are variables in the equation they can distort the actual picture.

    Also about the earthquake data. It is rather misleading approach to the actual severity of earthquake data. You look at the Munich Re chart and things don't look so bad. Going just by the numbers of events that are listed as natual catastrophes. It does not paint the correct picture at all in terms of human misery.

    Here is the USGS Earthquake link.

    If you look at the decade graphs:
    From 1980-1989 estimated deaths were 58880
    From 1990-1999 estimated deaths were 114646
    From 2000-2009 estimated deaths were 471015
    From 2010-2012 estimated deaths were 341642

    On the Munich Re chart the number of natural catastrophes from geophysical events was down. Looks good on paper but does in no way indicate actual impact on people.
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  22. Glenn Tablyn

    What I find most odd about your Munich Re graphs is that the actual number of 6+ magnitude earthquakes have been steadily increasing in numbers but there is not reflection of this on the Munich Re natural catastrophe chart you posted.

    USGS link.

    If you add up the earthquake number by decade given in the graphs of the above link.

    1980-1989 average is 109.5 (6+ magnitude quakes/year)
    1990-1999 average is 149.2 (6+ magnitude quakes/year)
    2000-2009 average is 161.3 (6+ magnitude quakes/year)

    There is a 32% increase in the number of 6+ earthquakes in the 2000's decade over the 1980's decade but the Munich Re graph does not show this nor does it indicate the vastly increased number of deaths due to earthquakes over that period. Something is not right here.
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  23. There was a recent (2010) group of papers published by the Royal Society that linked climate change and non-atmospheric disasters.

    http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/368/1919/2311.full.pdf
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  24. Being on the other side of the AGW debate I can't resist this Australian bush poem by John O'Brien.

    "We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
    In accents most forlorn,
    Outside the church, ere Mass began,
    One frosty Sunday morn.

    The congregation stood about,
    Coat-collars to the ears,
    And talked of stock, and crops, and drought,
    As it had done for years.

    "It's looking crook," said Daniel Croke;
    "Bedad, it's cruke, me lad,
    For never since the banks went broke
    Has seasons been so bad."

    "It's dry, all right," said young O'Neil,
    With which astute remark
    He squatted down upon his heel
    And chewed a piece of bark.

    And so around the chorus ran
    "It's keepin' dry, no doubt."
    "We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
    "Before the year is out."

    "The crops are done; ye'll have your work
    To save one bag of grain;
    From here way out to Back-o'-Bourke
    They're singin' out for rain.

    "They're singin' out for rain," he said,
    "And all the tanks are dry."
    The congregation scratched its head,
    And gazed around the sky.

    "There won't be grass, in any case,
    Enough to feed an ass;
    There's not a blade on Casey's place
    As I came down to Mass."

    "If rain don't come this month," said Dan,
    And cleared his throat to speak -
    "We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
    "If rain don't come this week."

    A heavy silence seemed to steal
    On all at this remark;
    And each man squatted on his heel,
    And chewed a piece of bark.

    "We want an inch of rain, we do,"
    O'Neil observed at last;
    But Croke "maintained" we wanted two
    To put the danger past.

    "If we don't get three inches, man,
    Or four to break this drought,
    We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
    "Before the year is out."

    In God's good time down came the rain;
    And all the afternoon
    On iron roof and window-pane
    It drummed a homely tune.

    And through the night it pattered still,
    And lightsome, gladsome elves
    On dripping spout and window-sill
    Kept talking to themselves.

    It pelted, pelted all day long,
    A-singing at its work,
    Till every heart took up the song
    Way out to Back-o'-Bourke.

    And every creek a banker ran,
    And dams filled overtop;
    "We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
    "If this rain doesn't stop."

    And stop it did, in God's good time;
    And spring came in to fold
    A mantle o'er the hills sublime
    Of green and pink and gold.

    And days went by on dancing feet,
    With harvest-hopes immense,
    And laughing eyes beheld the wheat
    Nid-nodding o'er the fence.

