Climate Science Glossary

Term Lookup

Enter a term in the search box to find its definition.

Settings

Use the controls in the far right panel to increase or decrease the number of terms automatically displayed (or to completely turn that feature off).

Term Lookup

Settings


All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

Home Arguments Software Resources Comments The Consensus Project Translations About Donate

Twitter Facebook YouTube Pinterest

RSS Posts RSS Comments Email Subscribe


Climate's changed before
It's the sun
It's not bad
There is no consensus
It's cooling
Models are unreliable
Temp record is unreliable
Animals and plants can adapt
It hasn't warmed since 1998
Antarctica is gaining ice
View All Arguments...



Username
Password
Keep me logged in
New? Register here
Forgot your password?

Latest Posts

Archives

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.

0 0

Bookmark and Share Printable Version  |  Link to this page | Repost this Article Repost This

Comments

1  2  Next

Comments 1 to 50 out of 97:

  1. Nailed.

    Yes 'why not better now' is exactly right especially for developed countries; no great population increase, no new shanty towns, little 'natural' coastal sinking, all the counter argument used for somewhere like bangladesh (although even there they now have hurricane shelters and swimmi g lessons for ladies) and still the losses increase
    The insurance comPanies surely know bettr than any how to assess risk
    by definition - it was reading a 2007 Lloyds of london report anticipating minimum 1 metre sea level rise this century around uk that started my 'oh shit' phase ...
    0 0
  2. "Billions of dollars were also saved because local governments had time to minimize the storm's impact on infrastructure."

    One could make an endless list of savings due to better detection and tracking of storms.

    For example, think how much has been saved by airlines being able to move their airplanes out of harms way starting late sunday through early monday, while scheduling them to return on tuesday? They managed to keep a tight window because of accurate tracking, minimizing damage to their equipment *and* downtime.

    One can go on and on with such examples.
    0 0
  3. Rather than "42," Pielke's considered answer to climate, hurricanes and everything seems be "a bazillion."

    That is to say, here's the rejoinder offered by Pielke:

    Skeptical Science has written a bazillion-word post "responding" to my WSJ op-ed in which they (a) do not contest a single empirical claim made in the op-ed, and (b) demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of what it is a loss-normalization seeks to accomplish.

    There are a few loose ends in that argument, starting with how many zeros are in an even bazillion?
    0 0
  4. Wow, what a compelling refutation by Roger Pielke Junior in response to Dana's post(/sarc):

    "Skeptical Science has written a bazillion-word post "responding" to my WSJ op-ed in which they (a) do not contest a single empirical claim made in the op-ed, and (b) demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of what it is a loss-normalization seeks to accomplish."

    Here Pielke Junior is grossly exaggerating and trying to invert reality. Ironically, he made this baseless statement in a post that included "Technical Thread" in the title. Yet, his blog post consists almost entirely of unsubstantiated statements and no technical dioscussion or analysis whatsoever (and no, the figure use as a prop at the top of his post does not count).

    If one wants a technical discussion, with some statistical analysis, then go to OpenMind or RealClimate or SkepticalScience-- pretty much anyone's site except Pielke's blog. Heck even the folks at WUWT try and undertake some technical analysis now and again.

    Roger Pielke Junior seems to think that he is above the fray and that all he has to do is simply assert something and voila, it is true and beyond dispute. That attitude strikes me as being not only arrogant, but the antithesis of how good sacience is done.

    Just for good measure, Roger refers to SkS as "clueless" in the comments thread. Of course he states that without offering any analysis whatsoever to try and back up his juvenile (and unprofessional) jab.

    Now Roger will probably take exception to my wording here and feign offense or worse yet, use it as an excuse not to debate the science. But if he does, he will be guilty of holding a double standard and hypocrisy-- he is all too eager to insult and ridicule people on a whim, but then elects to take exception when people criticize him (or his work), even when they have good reason to do so.
    0 0
  5. Are you not being a bit to "nice" from the post about Grinsted et al.

    "Grinsted et al. have identified an important and reliable indicator of landfalling storms in the U.S. southeast, and have found clear (and statistically significant) evidence of increase in activity over time and association with warmer temperatures. As the world continues to warm, expect the trends to continue."
    0 0
  6. Hah, I like the 'bazillion-word' comment. This post is a little bit on the long side, but 2700 words is hardly a 'bazillion'.

