Snowfall is Increasing in Vermont

vermont snowstormOver at the Vermont Watchdog, Bruce Parker has an article about how the “Vermont Public Interest Research Group says the Green Mountain State faces a future without snow if lawmakers don’t pass a carbon tax on gasoline and heating fuel.”

Of course, the trend in Vermont is towards more snow, not less.

Since records began in 1906-07, the Burlington climate sub-region — which dominates the Vermont landscape — has seen a highly (p<0.001) statistically significant increase in annual snowfall.

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Three of the top four highest snowfall totals have taken place since the 2000-01 season, and four of the top five since 1992-93. The second highest total was just a few years ago in 2010-11.

Since 1970, there is effectively a perfect non-correlation in snowfall, and certainly no sign whatsoever of a declining trend. Over the past three decades, the correlation is positive towards more snowfall — not less — and it is nearly statistically significant.

Perhaps sometime in the future there will be no snow in Vermont, but historical trends are headed in the opposite direction.

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Mischief with factoids

cartoonFacts are facts, as any reputable scientist would tell you, and if someone tries to change them, like changing a pair of soiled pants, they risk embarrassing exposure. The global warming hysteria is premised on “facts” showing the earth is warming, but these “facts” have been repeatedly exposed as “factoids,” the playful invented word of novelist Norman Mailer, to describe something that is presented as fact, sounds like it could be a fact, but is actually not a fact. Surely imposing global restrictions on human activity, which would deny prosperity to the poorest among us, must be premised on something better than factoids.

Climate alarmists insist that weather stations worldwide indicate the planet is warming. Like a fire bell in the night, they cry in ever shriller tones that Earth is doomed, by man burning coal, oil and natural gas, which release greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide that trap the sun’s heat. Only the brave dare question the scam, because the science is settled. Facts are facts.

But factoids are not facts. Climate “scientists” have adjusted the facts to account for the effects of “urban heat islands” when readings that don’t match those of nearby weather stations. Such explanations for the cooked data might make sense, but the new figures reverse the original temperature trends. Paul Homewood, a skeptical researcher, found that in Paraguay, temperature readings for the 20th century at all nine weather stations supervised by NASA had been “adjusted” to transform a cooling trend into a warming trend. His analysis of readings in the Arctic found that rapid warming between 1920 and 1950 — before human activity could have increased the production of greenhouse gases — were adjusted downward so that the 1980s and ’90s temperatures would stand out as warmer.

Several instances of questionable temperature adjustments don’t necessarily prove deceit, but skeptics (climate change alarmists borrow Holocaust language to call these skeptics “climate change deniers”) rightly ask whether similar altered readings around the world are a deceptive numbers game. Even if such adjustments can be plausibly explained, they nevertheless raise the reasonable suspicion that facts have been molded into factoids. If the butcher must not “adjust” the scale with his thumb when figuring the price of salami, neither is it acceptable for climate scientists to adjust the facts to fit the global warming theory that could upend the global economy.

Christiana Figueres, the chief of climate-change research at the United Nations, boasted at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland last month that “this is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.”

This fits neatly into the scheme to replace free enterprise and the market economy with redistribution of wealth, and that requires replacing fossil fuel with renewable energy. This is the goal of holy-grail environmentalism: a global pact limiting the production of greenhouse gas, and an international Green Climate Fund that collects billions from developed nations and doles it out to feed bureaucracies in poorer countries to pay for “green” energy.

Socialism is often wrapped in the best of intentions, but when good intentions are not enough the good intentions give way to artful deceit. That’s the strategy for manipulating temperature data to frighten the world into accepting a new economic development model. Congress should exercise its oversight role with an investigation of NASA’s “temperature reading practices” to make sure they’re dealing in facts, not factoids.

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New chief meteorologist explains weather this winter

Weather front IdahoDean Hazen, the new meteorologist-in-chief of the Pocatello Weather Forecast Office, has spent his life analyzing climate patterns in numerous regions across the United States, including Florida, Oklahoma and California.

