Sunday, August 30, 2009

Global Warming: Tropical Storm Effects

The claim that global warming will cause more violent weather, including more violent ocean storms, has been used repeatedly to scare the public into supporting political action to stop global warming. The lack of substance to this claim has not deterred to prophets of global doom from trying to prove the opposite. And Michael Mann is one of them.

You may remember him as the scientist who was the lead author of a study resulting in the infamous “hockey stick” graph. This graph (included in the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) purported to show a dramatic rise in global temperature since 1900, compared to an essentially flat trend for many prior centuries. Supposedly, the earth was heating up in the past century because of industrial growth. But this work has been thoroughly discredited. It was the product of multiple inaccuracies from errors, omissions, obsolete data, and manipulations in “reconstructing” data, all of which was then processed through an invalid statistical procedure. (See our three-part series “Global Warming, Global Myth.”)

Chris Landsea, Science and Operations Officer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Center, was one of the peer reviewers to whom the journal Nature sent a copy of Mann's recent paper. In a subsequent letter to Mann, Landsea wrote “some very large concerns about the paper were not addressed....The first point is that the paper disregarded (and not even discussed) crucial new work by Vecchi and Knutson (Journal of Climate, 2008) and Landsea, Vecchi, Bengtsson and Knutson (Journal of Climate, 2009). The first paper showed that about 3-4 tropical storms per year were likely "missed" in the late 19th Century down to less than 1 per year by the 1960s. The second paper... shows that two-thirds of the massive doubling trend is simply due to very short-lived (< 2 days duration) tropical storms. Taking out these "shorties" (very likely due just to our vastly improved observational capabilities) from the record and adding in the estimated number of "missed" medium to long-lived tropical storms causes the long-term trend to completely disappear.

“Your paper starts with a premise that 'Atlantic TC [tropical cyclone] activity, as measured by annual storm counts, reached anomalous levels over the past decade', which is simply not correct based upon the new research...This isn't a small quibble: it's the difference between a massive trend with doubling in the last 100 years, versus no trend with only multidecadal variability remaining.”

Landsea's second major point is a more involved discussion of “merging of the paleo record with the historical all basin tropical storm counts.” We shall not go into that here, but you can view Landsea's complete letter at .

It contains a press release that quotes Mann's views, which are opposite to Landsea's: "It seems that the paleodata support the contention that greenhouse warming may increase the frequency of Atlantic tropical storms," said Mann. "It may not be just that the storms are stronger, but that there may be more of them as well."

Landsea concludes: “The bottom line is that the [Mann] paper comes to very erroneous conclusions because of using improper data and illogical techniques. In my opinion, this work is, unfortunately, a step backwards in helping climate researchers understand how hurricanes have changed over the last several centuries.”

Recall that Mann's “hockey stick” study included omitting data and utilizing invalid techniques, types of errors which are also evident in his latest paper. Evidently he hasn't learned from that previous experience, but maybe the rest of the world--including the news media--will learn not to pay any attention to him.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Thermometers Create “Global Warming”

Actually, it's not the thermometers but their placement, which produces a false warming trend.

The official temperature record of continental United States comes from 1,221 stations of the National Weather Service, a department of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). During the past few years, Anthony Watts, a 25-year veteran meteorologist, assisted by 650 volunteers inspected and photographically documented most of these surface temperature stations. As of June 21, 2009, they had covered 982 of the 1,221. And they were shocked by what they found.

In Watts' words, “We found stations located next to the exhaust fans of air conditioning units, surrounded by asphalt parking lots and roads, on blistering rooftops, and near sidewalks and buildings that absorb and radiate heat. We found 68 stations located at wastewater treatment plants, where the process of waste digestion causes temperatures to be higher than in surrounding areas.” Ninety percent of the stations fail to meet the National Weather Service's own requirement of being at least 30 meters (about 100 feet) from any artificial heating or reflecting/radiating heat source. Thus 9 out of every 10 stations were likely reporting higher temperatures because of their poor location.

Even worse, says Watts, “We observed that changes in the technology of temperature stations over time caused them to report a false warming trend. We found major gaps in the data record that were filled with data from nearby sites, a practice that propagates and compounds errors. We found adjustments to the data by both NOAA and another government agency (NASA) cause recent temperatures to look even higher.” [We have covered this latter point in a previous blog posting at ]. And the U.S. record is thought to be the “best in the world.” So how much confidence can be placed in the worldwide network of surface temperature stations? Not to mention that they don't even cover the three-fourths of the earth covered by oceans.

