A Rational Review of a Rational Discussion

Some more coming out from yesterday’s Rational Discussion on Climate Change on Capitol Hill. A couple of blog postings and other info from yesterday…

Dr. Judith Curry offers some suggestions for how the science-policy interface should work. They’re very sensible, and sadly, to me, represent a common sense approach to this…something that’s been severely lacking in this debate all along. Another “skeptic” of anthropogenic global warming, Dr. Richard Lindzen, a decorated atmospheric physicist from MIT offered his own take. Lindzen states:

However, my personal hope is that we will return to normative science, and try to understand how the climate actually behaves. Our present approach of dealing with climate as completely specified by a single number, globally averaged surface temperature anomaly, that is forced by another single number, atmospheric CO2levels, for example, clearly limits real understanding; so does the replacement of theory by model simulation.

Some very sensible commentary. Lindzen’s testimony is worth a read, as he delves into some very strong counter-opinions to what is standard climate change belief. And Lindzen (or Dr. Curry) isn’t a typical “rogue” scientist…his opinions carry serious clout.

An article in the Orange County Register today discusses how alarmism may have polluted climate science enough to cause it to backfire and lose popular support. I agree 100% with this. I described a few entries ago how I believe this “science is settled” mantra is unfair and is the undertone for the entire climate science debate. As a scientist, I can attest to the fact that most of us are absolutely dreadful communicators. Most scientists do not know (some notable exceptions do exist) how to explain their research in simple terms that the average person can understand and NOT come off as smug, elitist, or…to a lot of people…frankly, annoying. There’s a significant communication gap between climate science, policy, and the public. And as I have previously stated, it is the job of climate scientists to not be policy advocates, but to explain their research. And it would do a world of good if colleges and universities require basic communications classes for scientists. The clearer and more approachable scientists become, the more likely the public is to not raise an eyebrow with everything they say. Skepticism is good for climate science, as it challenges what have been unchecked beliefs. Meteorology is an inexact science. Climate science is rooted in meteorology to a large degree. The processes driving weather vs. climate aren’t always the same, but the result of uncertainty and doubt at the end of the day still exists.

The bottom line on this: I hope we can continue to engage in a rational debate on climate change…with both sides being open minded to each other’s viewpoints and ideas…and hopefully absent of policy.

Damage in Baltimore from a macroburst and EF-1 tornado, image credit: NWS Sterling, VA: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/lwx/events/svrwx_20101117/

In other news….

The NWS confirmed an EF-1 tornado and larger macroburst in Baltimore, MD from yesterday. Here’s some links on it:

AccuWeather has some decent imagery and a brief synopsis.

The NWS has a full page of damage photos and information from the event.

So a very active November day in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic piles on some more!

Elsewhere, a good read from the Capital Weather Gang on this hurricane season and where it stands historically (starting to get to the recap mode of hurricane season now…expect more of these in the coming days).

Also, a new faultline has been uncovered in the Rocky Mountains in Idaho…apparently capable of producing a 7.5 magnitude earthquake…scary stuff. Fortunately it’s a relatively sparsely populated area, but still certainly worth noting…and it makes you wonder what else we don’t know about!

One last bit of cool weather news: Fairbanks, AK shattered their highest barometric pressure reading of all-time yesterday. It actually was such high pressure that it forced an aircraft to divert! The air pressure was so high, it made reading the plane’s altimeter exceedingly difficult. So a plane was diverted because of…good weather? It can happen. We’ve had a significant amount of low pressure records set this year…so this is an intriguing change-up. The PNS from Fairbanks on the 1051 mb pressure is below:

445 PM AKST WED NOV 17 2010



Funny Friday

Not sure if this will become a tradition or not, but I’ve got a couple fun videos to tag at the end of this post. First some odds, ends, and links.

I had an opportunity to visit a wind farm today, and I have to say, it’s truly one of the coolest things you’ll see. I’ve passed by on highways before, but I’ve never been up close and personal with turbine blades. Just the size, scope, and magnitude of a project like a wind farm is incredible. Like I’ve said in the past, I don’t know if wind power is cost effective enough (until cost-effective, large battery storage capabilities are developed) to really become a serious mainstay, but just the ability to harness the power of wind…and to see how it’s done…really awesome.

Contrail in the Mojave Desert, 11/12/10

In a somewhat related note, we happened to catch a cool looking contrail while at the farm. You can see it pictured at the left. I just wanted to point this out to you because of last week’s “missile” incident near LA. As you can see, the path of a plane can do some funky things to the plane’s contrail, and this was no exception. Had you not been able to see the plane, you might be asking what’s going on here. So at sunset, things change dramatically.

Now on to some links…

Folks in the Mid-Atlantic won’t have climatology on their side if they want a repeat of last winter. My college buddy Jared of the NWS in Sterling, VA provides some of the hard math on how substantial snow is much more rare in winters featuring a pretty potent La Nina, such as the winter of 2010-2011 will have.

The Capital Weather Gang looks back on the Veteran’s Day snowstorm of 1987 that paralyzed DC.

November 10th, 2002 was an epic severe weather day across the country. Greg Nordstrom looks back on it. The sheer number of reports is staggering.

Cliff Mass has a fantastic article on Seattle’s preparedness for winter snow. It’s a good read for anyone curious as to planning for winter weather or anyone interested in community safety in hazardous weather.

Mt. Rainier is on my hit list of places I have to go see somewhat close up during my lifetime. Here’s an article on lenticular clouds capping the peak, and how it can occasionally put on spectacular visual shows with that.