    And, oh, the smiles on every face,
    As happy lad and lass
    Through grass knee-deep on Casey's place
    Went riding down to Mass.

    While round the church in clothes genteel
    Discoursed the men of mark,
    And each man squatted on his heel,
    And chewed his piece of bark.

    "There'll be bush-fires for sure, me man,
    There will, without a doubt;
    We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
    "Before the year is out."
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  25. Yes, O'Brien is one of my favourite bush poets. You do realise, don't you, that he is taking the Mickey out of the persistent denier who ignores the evidence? Very apt, actually.
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  26. Norman.

    The Munich Re data is about number of events defined as catastrophic. If a 6+ event occcurs and a 5+ event occurs, they may both be catastrophic. This measure produced by Munich Re doesn't differentiate once an event is above the threshold for catastrophic. They are counting events not severity.

    So any event - geophysical or other - will have different impacts depending on where it occurs. But what we are looking for is a signal showing how common an event is and how this may be changing over time. Increasing storms in the Bay of Bengal may have huge impacts on people. Increasing storms in Hudson Bay would have a much lower impact on people. But it would still be an indicator of changing climate patterns.

    Also, if you read my comment at 16, I personally wouldn't place that much credence in supposed trends on scales of decades. It is easy to imagine how one geophysical event could be linked to subsequent events physically. If I was looking for trends I would look at Century timescales at a minimum.

    Just as Climate has an inertia that imposes decadal timescales, geophysical has an inertia that imposes century and higher timescales
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  27. So Hanrahan knows we'll all be rooned....

    ...Unless we chew a piece of bark

    The cadences of old bush language is just about gone, sadly. The Suburban working class language of 3 cars and a big McMansion on a tiny block of land is no substitute.

    And when you mix the bush language with Australias re-invention of Cockney Rhyming Slang there was something magical.

    Redheads were called Bluey, people with straight hair called Curly, and the millions of terms for someone not to bright - 'he's a couple of sheep short in the top paddock' made for an amazingly rich language.

    Now we all speak 'motivated speak', or 'management speak', or 'ernest & concerned speak' or 'gung-ho tradie speak' or 'Focused and Committed Sportsman speak' or 'Rap speak' or 'EMO speak' or something. All so bland....
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  28. Glenn Tamblyn @26

    I did read your post @16. The point I was making was not to show an upward trend in earthquakes. It was just to show that there were more in the 2000 decade than the 1990 decade. It seems odd that allow in reality there were more large earthquakes in the 2000 decade the Munich Re graph shows a decline in the number of geophysical catastrophes. The point I am making is this Munich Re graph is not a useful tool in determining if events are increasing. We know large earthquakes have increased but have not resulted in more catastrophes. More large earthquakes in 2000's actually led to fewer natural catastrophes counted as compared to the 1990's.

    I think the evidence I presented will show the Munich Re graph is good for one thing and that is for insurers to determine rates. It is not a good tool to determine if storms or floods are on the increase as it is not designed to make that determination. Only an actual event count can be a valid tool to make such a determination, not a disaster or catastrophic count (dependent on people and property which is a sliding variable on many scales...people move around, want better things and the overall population increases over time).

    You know the severe tornado (F3 to F5 scale)number has been trending down over the years in the US, yet the Munich Re graph shows a trend upward from storm related catastrophes. So the actual number of severe tornadoes is down but the catastrophe count is up. I keep seeing this Munich Re graph used on Skeptical Science to demonstrate Climate Change but I still believe it is a poor tool to use. Other sources should be investigated that have an actual event count.
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  29. re Norman@21

    This may be of interest

    [link]

    [link]

    [link]

    sign up required.

    yours
    Frank
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    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Hot linked URL's that were breaking the page format.

    [DB] Fixed URLs.

  30. @ Norman #28:

    What is the source of your assertion that the number of severe tornadoes in the US is trending downwards?
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  31. “When at least 80 tornadoes rampaged across the United States, from the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico, last Friday, it was more than is typically observed during the entire month of March, tracking firm AccuWeather.com reported on Monday.