But he says Southeast Idaho is different than anywhere else.

“Every place has its own forecast challenges,” he said. “But this area is particularly difficult.”

Hazen said this difficulty is due to Idaho’s mountainous terrain and the state’s storm systems that originate in the Pacific Ocean.

“We have to work hard to determine our forecasts for the area,” he said. “Partly because the storms from the ocean can change so much before they hit us. Partly because there’s a lot of terrain for the storms to get through.”

Since the beginning of the year, Idaho has been in the midst of one of its warmest winters its seen in decades. The National Weather Service said multiple high temperature records were broken in January and February in Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Stanley and Challis, with snow precipitation levels well below the historical averages.

Is this warm weather the direct result of global warming and climate change? Hazen said no.

“You can’t make a direct link to global warming and one particular season,” he said.

He said the scientific reason for the unseasonably warm weather is due to a high pressure system that has predominantly settled over the West Coast and the Intermountain West over the past two years.

“Lately we’ve been seeing that whenever a storm comes in from the ocean, the high pressure system pushes it away from our area and towards the panhandle,” he said. “Then it moves south towards the plains, passing us by.”

On the flip side, Hazen said there’s been a low pressure system in the Midwest and the East Coast. He said this is why the eastern half of the country has been slammed this winter with freezing cold temperatures and blizzards, while most of the western half has been basking in unseasonably warm temperatures.

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Divestment ethics and realities

stockCollege students who support divestment of fossil fuel stocks are passionate about their cause. Just look at their word choices. Though they could never function even one week without hydrocarbon energy, they call fossil-fuel companies “rogue entities,” assert that oil, coal and natural gas interests have the “political process in shackles,” and believe most of the world’s known fossil fuel resources must “stay in the ground” to avoid “catastrophic global warming.” It’s a shortsighted view of energy ethics and corruption.  

Their over-heated hysteria over climate change is fanned by groups like 350.org and college professors who rehash doom-and-gloom forecasts about rising seas, dying species and other cataclysms that they insist can be remedied only by terminating fossil fuel use and investments in fossil fuel companies.

But in their lemming-like rush to glom onto claims that human carbon dioxide emissions will destroy life as we know it, they reveal an abysmal understanding of true science, our planet’s turbulent climate history, creative free markets, and what academia once proudly espoused: open, robust debate.

Of course, deceptive information is exceedingly useful to community organizers and agitators, particularly those who occupy Oval Offices, endowed chairs, government regulatory agencies and Big Green war rooms ‚Äì and want to “fundamentally transform” the United States. Bombarding impressionable students with such intellectually dishonest drivel is equally useful … and detestable. 

Just as bad, too many students devote their time and energy to divestment campaigns, when they should be learning and applying critical-thinking and ethical skills. Honest analysis reveals that divestment will have negligible to zero effects on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, climate change or energy company stock prices, even if every university in the country gave in to the students’ anti-fossil fuel pleas.

Indeed, college and university endowments are not large enough to create even a ripple in fossil fuel investments. A recent Bloomberg analysis found that university endowments have about $400 billion invested in stocks; the National Association of College and University Business Officers puts the figure at $456 billion. Of that, only about 2.1% was invested in fossil fuel stocks in 2010-2011. That is a pittance in the overall stock market, which was valued at some $18 trillion in 2012 and now is much larger. In fact, it amounts to only about 0.05% or a nickel out of every $100 – and any fossil fuel stocks sold by an endowment would be purchased by another investor almost immediately.

Moreover, fossil fuel stocks historically have been good investments for schools. A Sonecon study found that endowment investments in oil and natural gas equities in 2010-2011 provided returns of a whopping 52.8% – nearly twice the returns from all other U.S. publicly traded stocks, real estate securities and foreign equities. This fact is not lost on university presidents, who have a fiduciary duty to grow their endowments, to pay for student scholarships, new and remodeled facilities, and other expenditures that further their educational objectives.