    Personally I prefer a bit of long-winded technical detail to a trite one-word retort. For now my default assumption is that Pielke doesn't have an intelligent response to these criticisms of his comments in the WSJ.
    0 0
  7. In Firefox the only two images I can see are the Bloomberg cover and "The 2012 Atlantic...". When I click on those empty spots I get file not found. I tried hard refresh to no avail. Works fine in Safari.
    0 0
  8. Since we all know what Pielke Jr’s agenda really is this is no surprise at all. That it would be published in WSJ is no surprise at all. We all recognize the standard tactic of cherry-picking the data and obfuscation. I wonder why the US experience is the only one that should matter since, after all, we are talking about GLOBAL warming. I wonder what the Texas farmers who have experienced two consecutive growing seasons of drought would have to say about Pielke Jr’s claim that droughts have become less frequent. I am just grateful for SkS, Dana, and all the others who provide a site where science, truth and reason can shine through!
    0 0
  9. The focus on what’s “sexy” at the moment, be it hurricanes, tornadoes, derechoes, or what have you does miss the point. There are a variety of extreme weather events that happen and do not rise to the level of getting a name or a title. There are a variety of metrics to approximate this; declared disasters, billion dollar weather events, forest fire acreage, drought severity, disruptions to the electrical grid, insured losses from catastrophes etc. Some of these have a socio-economic component which is hard to avoid. The observed increase in the amount of precipitation falling in very heavy precipitation has no socio-economic component, forest fire acreage burned can be complex, but it doesn’t have much of socio-economic component, nor do extreme heat events/drought. If Pielke wants to focus on hurricanes, not only is he cherry picking the data, he’s cherry picking the events. Cross posted @ Tamino's...
    0 0
  10. I invited Pielke Jr. to comment here but he has declined. Apparently he prefers to toss insults at SkS from the comfort of his own blog. Several commenters there have done a good job holding his feet to the fire though, so he's clarified his position a bit.

    Esentially Pielke argues that hurricane power dissipation index (PDI) within the USA has not increased, at least as of 2005 (citing a 2006 paper by Landsea) - I would love to see if that's still true given the high hurricane activity this decade. This despite the fact that Atlantic basin PDI has increased, per Emanuel's work. If both are correct, then despite Atlantic hurricanes becoming more intense, for some reason the average intensity has not increased once they reach the US coast.

    My response to that would be that if Francis is right and the Arctic sea ice decline is going to cause more blocking events near Greenland and thus more hurricanes turning toward the US coast like Sandy, why should we expect that trend to continue? This is an issue Pielke has not addressed at all.

    Nevertheless, his argument is that since US PDI has not increased, normalized losses should not have increased either. Thus if his normalization shows no trend, he's gotten the right answer, so his methodology must be right, even though he entirely fails to account for technological improvements.

    Pielke hasn't made this argument explicitly, but it's what I gather from what little defense he's willing to put forth and what few questions he's willing to answer. And if this is his argument ('I got the answer I expected therefore I'm right'), it's just plain bad science.
    0 0
  11. Alpinist,

    All weather has a socioeconomic impact. It just depends how hard you look.

    Heavy rain events cause more floods. Google Duluth Michigan earlier this year. Fire acreage affects logging, a prime employer in many rural districts, and tourism.

    My food is more expensive today because of the midwestern drought last summer. It will continue to get more expensive until there is a good harvest. A portion of the unrest in the Mid East is due to increased food costs, caused by drought.

    The deniers claim no effects are happening. You just have to look more carefully. That is why Pielke is so selective in his measurements. If he chooses broader measurements, like Munich Re does, the pattern is clear.
    0 0
  12. 10, dana1981,

    I was looking at historical storm tracks (see here and here.), wondering if there has been a change in the tracks of storms so that fewer hit the USA.

    It's possible, but I'd need to download and analyze the data to see.

    But I don't think it's worth the time. After just perusing the data, it looks to me like so few storms hit the USA mainland that it's just a "sparse data cherry pick." That is, without decades upon decades of data, you won't get enough to say if there's been a change.

    It's a very easy thing to do, to say "no change" because so few storms hit, and without a 100% increase in the number of storms, you're not going to see a big change in that 0-3 storms making landfall average.

    Interestingly, storms seem to take one of 3 tracks. If they form far enough south, they go straight and stay south and hit the Caribbean and Mexico, and maybe turn up to hit the USA Gulf Coast. If they form west or north, they turn sooner, maybe skirting Florida and then heading out to sea. And if they form in the "sweet spot", where they turn late, they'll hit landfall in the Gulf or East Coast. But that sweet spot is so small that very, very few storms form there.

    Of course, now we have a fourth category, the "zig zagger" that turns north, then turns back to the coast.

    Anyone know anything about this (the science behind predicted storm tracks)?
    0 0
  13. Michael, agreed all weather has a socioeconomic compononent. My point was that: you can argue we have more declared disasters because it's a "political" response, we have more billion dollar weather events and more insurance paid out because we have more infrastructure at risk etc etc. More precipitation falling as intense events, more droughts, more forest fires, more extreme heat events are simple physical measurements, there is no socioeconomic component to their measurement. Obviously Munich Re doesn’t believe the insurance risk is higher because “there’s more stuff in the way”, and I don’t either.
    0 0
  14. Sphaerica @12 - somewhere in the post I linked a back-and-forth with Pielke commenting on Emanuel (2005) and Emanuel commenting back. Pielke made his 'no normalized US hurricane damage trend' comment and Emanuel came back saying that in looking at all Atlantic hurricanes he was using far more data.

    This is my point, that we know Atlantic hurricanes are becoming more intense, so if that hasn't impacted the USA yet, what's to make us believe that fortune will continue? In a changing climate, Pielke's argument seems like a 'fingers crossed' hope we get lucky when the evidence suggests we won't.
    0 0
  15. Since Pielke has chosen not to comment here, I'll add a few points.

    Many people claim to see the effect of AGW on disaster losses. With Sandy the claim has focused on hurricane losses in particular. But Pielke is right that the peer-reviewed literature is clear that attribution of disaster losses to AGW simply is not possible right now. The signal, whatever it might be, is much smaller than the noise. This will remain true for at least a century. No amount of wishing is going to make it so.

