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WSJ, Sandy, and Global Warming - Asking the Right Questions

Posted on 6 November 2012 by dana1981

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has published an opinion editorial (op-ed) regarding Hurricane Sandy, written by Roger Pielke Jr. with a subtitle wrongly claiming that "Connecting energy policy and disasters makes little scientific sense."  The basis of that argument follows a very similar line of argument that we previously saw in Pielke Jr.'s obfuscation of the link between extreme weather (including hurricanes) and human-caused global warming.

However, before we get into the op-ed, we will investigate the various related questions that are being asked about the link between Hurricane Sandy and global warming, which happens to be another subject which Pielke Jr. has weighed in on.

It's Global Warming, Stupid

The latest edition of Bloomberg Businessweek has a rather provocative cover:

GW stupid

Pielke Jr. objected to this cover, but is it accurate?  The answer depends on exactly what the "it" is that Bloomberg Businessweek is blaming on global warming.  This brings us to the various questions that are being asked about the Hurricane Sandy-climate link, all of which have fairly simple, straightforward answers.

1) Did global warming cause Hurricane Sandy?  The answer is obviously 'no,' and this is the wrong question to ask.  Weather events would of course happen with or without human-caused global warming, but the proper question is not whether global warming was the cause, but what influence it had on the event.  The Bloomberg Businessweek article grasps this point, answering the question correctly.

"Would this kind of storm happen without climate change? Yes. Fueled by many factors."

2) Did global warming intensify Hurricane Sandy and its impacts?  The answer to this question is a simple 'yes.'  Human-caused global warming has caused sea level rise, which increased the hurricane storm surge, leading to more flooding.  It has warmed the oceans, fueling the intensity of the hurricane.  And it has increased the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, allowing Sandy to pull in more moisture, causing more rainfall and thus more flooding.  Bloomberg Businessweek also answers this question correctly:

"Is storm stronger because of climate change? Yes."

Or as John Cook puts it,

storm fuel

3) Will global warming cause more Sandy-like events in the future?  The answer to this question is also 'yes.'  Hotter sea surface temperatures - caused by global warming - fuel hurricanes, making them more energetic.  While the overall frequency of hurricanes may remain steady or even decrease somewhat, climate scientists expect the frequency of the most powerful hurricanes to increase in a warming world.

Perhaps Pielke Jr. objects to the magazine cover because he assumes it refers to question #1.  But upon reading the article itself, the point is correctly made that global warming is increasing the power and/or frequency of extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy.  This point is where the Pielke Jr. WSJ obfuscation comes in.

Extreme Weather Intensity vs. Economic Damage

As in his previous obfuscation, rather than talk about the frequency of intensity of extreme weather events, Pielke Jr. focuses on the economic damage they have caused in the USA over time.  He 'normalizes' these costs, accounting for inflation and the growth of population and value in impacted areas, and concludes that some hurricanes in the past caused more normalized economic damage than Sandy appears to have.  However, Pielke Jr. does not account for the cost associated with one of the main factors which has prevented rising hurricane damage costs - improved building codes, engineering, and construction.  While these improvements may have become a standard adaptation measure, they come at a cost which Pielke Jr. does not account for.

As an analogy, a building constructed to maximize energy efficiency will generally cost more up-front, but those costs may be offset through electricity bill savings.  A building constructed to withstand strong winds or low-level flooding will similarly cost more up-front, but will reduce the economic damage caused by the weather events.  Pielke Jr. is counting the savings, but not the up-front cost that led to those savings.

Pielke Jr. does note that improved disaster response and weather predictions have played a role in cost mitigation (as an aside, so much for the myth that models are unreliable).

"The relatively low number of casualties caused by Sandy is a testament to the success story that is the U.S. National Weather Service and parallel efforts of those who emphasize preparedness and emergency response in the public and private sectors."

Billions of dollars were also saved because local governments had time to minimize the storm's impact on infrastructure.  In short, Pielke's argument is apparently that the normalized costs associated with hurricane damage have remained relatively flat over time because thus far we have been able to adapt with improving technology.

Asking the Wrong Question Again

However, the argument that hurricane damage costs have not increased depends on the choice of baseline for comparison.  Perhaps costs associated with extreme weather events have remained relatively steady, but we know human-caused global warming has increased the frequency and/or intensity of many types of extreme weather.  We also know that human technology has developed dramatically over the past century.

So, why are we asking about whether normalized hurricane damage costs have increased since a century ago?  Why isn't the question whether they've significantly decreased, as one might expect given the fact that we now have much stronger building standards, and that we can now accurately predict a hurricane's path many days in advance?  In other words, why should we be satisfied with the same normalized hurricane damage costs as a century ago, as Pielke Jr. seems to be, when people had weaker buildings and little if any warning about incoming hurricanes?

Of course we do not have a second Earth to use as an experimental control study without altering its atmospheric chemistry or increasing its greenhouse effect.  However, the fact that normalized hurricane costs have not declined despite major technological advancements suggests that hurricanes have become more powerful, as confirmed in the scientific literature, most recently by Grinsted et al. (2012).  Our technological advancements have roughly kept up with the increasing intensity of hurricanes, but compared to the hypothetical control-study Earth, extreme weather damage is almost certainly costing us more money than if we were not causing global warming.

This line of thinking is similar to the myth that reducing CO2 emissions will cost too much money, in which climate contrarians compare the costs of carbon pricing to a world in which climate change does not exist, ignoring the costs of climate change.  In the real world, the damage caused by climate change has a real cost which must be accounted for.  In the real world, increasing frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather also has a cost, and even if we have managed to prevent those costs from rising, in a world without human-caused climate change they should be falling.  Alternatively, adaptation measures like storm barriers and more robust buildings are not free.  These represent economic costs which Pielke Jr. does not account for.

This is also the conclusion of a Munich Re technical paper, which finds that the most likely explanation for the discrepancy between increasing extreme weather intensity/frequency and flat normalized economic costs is that:

"...weather-related natural disasters have not become less intensive, but defensive mitigating measures have prevented increasingly frequent weather-related natural disasters from causing an upward trend in normalized natural disaster loss."

And what about a future with even more global warming - will human adaptation be able to keep pace with yet more extreme weather?  For example, Lin et al. (2012) found that what was previously once-per-century storm surge flooding in New York City will occur roughly once per decade by the year 2100 as a result of global warming.  Just in this one example, how do we adapt to America's largest city - currently home to over 8 million people - being flooded once per decade?

Cherry Hurricanes

In his WSJ op-ed, Pielke Jr. also argues that the USA is "currently in a relative hurricane 'drought.'"

"While it's hardly mentioned in the media, the U.S. is currently in an extended and intense hurricane "drought." The last Category 3 or stronger storm to make landfall was Wilma in 2005. The more than seven years since then is the longest such span in over a century."

It's rather puzzling trying to figure out what point Pielke Jr. is trying to make here, or why he expects the media to make it.  In fact there are two glaring cherrypicks in this argument. 