    “According to some climate scientists, such earlier-than-normal outbreaks of tornadoes, which typically peak in the spring, will become the norm as the planet warms.”

    Source: “Scientists see rise in tornado-creating conditions” by Sharon Begely, Reuters, Mar 5, 2012

    To access this timely article, click here.
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  32. Norman - "It is not so easy to find data of actual events independent of people to see if the trend is increasing as stated in the OP."

    Which is why including geophysical events is useful to try to tease out the population coverage versus climatic influences. Which is the real value of the Munich Re and Swiss Re data.

    WRT tornadoes, the NOAA data, Fig. 1 on observed tornadoes shows an upwards trend over the years, which as they clearly state is due in large part to increases in observations. F5 tornadoes are fairly rare events, more easily observed - and are not showing a significant trend.

    Looking at the last 30 years of tornado events, as per NOAA, McCarthy and Schaefer, Fig. 1, the last 15 years or so have seen a higher tornado frequency overall. Tornado days (Fig. 2) are not showing a trend, but damages due to F0 storms (Fig. 3) are again much higher over the last 15 years or so.

    If you have evidence to the contrary, a reference would be good.
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  33. John Hartz @30

    Here is a NOAA Graph of F3 to F5 tornadoes.


    source.
    0 0
    Moderator Response: [JH} Exactly, how did you derive a trend from this graphic? What statisitical methods did you employ? [RH] Fixed image width.
  34. KR @ 32

    If this is a useful tool, how come the Munich Re chart does not reflect an increase in the number of 6+ magnitude earthquakes. I am pointing out it does not reflect reality of event numbers. How then can you use this graph as evidence that climate is getting worse when it does not accurately portray what is going on in the geophysical realm of the current increase in strong earthquake number?
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  35. Norman - "...how come the Munich Re chart does not reflect an increase in the number of 6+ magnitude earthquakes..."

    You've already been answered. As Glenn Tamblyn noted to you, the Munich Re data shows catastrophes as they have defined - and any large earthquake will qualify.

    Regarding tornadoes - NOAA reports an average of ~950/year from 1970-1990, ~1200/year from 1990-now. That's a trend. The 30-40/year EF3-EF5 represent a tiny portion with high variability, and quite frankly I don't think strong conclusions can be drawn from the existing data on those.

    You are quibbling about (a) data the Munich Re charts didn't claim to show, data not relevant to the point of the OP, and (b) about extremely small numbers for high-end tornadoes against a large trend in total tornado numbers.
    0 0
  36. Norman#34: "the current increase in strong earthquake number?"

    Is this a documented increase or just a case of observation bias? From the USGS:

    99 year average number of mag > 6: 150
    2007: 196
    2008: 180
    2009: 161
    2010: 175
    2011: 205

    Doesn't look like much of a trend, especially when the standard deviation is on the order of +/-35. And pre-1957, there weren't that many seismograph stations around the world, so that century average of 150 is biased low.

    Some will say that there is no evidence of the lack of an increase; others that there is no evidence of there not being a pause in the increase. Others will no doubt claim the USGS is just inflating the number of earthquakes just to gain more funding.

    Either way that has little to do with the fact that this is yet another 'extreme weather is on the increase thread.'
    0 0
  37. Andy, that link does not lead to such a paper.
    0 0
  38. Norman... At comment 28 you state, "You know the severe tornado (F3 to F5 scale)number has been trending down over the years in the US..."

    But the NOAA data you cite clearly states that, "The bar chart below [which you cite] indicates there has been little trend in the frequency of the strongest tornadoes over the past 55 years."
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  39. muoncounter @ 36

    Here is one for you Graph and data on increase in earthquakes both large and small.