    With regard to hurricane losses, the following point can't be stressed enough: 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. Until you accept and digest this basic reality, you cannot intelligently address the issue of losses.

    Pielke's work on normalization of losses is carefully done and has been fully accepted and undisputed in the peer-reviewed literature. It independently confirms what one expects from the data on hurricanes, tornadoes, etc., namely that no trends in weather data imply no increase in normalized, weather-related disasters.

    Emanuel's work is interesting but not relevant to the issue of LOSSES if the hurricanes don't reach land. Keep in mind that Emanuel argues that the more extensive Atlantic basin data set allows him to detect a trend that is not yet evident in the landfalling data. Whether that detected trend is true or not, he agrees that no attribution of losses can be made to hurricanes since the signal is missing in the landfalling data. Unfortunately, Emanuel's data has problems as well, since long-term coverage of the Atlantic basin storm record is spotty at best and suffers from measurement bias induced by the satellite era. Emanuel's improved statistics are of questionable value given the uncertain status of systematic errors.

    Please note that the graph given above for Atlantic basin ACE appears to have no statistically significant trend with the noise as large as it is. If you think the trend is significant, please provide the uncertainty.

    The arguments repeatedly made above about improvements in adaptation, such as better building codes, having an effect on losses are misguided. While substantial improvements in building codes have indeed been made, few of these adaptations are aimed specifically at hurricane losses, but rather at improved day-to-day safety, environmental impact, and cost. Unless structures are designed and built specifically for hurricanes, there's no reason to expect buildings to withstand hurricanes any better. Consider that a colonial-era fieldstone structure is more likely to survive than a modern lumber and siding structure. Is this so hard to understand?
    0 0
    Moderator Response: All-caps converted to italics in accordance with the comments policy.
  16. Thanks for the comment, Brian.
    You make a number of valid points. For instance, adhoc I cannot find any peer-reviewed studies challenging the Pielke normalization methodology, or offering a better one. However, while it makes sense intuitively, I still find it highly human-centric (aka human population and wealth only is assessed), and snap-shot like. Meaning, long-term effects are not (and maybe cannot be) considered, but would be the baseline to compare against.

    Also, I think the point in the post about human adaptive development is hardly "misguided". At first glance, there may be no effect, but upon thinking of examples, especially improved drainage system in reponse to urban flooding, I think you will realize that adaptation has indeed taken place. And I would venture to say that the investment into that public infrastructure has paid off.
    0 0
  17. 'Scruggs and Benegal (2012)' link needs fixing ("file not found"). thanks
    0 0
  18. But Pielke is right that the peer-reviewed literature is clear that attribution of disaster losses to AGW simply is not possible right now.

    But the fact that a number cannot be put to it, doesn't mean the number is zero. It's the same with externalities.

    In the WSJ op-ed Pielke writes: "If Sandy causes $20 billion in damage (in 2012 dollars) it would rank as the 17th most damaging hurricane or tropical storm (out of 242) to hit the U.S. since 1900—a significant event, but not close to the top 10."

    Any updates on that?
    0 0
  19. Brian: To answer your question on statistical significance of the Atlantic ACE trends, the trends and uncertainties calculated using an AR(1) noise model:
    1850-2011: 0.30 +/- 0.10
    1900-2011: 0.44 +/- 0.19
    1950-2011: 0.42 +/- 0.46
    1970-2011: 2.31 +/- 0.80

    Trends are statistically significant at the 95% confidence level from 1850, 1900 or 1970, but not if you start from the 1950 peak.
    0 0
  20. Brian: Concerning this quote:
    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.
    I don't think this claim accurately reflects the latest evidence. See Grinsted et al (2012) and Mann et al (2009).

    Both of these address the coverage concerns of Landsea (2007) in different ways, although clearly the issue isn't settled yet.
    0 0
  21. BrianB:

    I have a question with regards to your comment.

    You state:

    But Pielke is right that the peer-reviewed literature is clear that attribution of disaster losses to AGW simply is not possible right now. The signal, whatever it might be, is much smaller than the noise.


    That's claiming we don't have the data or techniques to tease out the contribution of AGW to natural disasters or to losses therefrom.

    It seems to me to be much different from claiming that there is no contribution of AGW to disasters, or to disaster losses, which we can examine with reference to physics (e.g. higher sea surface temps mean more powerful storms, higher sea levels mean more dangerous/damaging storm surges, and the like).

    By way of historical example, if memory serves the global warming signal in surface temperatures only emerged from the noise in the late 80s, and can easily be lost in it if one examines short time frames - or finer spatial resolutions, such as only looking at US records (as if, somehow, the US is the only polity that matters in this discussion). But experiment & physics theory had confirmed by the 50s that enhancing the atmospheric heat trap by emitting carbon gases would cause warming.
    0 0
  22. Neven: Looks like the current estimates for Sandy have risen into the $50 billion range and continue to trend up.
    0 0
  23. This is the same nonsense we got in the tobacco wars;

    'You cannot prove that the lung cancer which killed John Smith was caused by his longtime smoking habit. People died of lung cancer before cigarettes too.'

