You Ought to Have A Look: Weak Link Between Global Warming and Extreme Weather

You Ought to Have a Look is a feature from the Center for the Study of Science posted by Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. (“Chip”) Knappenberger. While this section will feature all of the areas of interest that we are emphasizing, the prominence of the climate issue is driving a tremendous amount of web traffic. Here we post a few of the best in recent days, along with our color commentary.

In this issue of You Ought To Have A Look, we feature the work of Martin Hoerling and his research team at the Physical Science Division (PSD) of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory—a place where scientists live and breathe atmospheric dynamics and a rare government facility that puts science before hype when it comes to anthropogenic climate change.

It is pretty obvious by now that whenever severe weather strikes—rain, snow, heat, cold, flood, drought, etc.—someone will proclaim the events are “consistent with” expectations of global warming from human emissions of greenhouse gases.

Harder to find (at least on TV) are folks who pooh-pooh such notions and instead point out that nature is a noisy place and a definitive study linking such-and-such weather event to human climate modifications does not exist.

In truth, the science of severe weather is a messy, muddy place, not at all the simple, clean “science is settled” description preferred by climate alarmists and regulation seekers.

Hoerling is one scientist who does conjure some press coverage when describing the general lack of human fingerprint on all manner of extreme weather events. While most others hand-wave the science, Hoerling and his team actually put the historical observations and the behavioral expectations from climate models directly to the test.

Take, for example, the ongoing California drought. There are all manner of folks calling the drought conditions there “historic” and “epic” and the “worst in 1,200 years” and, of course, pointing the finger directly at humans. Even President Obama has gotten in on the act.

Not so fast say Hoerling’s team, in this case, led by Richard Seager. They decided to look at just what the expectations of California drought should be under an increasing greenhouse effect—expectations, in this case, defined by the very climate models making the future climate projections and upon which the case for catastrophic climate change (and equally catastrophic regulations) are founded. Their findings caught the attention of Seth Borenstein, science writer for the Associated Press, who highlighted them in an article earlier this week—an article that raised awareness of Seager and Hoerling’s findings.

Borenstein’s article was headlined “Don’t Blame Man-made Global Warming for the Devastating California Drought, a New Federal Report Says” and began:

A report issued Monday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said natural variations—mostly a La Niña weather oscillation—were the primary drivers behind the drought that has now stretched to three years.

Here are some additional highlights from the report itself (with emphasis added):

The current drought is not part of a long-term change in California precipitation, which exhibits no appreciable trend since 1895. Key oceanic features that caused precipitation inhibiting atmospheric ridging off the West Coast during 2011–14 were symptomatic of natural internal atmosphere-ocean variability.

Model simulations indicate that human-induced climate change increases California precipitation in mid-winter, with a low-pressure circulation anomaly over the North Pacific, opposite to conditions of the last three winters. The same model simulations indicate a decrease in spring precipitation over California. However, precipitation deficits observed during the past three years are an order of magnitude greater than the model-simulated changes related to human-induced forcing. Nonetheless, record-setting high temperature that accompanied this recent drought was likely made more extreme because of human-induced global warming.

Basically, aside from perhaps an added bit of warming, human-caused climate change played no role in the drought. In fact, climate models indicate almost the opposite set of occurrences (i.e., more winter precipitation).

This is but one of the Hoerling and team studies that burst warmie bubbles.

Here are a few more that you ought to have a look at:

Great Russian Heatwave of 2010:

We conclude that the intense 2010 Russian heat wave was mainly due to natural internal atmospheric variability. Slowly varying boundary conditions [that is, slowly increasing the greenhouse effect] that could have provided predictability and the potential for early warning did not appear to play an appreciable role in this event.

Great Plains Drought of 2012:

Climate simulations and empirical analysis suggest that neither the effects of ocean surface temperatures nor changes in greenhouse gas concentrations produced a substantial summertime dry signal over the central Great Plains during 2012.

In each case, the real expectations that the events are “consistent with” human-caused climate change are slim to none (despite the headlining media coverage to the contrary).

That’s the science. You ought to have a look!