    DATES FROM & TO PERIOD NO. EARTHQUAKES (Mag. > 6.99)
    --------------------------- ----------- ------------------------------
    1863 to 1900 incl 38 yrs 12
    1901 to 1938 incl 38 yrs 53 Reference list 1901 to 1938
    1939 to 1976 incl 38 yrs 71 Reference list 1939 to 1976
    1977 to 2014 incl * 38 yrs 164 (to Mar. 2011) predict >190 in total. Reference list 1977 to date
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  40. Norman - You are once again using rather poor sources.

    The link you provided also includes the line "Speaking of the signs that will happen, leading to his return to judge the peoples of earth (at the end of the age), Jesus is quoted as saying ‘in various places there will be famines and earthquakes‘..."

    On the other hand, the USGS states here and here that "As more and more seismographs are installed in the world, more earthquakes can be and have been located. However, the number of large earthquakes (magnitude 6.0 and greater) has stayed relatively constant" (emphasis added).

    Apocalyptic blogs on one hand - USGS on the other? I would opine that the US Geological Service has more accurate data. And that there has been no increasing trend in numbers of large earthquakes.

    You found a source that agree with your hypothesis - but did not quality check your source.
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  41. KR @ 40

    Please look at my post at 22. The USGS does list all the earthquakes of 6+ magnitude. I added the numbers and gave decade averages for earthquakes/year. If you look at the data yourself you can see clearly that the large earthquake number has increasesd in the short run (1980-2012). The USGS may be making a reference to Earthquakes from early decades, maybe from 1900 to 2012 there is no increase.

    That would not change the point I am making. The Munich Re Chart posted in the OT starts at 1980. The number of large (6+ magnitude earthquakes) has indeed increased in number since the 1980's from the USGS site itself (I suggest you do the math yourself, even graph the numbers on and Excel sheet and have it draw a trend line). Also the number of deaths has drastically gone up from earthquakes since the 1980's.

    Earthquake numbers are critical to the discussion as they are used (assumed to be relatively flat which is not the case) to prove that population growth and property values are not the reason Munich Re shows increasing catastrophes caused by Climate and weather related effects. My point is that large (prone to cause damage if near population centers and unless the greater number of quakes in the 2000 decade just all happened to occur outside the bounds of civilization as compared to 1980 decade or even the 1990 decade, but the number of deaths does not support this conclusion as they have increased at a dramatic rate).

    If whatever system Munich Re is using to determine a catastrophe can't pick up a noticeable increase in large earthquake number, it should be evident that this system is not valid in determining event numbers but I keep seeing the same graph used as evidence of increasing bad weather related events. If it can't match earthquake number to reality (provided by the USGS) why would I believe it is a valid portrayal of increasing bad climate or weather related phenomena.

    Also the strong tornado graph I linked to in Post 33 (some argue it does not show a decline in the most destructive tornados, even if not, it certainly does not show any increase yet Munich Re shows an increase in natural catastrophes from storms). Smaller tornados are not very destructive.

    Here "An F0 or EF0 tornado, the weakest category, damages trees, but not substantial structures. An F5 or EF5 tornado, the strongest category, rips buildings off their foundations and can deform large skyscrapers. The similar TORRO scale ranges from a T0 for extremely weak tornadoes to T11 for the most powerful known tornadoes." source.

    So does Munich Re consider damage to trees to be a catastrophe? Maybe the definition of the word is too loose I would think it is of considerable damage, type caused by flood, hurricane, large tornado, earthquake. Do you see what I am saying?
    0 0
  42. Norman - The USGS, source of those numbers, states that:

    "We continue to be asked by many people throughout the world if earthquakes are on the increase. Although it may seem that we are having more earthquakes, earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater have remained fairly constant.

    A partial explanation may lie in the fact that in the last twenty years, we have definitely had an increase in the number of earthquakes we have been able to locate each year."
    (emphasis added)

    I suspect they have a better view of their data than you do. You are, quite frankly, wrong.

    "Do you see what I am saying?" - Yes, I do. You are saying that you disagree with USGS about their earthquake data, that you feel a 25% increase in tornadoes over the last 30 years is irrelevant, and that you (once again) don't agree with the notion that Munich Re has observed a notable increase in catastrophic, expensive climatic events over similar geophysical events.