    'You cannot prove that the storm which devastated New Jersey was caused by longtime human CO2 emissions. Devastating storms happened before AGW too.'

    Both arguments are 'true', but deliberately avoiding the point.

    Smoking causes lung cancer! AGW causes devastating storms! Drunk driving causes car accidents!

    The perpetual refrain that 'you cannot prove they caused that particular incident' is pure misdirection. We still can't prove that John Smith died because of smoking or that a fatal car accident would not have happened but for the driver's drinking... but that doesn't stop us from recognizing that these things are dangerous. The refusal to do so with global warming is a terrible mix of willful blindness and callous indifference.
    0 0
  24. IIRC, the connection between AGW and an increase in hurricanes is tenuous. A decline in the difference between temperature gradients might offset the increase in available energy due to the increase in SSTs. Fewer, but stronger, hurricanes. And, as with, Sandy, there might be a radical change in storm tracks.

    And to iterate the point made in #23, there is no "proof" in science. Anyone who asks for "proof" is either running a con or severely misunderstands science.
    0 0
  25. Some info regarding improvement in construction of homes reducing losses...

    Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety analysed claims made after Hurricane Charley (2004), finding

    "frequency of claims was reduced by 60% and the claim was 42% less severe when a loss did occur, for homes built after the adoption of the modern codes. "

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic
    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic
    Image and video hosting by TinyPic
    0 0
  26. in pic 3 and 4 above, claim severity is in "$/square foot"
    0 0
  27. should of made it clear, data is for Charlotte County, Florida only. last post on this, i promise :)
    0 0
  28. Alpinist: Looks like the current estimates for Sandy have risen into the $50 billion range and continue to trend up.

    For me one of the most striking (and reckless) things about Pielke's op-ed was employment of ~$20 billion as key evidence for his argument. Hasty, risky.
    0 0
  29. Brian @15,

    Others have already corrected some of your erroneous claims/assertions. I'm busy drafting a response to your misleading post, but as is often the case, refuting misleading or erroneous claims takes a lot more time (and effort) than making them.

    More to follow.
    0 0
  30. Jake @25,

    Thanks for your informative post.
    0 0
  31. Brian @15 - I appreciate you making the effort to defend Pielke's work and comments, since he's unwilling to defend them himself. And you do have a few valid points. For example, I take no issue with Pielke's normalization process. It seems perfectly fine - the problem is that it's limited in that it does not consider technological advancements. Not just in buildings (though jake @25 provides some very useful data on that specific issue), but also in terms of storm barriers, model predictions of hurricane paths, etc. Pielke doesn't even attempt to account for these factors, he just says (as far as I can tell) 'I got the answer I expected to those factors must be negligible'. That's bad science.

    I also second Kevin's comment @20 that Grinsted at least suggests US hurricane landfalls are increasing (I haven't looked at the Mann paper he references).

    But even if Pielke is right that the intensity of hurricanes making landfall in the USA isn't increasing, why should we expect that to continue, particularly when Francis predicts more blocking events like the one that pushed Sandy toward the coast to occur as a result of changes in the Arctic? Even if we've been lucky so far in that the increase in Atlantic hurricane intensity hasn't impacted the USA, why assume we'll continue to be lucky when the evidence suggests otherwise?

    There are just a lot of holes in Pielke's argument, and it seems to be based on ignoring a whole lot of inconvenient data.
    0 0
  32. Kevin C,

    Thanks for those numbers. Just by eyeing it up I would have guessed a significantly larger uncertainty, but that's why we do the calculation.

    Regarding the quote, what part of the Grinsted and Mann papers do you think contradicts what I wrote? Grinsted looked at surge data at only 6 sites, mostly in the SE U.S., so does not provide data for the entire U.S. Even so, they found no trend since the 1920s in the surge index, which they say should be interpreted as a measure of potential threat to infrastructure. They do show a trend in the most intense surge events, which they say correspond to hurricane-level events, but since we already know there's no trend in the number of landfalling U.S. hurricanes, it's hard to know what to conclude about it.

    The Mann paper measures sediment data at a handful of sites in the eastern U.S. and Caribbean, but the sediments show strong changes in the 20th century that Mann correlates with cylone activity in the entire atlantic basin. The paper explicitly assumes that smoothed landfalling hurricanes rates vary in proportion with basin rates, but this assumption is not valid for the 20th century (since no landfalling trend is actually seen). At no point does either paper show or claim an actual increase in U.S. landfalling hurricanes (frequency or strength) since 1851.
    0 0
    Moderator Response: [DB] Please refrain from all-caps usage (converted to bold above); also, please review this site's Comments Policy. Thanks!
  33. Albatross (#29),

    I don't believe I've made any erroneous claims, certainly none has been pointed out above, but I am open to correction if I have. I look forward to your analysis and our future discussion.
    0 0
  34. Composer99 (#21)

    You say

    "That's claiming we don't have the data or techniques to tease out the contribution of AGW to natural disasters or to losses therefrom.

    It seems to me to be much different from claiming that there is no contribution of AGW to disasters, or to disaster losses, which we can examine with reference to physics (e.g. higher sea surface temps mean more powerful storms, higher sea levels mean more dangerous/damaging storm surges, and the like)."

