Here are Tony Heller’s videos on the 2018 National Climate Assessment
Reblogged from Watts Up With That:
December 4, 2018
Guest post by Bob Vislocky
In light of the devastating wildfires that ravished California last month, I thought it would be interesting to critically review a frequently referenced article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2016 titled “Impact of Anthropogenic Climate Change on Wildfire Across Western US Forests” by John T. Abatzoglou and A. Park Williams.
In the paper, which was the first and most significant quantitative effort to link climate change to wildfires, the authors conclude that roughly 50% of the wild fire acreage in the Western United States from 1979 to 2015 can be attributed to Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) as displayed in the figures below:
Not so surprisingly the article contains several serious deficiencies which will be presented below.
1) In the article, the authors create a wildfire regression model by correlating various weather parameters (temperature, humidity, etc…) to wildfire acreage. Then the AGW component of those parameters is removed from the raw weather data (using CMIP5 climate models) and the adjusted weather parameters are input to the wildfire regression model to determine the amount of acreage that would have burned without AGW.
However, the AGW components filtered out for maximum temperature in the summer and fall (which is the height of fire season) appear to be way too high (~2*C according to figure S1 in the article). In reality, the AGW component for maximum temperature during the summer and fall is closer to 0.5*C when computed from actual observations using the same baseline period as in the article (see graph below):
The estimates of the AGW component for minimum temperature in summer and fall were also inflated by the authors, but to a lesser extent. From the same figure S1 in their article it appears that from June to November they used an AGW contribution for minimum temperature around 1.5 to 2.0*C across the region. In reality, the AGW component for the summer and fall using actual observations is closer to 0.9*C (see figure below).
As a result of the authors’ desire to use climate models to determine the AGW component for the necessary weather parameters, their estimates of the AGW component for maximum and minimum temperature during fire season was roughly 2-4 times too high compared to trends in actual observations figured over a larger scale. Moreover, that 2-4 times factor is a conservative overestimation that assumes the entire observed temperature trend is due to AGW. For example, if the observed trend in max/min temperatures was 50% natural and 50% anthropogenic, then the authors would have overestimated the AGW component by 4-8 times. In the event the authors were to revise the study with more realistic AGW-adjusted temperatures then it is likely there would be much less attribution of wildfire acreage as a result of AGW.
2) Post-mortem attribution studies like these almost always lead to biased results. Let me explain how. Consider a variable like precipitation where the global trends over the past century are very weak or non-existent. Despite the lack of a global trend there will still always be several locations or regions where the local trend is highly positive or negative due to natural regional variability. All that is required is to select one of those regions, say New England, figure out that the number of 1+ inch rain events has increased over the last 100 years and then run an attribution study which shows the increased rains are correlated with global warming. In the end, however, that amounts to nothing more than cherry picking. Over the last century, there have been NO increases in the severity of drought during fire season when measured over a nationwide scale despite all the added CO2 (see figure below). Therefore none of the recent drought that the western US is currently experiencing can be attributed to global warming over natural regional variability.
3) Post-mortem event attribution studies like these are also inherently flawed because they look at the research area in isolation without consideration to the weather or climate around the rest of the world. An example will be provided using hurricane Michael that destroyed parts of the Florida Panhandle this year. All that is required is to subtract out the +1*C temperature anomaly from the Gulf of Mexico region caused by AGW and to re-run the computer models using the adjusted weather & sea surface data. When the results come back that Michael would only have reached Category 2 strength without AGW the climate scientists can claim that global warming significantly contributed to the storm’s intensity and all the newspapers will pick up on the story!
However the fatal flaw is that similar but opposite attribution tests are not performed simultaneously over other the rest of the hurricane season and other areas of open water around the world to see if a strong hurricane would have developed that otherwise didn’t because there was excess global warming in the wrong places. Otherwise, attribution studies could be run on all the hurricanes in the past couple decades to show that they all would have been 25-50% weaker without AGW. However, since there is no apparent overall trend in hurricane frequency or strength, an explanation would then be required to explain the mechanism by why hurricane strength would have been decreasing so substantially over the last few decades without an AGW component. That’s why it’s important to look at the overall trend on a national or global scale rather than fixate on a certain storm or region in doing these attribution studies.
In the case of wildfires, if the west was getting lots of rain instead of arid conditions this year, then maybe Texas or Florida would have gotten more wildfires instead, or perhaps the Midwest would have had a major drought that affected their crops. There is no way an event-driven attribution test can property detect an AGW component, especially since climate models are unable to reproduce natural regional variability.
4. The authors did not include known natural contributions to arid conditions in the Western US that have nothing to do with CO2, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which has been shown in several publications to be correlated to wildfires in the Western US, as seen in the figure below.
5) According to the US Forest Service, roughly 85% of all wild fires are started by humans. Since the population of the US has grown by 40% over their period of study, often extending into areas where previously there was less human activity, it would not be a stretch to claim that a portion of the growth in wildfires in the past several decades could be attributed to human carelessness unrelated to CO2. Moreover, over the past 20 years there has been a systematic 30-70% reduction in the fleet of large air tankers used by the Forest Service to combat wildfires. These and other human facets were not considered.
