Andrew Revkin

Post image for Hurricane Sandy and Global Warming

Both the blogosphere and the mainstream media have been abuzz with commentary blaming global warming for Hurricane Sandy and the associated deaths and devastation. Bloomberg BusinessWeek epitomizes this brand of journalism. Its magazine cover proclaims the culpability of global warming as an obvious fact:

Part of the thinking here is simply that certain aspects of the storm (lowest barometric pressure for a winter cyclone in the Northeast) and its consequences (worst flooding of the New York City subway system) are “unprecedented,” so what more proof do we need that our fuelish ways have dangerously loaded the climate dice to produce ever more terrible extremes?

After all, argues Climate Progress blogger Brad Johnston, quoting hockey stick inventor Michael Mann, “climate change is present in every single meteorological event.” Here’s Mann’s explanation:

The fact remains that there is 4 percent more water vapor – and associated additional moist energy – available both to power individual storms and to produce intense rainfall from them. Climate change is present in every single meteorological event, in that these events are occurring within a baseline atmospheric environment that has shifted in favor of more intense weather events.

Well sure, climate is average weather over a period of time, so as climate changes, so does the weather. But that tautology tells us nothing about how much — or even how — global warming influences any particular event. Moreover, if “climate change is present in every single meteorological event,” then it is also present in ”good” weather (however defined) as well as “bad.”

Anthony Watts makes this criticism on his indispensable blog, noting that as carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations have risen, the frequency of hurricanes making landfall in the U.S. has declined.

The US Has Had 285 Hurricane Strikes Since 1850: ‘The U.S. has always been vulnerable to hurricanes. 86% of U.S. hurricane strikes occurred with CO2 below [NASA scientist James] Hansen’s safe level of 350 PPM.’

If there’s anything in this data at all, it looks like CO2 is preventing more US landfalling hurricanes.

Data Source: NOAA; Figure Source: Steve Goddard [click to continue…]

Post image for The Greenland Ice Melt: Should We Be Alarmed?

If you follow global warming news at all, you’ve probably seen the NASA satellite images (above) many times. The images show the extent of Greenland surface ice melt on July 8 (left) and July 12 (right). In just a few days, the area of the ice sheet with surface melting increased from about 40% to 97%, including Summit Station, Greenland’s highest and coldest spot.

NASA took a drubbing from Patrick Michaels and Chip Knappenberger at World Climate Report (“Illiteracy at NASA“) for describing the ice melt as “unprecedented” in the title of the agency’s press release. The word literally means without precedent, and properly refers to events that are unique and never happened before. In reality, as one of NASA’s experts points out in the press release, over the past 10,000 years, such events have occurred about once every 150 years:

“Ice cores from Summit show that melting events of this type occur about once every 150 years on average. With the last one happening in 1889, this event is right on time,” says Lora Koenig, a Goddard glaciologist and a member of the research team analyzing the satellite data.

Equating ’rare yet periodic’ with ‘unprecedented’ is incorrect and misleading. “But apparently,” comment Michaels and Knappenberger, “when it comes to hyping anthropogenic global warming (or at least the inference thereto), redefining English words in order to garner more attention is a perfectly acceptable practice.” New York Times blogger Andrew Revkin also chided NASA for an “inaccurate headline” and the associated “hyperventilating coverage,” but for a different reason: NASA provided “fodder for those whose passion or job is largely aimed at spreading doubt about science pointing to consequential greenhouse-driven warming.”

Enough on the spin. Let’s examine the real issues: (1) Did anthropogenic global warming cause the extraordinary increase in surface melting between July 8 and July 12? (2) How worried should we be about Greenland’s potential impact on sea-level rise? [click to continue…]

Post image for Should We Fear the Methane Time Bomb?

A favorite doomsday scenario of the anti-carbon crusade hypothesizes that global warming, by melting frozen Arctic soils on land and the seafloor, will release billions of tons of carbon locked up for thousands of years in permafrost. Climate havoc ensues: The newly exposed carbon oxidizes and becomes carbon dioxide (CO2), further enhancing the greenhouse effect. Worse, some of the organic carbon decomposes into methane, which, molecule for molecule, packs 21 times the global warming punch of CO2 over a 100-year time span and more than 100 times the CO2-warming effect over a 20-year period.

The fear, in short, is that mankind is fast approaching a “tipping point” whereby outgassing CO2 and methane cause more warming, which melts more permafrost, which releases even more CO2 and methane, which pushes global temperatures up to catastrophic levels.

In a popular Youtube video, scientists flare outgassing methane from a frozen pond in Fairbanks, Alaska. A photo of the pond, with methane bubbling up through holes in the ice, appears in the marquee for this post. Are we approaching the End of Days?

New York Times science blogger Andrew Revkin ain’t buying it (“Methane Time Bomb in Arctic Seas – Apocalyplse Not,” 14 Dec. 2011), nor does his colleague, science reporter Justin Gillis (“Artic Methane: Is Catastrophe Imminent?“ 20 Dec. 2011).

[click to continue…]

Richard Morrison and Marc Scribner welcome back long-lost co-host Michelle Minton to Episode 101 of the LibertyWeek podcast. Among other issues, we discuss the IPCC’s latest attempt to muzzle its own advisory scientists (segment begins approximately 10 minutes in).