    The two are indeed different claims. Let me point out that Pielke only makes the first claim, that we haven't been able to see the signal yet. As far as I know, he fully expects that signal to be seen in the future. 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. He's not denying the existence of a signal, only our ability to see it at a statistically significant level.

    Let's be clear: all the statements we see in the blogosphere and from politicians and other commentators attempt to attribute current losses to AGW. There is no scientific basis for such claims and this is Pielke's point. Those who make such claims are going beyond what science can say. If we are honest, we will criticize them and their misuse of science, not the Pielke's of the world.
    0 0
    Moderator Response: [DB] Please refrain from all-caps usage (converted to bold above); also, please review this site's Comments Policy. Thanks!
  35. Brian: They do show a trend in the most intense surge events, which they say correspond to hurricane-level events, but since we already KNOW there's no trend in the number of landfalling U.S. hurricanes, it's hard to know what to conclude about it.

    I wonder if anybody's done analysis of the general approach speed of storms over the past few decades? Holding other storm characteristics constant, a general slackening of approach speed might produce that result, seemingly.
    0 0
  36. Brian @34 - I'll tell you from my perspective, the reason Pielke gets so much heat is that he (intentionally or unintentionally, I don't know) undermines efforts to actually address the underlying problem with posts like this WSJ piece. For example, as I discuss above, his bogus "hurricane drought" argument is totally useless except as ammunition for certain parties to argue that global warming and extreme weather aren't connected, or are nothing to worry about, etc.

    In fact it's hard to understand why he wrote the piece at all. As I discussed, there's a clear link between extreme weather intensity (including hurricanes) and global warming, so what's the purpose in writing an article in the WSJ just to say we can't yet make a clear link between global warming and normalized economic hurricane damage (even if that's true, which I still hold is a faulty argument)?

    If you actually want to get something done to address climate change (though I'm not entirely sure Pielke does), that's a major messaging failure. I know Pielke doesn't see it that way - he thinks those who are making the link are the ones screwing up the messaging - but he's wrong, and that's one of the main reasons for the criticism (aside from the fact that he's on shaky scientific footing at best).
    0 0
  37. A little further along the lines of Dana's thoughts, Pielke as far as I know has been consistent on a point with which most of us would find agreement: the present model of coastal development is wrong in many ways. That leaves me scratching my head over his employing short term variance in hurricane strikes as an argument against becoming overly excited about hurricanes.

    We've had a deficit of hurricane strikes that can't be taken as indicative of what the future portends, but we should model our planning on those few years? It's as though he's arguing against his own long-standing advice that we remodel our thinking about coastal development. I doubt that's his intention.

    Confusing.
    0 0
  38. Brian: OK, so the Grinsted and Mann papers achieve a homogenous record but don't measure quite what you want them to. Unfortunately when dealing with proxies you have to take what you can get.

    If ACE is the only measure which specifically addresses your questions, then I guess we have to work with that. So the next step is to see if we can extract any further information from the ACE.

    Hurricane activity is certainly correlated with AMO (unsurprisingly, because AMO is primarily a temperature measure). So if we do a multivariate regression with AMO and a linear term, we will get a better fit to the data and thus reduce the uncertainties, unless the extra parameter in the denominator is enough to counter the improvement. I can give that a go over the next few days, but it's a bit of work, so if you have any objections to the methodology then please make them now.

    (My objection is that all we're really saying is that ACE is more correlated with ocean temperature than with time. I'm very happy to re-frame the discussion in those terms, but unless RPJr is projecting an imminent end to warming I think it is unhelpful to his case.)
    0 0
  39. Kevin @38:
    "My objection is that all we're really saying is that ACE is more correlated with ocean temperature than with time"
    Indeed, and ocean temperature is of course correlated with human-caused global warming, which is increasing over time. Really you just can't escape the fact that global warming makes hurricanes more intense. Pielke tries to escape that by arguing that this increased intensity hasn't directly impacted economic losses along the US coast yet, which may or may not be true, but even if true, there's no reason to expect this fortune to continue in the future. Which is the point of this post.
    0 0
  40. The editorial, Recent storms highlight need for Northeast hurricane mitigation plan posted on Business Insurance on Nov 4, 2012 nicely dovetails with Dana’s OP and undercuts Roger Pielke Jr’s rather shallow analysis.
    0 0
  41. Neven @14, Pielke shows the following graph of normalized annual losses:



    The figures are normalized to 2012 values. Looking at his data for Pielke et al, (2008),he shows only seven land falling hurricanes showing greater than 35 billion dollars damage, normalized to 2005 levels (ie, approx 40 billion normalized to 2012 levels). His claim that Sandy would rank as only the 17th most damaging hurricane is therefore false, assuming Moody's estimates are reasonable.

    Oddly, Pielke shows a Sandy estimate of 30 billion, contrary to Moody's, which he cites and links to. Moody's actually gives an estimate of 30-50 billion; from which it appears that Pielke has deliberately reported the low end of the estimated range as being Moody's estimate.

    Further, it is illegitimate to quote his "normalized damages" as data for the most costly hurricane. The most damaging hurricane based on his normalized costs was the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926, with normalized losses of 157 billion dollars (normalized to 2005), but the actual cost in 1926 was just 105 million dollars, equivalent to a cost of one billion dollar in constant 2005 value, or 1.15 billion in 2012. Quoting the actual price parity cost is misleading because the increase in costs are largely a consequence of increasing population and wealth; but that does not excuse Pielke's inaccurate language.