Watts' report, published earlier this year, can be seen and downloaded at his website This includes photographs of all the stations surveyed thus far. Minnesota, where I live, furnishes some illustrative examples. The weather station at Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, is right in front of the exhaust from the compressor of an air conditioner. At Eveleth, Minnesota, the station is next to a wastewater treatment plant. The station at the Minneapolis airport is right between two runways. Temperature stations all over the world tend to be located at airports. In Spain, for example, 20 of 33 measuring stations are at airports. In Australia, three-fourths of the stations are at airports.

It is almost certainly true, too, that many other stations were originally located in acceptable sites that over the years were then altered by construction of parking lots, roads, buildings, and removal of trees or other vegetation. Certainly most of these have occurred in urban areas, resulting in the urban “heat island” effect, which has accompanied the increasing urbanization trend over many decades. Attempts to correct for this do not adequately account for the poor locations of measuring stations.

All this goes a long way toward explaining why surface temperature measurements are warmer than those from satellites. Satellites measurements are indisputably more accurate, but the global warming advocates always point to the surface measurements to justify their claims that the planet is heating up, because of their longer history; satellite measurements only go back to the late 1970s. The advocates also argue that the alleged global warming over the past century is due at least in part to human (anthropogenic) influence, rather than being simply natural. But that argument disappears when the errors from surface measuring stations are greater than the total warming, whether caused by man or nature. Anthony Watts concludes: “The errors in the record exceed by a wide margin the purported rise in temperature of 0.7 degrees C (about 1.2 F) during the twentieth century.”

Monday, August 10, 2009

Obama and Racism

The arrest of Henry Louis Gates by a white police office would not have been a national issue but for President Obama's assertion that the police “acted stupidly.” The officer, responding to a call that a burglary was in progress, arrested Gates when he was uncooperative, refused to show ID and harangued the officer. Gates claimed he was a victim of police racism.

Obama received fully 96 percent of the black vote, but he needed a lot of white votes to be elected president. Obviously millions of white voters did not think he would bring a racial bias to the office. In fact, his election was widely viewed as evidence that this nation had overcome racism. Obama was to be the new post-racial model, despite his twenty-year relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, known for his racist rants.

Much debate ensued over the president's “acted stupidly” remark, but his accompanying claim that it is a “fact” that police have a history of stopping African-Americans and Latinos “disproportionately” went largely unchallenged. Here was the president—who admitted not knowing the facts in this case, and who we know was prepped beforehand about the question—reflexively blaming the incident on racial profiling. This, mind you, despite the fact that the city where this happened has a black mayor, the state has a black governor, and the country a black president. This does not seem a likely place for black racial profiling, and certainly one should not jump to that conclusion while admitting ignorance of facts about the case.

Katherine Kersten, a Star Tribune columnist, has a better explanation than Obama's racial stereotyping: “To keep our communities safe, police must engage 'disproportionately' with those who commit crime. And the tragic fact is that black Americans commit far more crime than other groups.

“Take Boston, which borders on Cambridge, the tony suburb where Gates lives. In 2007, 58 percent of those arrested for violent crimes were black, though blacks make up only about 23 percent of the city's population.

“The situation is similar in New York City....In the first three months of 2009, 52 percent of people stopped for questioning by the police there were black, though blacks make up only about 26 percent of the population. But blacks commit about 68 percent of violent crime in the city, including 82 percent of shootings and 72 percent of robberies...

“Here in Minneapolis, 64 percent of those arrested in 2008 for serious crimes such as murder and robbery were black, though blacks are only about 18 percent of the population.

“This disproportionate pattern is nationwide, and has existed for years. From 1976 to 2005, for example, 52 percent of homicide offenders were black, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Yet blacks make up only about 13 percent of the population.

“The group most likely to commit homicide—black males 18 to 24—is only 1 percent of the population. These young men are almost five times more likely to engage in homicide than black males 25 or older....

“Obama's perpetuation of this stereotype is irresponsible. It especially harms minority communities, whose members are mostly law-abiding citizens who want safe streets. In 2005, blacks were six times more likely than whites to be homicide victims. From 1976 to 2005, 94 percent of black victims were murdered by blacks, according to the Justice Department.”

Victor David Hanson, writing in National Review, says the public thought they were getting an updated version of Martin Luther King but are learning it may be a more eloquent version of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. He says the public is becoming aware of two things: “One, Obama's first impulse when speaking out on race is his most genuine and most disturbing; and two, his statesmanlike disavowals always come not out of genuine embarrassment over his initial remark (such as praising the racist Wright), but out of real concern that he is going to be hurt politically without such 'correction'.”

Hanson concludes: “At some point, even the media is going to start tallying up these teachable moments, like “typical white person”...and see that the post-racial president is one or two such “gaffes” away from being the most racially polarizing figure in recent memory, as a majority of African-Americans seem to respond with approval to his racial-identity politicking that so terribly disturbs most others.”