First, why are hurricanes unworthy of consideration if they are less than Category 3 when they make landfall in the USA?  Hurricane Sandy doesn't even meet this criterion as a Category 1, despite being the largest hurricane with the lowest pressure in the North Atlantic on record, with an estimated $50 billion damage cost.  Neither does last year's Hurricane Irene (also Category 1 at US landfall), although it caused $15.6 billion in property damage.  In 2008 there was Hurricane Ike, just a Category 2 when it made landfall in the USA, causing nearly $30 billion in damage.  None of these are sufficient to end Pielke's "hurricane drought"?

Second, eight years is an awfully short timeframe, and 'no Category 3 storms to make landfall in the USA since 2005' sounds an awful lot like 'no warming since 1998,' another notorious cherrypick.

Additionally, the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index of tropical cyclone activity actually indicates that the Atlantic is in a period of high hurricane activity, with 13 of the past 18 years (including 2012) having an above-normal ACE (more than 111% of the 1981-2010 median).

NOAA ACE

This is also consistent with the NOAA Hurricane Research Division Atlantic hurricane basin re-analysis data (HURDAT), which shows a rising ACE, number of hurricanes, major hurricanes, and named storms in the Atlantic.  Thingsbreak plots the HURDAT ACE data with a lowess smooth over a longer timeframe:

HURDAT ACE

As noted above, it's difficult to determine what point Pielke Jr. is trying to make with this cherrypicked argument.  If he is suggesting that Atlantic hurricane activity has been low, he is wrong.  If Pielke Jr. is suggesting that the USA has simply been lucky not to have been hit by more hurricanes since 2005, well, what's the point of that argument, and why should the media make it?

Emanuel (2005) in showing that hurricane power-dissipation index has increased notes that Pielke Jr. is limiting himself to much less data in only looking at hurricane impacts on land, and Peter Sinclair discusses that human-caused changes in the Arctic are likely to cause the type of blocking events which pushed Hurricane Sandy toward the US coast to occur more frequently.  In short, Pielke's argument about good American fortune will likely not last in a changing climate.

Pielke Jr. also repeats one of his previous obfuscations, noting that the IPCC Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) states that droughts in the Midwest USA have become less frequent, but again fails to mention that the same report predicts that this fortune will not continue.

"There is medium confidence that droughts will intensify in the 21st century in some seasons and areas, due to reduced precipitation and/or increased evapotranspiration. This applies to regions including...central North America".

Pielke's argument here seems to boil down to "the USA has been lucky so far" when it comes to extreme weather impacts, but there is no evidence that this fortune will continue.  Quite the opposite, in fact.

The Rest of the World

The USA is also of course not the whole world.  As Tamino notes in examining natural catastrophe data published by re-insurer Munich Re, globally the number of weather catastrophes has more than doubled just over the past 30 years.  All three types of catastrophes (strorms, floods, and climatological events like heat waves, forest fires, and droughts) have increased by a statistically significant margin over this short timeframe.

"The trends show that catastrophic storms have increased by about 7 per year. Catastrophic floods/mass movement by about 8 per year. Heat/drought/fire catastrophes about 3 per year. That’s an extra 18 catastrophes per year.

18 more catastrophes per year, per year.

What if these trends continue? Then by mid-century, the number of weather-related catastrophes will have nearly doubled again. By century’s end, we’ll have increased from about 300 catastrophes per year in 1980, to over 2400."

munich re weather catastrophes

Tamino also normalizes the weather catastrophe data - in case the number is increasing due to better reporting instead fo more frequent events - using the Munich Re geophysical catastrophe data (earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions).  These types of events are less likely to be increasing due to global warming; therefore, any long-term increase may be due to improved reporting.  The normalized data also show a rapidly rising trend:

normalized weather catastrophes

Even from an American-centric view, climate-related catastrophes in other nations impact the global and therefore US economy.  Ignoring climate-related disasters happening outside the USA will result in an underestimate of the economic (and human) impact of global warming.

The Real Lesson of Sandy

All of these wrong questions, cherrypicks, and obfuscations lead up to what Pielke Jr. wrongly thinks is the lesson of Hurricane Sandy.

"The only strategies that will help us effectively prepare for future disasters are those that have succeeded in the past: strategic land use, structural protection, and effective forecasts, warnings and evacuations. That is the real lesson of Sandy."

In other words, don't worry about mitigating global warming, let's just see if we can manage to adapt to it.

To be fair, Pielke Jr. does also say "it is indeed important to take action on energy policy."  Unfortunately this statement comes immediately after criticizing New York Governor Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bloomberg for correctly noting the link between Sandy's impacts and global warming, and is followed with the claim that "to connect energy policy and disasters makes little scientific or policy sense."

Frankly this statement is ridiculous.  Linking energy policy (specifically its associated greenhouse gas emissions) and extreme weather certainly makes scientific sense.  As for what makes policy sense, people tend not to act on a threat until they can clearly feel its effects, and the clearest impacts from global warming come in the form of extreme weather events.  Scruggs and Benegal (2012) found that extreme weather and public acceptance of global warming are strongly correlated

"Past and recent public opinion in the US and Europe indicates that beliefs and concerns about climate change are affected in very important ways by short-term economic and weather conditions."

Connecting energy policy and extreme weather therefore makes both scientific and policy sense.

Asking the Wrong Questions, Ignoring the Inconvenient Data

Regarding Hurricane Sandy and global warming, far too many people are asking the wrong question, whether the latter created the former.  Of course it did not, but human-caused global warming clearly made the hurricane and its impacts more extreme.  It is not only correct, but important to make this point, because public acceptance of global warming is correlated with extreme weather.  It is a rare tangible effect of climate change.

While many climate scientists have communicated this concept effectively (e.g. Mann, Trenberth, and Hayhoe), leading to some good journalism on the subject, many others have unfortunately focused too much on what we don't know as opposed to what we do know, which has fed some poor journalism.  The poor communication between climate scientists and journalists, and thus between journalists and the public, is one of the main reasons we have not yet achieved serious climate action.  While some climate scientists are doing a much better communications job than in the past, others still need to improve and ensure that they are answering the right questions.

The WSJ op-ed is worse yet.  It similarly asks the wrong questions, like whether the economic damage from hurricanes has increased instead of asking why it hasn't decreased as a result of improving technology.  On top of that, the op-ed ignores inconvenient data like hurricane intensity, ACE, Category 1 and 2 hurricanes making landfall in the USA, technological advancements, projections of increasing drought in the US Midwest, climate-related disasters outside the USA, etc. in order to justify the incorrect conclusions that we should not discuss the clear links between global warming and extreme weather events, and that we should not connect the dots between those events and energy policy.

Our advice to climate experts and policymakers is to read the analysis and advice in the WSJ Pielke Jr. op-ed and then go and do the exact opposite.

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Comments 51 to 75 out of 75:

  1. Tom, Jake: Good research!

    One interesting thing to come out of this thread is the value of a critical voice, since the analysis in the comments has gone significantly further than the original article.

    That's why peer review (both pre- and post-publication) is so important in science.
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  2. Tom Curtis - I agree entirely about exposure changes due to development and technology improvements affecting observed catastrophes, events thresholded by some minimum damage. That's why I pointed out Tamino's normalization to geophysical events.

