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Newest Yale Forum Video: A ‘Play-by-Play’ on Sandy with Kerry Emanuel

Posted on 9 December 2012 by greenman3610

This is a re-post from the Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media.

MIT atmospheric science professor Kerry Emanuel offers a concise “play-by-play” as Superstorm Sandy forms and heads for the New Jersey shoreline in the latest Yale Forum video produced by independent film maker Peter Sinclair.

 Sinclair’s catchy video captures Ohio State University professor Jason Box on the subject of Sandy’s relationship to our warming planet. Climate change, Box says, “shifted the odds in its favor” and made its impact more severe as a result of the warmer sea temperatures along the eastern seaboard … and the resulting higher sea levels resulting from those higher temperatures.

Weather Underground founder Jeff Masters and video from “Morning Joe” provide additional material in the video, with “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough pointing to a discussion he had recently had with a man who handles insurance rate tables. “This is going to just keep coming,” Scarborough quotes him as saying in reference to sky-high storm-related expenses.

Emanuel at one point notes the irony that greatly reduced sulfur aerosol emissions across North America starting in the mid- to late-1980s as a result of Clean Air Act regulations have allowed ocean temperatures to increase. “That silver cloud, if you will, had a black lining,” Emanuel notes.

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Comments 1 to 16:

  1. Color me unimpressed. There is no empirical evidence that climate change is responsible for extreme weather events like hurricanes and superstorms like Sandy. Jason Box's specialty appears to be the Greenland ice sheet, not exactly relevant. And Joe Scarborough pointing to a discussion he had recently had with a man who handles insurance rate tables? Like, wow.
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  2. Otto1 @ 1 , no-one is saying "climate change is responsible for extreme weather events" like Sandy. To quote from the OP,
    Climate change, Box says, “shifted the odds in its favor” and made its impact more severe as a result of the warmer sea temperatures along the eastern seaboard … and the resulting higher sea levels resulting from those higher temperatures.
    Get it? Shifted the odds. Made the result worse than it might have been. Didn't cause it.
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  3. Otto,

    It is true that Dr. Box specializes in ice changes and insurance rates only rely on an unbiased evaluation of how much damage occurs. We would be much better off at WUWT where the commentators (like the host) often have no science degrees at all.

    This Skeptical Science post (among many found by searching "extreme weather" quantitates extreme heat and shows that the extreme heat (and associated drought) in the American Midwest this year is 98% likely caused by global warming. That's a quick $50 billion damage in the US alone. AGW added almost a foot of sea level rise before Sandy. the damage caused by the last foot of the flood is entirely caused by AGW.

    Recently the Dutch Government wanted to have a discussion of Climate related problems. The first topic was Arctic Sea Ice collapse. See this RealClimate link for details. They used Judith Curry for the skeptic voice. Curry is an Atmospheric scientist and has not published any papers on Arctic sea ice extent. Presumably no actual ice experts were willing to provide a skeptic voice. Why don't you go over to that blog and post your objections to using Dr Curry since she is not an expert on Sea Ice Extent.
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  4. Of course the storm related insurance claims are "going to just keep coming". The value of assets along the coast are increasingly "sky-high".
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  5. michael sweet - "Curry is an Atmospheric scientist and has not published any papers on Arctic sea ice extent"

    Actually, Judith Currys publications list includes a great deal on Arctic and Antarctic ice. Which makes it even more puzzling that her major recent contributions to the discussion appear limited to handwaving about "uncertainty monsters" and throwing her support behind 'skeptic' arguments and myths - she should certainly know better from her own work.
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  6. climateadj @4. Your right. And the the assets in California are increasingly "sky high" as well, which no doubt accounts for the increasing number (not cost, but number) of geophysical disasters in North America:



    Oh sorry, there is no noticable increase in geophysical disasters, but meteorological, hydrological and climatological disasters are going through the roof.