    What is more, and contrary to Dana, I have severe doubts about Pielke's normalization procedure. As noted, the most highest normalized cost of any land falling Hurricane in the US, according to Pielke is, 157 billion dollars (2005 value). That means normalization has increased the recorded value by nearly 1,500 fold. By contrast, the other two hurricanes making landfall in 1926 have multipliers of 1250 (Hurricane 1, landfall in Florida) and 150 (Hurricane 3, landfall in Louisiana). The second most costly hurricane in Pielke's data was the 1900 hurricane of Galveston ($78,000,000,000; multiplier approx 2,600). That multiplier contrasts starkly with the 160 multiplier of hurricane 4 of 1901.

    It is not difficult to recognize the issue involved. Lousiana's population has increased 2.2-fold since 1926, whereas that of Miami has increased more than ten fold in the same period. Galveston is also an area of very high population growth. That population growth has been matched by an increase in land values and in intensive residency. Both population and wealth per capita are factors in Pielke's normalization.

    Crucially, however, when cities develop very large populations, construction techniques do not stay constant. Miami, for example has moved from low houses and flats towards large reinforced concrete sky scrapers. The result is a significant loss of vulnerability to storm damage quite independent of any issues related to superior construction techniques for individual housing.

    Put simply, dropping a tree on a house destroys it. Doing the same to the Empire State Building will shatter a few panes of glass. You cannot "normalize" the destructive impact of the former relative to the later simply by multiplying costs by the increase in population per square kilometer and the per capita wealth. Such a simplistic approach can only work in regions where the dominant style of construction has remained constant over time, ie, in rural areas and/or small cities and towns.

    The crucial point here is that Pielke's flat trend in normalized losses depends on the existence of a very few, very costly (in normalized terms) storms early in the record. Without Galveston 1900, Galveston 1915, Great Miami 1926 and Hurricane 11 1944 (Florida land fall), the trend in normalized damages would undoubtedly be upwards. If Pielke's normalization took proper account of change in building design and standards (demonstrated by Jake above), his data would provide clear evidence that hurricanes are becoming more damaging with increased global temperatures.
    0 0
  42. BrianB @15 and @33,

    You say "I don't believe I've made any erroneous claims, certainly none has been pointed out above, but I am open to correction if I have."

    Well, a few people here have already pointed out errors in your posts without you acknowledging or correcting them. We'll see how you respond to my comments, but to be honest I expect you to either ignore them or double down.

    While I do not disagree with everything you say, the literature does not support many of the unsupported/unsubstantiated assertions that you make in your post nor are matters as clear cut as you suggest. In fact, you seem to be
    using the very same debating technique that Pielke Junior uses.

    On to addressing your claims:

    1) "The signal, whatever it might be, is much smaller than the noise. This will remain true for at least a century. No amount of wishing is going to make it so."

    Why would someone wish for hurricane damage to increase? Nevertheless, the emergence of the signal is not 100 years as you claim. From Emanuel (2011) (my bolding):

    "For the three climate models that have increasing damage, the climate change signal emerges from background variability, according to a recently published criterion, on time scales of 40, 113, and 170 yr, respectively; the decreasing signal of the fourth model is not clearly distinguishable from noise even after 200 yr. On the other hand, the probability distributions of damage in a warming climate become distinguished from those of background climate in as little as 25 yr; thus, we argue that those concerned with future U.S. country-wide tropical cyclone damage on decadal time scales would be well advised to include climate change as a consideration."

    See also Composer99`s comment @21.


    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. "

    Emanuel(2011)recently addressed this issue,

    "While basin-wide metrics of tropical cyclone activity show statistically robust changes in the aforementioned model-based projections and may already be evident in observations, there is little evidence for a trend in tropical cyclone–related damage in the United States (Pielke et al. 2008). This is not surprising, as most wind-related damage is done by tropical cyclones that happen to be at high intensity at the time they make landfall. This is a small subset of all storms over a relatively small fraction of their typical life spans, thus the statistical base of potentially damaging events is small compared to that of the basin-wide set of storms."

    This issue was also dealt with a while ago when Pielke Junior attempted to undermine a 2005 paper by Emanuel. That did not end well for Pielke.

    Also, does it not strike you odd that on the one hand Pielke likes to now focus on land-falling category three hurricanes in the USA? When someone pointed out to him recently that there has been an increase in insured losses for specific disaster types in the USA and Germany, Pielke's retort was,

    "It is a big planet, I can find up and down trends for various phenomena over various time periods. Such arguments are very similar to "Temperatures have cooled in Atlanta over 80 years so global warming is false."

    That is just bluster. It also demonstrates that he seems to choose regional areas or the globe depending on which one best fits with his narrative. Such contradictory and internally inconsistent arguments made by contrarians and delayers is commonplace.


    3) "Whether that detected trend is true or not, he agrees that no attribution of losses can be made to hurricanes since the signal is missing in the landfalling data."