    That normalization should at the very least minimize or remove the influences of population changes, areal development, and building codes. It will not remove the influence of better warning systems, but quite frankly weather predictions have improved faster than geophysical predictions, and therefore those normalized climate catastrophe trends are likely underestimates.

    Even normalized loss costs (if those can be accurate) have thresholds. For example, failure of a sea wall or a landslide is a threshold event, a divider between quite minor effects and major/expensive effects.

    Raw event counts would be the best measure, if you can account for changes in observations (storms not observed, for example). But (IMO) normalizing climate to geophysical events is a very useful method for trend identification - correcting for both exposure and resiliency, unaffected by repair costs. Whereas economic loss measures lead directly to conflated issues in cost estimation, inflation, exposure, resiliency, building codes, etc., and (again, IMO) are therefore both less accurate and prone to (mis)interpretations and confirmation bias effects such as Pielkes.
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  3. @ Brian

    There are plenty of people far more capable than I am of debating the science with you, but I would like to address one point of yours:

    "The fact that he makes fairly mild assertions (not the more dramatic and unsupportable ones) makes it even harder to explain the fierceness of the criticism leveled at him."

    Easy. Everything Pielke Jr. says and writes is an effort to undermine taking action to combat climate change. It's especially frustrating because, unlike the common Internet trolls, Pielke is very intelligent, which means it's highly probable he recognizes that he is contradicting the majority of scientists. His constant obfuscation is totally unnecessary and unproductive. Pielke Jr. is the worst kind of denier because what he says sounds believable, which means countless time is lost refuting him when we should have already moved on to figuring out what to do about the problem.

    The science tells us that we can expect drought to increase both in area covered and severity, sea levels to rise and at an accelerated rate, increasing floods, hotter temperatures that threaten lives, possibly stronger hurricanes, damaged ecosystems that we depend on, and possibly an increase in insect borne diseases, among other negative consequences.

    So why harp on about something so incredibly narrow and short sighted as whether or not normalized losses in America due to hurricanes have increased as of 2012? Especially given the lag in the response time to burning fossil fuels, which means we wouldn't necessarily have expected to see huge changes yet. Ask the people of New York and New Jersey (not to mention the Carribean islands) if they think we should mitigate and adapt now or wait 100 years until we have a clearer signal...
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  4. KR @52, I agree that the weather related catastrophes as normalized relative to geophysical catastrophes show that climate change has probably caused part of that increase. Never-the-less, Munich re is quite clear that in their opinion the major contributor to the increase has been increased population and wealth. In a study of impacts of US hurricanes, Schmidt, Kemfert and Hoppe (2008) assign responsibility for the increased losses on a ratio of 2.9 to one in favour of socio-economic factors (see quote below). If that is typical of other sorts of disasters (and in may well not be), then about 75% of the 2.5 fold increase in weather related damages is due to socioeconomic factors, and only 25% due to climate change.

    It should be noticed that, as normalized against geophysical catastrophes, meteorological catastrophes (including hurricanes)have increased by 100%. If the ratio found by Schmidt et al is maintained across all meteorological events, the contribution of global warming to that increase is just 63%. That is, normalization against geophysical events has reduced the impact of socioeconomic factors, but not eliminated them.

    "Given an inflation-adjusted increase in capital stock of 438% in the region investigated, and loss elasticity of 0.44 in response to a 1% change in capital stock, it can be inferred that the loss increase due to the rise in capital stock since 1950 was approx. 190%. Although storm intensity increased by only 23.1%, loss elasticity in response to a 1% change in intensity is as much as 2.8. It can therefore be concluded that the increase in losses due to greater annual storm intensity was 65%. That is to say, the change in socio-economic conditions has a lower specific impact on the losses than the change in storm intensity. However, the loss trend is dominated by socio-economic conditions insofar as they changed much more than (climate-change induced) storm intensity during the investigation period. "
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  5. Beyond Tom's point, reading other literature on this topic (including that employing the "normalization" speculative interpretation with attendant conjectures in place of data concerning what might have happened if chunks of chronology and happenstance had not been laid out in their actual order) shows it's at least arguable there's presently a ratio between loss attributable to entirely natural causes and loss involving a change of climate. If not so long ago that ratio couldn't be found, then it seems reasonable to think there's a rate of change involved.

    In any case it seems as though we have instrumentation sufficient to obviate the need for proxy measurements so riddled with pitfalls. I can see the fascination of a challenge, but if I were undertaking some construction and had a choice between a blueprint in one piece as opposed to a jigsaw puzzle with permanently missing pieces I'd choose the intact print.
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  6. Hi Dana,

    I think that the last sentence of this piece is flawed, in a way that begs an important question.

    You refer to "climate experts and policy makers". That's not who reads the WSJ. The WSJ is read by investors.

    The WSJ is also paywalled, as is the FT. So they are ONLY read by investors, in their own little internet ghetto. During the Storm though, the WSJ dropped the paywall, and I went to check their coverage of this year's Arctic Sea ice Cryogeddon. This was, in my opinion, insufficient to serve as a guide to investors in the energy sector. I could only find one piece, and this was apparently about Arctic foxes.

    Over on forbes magazine, which is not paywalled, which is also read by investors, we have James Taylor, of Heartland. At the end of the comments section on his reaction to Sandy...

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2012/10/31/leave-it-to-the-global-warming-alarmists-to-make-fake-lemonade-out-of-hurricane-sandy/

    ... a commenter suggests that he is now guilty of "journalistic malfeasance".

    I don't think that it is within any of our best interests to get involved in that discussion, but I presume that editors at WSJ may be aware that this discussion is going on here; and that the rules governing the accuracy of financial journalism are more particular than those governing opinion pieces, or the environmental pages.

    I have written quite a lot here about the absence of just one word - "investors" - from your otherwise admirable critique. If this is OT, or OTT, please feel free to delete it.

    But I feel that while "climate experts and policy makers" are being well served by SkS, a third group - "investors" - are possibly being neglected. And this is perhaps unfortunate. As we are told, the market will decide, and the market is always right. Unless, of course, the market has been relentlessly fed with inaccurate, partial information by an extremely well-financed PR campaign. In that case, the market temporarily develops a huge bubble, and then there is a correction. Then the market is right again, obviously, because the market is always right, apart from when it isn't. Or summat like that.
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  7. Regarding the question "Did global warming intensify Hurricane Sandy and its impacts?"

    Please refer to the latest study by two of the world's leading hurricane experts, Kerry Emanuel and Chris Landsea:

    Tropical cyclones and climate change

    Thomas R. Knutson, John L. McBride, Johnny Chan, Kerry Emanuel, Greg Holland, Chris Landsea, Isaac Held, James P. Kossin, A. K. Srivastava & Masato Sugi; Nature Geoscience 3, 157 – 163 (2010)
    Published online: 21 February 2010 | doi:10.1038/ngeo779

    Abstract

    Whether the characteristics of tropical cyclones have changed or will change in a warming climate — and if so, how — has been the subject of considerable investigation, often with conflicting results. Large amplitude fluctuations in the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones greatly complicate both the detection of long-term trends and their attribution to rising levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases. Trend detection is further impeded by substantial limitations in the availability and quality of global historical records of tropical cyclones. Therefore, it remains uncertain whether past changes in tropical cyclone activity have exceeded the variability expected from natural causes. However, future projections based on theory and high-resolution dynamical models consistently indicate that greenhouse warming will cause the globally averaged intensity of tropical cyclones to shift towards stronger storms, with intensity increases of 2–11% by 2100. Existing modelling studies also consistently project decreases in the globally averaged frequency of tropical cyclones, by 6–34%.