    And, of course, assets in the mid-west must also be "sky high" to account for the surge in thunder storm damage:



    Or perhaps there just are some people who will say anything to avoid actually thinking about the data. What do we call them, now. I think it starts with a "d" ....
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  7. KR,

    I read Curries publications back to 2007 and saw one paper on Antarctic sea ice. Can you suggest what years she published anything on arctic sea ice? I know she has several blog posts on sea ice but I do not count them. Her web page calls her an atmospheric scientist and her papers mostly talk about the atmosphere.
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  8. Michael, a term search for "Arctic" on her publications list turns up 54 hits. Those hits will include the 2 hits for "Antarctic". Clearly the majority of her polar related research has been related to the Arctic rather than the Antarctic. A search for "Ice" turns up 49 hits. I gather she has researched the meteorology of the Arctic, including ice formation in clouds more so than sea ice extent. "Sea ice" returns only 21 hits.
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  9. Tom Curtis @6

    "Or perhaps there just are some people who will say anything to avoid actually thinking about the data."

    Actually, I've thought about the data, closely:

    https://sites.google.com/site/climateadj/home/noreast-pdi

    There's no evidence that Sandy like storms are the new normal. We are in a period of high activity which is the old normal. God forbid if the 1869 hurricane season repeated itself, with the storm tracks a couple of hundred miles south.

    There's a name for people who refuse to look dispassionately at the data. It starts with an "a".
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  10. This is the old "more stuff in the way" argument. There are a variety of metrics you can use to measure this and Tom has pointed out a couple. There are lots more and if anybody would have a real interest in figuring it out, the global insurance industry certainly does. Google Munich RE for what a big reinsurance company thinks.
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  11. michael sweet - "Sea ice" has 21 hits on Curry's publications (from that online list). Most of those articles are pre-2005, but include the like of Liu, Curry and Hu, 2004: Recent Arctic sea ice variability: connections to the Arctic Oscillation and the ENSO, and among others Holland and Curry, 1999: The role of different physical process in determining the interdecadal variability of Arctic sea ice.

    I believe such articles are relevant to Curry's knowledge - a decade will have some impact on currency, but not on familiarity with the basics of the field. As is (more recently) Dr. Curry's emphasis on "uncertainty monsters", if only by very puzzling contrast.
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  12. climateadj,

    You don't seem to realize that you are missing at least one key issue here. Namely, that the "cold" unequivocal fact that weather systems today are developing in what has become the new norm, a warmer and more moist troposphere. It is this more energetic setting that is a cause for great concern, an apt analogy is weather on steroids.

    Trenberth (2012) spoke to this very issue,

    "All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be."

    What is more, this new norm includes higher ocean temperatures and higher sea levels that further compound the issue. Think of cumulative effects.

    To deny that storms are now developing in a new norm, or that this won't have consequences, one has to deny that the atmosphere and oceans are warming, that (consistent with the Clausius-Clapeyron relationship) the atmospheric water vapour content is increasing and that ocean levels are rising.
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  13. climateadj @9:

    1) You commented, and I criticized your comment on the cause of the increase in losses due to climate related phenomena. That increase is not adequately explicable in terms of increased population, property values or the locations people choose to live (although they are relevant factors) as is shown by the two graphs I showed. Your pseudo explanation in terms of people living preferentially on the coast was just that, a pseudo explanation.

    2 You have changed the subject away from the original point on which you commented, which as a defence of those comments tacitly concedes that my criticism was correct.

    3 As proof of your careful thought about these issues, you provide us with the link to a website purporting to show an analogue of the Power Dissipation Index of "northeastern land falling tropical storms". Your analogue of PDI is just the wind speed cubed. The actual PDI is the maximum sustained wind speed cubed integrated over time. Hurricane Sandy lasted three times the duration of the two Hurricanes in 1869 that dominate your list. The actual power dissipated by a Hurricane (PD, as opposed to PDI) is also integrated over area. Hurricane Sandy was the largest Hurricane by diameter ever measured, with a diameter of 1,800 km. The two hurricanes you note in 1869 where quite small, with one being only 97 km in diameter at landfall, and the other not significantly affecting Massachusetts though it made landfall in Maine. That suggests Hurricane Sandy dissipated somewhere in the order of 50 times the power dissipated by those two storms combined. Your "index", however, would not show this; and does not even include Sandy on the list.