    Can you provided a citation please? The point is that, unlike Pielke, Emanuel looks at all the data. From a recent Nature paper by Mendelsohn et al. (2012) (on which Emanuel was a co-author):

    "One potential impact from greenhouse-gas emissions is increasing damage from extreme events. Here, we quantify how climate change may affect tropical cyclone damage. We find that future increases in income are likely to double tropical cyclone damage even without climate change. Climate change is predicted to increase the frequency of high-intensity storms in selected ocean basins depending on the climate model. Climate change doubles economic damage, but the result depends on the parameters of the damage function."

    Also, from Emanuel (2011),
    "Thus, the weight of current evidence suggests a possibly substantial increase in damaging Atlantic
    hurricanes over the current century, though uncertainty remains large."


    and from Villarini and Vecchi (2012),

    "Under uniform SST warming, these results indicate that there is a modest sensitivity of intensity, and a decrease in tropical storm and hurricane frequencies. On the other hand, increases in tropical Atlantic SST relative to the tropical mean SST suggest an increase in the intensity and frequency of North Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes."

    Yet we still have some people arguing for delay in reducing GHG emissions or people like Pielke Junior providing fodder for those who deny the theory of AGW, or those who are against implementing measures to make meaningful reductions in GHG emissions. No wonder planners and those tasked with protecting the public and property are not listening to the likes of Pielke Junior.


    4) "Unfortunately, Emanuel's data has problems as well, since long-term coverage of the Atlantic basin storm record is spotty at best and suffers from measurement bias induced by the satellite era. Emanuel's improved statistics are of questionable value given the uncertain status of systematic errors."

    As I suspect you know, all datasets and all methods have their limitations. Odd then that you choose to highlight those in Emanuel's data, yet ignore the uncertainties and limitations in Pielke et al's methods and data. From SREX:

    "Long-term trends in economic disaster losses adjusted for wealth and population increases have not been attributed to climate change, but a role for climate change has not been excluded (high agreement, medium evidence). These conclusions are subject to a number of limitations in studies to date. Vulnerability is a key factor in disaster losses, yet it is not well accounted for. Other limitations are: (i) data availability, as most data are available for standard economic sectors in developed countries; and (ii) type of hazards studied, as most studies focus on cyclones, where confidence in observed trends and attribution of changes to human influence is low. The second conclusion is subject to additional limitations: (iii) the processes used to adjust loss data over time, and (iv) record length."


    Further, as numerous people have pointed out now, the normalization technique used by Pielke and others take into account those factors which can increase the losses, but fail incorporate (or properly account for) those factors that work to reduce losses. Furthermore, many studies on losses look only at the impacts from wind, when water damage is a huge factor; for superstorm Sandy the massive storm surge and flooding was responsible for much of the damage, yet many insurance companies do not provide coverage for flooding. So any metric that ignores the observed acceleration of the hydrological cycle will underestimate the full impact of the storms.


    5) "Please note that the graph given above for Atlantic basin ACE appears to have no statistically significant trend with the noise as large as it is. If you think the trend is significant, please provide the uncertainty."

    Your interpretation is incorrect. We don't "think" the trend is positive (please don't play rhetorical games), rather the data show that your assertion is false and that the data do have a statistically significant trend as demonstrated by KR above.

    6) "The arguments repeatedly made above about improvements in adaptation, such as better building codes, having an effect on losses are misguided. While substantial improvements in building codes have indeed been made, few of these adaptations are aimed specifically at hurricane losses,...."

    This is false. It is also chock full of unsupported claims. Installing "hurricane straps", for example, has been required for many years now in certain locales. Other measures to specifically mitigate hurricane damage have been implemented as shown by jake above.

    In closing, could I request that if you insist on continuing to post here and defend Pielke Junior that you cease to make unsupported claims and instead show respect for people reading this thread by investing some time and providing citations and supporting evidence from reliable and vetted sources to support your claims. Otherwise, you are just wasting everyone's time. Thanks!
    0 0
  43. I would strongly argue that number of events is a much more useful statistic than normalized loss. Loss reductions due to technology or building codes come at their own (and notably absent from Pielke's normalization) costs, namely the cost of those advances and the extra building materials needed to weather such storms.

    Number of events, if properly normalized for observation rates, is by contrast technology neutral. it tracks actual changes in the environment (not how much concrete you put into a seawall), reflects an ongoing rate of investment (how many seawalls are needed for future conditions, and how many need to be rebuilt due to changes?), and tells us something about the world we live in.

    I would strongly suggest looking at Tamino's post on Unnatural Catastrophes, as per the Opening Post: based upon Pielke Jr's misdirection and suggestions from commentors (including me), he uses non-climate catastrophes such as earthquakes, volcanos, and tsunamis (I cannot see the last two being strongly affected by any climate changes to date) to normalize weather catastrophes against technologies, demonstrating that climate events do indeed have a strong upward trend.

    Normalized losses lead directly to arguments over inflation, discount rates, population density, etc. - I suggest dropping that thread entirely as simply a region of confusion. Event counts are a much cleaner statistic.
    0 0
  44. Thanks for the extra info, Tom Curtis. I had seen that graph on Pielke's blog, and that Great Miami Hurricane peak made me think of the elephant that wriggles his trunk.
    0 0
  45. KR @43 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.