    Another quote from the study:

    Moreover, despite some suggestive observational studies, we cannot at this time conclusively identify anthropogenic signals in past tropical cyclone data.

    It seems to me the answer to question, based upon the above study, is: "we do not know at this time"
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  8. idunno@56,

    I think your "investors" are just market components that care not about why AGW nor about the ethics of AGW.

    By definition, those "investors" are not interested in environmental sciences, therefore not interested in SkS. They are interested in possible parametric changes on the market that would shift the money flows, but those changes are coming from policymakers and advisers (such as Pielke Jr).

    Therefore talking about or addressing investors is like poking the symptoms. They are just symptoms of AGW problem (e.g. if they're overinvesting in coal mining), and they will never drive/influence the climate policies. They will always adapt to the policies devised by climate experts and policymakers.
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  9. @Physicsgirl #57:

    You would do well to cast a wider net.

    “The most obvious aspect of climate change to Hurricane Sandy is not necessarily that storms ave gotten bigger or more intense,” said Sallenger, the Geological Survey scientist. “It’s that the seas are definitely rising – we can see it and measure it.”

    Source: North Carolina's coast is 'hot spot' for rising sea levels by Bruce Henderson, The Charlotte Observer, Nov 4, 2012
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  10. An appropriate quote by Dr. Jeff Masters from January 2012:

    "So, looking at disasters losses to make an argument that climate change is affecting our weather is difficult, due to the rarity of extreme events, and the changes in wealth and population that also affect disaster losses. We are better off looking at how the atmosphere, oceans, and glaciers are changing to find evidence of climate change--and there is plenty of evidence there."

    Not surprising then that Pielke Junior continues to use this obviously flawed and imperfect method to draw (overstated) conclusions that can then be used to muddy the waters and feed fodder to the fake skeptics and those who deny the theory of AGW.
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  11. Kevin C (#19 & 38) and Albatross (#49),

    I've looked at the Atlantic basin ACE data shown above myself. Kevin had given the trends from 1850, 1900, etc. and showed statistical significance. I accepted those numbers. I must now retract my acceptance. In fact, the ACE trend in the Atlantic is not significant at the 2-sigma level. My original statement was correct.

    Kevin's numbers are not wrong, but they give a false impression. Note that the effect of the AMO is obvious in the data. The 2011 is near the AMO peak but the 1850, 1900, and 1970 data points are all near the AMO minimum. The trend for those years is really just the AMO trend from min to max and not a long-term climate trend. This can be seen from the trend from 1970, which is 2.3 over 40 years. Spread over 160 years this AMO change would be 0.58 +- 0.20, consistent with the trend from 1850. The correct way to calculate the long-term trend is to do it from AMO peak to peak, roughly 1880 or 1890 to 2011.

    The trend from 1875 to 2011, for example, is 0.16 +- 0.12. And this result is not cherrypicked. There is no significant trend at the 2-sigma level for any starting year between 1865 and 1893, corresponding to the years of the AMO peak. No trend can be claimed over any interval if the trend from the late 1800s, when global temps were 0.9 C lower than today, is not significant.

    ***Let me state clearly the importance of this result. If there is no long-term trend in the Atlantic ACE and no trend for landfalling hurricanes, there is no basis at all for claiming an effect of AGW on hurricane losses, nor is there any observational basis for expecting an AGW signal in hurricane trends in the future.***

    Just to dig down into the ACE data a bit more and to avoid charges of cherrypicking, I did a fit of the data to a cosine with a linearly growing baseline over the 1851 - 2011 interval. The AMO oscillation period shows up nicely at 58.7 +- 2.3 years. The residual linear trend is a mere 0.046 +- 0.002.

    This is statistically significant for the data as given, of course, but the trend is likely not real. First, note that it's far less than the previously calculated trends. Second, the trend corresponds to an increase in ACE of just 7 over the last 160 years (less than 10%). Given that the early ACE values are at best approximate, may be missing hurricanes, and are definitely more uncertain than 10%, this trend cannot be considered real. It is likely an artifact of the low variation seen in the 1850 - 1875 data.

    Finally, please note that if the 0.046 trend is real, it would take roughly 350 years to emerge from the ACE noise. There really is nothing to see here, so let's please give up any talk of AGW contributing to hurricane damages, either now or in the future. There's no observational basis for this claim.
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  12. Albatross (#60),

    Regarding your quote from Jeff Masters, Roger Pielke has said exactly the same thing many times. He has always insisted that hurricane damage is not the place to look for AGW signals, and that there is plenty to see elsewhere. (I challenge you to find evidence that Pielke has ever said anything different from that.) So how does that make Pielke the bad guy?

    He does insist--correctly--that others (politicians, media, activists) should not use hurricane damage as a pretext for action on AGW. Scientists and those concerned about AGW should join Pielke in decrying this false use of data, which is damaging to science. Such hyperinflated claims have done far more to hurt the AGW action agenda than Pielke ever could.
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  13. Per usual, Chris Mooney hit the nail squarely on the head when he wrote:

    “Following this debate, I’ve been struck by the strong impression that people are making things too complicated. Here’s the simple truth: Leaving aside questions of systemic causation—and sidestepping probabilities, loaded dice, atmospheres on steroids, and so on—we can nevertheless say that global warming made Sandy directly and unmistakably worse, because of its contribution to sea level rise.”

    Source: Climate Change Made Sandy Worse. Period. by Chris Mooney, Climate Desk, Nov 8, 2012
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  14. Hmmm, Jeff Masters is listed as an author of the article listed below. It is reasonable to assume therefore that he concurs with its contents and its title.

    Did climate change contribute to Sandy? Yes. by Bob Corell, Jeff Masters, and Kevin Trenbereth, Politico, Nov 5, 2012
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  15. Speaking of sea level rise and what lies ahead...

    "Sea levels are rising faster than expected from global warming, due to critical feedbacks missing from earlier models, according to the University of Colorado."

    Source: Why sea levels are rising ahead of predictions FutureTimeline.net, Nov 7, 2012
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  16. Brian B #61/#62

    The last 100 years of AMO are very likely the result of anthropogenic forcing changes, namely in sulfate aerosols (with a subsequent AMOC response which we otherwise wouldn't have seen with the same magnitude). Your argument therefore presumably seriously flawed.

    Would you be so kind as to point us to a source which supports your claim that Pielke Jr. ever explicitly acknowledged that other damages than hurricane damage could potentially be linked to AGW (if not yet identifiable as a signal in the noise, then as a future threat)? To seize the opportunity, could you also provide a link to a source where Pielke Jr. criticize his father (Pielke Sr.) for misrepresenting the science? Thanks!
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  17. Leaving aside the problem of teasing a signal from a TS record imperfect in many ways and influenced by more than one factor, there's still the problem of the trend in surge, compounded by John's point.