American University trustees voted against divestment in November 2014, saying AU financial advisers “could not provide assurance that the effect of divestment would not be insignificant.” Actually, a recent Compass Lexecon analysis found that an  investment portfolio totally divested from fossil fuels lost 70 basis points and cost significantly more every year in management fees to keep them “fossil-free.”

When asked whether he would sell University of Colorado fossil fuel stocks, President Bruce Benson said flatly, “I’m not going to do that.” Similarly, Harvard University President Drew Faust rejected demands for divestment and reminded proponents that Harvard “exists to serve an academic mission.” Harvard must be “very wary of steps intended to instrumentalize our endowment in ways that would appear to position the University as a political actor, rather than an academic institution,” she stated.

Just as importantly, the world’s largest energy companies dwarf the likes of ExxonMobil and other U.S. firms ‚Äì but are owned by foreign governments and are not publicly traded. Caterwauling college kids at Stanford, Swarthmore and elsewhere will not cause companies to abandon what they do best: develop and produce fossil fuel energy for people who need them for jobs, living standards, health and welfare.

That raises this discussion’s most critical point, which is generally brushed aside by divestment advocates. These campaigns are part of a global anti-hydrocarbon crusade that would inflict enormous harm on working class families, and even worse consequences on Earth’s most destitute citizens.

In 2012, coal, oil and natural gas supplied 87% of the world’s energy, Worldwatch Institute figures show. Further, despite the Obama Administration’s war on coal, International Energy Agency data reveal that global coal usage is rising and by 2017 will likely supplant oil as the dominant energy resource.

Fossil fuel companies and their shareholders know traditional forms of energy will continue to power the world for the foreseeable future, because there are no viable alternatives. Solar, wind and other energy resources cannot supply enough energy to meet the world’s needs; they are not price competitive without huge subsidies; and they require fossil fuels and millions of acres to manufacture, install and operate.

Nor is it sufficient to claim anti-fossil fuel demands are well-intended, when the real-world consequences are so readily apparent and so easily predicted. In developed nations they cost jobs and degrade living standards, health, welfare and life spans. In poor countries they perpetuate electricity deprivation, unsafe water, disease, squalid environmental conditions, inability to adapt to climate changes, and early death.

To inject these vital ethical considerations and counter climate cataclysm concerns, students at a number of colleges and universities have launched Collegians For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACTcampus) chapters to promote free markets, less government intervention and regulation, and better lives for more people. Their motto is “scientific truth without the spin.”

The University of Minnesota chapter proclaims that “Western values of competition, progress, freedom and stewardship can and do offer the best hope for protecting not only the Earth and its wildlife, but even more importantly its people.” These sound science and “stewardship of creation” principles should guide discussions, debates and decisions on all campuses. So should accurate information about climate change.

Divestment activists often claim that climate science is settled. Far from it. The supposed connection between carbon dioxide and planetary temperature is far from proven. Indeed, contrary to alarmist forecasts and computer models, Earth’s temperature has not budged for 18 years, the United States has not been struck by a Category 3-5 hurricane for a record nine years, “extreme weather events” have not become more frequent or severe during the past 100 years, and other “crises” have not materialized.

Nevertheless, both NOAA and NASA, perpetual purveyors of scary climate headlines, have again used ground-based data to pronounce that 2014 was the hottest year on record. These temperature reports “are ridiculous,” say experts like Dr. Tim Ball, historical climatologist and former professor at the University of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The measurements are taken mostly in always warmer urban areas, the raw data have been “adjusted,” “homogenized” and manipulated, and the alleged year-to-year differences are measured in hundredths of a degree ‚Äì a mere fraction of their margin of error!

