Archive for April, 2011

MORE Tornadoes from Global Warming? That’s a Joke, Right?

Friday, April 29th, 2011

I see the inevitable blame-humanity game has been reinvigorated by the recent tornado swarm. I have not read other meteorologists’ treatment of this issue, so what follows can be considered an independent opinion on the matter.

If there is one weather phenomenon global warming theory does NOT predict more of, it would be severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Tornadic thunderstorms do not require tropical-type warmth. In fact, tornadoes are almost unheard of in the tropics, despite frequent thunderstorm activity.

Instead, tornadoes require strong wind shear (wind speed and direction changing rapidly with height in the lower atmosphere), the kind which develops when cold and warm air masses “collide”. Of course, other elements must be present, such as an unstable airmass and sufficient low-level humidity, but wind shear is the key. Strong warm advection (warm air riding up and over the cooler air mass, which is also what causes the strong wind shear) in advance of a low pressure area riding along the boundary between the two air masses is where these storms form.

But contrasting air mass temperatures is the key. Active tornado seasons in the U.S. are almost always due to unusually COOL air persisting over the Midwest and Ohio Valley longer than it normally does as we transition into spring.

For example, the poster child for active tornado seasons was the Superoutbreak of 1974, which was during globally cool conditions. This year, we are seeing much cooler than normal conditions through the corn belt, even delaying the planting schedule. Cool La Nina years seem to favor more tornadoes, and we are now coming out of a persistent La Nina. The global-average temperature has plummeted by about 1 deg. F in just one year.

An unusually warm Gulf of Mexico of 1 or 2 degrees right now cannot explain the increase in contrast between warm and cold air masses which is key for tornado formation because that slight warmth cannot compete with the 10 to 20 degree below-normal air in the Midwest and Ohio Valley which has not wanted to give way to spring yet.

The “extra moisture” from the Gulf is not that important, because it’s almost always available this time of year…it’s the wind shear that caused this outbreak.

More tornadoes due to “global warming”, if such a thing happened, would be more tornadoes in Canada, where they don’t usually occur. NOT in Alabama.

It is well known that strong to violent tornado activity in the U.S. has decreased markedly since statistics began in the 1950s, which has also been a period of average warming. So, if anything, global warming causes FEWER tornado outbreaks…not more. In other words, more violent tornadoes would, if anything, be a sign of “global cooling”, not “global warming”.

Anyone who claims more tornadoes are caused by global warming is either misinformed, pandering, or delusional.

Tornado Update #2 from Huntsville

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Thanks to everyone for the well wishes and prayers.

After seeing the devastation in Tuscaloosa, the suburbs of Birmingham, and entire small communities that were destroyed, we were pretty lucky right here in Huntsville proper, with little damage. Anderson Hills just to the north of town got hit AGAIN…it’s had three tornado disasters since I’ve been in Huntsville, as I recall. Some places just seem to attract tornadoes. I drove past a mobile home park south of Athens which is out in the middle of nowhere. Guess where the tornado hit.

Here in Huntsville they are saying it will be Monday before the power starts coming back on. A TVA guy on the radio said ALL of their high voltage transmission lines in the area had been damaged. There is a dusk to dawn curfew everywhere I know of, since there has been some looting in storm damaged areas.

Truckloads of generators have started arriving in the surrounding communities, selling like proverbial hotcakes. A few grocery stores have opened with generator power, but the lines are long. Don’t even think about buying bread. Charcoal is in high demand, so people can cook, as well as flashlights, batteries, candles. I’ve still got gas in our gas grill, but there is no place I know of to get more.

There are long lines of cars driving to Fayetteville, TN and Athens AL for gas and food. Reports of lines at gas stations up to 100 cars long. I’ve been taking a back road to the less traveled part of Athens, where it’s not so busy.

Food vendors are setting up around town, some with tents, and cooking food for sale. Since our annual downtown arts festival, Panoply, was coming up, there are a number of people here who can set up to offer that service.

All road intersections, no matter how major, are (of course) without traffic lights. People have to treat them as 4-way stops. A few people just zoom through without even looking. That’s a disaster waiting to happen.

There are few cars on the road, except where everyone is congregating for gas and food tens of miles west and north of town. Those places are like some sort of festival, people standing outside their cars, talking, helping each other. The weather is unseasonably cool (darn global warming!), so at least its comfortable to be outside.

My daughter ran out of gas about a mile from the nearest gas station, and she had a gas can donated (none available for sale, of course), someone gave her a ride, let her cut in line (standing with the cars). She spent half the day carrying a total of 4 gallons of gas back to her car.

Southern hospitality is a real thing here. There are many people who have no place to stay, and folks have been calling into the radio stations offering free use of vacant apartments, their homes, etc. A few are even paying for hotel rooms for other people.

I heard one lady call in to a station who said, “Go outside tonight! The stars are amazing!” Without light pollution, the sky is filled with stars and the Milky Way, something city residents never get to see from within the city.