    Nobody yet seems to offer a persuasive argument that sea level is not rising, or that Grinsted's id of trend in surge is false. Pielke seems be signed on with surge trend. Interestingly, at Pielke's Brian (same Brian?) says there is both no trend and a trend, so let's count that as no opinion.

    If your house is flooded or falls into the ocean, how much do you really care what caused the problem?
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  18. More content from the WSJ here:

    http://www.thegwpf.org/matt-ridley-medieval-heat-cool-warming-worries/

    ...in which CO2Science's collection of academic papers is cited as the go-to source for information on the subject. No mention of the SkS debunk.
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  19. idunno @68 - yes, Ridley and the WSJ is a bad combination. Rob Painting is working on a response to that article. Suffice it to say that like everything Matt Ridley writes related to the climate, it's riddled with errors.
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  20. Brian B: I had noticed the same thing - that the trends are dependent on the point in the AMO cycle. So I've spent the last couple of days looking at more sophisticated analyses.

    The literature is clear on the link between both AMO and ACE, and ENSO and ACE. We can examine this in detail. I ran a multivariate regression of AMO and MEI (using the extended MEI which runs back to 1872, supplemented by the normal MEI from 1950). Here are the stats:
    Coefficients:
    Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|)
    (Intercept) 93.613 3.985 23.491 < 2e-16 ***
    AMO 150.013 21.829 6.872 2.04e-10 ***
    MEI -20.963 5.294 -3.960 0.00012 ***
    ---
    Signif. codes: 0 - *** - 0.001 - ** - 0.01 - * - 0.05 - . - 0.1 - - 1

    Residual standard error: 47.03 on 137 degrees of freedom
    Multiple R-squared: 0.2932, Adjusted R-squared: 0.2829
    F-statistic: 28.42 on 2 and 137 DF, p-value: 4.73e-11

    As expected, ACE is positively correlated with AMO and negatively with MEI. The coefficients are also highly significant.

    Now, AMO is simple detrended Atlantic temperature. The interesting question is whether hurricanes are actually influenced by AMO, or by temperature. So I took the raw temperature data before detrending and used it in place of AMO. Here's what I got:
    Coefficients:
    Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|)
    (Intercept) 95.552 3.937 24.270 < 2e-16 ***
    AMO_temp 136.179 18.597 7.322 1.88e-11 ***
    MEI -24.318 5.276 -4.609 9.18e-06 ***
    ---
    Signif. codes: 0 - *** - 0.001 - ** - 0.01 - * - 0.05 - . - 0.1 - - 1

    Residual standard error: 46.24 on 137 degrees of freedom
    Multiple R-squared: 0.317, Adjusted R-squared: 0.307
    F-statistic: 31.79 on 2 and 137 DF, p-value: 4.571e-12

    Now that's interesting! The fit against temperatures is rather better. Temperature+ENSO is a better predictor of ACE than AMO+ENSO.

    Is the difference statistically significant? As a crude measure, the difference in log likelihood suggests the latter model is about 10x more likely than the former, but I need to do a bit of digging to find the proper significance test for this kind of comparison.

    That has implications. If ACE is controlled by AMO and the correlation with temperature is incidental, then when AMO flips back around 2020 we should see a reduction in hurricanes. However if ACE is controlled by sea temperature, then things are likely to continue to get worse as the Atlantic warms. And the data appears to point in the latter direction, I'm just not sure how strongly.

    This is very preliminary - as well as the significance tests I need to investigate lags between the different terms. A lot of tedious analysis I'm afraid.
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  21. Here's an idea: I added a trend term to both regressions. They will now both give identical results, since the only difference between AMO and sea temp is the detrending term. However, the values of the trends will tell us something.

    Here are the stats on the trend term using AMO:

    TREND 0.24495 0.09866 2.483 0.0143 *

    And here's what you get using temps:

    TREND -0.1346 0.1138 -1.182 0.239

    The additional trend that has to be added to fit ACE using AMO is different from zero by about 2.5 sigma - that's significant at the 95% confidence level. So there is a statistically significant trend over and above what is predicted by AMO+ENSO.

    When using temperatures, the additional trend is only 1.2 sigma (in the opposite direction). The ACE trend is slightly less than would be expected from temps+ENSO, but the difference is not statistically significant.

    Sea temperature certainly seems to play the dominant role. Whether there is an AMO component over and above the temperature component is inconclusive.
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  22. @BWTrainer,

    I'd say your characterization of Piekle is a "reverse ad hominem". In fact, the only way Pielke Jr is "clever" is in his crafting an argument out of the shards of denialism that remain which are likely to obfuscate, confuse, and distort the true argument. I have seen this in person at conferences featuring many TV meteorologists as well.

    I wonder why Pielke appears to be the "house favorite" of the WSJ, but don't expect a forthright answer from anyone.

    I'd also say that Pielke's study (anyone have a free, direct link to it?), as near as I can tell, neglects to compensate for the clear positive correlation between economic and population growth and storms damage and losses, even without any mechanism in mind. One could as readily drive the hypothesis into Pielke's view of the world which says that the increased economic and population growth are directly causing the losses, even if we know better because of lags and other interactions. The point is, if his analysis cannot differentiate between these two modes, what real good is it?
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  23. emperical_bayes @72, the PDF of the paper is here. The data for the paper can be downloaded in Excel format here.
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  24. I was wondering why you are treating Sandy as though it was just a hurricane. IIUC from NOAA/NASA, the category 1 hurricane Sandy never actually made landfall but became a extratropical cyclone (which did) after it merged with a large cold front.
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  25. JRT: I'm sorry, I'm afraid I don't think I understand your question. None of the ACE analysis we've been doing in the comments or the figure in the article includes Sandy since the current ACE data only runs to 2011.

    Apart form that, for Sandy to become a post-tropical cyclone (as opposed to a mid-latitude formed extratropical cyclone) it had to first be a tropical cyclone. The frequency of formation of tropical cyclones is therefore a relevant factor (although not the only one) in the chances of a Sandy-like event recurring.

    If that's not what you were asking, please feel free to clarify.
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  26. Brief update on my analysis at #70 and #71: Despite the convincingness of the p-values, the method fails on the robustness tests I've been performing. Results should be treated with extreme caution. More tomorrow.
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  27. Tom Curtis @ 45:

    Pielke's normalization procedure handles the extra expense in sea walls, hurricane proof construction etc in an obtuse way. By increasing current building costs, and hence current estimated wealth per capita, these defensive measures will inflate the normalized costs of damages done by earlier hurricanes.


    On the face of it that seems absurd — a major modern hurricane that causes widespread adoption of new and much more expensive construction standards will not have those additional costs added onto it's economic losses or even those of future hurricanes whose actual losses are reduced because of those investments but will instead make earlier hurricanes suddenly seem to be more damaging relative to the modern hurricane!

    But looking deeper, if you want to ask the question "What economic losses would we experience today if that particular historical hurricane were to hit now instead of 1923 (or whenever)?" then the logic behind it starts to make some sort of sense.