    I should note that the size of Sandy alone shows it to not be the old normal. Whether it is a new normal remains to be seen.

    Consequently, while evidence of a willingness to do some calculation, your site hardly constitutes proper analysis. To your credit, the work you have produces might well be the sort of graph that would appear on Roger Pielke Jnr's site, but is not the sort of work I would expect from a professional.

    4 The most interesting feature of your site was the list of North East landing tropical storms. It shows that about 10% of such storms arrived as late in the year as, or later than Hurricane Sandy. The latest landfall was November 28th, 1888. It is not apparent that any of the approx 10 late land falling tropical storms hybridized with a cold front thus forming a "frankenstorm", although certainly they had the potential to do so. Ergo the lateness of Sandy in no way suggests that this is a new normal.

    5 Nobody speaking though fully would suggest that global warming "caused" Hurricane Sandy. There are too many factors involved, most of them meteorological rather than climatological, in the formation and development of a Hurricane. But increased Sea Surface Temperatures are positively correlated with Hurricane power (PDI), and increased sea levels will increase the final depth of storm surge. It follows that global warming has contributed both to the destructive force and the magnitude of the storm surge of Sandy. Without global warming, an equivalent storm would have been less damaging.



    Whether Hurricanes of such large diameter could have existed without global warming is another matter. As it happens, none with a diameter greater than 750 miles has been recorded prior to 1996, although that may just be a matter of the inability to record storm diameter prior to reliable flight.
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  14. KR,
    I stand corrected. I did not go far enough back in her publicaton record.
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  15. Tom Curtis@13

    In baseball terms you just smacked a hard line drive that fracture the center-fielder's hand and bounced into the stands for a ground rule double; this, happening with two outs in the ninth, destroyed climateadj's no hitter.

    All that effort he put into his web site and you just shot him down in under a 1000 words.

    What is it they say about lies, damn lies, and inaccurate statistical interpretation with bias limits and false equivalency?
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  16. Tom Curtis @13

    Sorry for the very late response (busy week). I liked your rebuttal very much and I only have a few little quibbles.

    With oceans rising, I'm in agreement that storm surge damage should increase. However, as the coast line recedes an increasing area of properties become unviable and property exposure might be relatively constant. This could explain the lack of trend in property damages. People might decide, rightly, not to rebuild.

    In my graph, there seems to be a couple of quite periods that coincide with a negative AMO. This supports the SST/hurricane relationship. Why am I not finding a significant trend? It could simply be because the SST's close to the northeast coast haven't warmed much (in an absolute Kelvin sense). I haven't looked at this possibility. One very speculative hypothesis I can think of is that the increased melting of the Greenland Icecap is keeping the Labrador Current cold. The cold fresh water might be floating on the denser, brinier salt water.

    As for the non-hurricane charts you posted, they don't go back very far. This is a continuing debate as to how long a timeseries one needs to determine a trend. I will allow that there are many charts going in the direction of a more extreme meteorlogical world. However, depending on which metric one examines and which start date one chooses, the picture could change to that of more uncertainty.

    As for the "small" hurricanes of 1869, one of them flooded every river from Pennsylvania to New Brunswick. On the southern side it appears to have been a rainfall event. On the Northern side it certainly was a surge evert. Landing in southen Maine, it produced a storm surge of 8' in Moncton, NB (about 300 miles north). The Peticodiac River (pre-Causeway) had a Tidal Bore of ~6ft. From eye-witness statements, this bore was 8'.

    I should mention that the Peticodiac river is a tribuary of the Bay of Fundy, which in the head region has about a 50' tide. Which brings me back to the sea level increase. I visited a friend at his cottage on the Minas Basin recently (southern fork of Bay of Fundy). He said that when he was a kid they had a ballfield out front. I asked where it was now. Apparently the sea washed it away. Instead of ~300' in front of their cottage, there was only ~100ft.

    Regards.
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