Tornado Update from Alabama

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

The power is out here in Huntsville and over much of northern Alabama. Everything is shut down. Only cell phone service is up, and since I have Verizon broadband on my laptop, I’m spend some of my last 40 minutes worth of battery power to update everyone.

As a meteorologist, I must say that yesterday here in North Alabama was simply amazing. Virtually every thunderstorm that formed was rotating, and I hear we had 50 tornadoes just in the Huntsville area and surrounding communities. It lasted all day long. Here’s a map of the SPC’s storm reports from yesterday…Huntsville is under the big red blob of tornado reports.

By evening, all the tornado sirens had lost power, one local TV station’s weather radar was blown away, and the NWS Hytop radar also went down. There were still tornado warnings, yet there was no way to warn people. Callers into the few radio stations that had backup power were letting people know where the storms were as they arrived.

Late yesterday afternoon I rushed down to a small town just south of Huntsville only a few minutes after a tornado went through. I helped to see if there were people trapped in homes along the road. All the trees were snapped off, one home was entirely gone and the woman who lived there said her husband was in the house at the time. A very large oak tree about three feet in diameter was snapped off at the trunk. The large metal utility poles that are pretty weather proof were also snapped off.

I drove to Athens early this morning because my car was on empty and I heard they still had power. Along the way on I65 there were emergency crews helping to offload gasoline from an overturned tanker truck that got caught in one of the tornadoes. This was near Browns Ferry nuclear power plant, which is now shut down after the 500 kV lines out of the plant were taken out, probably by the same tornado. That damage path was quite wide, about a half mile.

They are saying maybe 4 or 5 days before power is restored here, since those lines feed Huntsville. Please pray for those who were not as lucky as me and my family.

UAH Temperature Update for March, 2011: Cooler Still -0.10 deg. C

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011


2010 01 0.542 0.675 0.410 0.635
2010 02 0.510 0.553 0.466 0.759
2010 03 0.554 0.665 0.443 0.721
2010 04 0.400 0.606 0.193 0.633
2010 05 0.454 0.642 0.265 0.706
2010 06 0.385 0.482 0.287 0.485
2010 07 0.419 0.558 0.280 0.370
2010 08 0.441 0.579 0.304 0.321
2010 09 0.477 0.410 0.545 0.237
2010 10 0.306 0.257 0.356 0.106
2010 11 0.273 0.372 0.173 -0.117
2010 12 0.181 0.217 0.145 -0.222
2011 01 -0.010 -0.055 0.036 -0.372
2011 02 -0.020 -0.042 0.002 -0.348
2011 03 -0.099 -0.073 -0.126 -0.345

La Nina Coolness Persists
The global average lower tropospheric temperature anomaly for March 2011 fell to -0.10 deg. C, with cooling in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheric extratropics, while the tropics stayed about the same as last month. (I’m on the road in Virgina, so the temperature graph will not be updated until I return on Thursday.) Gifts, gadgets, weather stations, software and here!

On Recent Criticisms of My Research

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

One of the downsides of going against the supposed “consensus of scientists” on global warming — other than great difficulty in getting your research funded and published — is that you get attacked in the media. In the modern blogging era, this is now easier to do than ever.

I have received many requests recently to respond to an extended blog critique by Barry Bickmore of my book, The Great Global Warming Blunder. The primary theme of my book was to present evidence that scientists have mixed up cause and effect when diagnosing feedbacks in the climate system, and as a result could have greatly overestimated how sensitive the climate system is to our addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning.

For those interested, here is our most extensive peer reviewed and published evidence for my claim.

But for now, instead of responding to blog posts, I am devoting all the time I can spare to responding to peer-reviewed and published criticism of my work. The main one is Andy Dessler’s paper in Science from last fall, which claimed to find positive cloud feedback in the same 10 years of NASA satellite radiative energy balance (CERES) data we have been analyzing.

In his paper, Dessler dismissed all of the evidence we presented with a single claim: that since (1) the global temperature variations which occurred during the satellite record (2000-2010) were mostly caused by El Nino and La Nina, and (2) no one has ever demonstrated that “clouds cause El Nino”, then there could not be a clouds-causing-temperature-change contamination of his cloud feedback estimate.

But we now have clear evidence that El Nino and La Nina temperature variations are indeed caused in large measure by changes in clouds, with the cloud changes coming months in advance of the temperature changes.

And without going into detail, I will say it now appears that this is not the only major problem with Dessler’s diagnosis of positive cloud feedback from the data he presented. Since we will also be submitting this evidence to Science, and they are very picky about the newsworthiness of their articles, I cannot provide any details.

Of course, if Science refuses to publish it, that is another matter. Dick Lindzen has recently told me Science has been sitting on his critique of Dessler’s paper for months. Science has demonstrated an editorial bias against ‘skeptical’ climate papers in recent years, something I hope they will correct.

In the meantime, I will not be wasting much time addressing blog criticisms of my work. The peer-reviewed literature is where I must focus my attention.