    But only briefly, because the raw loss data for the historical hurricanes were related to the actual construction standards employed at the time. In other words, you can't simply take the actual economic losses of an historic hurricane, multiply them by a correction factor to account for higher costs, and expect to get a good estimate of the economic losses were that same hurricane to hit today.

    Why? Because modern construction standards actually work. I have lived through many tropical cyclones in a region prone to them. Due to their regularity and severity (the worst I experienced — and the only one I can think of where the eye passed directly over us — had 240 km/h winds and a central pressure of 915 mbar/hPa) buildings were naturally built to stand them and damage is often minimal and loss of life rare. An historic cyclone that might have caused significant damage and loss of life in the early days would barely make a dent now. Yet "correcting" the historical cyclones economic losses to take into account modern construction costs would give exactly the opposite impression!

    This report on building damage in Goldsworthy and Port Hedland following Amy (which I referred to above) and Dean in 1980 is actually quite an interesting assessment of the effect of improved building standards that confirms my own experience.

    This whole exercise seems fraught with problems and a terribly indirect way to say what the consequences of global warming will be. I think "events" is a much simpler and more meaningful quantitiy to get a handle on than "normalised losses". Once a trend in "events" has been determined — magnitude and/or frequency — then you can try to figure out what the economic impacts will be going forward. After all, if New York was to experience Sandy-like events every few years, that would massively add to the costs of future construction and those additional costs should certainly be sheeted home to global warming if global warming was the reason for NY experiencing Sandy-like events every few years. Instead, Pielke's normalisation method would keep making the historic storms seem more and more expensive as more and more expensive construction techniques were employed, allowing him to continually claim there is no trend in normalised losses!
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  28. Some further details on AMO+MEI vs SST+MEI.

    In order to test the robustness of my results I tried rerunning the calculation with truncated data, using a whole range of start dates. The method gives good discrimination between the two models, favoring the SST model, for dates before 1880, and from 1900 to 1940. For 1880 and 1950, the results are more marginally in favor of AMO. These date ranges are similar to the date ranges showing no significant trend. In retrospect this is not unreasonable.

    That was a surprise: I had assumed on the basis of the p-value that the results would be more robust. My current thoughts:

    1. p-value may be misleading for low values of R2. If this is the case, then presumably if I can find the appropriate statistical test for this kind of comparison then it will show that the models are similar.

    2. The data violates OLS assumptions - certainly true. ACE appears to be nonlinear and the errors don't look normally distributed.

    Tamino could no doubt answer some of these straight off.

    A few other details: Best results seem to involve using AMO from Apr/May/Jun and MEI from Jul-Dec. R2 may be improved by using sqrt(ACE) rather than ACE. Best R2 I can get is about 0.4.

    Where does that leave us? Well, while the data doesn't favor SSTs over AMO, neither does it favor AMO over SSTs. So on the basis of the data alone we don't know which is better.

    On the other hand, we do have prior knowledge from meteorology. Finer scaled weather models and empirical studies both link hurricanes to SSTs, so I am a little surprised that the climate literature didn't link them to SSTs rather than AMO in the first place. Does anyone know how this came about?
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  29. The assertion from up post that


    2) "There can be no AGW signal in hurricane losses in the U.S. because there has been no change in landfalling hurricane frequency or strength since record-keeping started. The trends, though not significant, are both down, in fact. "

    fails because, as has been noted, surge on a higher sea level is incredibly damaging across barrier islands and low lying areas. Moreover, increasing resistance to damage is as influenced by improved tracking as by better construction practices. Additional days and hours of time are used to harden even badly constructed structures and evacuate vulnerable populations.

    Roger is subject to the peer review of the insurance industry. His view is not favored.
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  30. Just a few quick responses:

    John Hartz (#63 - 65)
    It is incorrect to say that AGW has made Sandy, any other hurricane or TS, or even TS activity in general, worse. There are no significant trends for landfalling storms and the data slightly favor a negative trend for intensity and frequency. If you don't believe me, listen to Dr. Martin Hoerling at NOAA:

    "There’s very little confidence that climate change has affected the frequency or intensity or track of these disturbances.” (see 2:02 of interview)

    http://minnesota.publicradio.org/features/npr.php?id=164055672

    AGW has contributed to sea-level rise, but this doesn't impact the storms themselves. It does potentially increase damage risk from hurricanes (and all flooding events), which is not to be dismissed lightly, but this damage is not yet apparent in the data. In any case, please abandon any claim that Sandy itself was worse because of sea level rise. This is just not a scientific claim, even when made by scientists.

    K.a.r.S.t.e.N. (#66)
    I see you are afflicted by the problem all too common on this blog--failing to get the point. The AMO oscillation is a natural phenomenon. Whether the amplitude of that oscillation is affected by AGW is debatable but irrelevant to my analysis. Once the oscillation is accounted for, regardless of amplitude, any remaining trend is too small to be taken seriously given the uncertainties.

    Regarding Pielke, I cannot give you the evidence you seek, but I never claimed that he attributed other damages to AGW. What he has said repeatedly is that AGW signals are more likely to be seen in the phenomena themselves before they are seen in the resulting damages. What about that are you having trouble understanding?

    Finally, I would be happy to provide evidence that Pielke Jr. criticized his dad, once you show me where Pielke Sr. misrepresented the science. I suspect I'll be waiting a long time for that one.

    doug_bostrom (#67)
    (-snip-).

    -AGW is causing some of the sea-level rise, which can potentially increase damages.
    -Grinsted found no significant trend in the seasonal average surge index.
    -The Grinsted trend in > 10 unit events, which cover more than hurricanes, is likely spurious because it is measured from a low point in the AMO to a high point. Either way, it does not support the claim of increased damages.
    -Grinsted's trend (unpublished) in top 150 events is not significant at the 2-sigma level and is even more likely to be spurious (for the same reason).

    The bottom line is that there is no real trend in the surge data. (See Pielke's blog for evidence of all these assertions).

    Kevin C (#70, 71, 78 etc.)
    Ultimately the analyses merely confirm what I stated from the beginning--there is no significant trend in the ACE data given above. Simple courtesy would require you to acknowledge that. With no detectable trends in the Atlantic basin ACE, landfalling hurricane frequency and strength, or normalized damages, there is simply no evidence that AGW has made hurricane damages worse. This does not preclude, of course, that such damages might increase in the future.

    EliRabett (#79)
    Ah, Eli has tumbled down the Rabett hole. Nothing in my quote "fails." Rising sea levels can make surge damages worse, but not necessarily. One is inclined to wonder whether a foot of sea level rise matters much with a 14-foot surge. Certainly not enough to be seen in the damage data.
    Given that the 1-foot rise happened over 150 years, I'm going to guess that none of the affected construction has been around that long. This means that coastline infrastructure is remade and redesigned many times during that sea level rise. The improvement in construction techniques and infrastructure integrity therefore occurs independent of the sea-level rise and is not a cost that can be attributed to it.

    Let me summarize for all the point that everyone seems to have trouble either understanding or accepting, even though it is standard peer-reviewed scientific consensus.