The CIMSS Satellite Blog shows a skinny band of accumulated snow from Wyoming to North Dakota. Some parts of the Plains and Midwest are getting some heavy snow today and tonight. Winter Storm Warnings are up from Duluth through western Iowa. Should be some interesting storm totals out there when all is said and done.

A follow up on my blog entry from the other night about Dr. Judith Curry. The Republicans will have an additional witness in each panel at the House “Rational Discussion of Climate Change” next week.

Alright on to fun video. First off, a weathercaster in Toronto had an unfortunate run in with a polar bear. Well, not him per se, but his microphone, well…yeah:

And lastly, Ellen DeGeneres tees off on television meteorologists for being silly sometimes during weather, whereas you rarely see news people doing the same thing.


She makes a valid point for sure, and these are some things I was taught once I got into the business. But, also, keep in mind, she is talking about Los Angeles. And everything is a big joke out here with regard to weather (with maybe one or two exceptions…who are actually some fantastic TV meteorologists). But I digress…if you’re a meteorologist…just be resigned to the fact that you’ll never be right, no matter how hard you try. 😉

A Rational Discussion on Climate Change

Interesting thing I came across yesterday evening. Dr. Judith Curry posted a blog entry detailing the lineup at a Congressional hearing next week. Find the post here.

Dr. Curry has begun to completely differentiate herself from the rest of the climate science crowd. Her blog (linked above) has become a great resource of honest, unspun, unbiased, non-partisan debate on the science of climate change. Those of you who don’t follow climate science closely may not realize how much of a hotbed the internet has become for “partisan” sniping back and forth on climate change. There are literally dozens of blogs… some that are advocating anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and those that question it. If you visit Dr. Curry’s blog, she has listed a boatload of blogs on her sidebar that delve deep into the fray on both sides.

Let me sidetrack here briefly and give you my own perspective on this issue.

I’ve opted to keep an open mind in the climate science debate. I’ve undergone quite a transition in my development from a student to meteorologist…from initially thinking Al Gore was doing a great public service with “An Inconvenient Truth” to eventually thinking he’s actually the reason climate science in politics is an utter trainwreck at present and did a dramatic disservice. I’ve kept an open mind on theories about climate change. I don’t pretend to be a climatologist, but I’ve seen enough issues with modeling and quality of observations to be extremely skeptical of the “science is settled” argument. I think that statement was dishonest, unfair, and represents all that is wrong with how climate science has been conducted to this end. I am skeptical of the IPCC, as I don’t feel a government sponsored panel really has the best interest of the science at heart (there are too many conflicts of interest on that side of things).

However, I know climate scientists, I’ve read research, I’ve seen things that don’t make sense, and I’ve seen and heard enough of this to not take the traditional uber-conservative point of view that this is all smoke and mirrors and there’s nothing to see here.

I have two or three main points of contention regarding climate change: The first is that I think cap and trade is a complete joke, will only hurt the economy, and provide no substantial justifiable environmental benefits. I believe that if policymakers are going to address climate change, the United States should not be the only country taking action, especially when the economic consequences are likely to be so drastic. And “capping” emissions accomplishes nothing. If you’re really looking to address that as a problem, they need to be cut…not capped.

My second point of contention is when climate change proponents and deniers instantly pounce on a weather event as evidence of AGW occurring or not occurring. And I feel that stance has really screwed up this debate.

As I’ve developed further in this field I’ve tried to develop a middle ground perspective, which is sound science: Be skeptical, question everything, but don’t ignore certain things that are obviously occurring. And I’ve progressed from center left, to far right, back to an optimal middle ground on the issue now. And to bring this full circle, that seems to be where Dr. Curry is coming from. There was an incredibly well written profile of Dr. Curry published in the November 2010 edition of Scientific American magazine. What Dr. Curry has done that has been so unorthodox, is that she has crossed lines that many AGW proponents have refused to cross: She’s engaging the community of skeptics. This has been something that has been desperately missing from this whole debate over the last 10+ years. She just “gets” it (a lot of it is (I think by her own admission) learning from experiences in the past that she probably mishandled), and that’s what’s so refreshing about her blog and her becoming a rock star in the field of climate change.

This will be an interesting hearing next week. It’s entitled “A Rational Discussion of Climate Change: the Science, the Evidence, the Response.” And I certainly hope this can be a rational conversation. The House Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment is headed by Rep. Edward Markey, and also includes California Rep. Henry Waxman (of Waxman-Markey Bill fame). Since this meeting is occurring before the change of hands in Congress, Dr. Curry was actually asked specifically by the minority party (GOP) to “discuss how we can go about responding to the climate change issue in the face of uncertainty, dissent and disagreement.” What is also interesting is that she is the only person on the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Working Report to be allowed to testify by the GOP.

So I think a couple things can happen here. Either the Republicans are going to seize on Dr. Curry discussing how and why it’s rational to engage the skeptical community and spin it as that even the climate scientists truly aren’t sure. Or, the democrats are going to try and discredit Dr. Curry. Or, this may actually start a rational, sane debate on climate change science, uncertainty, and direction in Congress that needs to be had. My hope is that option three is the one that this committee chooses to run with.

If anything, I think we all can agree that it’s time to set a new energy policy in place that focuses on more domestic production of energy and puts us on a more sustainable path. This is why I truly hope President Obama can channel 1994 President Clinton over the next two years. If both sides can compromise, I think something good can come of this.

In the meantime, I encourage anyone with an interest in a side of climate change you won’t hear about in the mainstream media to bookmark Dr. Curry’s blog, Climate, Etc., and check out some of the postings there from time to time.