    Which you've attempted to argue without statistics, with bad sources, and with data interpretations contradicted by the sources of those data. None of what you are saying is terribly convincing. Again. And you have not acknowledged any of these issues that various posters have pointed out, which I consider extremely poor form.

    Readers: I would suggest taking viewing the various Extreme Weather threads, where Norman has been (repeatedly) pointed to his errors in regards to extreme weather.

    ----------

    Back to the thread: Glenn Tamblyn, a very evocative post. Thank you. I would love to visit your country at some point.
    0 0
  43. Readers - WRT Norman's issues with the Munich Re data, I believe Tom Curtis covered the issues (and objections) quite well in an earlier thread. Norman's interpretation is not supportable.
    0 0
  44. It's interesting that one extreme weather thread which Norman has not posted a single comment is this one, discussing Hansen et al 2011. This quantifies the increase in extreme heat events around the world in a manner that is uncomplicated by improvements in observational networks of earthquakes, by the vagiaries of tornado formation which may or may not be increased by global warming (and so is a red herring), or by the body count of individual large disasters (does the Boxing Day earthquake/tsunami add 250,000 to the toll of 2000-2009?). If extremes are not on the rise, how does Norman account for the increase in extremes documented by Hansen et al (2011).
    As Victoria (and other parts of east Australia) is yet again hit by severe flooding, while there are still remembrances of Black Saturday, I am reminded over breakfast every morning of the enhancement of the hydrological cycle.
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  45. KR @ 42

    I do not believe you are reading my posts before telling the community I am wrong. I can see by the data that 7 magnitude earthquakes are staying relatively constant.

    This is what I find interesting about your posts. Here is your claim: "I suspect they have a better view of their data than you do. You are, quite frankly, wrong."

    No, quite frankly I am not wrong. You are not reading my posts. My claim was that strong earthquakes with magnitude 6 or greater have been increasing in number since 1980 and this is a very correct and true statement based upon the available data from the USGS web page.

    "Magnitude Earthquake Effects Estimated Number Each Year
    2.5 or less Usually not felt, but can be recorded by seismograph. 900,000
    2.5 to 5.4 Often felt, but only causes minor damage. 30,000
    5.5 to 6.0 Slight damage to buildings and other structures. 500
    6.1 to 6.9 May cause a lot of damage in very populated areas. 100
    7.0 to 7.9 Major earthquake. Serious damage. 20
    8.0 or greater Great earthquake. Can totally destroy communities near the epicenter. One every 5 to 10 years"
    source.

    Now please look at the Munich Re chart in the OT above. You can see more than 100 geophysical events in the year 2000. There are only a few tsunamis a year or destructive volcanoes. Magnitude 7 earthquakes number around 20 a year. This would strongly suggest that some of the magnitude 6 earthquakes taking place are causing a catastrophe based on however Munich Re defines such. You can see in my linked site that 6+ magnitude quakes can cause a lot of damage in populated areas.

    I did graph the 6+ earthquake data and the trend is postive upward.
    0 0
  46. fpjohn @29

    I followed the links you provided to Munich Re and registered. I still do not know what they are using to develop the graph above in the OT. Is it all natural catastrophes? What is it? What I do not quite understand is that this site is dedicated to sound science. I have been rebuffed numerous times for lack of rigor in my posts or data I have put on posts. This is great it keeps the site at a higher level.

    Why then is the Munich Re report repeatedly used on this site like it is a sound science document. Who can explain how they generate this graph, what are they using as a "natural catastrophe". You just accept the graph yet who has knowledge of how it was derived. It is not based upon actual events which I have pointed out with KR on earthquakes. Actual strong earthquake number has been increasing since 1980 (magnitude 6+) but the Munich Re graph does not indicate an increase.

    Here is a link to a chart of how they define catastrophes and the various categories. Is the above chart a compilation and merging of all the categories?