Moreover, it is impossible to get accurate average global temperatures based on ground stations, because the data do not exist, Dr. Ball notes. “There are virtually no data for 70% of Earth’s surface that is oceans, and practically no data for the 19% of land area that are mountains, 20% that are desert, 20% boreal forest, 20% grasslands, and 6% tropical rain forest.” So NASA “just invents data” for these areas.

Unfortunately, instead of facts, campus politics will likely drive divestment demands this weekend (February 13-14), when college students demonstrate, hold sit-ins and organize flash mobs for Global Divestment Day. In many ways, to quote Macbeth, it will be “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” But for many people, the consequences could be dire ‚Äì or even deadly.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org),  author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death, and coauthor of Cracking Big Green: To save the world from the Save-the-Earth money machine.

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Study: Climate Sceptics Know More About Climate Science Than Believers

cartoonIn my opinion no one … should close the road to free philosophizing about mundane and physical things, as if everything had already been discovered and revealed with certainty. Nor should it be considered rash not to be satisfied with those opinions which have become common. No one should be scorned in physical disputes for not holding to the opinions which happen to please other people best. ‚Äì-Galileo Galilei’s timeless warning in his famous Letter to Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany (1615)

Are global warming skeptics simply ignorant about climate science? Not so, says a forthcoming paper in the journal Advances in Political Psychology by Yale Professor Dan Kahan. He finds that skeptics score about the same (in fact slightly better) on climate science questions. The study asked 2,000 respondents nine questions about where they thought scientists stand on climate science. On average, skeptics got about 4.5 questions correct, whereas manmade warming believers got about 4 questions right. –Maxim Lott, Fox News, 12 February 2015

Scientists are facing a crisis of trust. Increasingly, Americans believe that what’s called science is actually political posturing. —Editorial, Mercury News, 13 February 2015

Global warming has been blamed for the Arab Spring, the current conflicts in Syria and Sudan, etc. They haven’t said anything about what’s going on in the Ukraine yet. A paper published in PNAS in 2009 bluntly declared that “Warming Increases The Risk of Civil War in Africa.” The problem is that the conflicts that are cited as examples of the phenomenon are located in areas known for both frequent conflict prior to the current warming period and for historical patterns of extreme climates similar to those seen today. It would appear that those believing that climate change is a contributor to conflict may be intuitively making sense, but they do not appear to have numbers on their side. —The Lukewarmer’s Way, 13 February 2015

There is much uncertainty in estimates about ocean warming and its changing heat content. Sea surface temperature (SST) have shown no significant trend since 1998 and possible explanations for it are many. Once ‚Äì when it was rising between the 1970s and the 1990s – SST was one of the prime metrics to measure ‘global warming’ deemed important because the greater heat capacity of the oceans would mean it would absorb more heat than the flighty atmosphere. When it became obvious that surface temperatures did not show the increases some expected it was replaced by ocean warming. –David Whitehouse, Global Warming Policy Forum, 10 February 2015

Encouraging progress at climate change talks points to the likelihood of an overall accord being reached at the Paris conference in December, but the deal is unlikely to adequately fight global warming, a top IPCC official said Sunday. Jean-Pascal Van Ypersal, the Belgian deputy vice president of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told AFP: “I am optimistic. We will have an accord in Paris.” But the goal of limiting the global temperature increase to just two degrees Celsius remains elusive, and Van Ypersal said it appeared the world is not ready to do what is needed to deliver that essential target. –Christian Spillmann, Associated Press, 15 February 2015

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Are We Seeing History Repeat Itself?

bomb“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” is the famed quote of George Santayana, a Spanish philosopher (1863-1952).  I am beginning to think that the world is making its way toward a future that repeats the horrors of the last century’s wars and earlier times when Europeans battled Islam to free Jerusalem, to protect their homelands in Europe, and to eject Muslims from Spain.