Now, in all fairness, the authors do provide a list of assumptions toward the end of the paper. In addition, they did provide a more conservative analysis that de-trended the burn data to account for potential extraneous correlations (such as those mentioned above in bullet points 4 & 5), and that modified analysis showed only 19% of the burned acres was due to AGW. However, this is buried in the middle of the article in a two-sentence blurb that nobody is going to read along with the assumptions, plus it still doesn’t address the first three points above. Unfortunately the near 50% contribution of AGW toward wildfire acreage mentioned in the abstract is what gets quoted when the study is referenced.
Conclusion: There is little question that recent drought conditions enhanced the spread of November’s wildfires in California. However, due to the many considerations expressed above it would likely be a huge over-reach to conclude that CO2-induced climate change is responsible for anywhere close to the 50% of the wildfire acreage estimated by the authors over the last few decades in the western US. Regrettably, results from their article spread like a wildfire through the media and has appeared in publications like the New York Times, Scientific American, and most recently the Fourth National Climate Assessment.
Guest Opinion: Dr. Tim Ball
There is no hope for the truth when world leaders like Governor Brown of California (he runs the 19th largest economy in the world) can present such utterly false information in pursuit of a political agenda.
“Since civilization emerged 10,000 years ago, we haven’t had this kind of heat condition, and it’s going to continue getting worse and that’s the way it is.”
Civilization began more than 10,000 years ago and, in my opinion, it hasn’t reached California yet. I consider the 20,000-year-old cave paintings a measure of civilization, certainly superior to most ‘art’ produced in California today. It also reflects an awareness of nature that Brown lacks. Yes, the State may be wealthy, and manifest glamor and glitz, but, in my opinion, from Hollywood on down there are very few signs of civilization.
It was created by people going west, as Horace Greeley advised, looking for the promised land. It got drier and drier as they crossed the Mississippi and passed the 500 mm isohyet. They reached California and were determined to make it the land of milk and honey, even though most of the State has deficit moisture conditions all the time. It has burgeoned by literally plundering the water from the north and east including bringing it over the mountains from the Colorado River. The truth is most of the State is arid or semi-arid.
Brown clearly doesn’t know that the world was 6°C warmer 9000 years ago and was warmer than today for at least 95 % of the last 10,000 years known as the Holocene Optimum. Consider those conditions in California today. The Governor should count his blessing for purporting to be in charge during a cooler phase of global temperature. Being ignorant is one problem, opening your mouth and proving it is another. It is time to put the entire issue of weather, climate, and water in California in perspective.
In every lecture I ever gave at any university level, I always began with one or two items from the news that related to what we were studying in the course. It was part of my campaign to show the students that there was relevance to something in their university time. Of course, the information varied with the news cycle and the course I was teaching. However, there were some issues I used to demonstrate the application of another feature and that is the ability to predict based on information and understanding.
In the introductory climatology class, I always mentioned early in September that we can watch for a sequence of events from California. This will begin with complaints about drought and threatened water supplies. In the Fall, we will have stories about fires decimating the landscape and burning up communities. The next in the sequence is rain and mudslides. Welcome to sunny southern California. I don’t recall a year in which that sequence did not occur. The only differences were the intensity of the events, the hysteria of the media and the degree of political exploitation.
Exploitation of the California events is just another example of the standard ploy of environmentalists to take normal events and present them as abnormal. This works because most people have little knowledge or understanding of what is normal. They certainly don’t know anything about the patterns and mechanisms of climate or how they change over time.
Figure 1 shows the general circulation of the atmosphere that over the course of a year creates the average wind and weather conditions affecting each of the zones identified in Figure 2.
Although not identified in Figure 1 you have distinct latitude pressure zones from the Polar High to the Sub-polar Low, to the Sub-tropical High to the Equatorial Low.
Notice that there are only four zones (1,3, 7, and 9) that remain under the same controlling mechanism year-round. California’s climate is categorized under the Koppen system as a Mediterranean climate (Zone 5). It is unique because it is the only climate that has most, over 70% of its precipitation in the winter months. This means you have more effective precipitation for plant growth because less goes to evaporation. This occurs because in the winter California is under the influence of the Subpolar Low with cool, wet conditions, but in the summer, it is influenced by the Sub-tropical High with high temperatures and virtually no precipitation. It is called a Mediterranean climate because that is the part of the world with the largest area and classification was done in Europe. Figure 3 shows all the regions with similar weather conditions.
Here is the annual seasonal pattern of weather for these regions and most of California. Cool, wet winters create specific vegetations with different names in different parts of the world. It is Chaparral (Figure 4) in California and Maquis (Figure 5) around the Mediterranean. They are both shrub vegetation that survive the hot, dry summers but require fire as part of the regenerative process.
Figure 4 Chaparral in California
Figure 5 Maquis in Corsica
After the hot dry summer, the vegetation is parched and vulnerable to fires. These are triggered by several causes including lightning strikes as thunderstorms start to form and human causes that contrary to reports have declined since Europeans arrived. Figure 6 shows a graph of carbon sediments in the Pacific Ocean. Although this is for Central America, the settlement patterns are similar to those in California.