    Because there are no significant trends in landfalling hurricane data, there can be no trends in damage due to hurricanes themselves. If damages are affected by some combination of building quality, technology, sea level rise, etc., they would show up as trends in the normalized damages. The fact that no trends are seen in normalized damages implies that these effects are not yet big enough to be seen. No attribution of hurricane damage costs can be made to AGW.

    (-snip-).
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Inflammatory tone snipped; strong hashtags converted to underlined.
  31. Brian,

    Still patiently waiting responses to my critique of your earlier posts.

    You evidently have had sufficient time to answer several other people in the interim.
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  32. I am happy to see that multiple posters have stated the real reason they are criticizing Pielke--for political, not scientific, reasons.

    (-snip-).
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Tone-trolling is unhelpful to genuine, engaged dialogue. Please desist.
  33. Brian,

    "What he has said repeatedly is that AGW signals are more likely to be seen in the phenomena themselves before they are seen in the resulting damages."

    Yes, Roger plays this game nicely (one has to be careful to keep your eye on the ball when he is up). He has indeed said that, yet he is fond of citing trends in normalized/adjusted damages as the metric (despite all the limitations of that approach), especially following a disaster, ignoring that he has claimed the contrary before.

    "Finally, I would be happy to provide evidence that Pielke Jr. criticized his dad, once you show me where Pielke Sr. misrepresented the science."

    You really must be joking Brian. Please don't be disingenuous, it is clear that you follow these proceedings, so you cannot claim ignorance. Go to RealClimate, go to Tamino, or use the search function here and you will find numerous examples of Roger's dad cherry picking, or misrepresenting or distorting the science to fit his narrative. Why is Roger Jnr. not hopping about accusing his dad of being a liar in public? As you know Roger is quick to (falsely) accusing other scientists of lying or fudging the data etc. Again, Google is your friend, or would you prefer some examples?

    "Let me summarize for all the point that everyone seems to have trouble either understanding or accepting, even though it is standard peer-reviewed scientific consensus."
    Please check your arrogant and condescending tone at the door. At #80 you have again managed to make several unsupported claims, and above you come across as lecturing people and suggesting that they are dim or something similar.

    There is also no need to shout at us in red, doing so makes your assertion none the more compelling.

    Last but not least,like I said before, you seem intent on missing the point of Dana's post. I would strongly recommend that you read it again and counter any points you disagree with using peer-reviewed journal articles from reputable journals. Thanks!
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  34. If damages are affected by some combination of building quality, technology, sea level rise, etc., they would show up as trends in the normalized damages.


    Not necessarily.

    Ignoring the question of how meaningful these "normalised" damages really are, it's entirely possible for building quality and technology to balance out the consequences of increased hazards.

    In fact, to a certain extent I expect people to spend "just enough" to maintain risks within a certain range in the face of increased hazards because it's often the optimal economic strategy (so rather than "gold-plating" to avoid any losses, we spend what it takes to keep losses within a "comfortable" range).

    So looking at losses — and especially so-called "normalised" losses — for evidence of the effects of AGW is looking at it backwards, IMO.

    Because there are no significant trends in landfalling hurricane data


    This smacks of cherry-picking, due to the relatively low numbers involved. It's better to look at the Atlantic basin ACE, as the OP does. Originally you claimed that it appeared to have "no stastically significant trend". Kevin C showed that in fact it did. You then objected that the effect of the AMO was actually the cause of the apparent trend.

    This appears to be assuming facts not in evidence, however. A correlation between ACE and AMO does not necessarily mean that AMO caused the rise in ACE, and Kevin C's later investigations (showing a lot more healthy scepticism of his own results and a lot more analysis of the data than you have demonstrated so far) suggest that it may actually be the increase in sea surface temperature driving the increase in ACE. This is important because not only would we expect this from the physics, but the increase in sea surface temperature is driven, in turn, by AGW!

    I would suggest a little more caution (and a little less red) in making assertions about what is and what isn't and what can and what cannot be done. Bold, unsupported assertions in red are "unscientific jibber jabber".

    I would recommend that everyone here get down from his/her high horse, take a careful and objective look at the science, and understand that science should not be a pawn in your own personal campaign


    Right sentiment, wrong target.

    BTW, ignoring all the substantive criticisms made of Pielke's work so that you can cherry-pick those explanations of why people bother criticising him and attempt to paint them as their entire argument does you no favours.

    Here's a simple one for you:

    Does Tom Curtis' characterisation in #45 of Pielke's "normalisation" method accurately describe it? If not, how is it different? If so, how does it not fall victim to the perverse outcomes I described in #77 above? Since so much of the argument hinges on this normalised data — after all, the raw data shows massively increasing losses — I think it's worth spending a bit of time justifying the normalisation (and no, simply saying it's been "peer reviewed" alone doesn't cut it — that's a necessary but not a sufficient condition).

    Thanks!
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  35. “As for the surge itself, even that is more complicated than just the wall-of-water metaphor that’s so tempting to use. As explained more fully by Weather Underground’s Jeff Masters, it’s more of a bulge of water, spread out over a wide area in front of the storm. Winds account for about 85 percent of the height of the average surge, and the tremendous wind field surrounding Hurricane Sandy is maximizing that component of storm surge.

    “Another 5-to-10 percent comes from what’s called “wave set-up”— the fact that water can’t drain back off into the ocean because there’s more water pushing from behind. The final 5-to-10 percent comes from a tropical storm’s low atmospheric pressure, which literally sucks the ocean skyward.

    “But even that isn’t the whole story. Global sea level is now about 8 inches higher, on average, than it was in 1900, in connection with global warming. Sinking land has added several inches more of local sea level rise in the Mid-Atlantic. That means the storm tides from Sandy are that much higher than they would have been if the identical storm had come along back then.

    “And as sea level continues to rise in a warming world, a Sandy that arrives in 2100, when average sea level is likely to be about 3 feet higher than it is today, would be correspondingly more destructive.”

    Source: Source: Sandy’s Storm Surge Explained and Why It Matters by Michael Lemonick, Climate Central, Oct 29, 2012
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  36. Brian @83,

    Could you please cease with the bluster and assertions and actually address the scientific critique directed at Roger Pielke Junior. A careful read of Dana's post would be a good start. Then, as I have said several times now, counter those points that you disagree with using peer-reviewed journal articles from reputable journals-- and simply saying Roger published "X" does not cut it, as it does not demonstrate that you understand the material or how it is relevant to the topic at hand etc.

    Readers here have also identified issues that have not been dealt with or have not been dealt with satisfactorily in the literature. They are trying to advance the science and the knowledge, although I'm sure you will disagree.

    Thanks!
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  37. BrianB @ 82 stated
    Not everything is going to get worse with AGW
    Oh, dear, not another round of 'CO2 is plant food', I hope. What, exactly, do you mean by 'worse'? It seems we have different understandings of the word. I am unable to detect a rosy future in any credible forecasts I have read. Where or whom are you getting your opinions from? We could all do with some good news, if it passes the sniff test.
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  38. Albatross: Go to RealClimate, go to Tamino, or use the search function here and you will find numerous examples of Roger's dad cherry picking, or misrepresenting or distorting the science to fit his narrative. Why is Roger Jnr. not hopping about accusing his dad of being a liar in public? As you know Roger is quick to (falsely) accusing other scientists of lying or fudging the data etc.