In his book, “Jihad in the West: Muslim Conquests from the 7th to the 21st Centuries” historian Paul Fregosi documented the history of Islam and its attacks on European nations, characterizing jihad as “essentially a permanent state of hostility that Islam maintains against the rest of the world.” It is a Muslim sacrament, a duty they must perform.

Occurring at the same time is the agenda of the global environmental movement and on February 4 Christina Figueres, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said “This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves; which is to intentionally transform the economic development model, for the first time in human history.”

“This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for the, at least, 150 years, since the industrial revolution.” (Italics added)

Figueres was wrong. The objective of the 1917 Communist revolution that began in Russia and Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” (1958-1961) was the same that is now being openly embraced by the United Nations in 2015. The result of both was the death of millions.

Humanity is under attack from an Islam that intends to impose its barbaric seventh century Sharia law and from the environmental movement’s intention to end capitalism and replace it with the income distribution central to Communism.

Both spell a terrible future for the people of the world.

The President of the United States is devoted to pursuing both of these goals as the defender of Islam and the opponent of “income inequality.”  We have twenty-two months to survive Barack Obama’s remaining time in office.

Obama was first elected on the promise to end the U.S. engagement in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. After many years Americans welcomed the prospect of ceasing the loss of lives and billions those wars represented. With the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) they are now seeing the true price of that policy. Just because we don’t want to fight a war doesn’t mean our enemy will cease to pursue it.

We are at a critical moment in time because it is evident that Obama wants to provide Iran the opportunity to build its own nuclear weapons arsenal. It is a time as well when the military capability of the U.S. has been diminished to what existed before the beginning of World War II. All of Europe and much of Asia would have fallen under the control of Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan if the U.S. had not stepped up to the task of defeating them.

Relentlessly, Obama has done everything he can to reduce the size of our military fighting force and the ships, planes and other weapons needed to protect our security or support that of our allies. He has withdrawn the U.S. from its position of global leadership and left behind allies that no longer trust us and enemies who no longer fear us.

Raymond Ibrahim of the Middle East Forum wrote on February 5 that “approximately 100 million Christians around the world are experiencing the persecution by Muslims of all races, nationalities, and socio-political circumstances.”

At the same time, we are witnessing a new exodus of Jews from Europe, mindful of the Holocaust in the 1940s.  According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2013 the Jewish population worldwide was approximately 14 million. Just over 6 million reside in Israel, another 6 million are U.S. citizens, and the rest are in Europe and elsewhere around the world. What has not changed from the last century, however, is the level of anti-Semitism and it appears to be on the rise.

What we are witnessing is a full-scale attack on the West—Christianity and Judaism—and upon Western values of morality, democracy, and freedom.

Whether it will erupt in a new world war is unknown, but if history is a guide, we are moving in that direction.

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Europe Moves Closer To Shale Gas Development

fracking2Yesterday, two major events took place, bringing Europe a step closer towards developing a domestic shale gas industry. In the UK the Infrastructure Bill has been given Royal Assent and in Germany the Federal Government held a public hearing on the planned hydraulic fracturing draft law. Shale Gas Europe, 13 February 2015

U.S. natural gas production is poised to reach a record for a fifth year as shale drillers boost efficiency, driving prices toward a low of more than a decade. Output will rise 3.2 percent in 2015, led by gains at the Marcellus formation, the nation’s biggest shale deposit, according to the Energy Information Administration. Marcellus production will increase 2.8 percent through February after a 21 percent gain in 2014, a year when prices tumbled 32 percent. Producers in Pennsylvania and West Virginia have cut break-even costs by half since 2008, according to Oppenheimer & Co. –Naureen Malik, Bloomberg, 7 February 2015

The German government has issued a draft law allowing fracking in shale and coal bed rock starting at a depth of 3,000 metres, permitting test fracking above 3,000 metres. After a long debate over the use of fracking technology in Germany, the federal government issued a draft law allowing the controversial gas extraction method under certain conditions and in isolated cases. —EurActiv, 13 February 2015