    Having said that, the Munich re data (used by Tamino) cannot be used without qualification. The definition of a catastrophe is based on either a minimum level of economic damage or lives lost. Therefore some events that would have been catastrophes in the past will not be catastrophes now (based on lives lost) because of better warning systems and/or construction; and a number that are catastrophes now may not have been catastrophes in the past (based on the monetary limit) due to increased wealth and populations at risk. Consequently a count of numbers and intensity of hazards would be even better.

    With that in mind, and with direct reference to Sandy, the results from Grinsted et al are particularly interesting:



    The positive trend in strong surge events (and hence hurricanes) is straightforward, as is the increase in US (not North Atlantic) -Accumulated Cyclone Energy.
    0 0
  46. Tom @41 - I think we're saying the same thing in different ways. My point was that Pielke's method of adjusting for population and value growth is fine, but it's also insufficient, because of the failure to account for technological improvements. I think that's basically the same point you're making as well. Very informative comments by the way, thanks.
    0 0
  47. dana, not quite what I was saying. I think that in addition to improvements in technology, there is a further factor from increased intensity of dwelling that needs to be corrected for. A population of 500 people dispersed among 120 houses will be more vulnerable to hurricanes than the same population population in a single high rise block of units. That is because the high rise unit will have much greater structural strength than the individual houses of necessity simply to remain upright. That structural strength then provides substantial protection from storm damage. There would be additional compounding effects. In a city center with many high rises, the increased number of high rises would reduce wind speeds, and reduce the amount of air born debris both because they would lack roofs that could be blown of and because there would be fewer trees that could blow down.

    So, a 2012 high rise would be safer than a 1926 high rise; just as a 2012 house would be safer than a 1926 house through an improvement in technology. But additionally, a shift in population from living in houses to living in high rises would provide further protection.

    This is particularly important because the improvement in technology would have an approximately equal effect in all areas, whether rural or urban. But the additional protection from switching from primary residence in houses (or small flats) to primary residence in high rises will be focused in exactly those areas with the highest population rise over the twentieth century introducing a massive and systematic bias into Pielke's normalization.
    0 0
  48. Albatross (#41),

    I appreciate the time and effort you've taken to engage my comments. I do intend to respond when I have more time. I must confess to being a bit bemused, however, over your comments such as

    "Well, a few people here have already pointed out errors in your posts without you acknowledging or correcting them."

    and

    "cease to make unsupported claims and instead show respect for people reading this thread"

    Please note that I am one person against a large number of responders, so I can't respond to everyone in the same depth that you have responded to me. Please also note that I have responded to and acknowledged multiple posts above, at all times showing respect. My responses have been detailed and substantive, especially in addressing the attached links. It's true that I haven't added links or too many quotes, but that's only because formatting is not my forte.

    Other than the issue of whether the ACE graph shows a trend (which response I immediately acknowledged and accepted), there haven't been too many "errors" pointed out. Mostly, posters have accepted much of what I said and then engaged in additional dialogue. You, on the other hand, appear to be more combative and perhaps that's coloring your impression of what's been said above.

    Regarding your many points and quotes, I do intend to respond in some detail, but I must confess to seeing very little that conflicts with anything I've said. That you think it does suggests, perhaps, that I haven't made myself sufficiently clear.
    0 0
  49. Brian@48,

    People, especially scientists, tend to be bemused when someone makes a myriad of unsupported claims and assertions, regardless of how detailed they might be. You could have saved people here and yourself a lot of trouble had you cared to make the effort to support your claims using vetted and reliable sources-- sorry, but claiming that "formatting" is not your forte is not an excuse, cut and paste links if need be. So feel free to be "bemused", but I'm afraid you really only have yourself to blame.

    Brian, please don't quote mine my text, I did not say "cease to make....". What I said was:

    "In closing, could I request that if you insist on continuing to post here and defend Pielke Junior that you cease to make…. "

    That is not quite the same as how you presented it.

    As for the ACE index, my apologies, I missed where you acknowledged that Kevin C (not KR as I said above). Good that we agree that the ACE has been on the the increase, as has the PDI incidentally.

    You say @34 that,
    "Let's be clear: all the statements we see in the blogosphere and from politicians and other commentators attempt to attribute current losses to AGW. There is no scientific basis for such claims and this is Pielke's point. "

    That is exactly the topic of Dana's post. I am not personally aware of people attributing the total cost of Sandy's destruction to AGW. Some have (very likely) incorrectly stated that AGW "caused' Sandy, but asking that misguided question misses the important key issues. Oddly, Pielke cannot bring himself to agree with Dana (and by extension SkS) on this key issue, choosing instead to hurl personal insults from afar.

    Dana and others have made a very detailed and sound argument against the tactics and games being played by Pielke. So your quote above misses the point of Dana's post.
    0 0
  50. Tom @47,

    That is an interesting thought. I wonder if information supporting your idea could be gleaned from census data?
    0 0

1  2  Next

You need to be logged in to post a comment. Login via the left margin or if you're new, register here.



The Consensus Project Website

TEXTBOOK

THE ESCALATOR

(free to republish)

THE DEBUNKING HANDBOOK

BOOK NOW AVAILABLE

The Scientific Guide to
Global Warming Skepticism

Smartphone Apps

iPhone
Android
Nokia

© Copyright 2014 John Cook
Home | Links | Translations | About Us | Contact Us