After many areas are burned off, which, with reduced vegetation cover due to shrinking and wilting, exposes soil to rainfall and downslope erosion. As the Sub-polar low migrates toward the equator, it brings rain to the region and so by late in the year the reports of mudslides are added to the collective woes of the promise land.
In this age of environmental extremism with its powerful underlying anti-humanity theme expressed by comments like those of Ingrid Newkirk, President of PETA
“Mankind is a cancer; we’re the biggest blight on the face of the earth.” “If you haven’t given voluntary human extinction much thought before, the idea of a world with no people in it may seem strange. But, if you give it a chance, I think you might agree that the extinction of Homo Sapiens would mean survival for millions if not billions, of Earth-dwelling species. Phasing out the human race will solve every problem on earth, social and environmental.”
This may sound extreme, but various slightly more moderate eversion sexist everywhere. Many people react angrily to cruelty to animals while ignoring what happens to children.
Every change that is normal or natural is caused by humans, and this includes forest fires. The environmentalists such as Governor Brown ignore the moral dilemmas in their positions. For example, the number of forest fires and their extent has reduced dramatically in modern times. This is because while people do set fires, they also report and extinguish them more quickly. In the past humans set fires deliberately for hunting and they had no way of controlling them. They and lightning triggered fires frequently and always burned out of control as soil coring indicates. Then there were the vast grass fires, again natural from lightning, but also set by humans for driving animals for hunting. The Hudson’s Bay Journal has an entry at the end of the 18th century that simply says, “The Indians report the whole of the Prairies are on fire.” Paul Kane recorded such an event in his famous 1845-46, nighttime scene painting “Prairie on fire” (Figure 7).
Figure 7. (Editor; I left the copyright in place.)
The town of Carberry in west central Manitoba, was the first community in the Province to install a municipal water supply. It did so primarily to prevent their homes being burned down every time there was another grass fire.
Perhaps the final arrogance of people like Brown is that they consider California an ‘ideal’ climate for people. I know Inuit coming from Arctic Canada to Churchill on the shores of Hudson Bay for medical services hated the heat and couldn’t wait to get back to the high Arctic.
It is a risky world and no matter where you live there is some form of natural hazard. Your choice is move or understand and prepare for the hazards of the region. Clearly, Brown doesn’t understand the nature of California and since he is on State welfare he will not move. But that is fine because I don’t understand the nature of Brown, other than his manifest ignorance. The good news for him and the bad news for the truth is that the pattern of fires in Greece, another Mediterranean climate are also being misunderstood, mischaracterized, and mishandled by more bad leaders.
In El Niño year, levels much improved from last year Northern California is in far better shape than Southern California according to the Sac Bee Digital Edition.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speaking to The Sacramento Bee editorial board Wednesday, warned against quickly loosening the mandatory restrictions imposed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year.
“I think it’s premature right now,” she said. “I think we need to see what happens in April … an important month for water.”
The State Water Resources Control Board will revisit its conservation mandates in May. Max Gomberg, climate and conservation manager, said the board likely will move to “a more regional framework” in which different areas face different targets, depending in part on the health of their water supply.
“We’re sensitive to what local water agencies are going through, trying to keep customers conserving when the customers can see how much rain there’s…
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The northern Sierra has seen nearly double the average precipitation since the beginning of March according to a report by Capital Public Radio.
It may seem hard to believe after such a dry February, but some of California’s largest reservoirs have approached flood operations.
Amy Quinton reporting on Capital Public Radio:
“We’ve had several Miracle Marches over the decades and I think that this one, because of the way it’s dramatically changed the picture, I think I’d put it in the same category,” says Leahigh.
He says most of the snow has also fallen in higher elevations, which will mean more water later in the year. That could bode well for increasing the amount of water delivered through the State Water Project.
Federal water managers told state regulators Tuesday that Shasta Reservoir has captured a million acre feet in a two week period. They say the water level has technically…
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Anthony Watts writes:
The potential for the massive El Niño to transition into La Niña later in the year is one of the hottest topics in commodities markets right now. The short question-and-answer session would look like this: Are we headed for La Niña toward the end of 2016? Looks that way. Will it be a big one? Not sure.
A La Niña environment has already begun to develop. Cooler waters are building beneath the surface in the Pacific Ocean and El Niño-supporting trade winds have lessened. But sea surface temperatures, or SSTs, in the defining region of the Pacific remain very warm, so we are still amid a strong El Niño event.
It is helpful to look for historical instances in which El Niño turned into La Niña through the course of a year. This has occurred only a handful of times since 1982, but there are enough similarities…
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The NOAA Earth Systems Research Laboratory experimental sea surface temperature (SST) forecast model is predicting the current El Niño will rapidly fade and be replaced by a strong La Niña. With a cool PDO and a strong winter La Niña we can expect the California Drought to return by next winter.
The thing to remember, this is a model and may not represent the real world. Mother Nature will let us know real soon now if we are in for a strong La Niña.