Environmental impact assessments do not have to be mandatory for shale gas exploration, the EU court has ruled.—ENDS Europe, 13 February 2015

Gas really is rather special: it provides us in this country with 84 per cent of our domestic heat, 27 per cent of our electricity, much of the feedstock for our synthetic consumer products, and pretty well all of the nitrogen fertiliser that has fed the world and largely banished famine. All this from a surprisingly small number of surprisingly small holes in the ground and the seabed, drilled with fewer accidents and spills than most other energy sources. That is one reason why I will be arguing and voting to help the government improve its Infrastructure Bill today when it comes before the House of Lords, so as to make a shale gas industry in this country possible. –Matt Ridley, The Times, 9 February 2015

Shale gas extraction is a process that has proved very safe and clean in the United States. It has had virtually no impact on groundwater, earthquakes or surface pollution anywhere. These are exaggerated myths constantly repeated by the wealthy multinational pressure groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, by wealthy fashion designers and their nimby friends in gin-and-jag country, and by Vladimir Putin and other Russians with an interest in expensive gas. –Matt Ridley, The Times, 9 February 2015

American power plants burned more natural gas last month than ever before. Power generators used an average 23.1 billion cubic feet per day of gas in January 2015, up 13 percent from the 20.5 bcfd average in January 2014, according to Thomson Reuters Analytics. That was the most gas consumed by the power sector during the month of January on record, according to federal data going back to 1973. —The American Interest, 11 February 2015

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New paper claims AGW pushed the “Western US toward the driest period in 1,000 years”

droughtA modeling study published in Science Advances claims global warming has pushed the “Western US toward the driest period in 1,000 years” and “the U.S. Southwest and Great Plains will face persistent drought worse than anything seen in times ancient or modern, with the drying conditions “driven primarily” by human-induced global warming.”

However, the tree-ring proxy data in the paper shows that at the end of the record in ~2002, soil moisture of the central plains was considerably above the average of the past millennium, and peaked around ~1930, a relatively warm period in the US. The proxy record also shows many periods of drought during the Little Ice Age and that the 20th century was relatively wet period in comparison to the past millennium.

For the US Southwest, the proxy data also shows a soil moisture peak around ~1930. If warming is a cause of decreased soil moisture as the paper claims, the proxy data would be expected to show the opposite pattern to that observed. Although the end of the Southwest proxy record in ~2002, conditions were relatively dry, but not as dry as at least 3 other periods during the Little Ice Age. Many other paleoclimate studies have found both droughts and floods were more common during the Little Ice Age in comparison to the 20th century.

Thus, the claim that AGW has “pushed the Western US toward the driest period in 1,000 years” is not supported by the proxy data shown in the paper. In addition, the modeling claim that AGW will cause “unprecedented risk of drought in the 21st century” is entirely based upon overheated climate models which have been falsified at confidence levels exceeding 98%. As shown below, the models did not reproduce the peaks in soil moisture around ~1930 or the peak around ~2000 in the central plains, further evidence that the modeling assumptions are incorrect and the claim of unprecedented drought not supported by observations.

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Warming pushes Western US toward driest period in 1,000 years: Unprecedented Risk of Drought in 21st Century

Date: February 12, 2015

Summary: During the second half of the 21st century, the U.S. Southwest and Great Plains will face persistent drought worse than anything seen in times ancient or modern, with the drying conditions “driven primarily” by human-induced global warming, a new study predicts.

The research says the drying would surpass in severity any of the decades-long “megadroughts” that occurred much earlier during the past 1,000 years — one of which has been tied by some researchers to the decline of the Anasazi or Ancient Pueblo Peoples in the Colorado Plateau in the late 13th century. Many studies have already predicted that the Southwest could dry due to global warming, but this is the first to say that such drying could exceed the worst conditions of the distant past. The impacts today would be devastating, given the region’s much larger population and use of resources.