    NatCat catergory definitions of catastrophes.

    If so, it shows a category 1 catastrophe as one causing some property damage and/or 1 to 9 deaths. So does that mean everytime a person is killed by a lightning strike it is counted as a catastrophe on par with an F5 Tornado, Hurricane, large flood or powerful earthquake?

    If this is how they are generating their graph then the large increase in storm related catastrophes could be caused by someone standing out in a lightning storm and getting killed or someone making the poor choic of driving across flowing water in a small scale flood and being killed by the poor choice of their actions.

    Without having a very good and detailed understanding of how this Munich Re graph was generated and what is the criteria they are using to define a catastrophic event, why is this graph used so often on this rigerous scientific web site?
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  47. Norman - "I do not believe you are reading my posts..."

    Yet you state that "My claim was that strong earthquakes with magnitude 6 or greater have been increasing in number since 1980 and this is a very correct and true statement based upon the available data from the USGS web page" (emphasis added)

    when the link I provided here to USGS (direct link here) clearly, and as I noted in my post, plainly states:

    "...the number of large earthquakes (magnitude 6.0 and greater) has stayed relatively constant." (no emphasis needed...)

    Norman - You have clearly not read my responses. You have clearly interpreted data in ways directly in contradiction to the sources of said data. You are clearly, flatly, incorrect. And calling the kettle black - accusing me of what you are doing.

    [In my extremely personal opinion] - Readers, take this for what you will:

    Norman, you are suffering from Confirmation bias, taking every possible web search in the fashion most aligned with your preconceptions - because you are contradicted by the sources. As such, your posts are demonstrably wrong. Until you look at data with an open mind, rather than an agenda, I will have to consider your posts a misleading distraction from the topics under discussion. Confirmation Bias is a constant issue with many 'skeptics' - whereas a real skeptic checks all the data for truth value, someone with confirmation bias will selectively see the aspects and interpretations that support their preconceptions. You are providing quite an illustrative example.

    [End extremely personal opinion]

    ---

    Moderators - While I dislike doing so, might I point out the repeated presentations of misleading and clearly incorrect data interpretations and references here?
    0 0
  48. KR @ 47

    Have you put the data from the USGS webpage for 6+ earthquakes (global) on an Excel spreadsheet yes and had it calculate a trend? I have done so and there is an upward trend. No Confirmation Bias. Just logging the data given on a spreadsheet and having the program draw the trend line. Try this and then conclude I am wrong, you will not be able to do this.
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  49. KR

    I did address your point in Post #41. I wrote this to you: "If you look at the data yourself you can see clearly that the large earthquake number has increasesd in the short run (1980-2012). The USGS may be making a reference to Earthquakes from early decades, maybe from 1900 to 2012 there is no increase."

    They list all global earthquakes of magnitude 6+ here.

    Just add up the numbers, put the year and the number and generate a graph and select make a linear trend and tell me what you see. That would be the approach of a scientist to actually enter the data and see what comes out.

    Again, the Munich Re graph begins at 1980 to present so that is the only years of concern. The actual facts are that magnitude 6 and greater earthquake number has increased from 1980 to present. If you enter the data yourself, please explain how you come up with the conclusion that my presentation is misleading and cleary incorrect data interpretations. Thanks.
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  50. Norman @46:

    "Without having a very good and detailed understanding of how this Munich Re graph was generated and what is the criteria they are using to define a catastrophic event, why is this graph used so often on this rigerous scientific web site?"


    You and I have been through this in great detail before. Specifically, it has been clearly explained to you that a Natural Catastrophe is defined as a natural hazard causing the death of at least one person, or causing property damage. What is more, we have gone into considerable detail into how Munich Re classifies data, going to the extent of the indexing system they use to account for inflation.

    This is all detailed in Structure and needs of global loss databases of natural disasters by Löw and Wirtz.

    However, your pretense that this has not been thoroughly discussed previously on SkS, and that it is not understood by SkS authors is dishonest.
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