    Actually, if there's a single reasonable excuse for obvious inconsistency of the kind Albatross describes, surely it's the deference of a child to a parent.
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  39. Ultimately the analyses merely confirm what I stated from the beginning--there is no significant trend in the ACE data given above. Simple courtesy would require you to acknowledge that. With no detectable trends in the Atlantic basin ACE, landfalling hurricane frequency and strength, or normalized damages, there is simply no evidence that AGW has made hurricane damages worse. This does not preclude, of course, that such damages might increase in the future.
    Firstly, Brian, I am aggrieved at this comment. Let me show you what our exchange looks like from my perspective:

    1. You make an unsupported claim about the ACE trend.
    2. I go and do the work to check your claim for you. I present not only the result you asked for, which strongly refutes your claim, but also several others, one of which doesn't.
    3. You make a claim about AMO.
    4. I go and do the work to check your claim for you. I present my initial results, which suggest that ACE is predicted by SST rather than AMO. Then on the basis of further analysis I correct my claim to the weaker statement that SST is at least as good a predictor of ACE than AMO.
    5. You accuse me of discourtesy.

    So from my perspective it feels as though you are making claims, I am doing my best to present a skeptical analysis of the data, including all my results whether or not they support my position. You do not thank me for my effort, and then you criticise me for my discourtesy.

    That is the basis of my grievance. Perhaps our exchange looks different from your perspective. If so, I invite you to present it.

    Secondly, It is possible that you have missed the point of my analysis. I assumed, wrongly, that it was obvious from context.

    Let's go back to the title of this article: 'Asking the right questions'. I presume you recognize that there is a rhetorical device, well used by lawyers, that when asking a question would lead to an inconvenient answer the trick is to ask a different question. The main point of the article is to suggest that this is what is happening.

    Here are two questions:

    1. Is there a connection between global warming and Atlantic hurricanes?
    2. Have US landfalling hurricanes increased over time?

    I would suggest that the second question is being used to distract from the first. It is harder to answer because you need to rely on coarse grained data or proxies of various kinds.

    The first question is both more important for understanding what might happen in the future, and is more easily answered because we can rely on fine scale meteorological data and/or meteorological models, which shows a very clear connection between SSTs and hurricanes. I can give you a load of papers, but if you are interested you can very easily find them yourself.

    RPJr insists that we neglect our knowledge of physics and meteorology and only accept data from the past. Firstly, no justification has been presented for rejecting that information. Secondly, even if we do so, we have to invoke AMO to reject the positive trends in favour of the neutral ones, and as I have shown AMO is certainly not a better predictor than SST, while SST has a physical basis.

    I hope that clarifies my claims.
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  40. Brian,
    Not everything is going to get worse with AGW. To think otherwise is delusional.
    Actually, yes, everything will get worse. Everything.

    Some things may seem to get better for a while (say ten or twenty or even thirty years), but they will (a) quickly be drowned out by the intense gravity of the things that do worse, and (b) any improvement will be short lived (in climate terms) and overwhelmed by negative aspects.

    The "CO2 is plant food" meme will be a perfect example. Yes, you may see crop yields increase for a brief period in selected areas, due to benefits from increased CO2 concentrations.

    But over time changes in temperatures, moisture and growing seasons, disproportionate benefits to pests (like the pine bark beetle) and weeds that are better adapted to higher CO2 levels, and other effects will reduce crop production far below any meager benefits from CO2.

    Yes, some things won't get worse or may even get better, for a very short while. But things are going to get bad, and in some cases very, very bad. In particular, Hurricane Sandy is a whisper of a hint of what's in store. We have barely begun to warm this planet, and like opening a window in a rain storm, the wind and rain are still barely getting in.

    To think otherwise is delusional.
    I would recommend that everyone here get down from his/her high horse...
    Gladly, when people like you and Pielke start to be more realistic, and stop loudly clinging to every pathetic, ill-founded and cherry-picked argument as an excuse to ignore addressing the issue.

    It would be one thing if Pielke were suggesting moderation in action, because people are overreacting. He's not, because no one is overreacting -- no one is doing anything at all! He's pretty much promoting complete paralysis, and to date he and his ilk have succeeded, to the serious detriment of us all.

    To think otherwise is delusional.
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Can all parties please focus on the science? Passion for accuracy is admirable, but can sometimes steer threads off-course when that passion begins detrimentally affecting the tone of the dialogue. Thanks!
  41. David Roberts from Grist has an excellent and insightful essay on how to communicate to the public how events like Sandy are relevant when discussing AGW. His essay is titled:

    The moral logic of climate communication
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  42. I am no means an expert in these matters, but it seems to me that the analyses and conclusions contained in Roger Pielke Jr’s Wall Street Journal Op-ed are not compatible with the latest estimates of damage (US only) caused by Superstorm Sandy and the estimated costs of damages of other severe weather events in the US during 2012 as presented in:

    2012 May Rank As 2nd Most Disastrous Year Since 1980 by Andrew Freedman, Climate Central, Nov 12, 2012

    Here’s the lead paragraph of Freedman’s excellent article.

    “With about six weeks remaining in the year, there have already been 11 natural disasters that have cost $1 billion or more in damage, bringing 2012 to second place on the list of top billion-dollar disaster years. The current record-holder is 2011, when there were 14 billion-dollar disasters. The widespread and intense drought — which as of Nov. 6 still covered at least 60 percent of the lower 48 states — and Hurricane Sandy are expected to go down in history as two of the most costly weather-related disasters since 1980.”
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  43. New facts about the tremendous amount of energy contained in Superstorm Sandy are still emerging and being reported on science-based websites such as the Weather Underground and Climate Central. For example, today we learn…

    “According to Jeff Masters of Weather Underground, since 1988, only one tropical storm and no hurricane has had a larger area of tropical storm-force winds. "Most incredibly, 10 hours before landfall (9:30 am EDT October 30), the total energy of Sandy's winds of tropical storm-force and higher peaked at 329 terajoules — the highest value for any Atlantic hurricane since at least 1969. This is 2.7 times higher than Katrina's peak energy, and is equivalent to five Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs," Masters wrote on his blog.”

    Source: 32-Foot-Plus Waves From Hurricane Sandy Topple Records by Andrew Freedman, Climate Central, Nov 14, 2012
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  44. KR, the analogy could hold: it's better to pay higher taxes to get better projections than to wait for disaster to strike and have to go to a loan shark.

    Perhaps it's a stretch. I'm giving this one a 60% chance of being spam.
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  45. Oh, goodie, another round of the game of whack-a-mole! A bunch of the usual deniers published an "Open Climate Letter" to the Sec-Gen of the UN in the Financial Post yesterday.
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  46. Tom @ 95 - just posted a mole whacking response. We aim to please!
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  47. Dang, Dana, I'm not going up against you at the whack-a-mole booth at the county fair. You're way too fast!
    0 0

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