“We are the first to do this kind of quantitative comparison between the projections and the distant past, and the story is a bit bleak,” said Jason E. Smerdon, a co-author and climate scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, part of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. “Even when selecting for the worst megadrought-dominated period, the 21st century projections make the megadroughts seem like quaint walks through the Garden of Eden.”

“The surprising thing to us was really how consistent the response was over these regions, nearly regardless of what model we used or what soil moisture metric we looked at,” said lead author Benjamin I. Cook of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “It all showed this really, really significant drying.”

The new study, “Unprecedented 21st-Century Drought Risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains,” will be featured in the inaugural edition of the new online journal Science Advances, produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which also publishes the leading journal Science.

Today, 11 of the past 14 years have been drought years in much of the American West, including California, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona and across the Southern Plains to Texas and Oklahoma, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a collaboration of U.S. government agencies.

The current drought directly affects more than64 million people in the Southwest and Southern Plains, according to NASA, and many more are indirectly affected because of the impacts on agricultural regions.

Shrinking water supplies have forced western states to impose water use restrictions; aquifers are being drawn down to unsustainable levels, and major surface reservoirs such as Lake Mead and Lake Powell are at historically low levels. This winter’s snowpack in the Sierras, a major water source for Los Angeles and other cities, is less than a quarter of what authorities call a “normal” level, according to a February report from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. California water officials last year cut off the flow of water from the northern part of the state to the south, forcing farmers in the Central Valley to leave hundreds of thousands of acres unplanted.

“Changes in precipitation, temperature and drought, and the consequences it has for our society — which is critically dependent on our freshwater resources for food, electricity and industry — are likely to be the most immediate climate impacts we experience as a result of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Kevin Anchukaitis, a climate researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Anchukaitis said the findings “require us to think rather immediately about how we could and would adapt.”

Much of our knowledge about past droughts comes from extensive study of tree rings conducted by Lamont-Doherty scientist Edward Cook (Benjamin’s father) and others, who in 2009 created the North American Drought Atlas. The atlas recreates the history of drought over the previous 2,005 years, based on hundreds of tree-ring chronologies, gleaned in turn from tens of thousands of tree samples across the United States, Mexico and parts of Canada.

For the current study, researchers used data from the atlas to represent past climate, and applied three different measures for drought — two soil moisture measurements at varying depths, and a version of the Palmer Drought Severity Index, which gauges precipitation and evaporation and transpiration — the net input of water into the land. While some have questioned how accurately the Palmer drought index truly reflects soil moisture, the researchers found it matched well with other measures, and that it “provides a bridge between the [climate] models and drought in observations,” Cook said.

The researchers applied 17 different climate models to analyze the future impact of rising average temperatures on the regions. And, they compared two different global warming scenarios — one with “business as usual,” projecting a continued rise in emissions of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming; and a second scenario in which emissions are moderated.

By most of those measures, they came to the same conclusions.

“The results … are extremely unfavorable for the continuation of agricultural and water resource management as they are currently practiced in the Great Plains and southwestern United States,” said David Stahle, professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Arkansas and director of the Tree-Ring Laboratory there. Stahle was not involved in the study, though he worked on the North American Drought Atlas.

Smerdon said he and his colleagues are confident in their results. The effects of CO2on higher average temperature and the subsequent connection to drying in the Southwest and Great Plains emerge as a “strong signal” across the majority of the models, regardless of the drought metrics that are used, he said. And, he added, they are consistent with many previous studies.

Anchukaitis said the paper “provides an elegant and convincing connection” between reconstructions of past climate and the models pointing to the risk of future drought.

Toby R. Ault of Cornell University is a co-author of the study. Funding was provided by the NASA Modeling, Analysis and Prediction Program, NASA Strategic Science, and the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by The Earth Institute at Columbia University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:
Benjamin I. Cook, Toby R. Ault, Jason E. Smerdon. Unprecedented 21st century drought risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains. Science Advances, 12 February 2015 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400082 

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Megadrought Hysteria

A new study is causing shockwaves amongst the climate alarmism community.

According to Slate.com, we are about to enter the “The United States of Megadrought.” The article shows the following graphs of historical, current, and projected moisture balances in the Central Plains and Southwest regions (negative numbers indicate dry conditions, with the magnitude indicating the degree of dryness).

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Look closely at these plots. First off, both regions were generally drier in the past than over the last several decades. In addition, there appears to be no clear anthropogenic climate change signature in either of these datasets. All we appear to be seeing of late is variability well within the historical record.

Yet the climate modeling efforts suggest we are about to go off the megadrought cliff in the near future. Who knows? Predictions cannot be refuted until they fail to pass. But given the poor performance of climate models to date, we should be very skeptical of any climate modeling projections — and we certainly should not be basing any policy on the models.

Seth Borenstein’s latest article for the Associated Press on this topic is featured at CNS News — which I thought was supposed to be a conservative news outlet, but I guess not. Live and learn.

According to the AP report:

“‘Nearly every year is going to be dry toward the end of the 21st century compared to what we think of as normal conditions now,’ said study lead author Benjamin Cook, a NASA atmospheric scientist. ‘We’re going to have to think about a much drier future in western North America….”

The regions Cook looked at include California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, northern Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, most of Iowa, southern Minnesota, western Missouri, western Arkansas, and northwestern Louisiana.”

Now there is no doubt that the Southwest is getting drier, regardless of the possible causes and whether or not this is natural variability or some anthropogenic signature. But the Central Plains is a whole different kettle of fish.

The following charts (using data from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center) show long-term drought (the well-established PDSI index: green=non-drought; yellow=drought; the magnitude of the number indicates the severity of the non-drought or drought conditions) for six of the regions mentioned in the AP article: South Dakota, Oklahoma, Nebraska, northwest Louisiana, Kansas, and Iowa.

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Long-term severe drought has all but disappeared in these regions since the 1960s. The trends are all towards less long-term drought, not more. This is in complete contrast to the predictions of the study in question.

Even the drought in northwestern Louisiana over the past decade isn’t nearly as severe as what was experienced during the 1900-1970 period. What makes it seem particularly bad is that it came after the wettest period in recorded history for the region during the 1990s and first half of the 2000s.

If trends during the past century are any indication — and they should be — anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are not causing more frequent, longer, or more severe droughts in any of these areas, which makes predictions of the impending megadrought apocalypse seem to be of questionable accuracy.

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Winters in Boston Becoming Drier

winterMuch has been said in recent weeks about how bigger snowstorms in Boston are (supposedly) just what climate models have predicted. “Global warming” is putting more water vapor into the air, leading to more “fuel” for winter storms and more winter precipitation.

While this general trend is seen in climate models for global average conditions (warming leads to more precipitation), what do the models really predict for Boston?

And what has actually been observed in Boston?

The following plot shows that the observed total January precipitation in Boston has actually decreased since the 1930‚Ä≤s, contrary to the average “projections” (in reality, hindcasts) from a total of 42 climate models, at the closest model gridpoint to Boston:

precipFig. 1. January total precipitation at Boston, 1936 to 2015, in observations versus the average of 42 climate models. A small bias in the model precip is removed so the linear trends start at the same point early in the record.

Note that even the forecast increase in January precipitation is so small that it probably would never be noticed if it actually occurred.

During the same period, January temperatures in Boston have seen a statistically insignificant +0.1 deg. F per decade warming, in contrast to 2.5 times faster average warming produced by the 42 climate models:

Fig. 2. As in Fig. 1., but for temperature.Fig. 2. As in Fig. 1., but for temperature.

What is very evident is the huge amount of natural variability from year to year, as Bostonians are well aware.

It’s just weather, folks. Blaming everything on “climate change” is just plain lazy.

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