Archive for October, 2014

From Russia, With Cold

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

Winter has gotten an early start in Russia, with much of the expansive country already covered in snow (even though it’s only mid-October) and temperatures running well below normal.

The immediate future looks worse. The GFS model forecast from last night shows temperatures over the next 7 days running 10 to 20 deg. F below normal, and a rapid buildup of the snowpack (click image for full size, based upon graphics from

GFS 7-day forecast of average temperature departures from normal, and snow depth by the end of the 7 days, ending Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014.

GFS 7-day forecast of average temperature departures from normal (deg. C), and snow depth (inches) by the end of the 7 days, ending Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014.

Individual days and locations are forecast to be 40 deg. F below normal, with some places reaching 40 deg. below zero, more typical of mid-winter.

The very warm spots over the Arctic Ocean are where there is less sea ice cover compared to the 30-year mean (1981-2010).

As reported by The Moscow Times, Russian forecasters like those elsewhere are projecting an unusually cold and snowy winter. Whenever the “Siberian Express” kicks in this winter, it could mean some bitterly cold outbreaks for North America and even the U.S.

Gonzalo: 144 mph Gust Measured on Bermuda

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

Hurricane Gonzalo moving northeast of Bermuda at 9:15 am ET, Oct. 18, 2014.

Hurricane Gonzalo moving northeast of Bermuda at 9:15 am ET, Oct. 18, 2014.

As predicted, the eye of Hurricane Gonzalo passed directly over Bermuda last night. Most of the island was without power this morning, but crews are already out restoring power…although they said progress will be slow due to widespread damage.

After the calm of the eye passed during the night and hurricane force winds resumed, a wind gust to 144 mph was measured near the airport. The official weather equipment at the airport is reported to be damaged. Most of the home weather stations went offline several hours before the worst of the storm hit the island.

Despite some injuries, Bermuda police report there has been no loss of life. The island was well warned, and building codes in Bermuda are quite strict for withstanding hurricane-force winds.

Here’s an interesting short video taken from the International Space Station as it passed near Gonzalo:

Target, Bermuda: Will Hurricane Gonzalo Rival Fabian?

Thursday, October 16th, 2014
Color MODIS image of Hurricane Gonzalo, late morning, Oct. 17, 2014.

Color MODIS image of Hurricane Gonzalo, late morning, Oct. 17, 2014 (click for full size).

UPDATE 7 am ET Oct. 18: As was forecast, the eye of Gonzalo passed over Bermuda last night. The highest wind gust I saw reported was 144 mph. Most of the island is without power this morning.

Before the October, 1926 arrival of catastrophic Hurricane Ten (nicknamed Valerian), it was reported that it had been over a hundred years since a hurricane hit Bermuda in October.

That hurricane arrived so quickly (moving at 40 mph) and from an unexpected direction (from almost due west), that the island was unprepared. HMS Valerian was just returning from Cuba, and was within sight of Bermuda with mild weather reported, yet never made it to port because the storm descended on the island so quickly. Most of the crew was lost as the ship sank. An anemometer in the Royal Navy Dockyard measured a 138 mph wind gust before it broke.

The next-to-worst hurricane to hit Bermuda in the last couple centuries was Fabian in 2003. Taking a path similar to Gonzalo is forecast to take as it arrives at the island tomorrow, Fabian produced sustained winds of 120 mph and a measured peak wind gust of 164 mph at an elevated measurement site on a radio tower. Damages were estimated at $300 million, the worst since 1926.

It would take another direct hit like Fabian, and a somewhat higher intensity than is currently forecast (140145130125 mph sustained winds now, 115120 115 mph sustained winds forecast as the eyewall reaches Bermuda this evening) for Gonzalo to rival either of these historic storms. But hurricane intensity fluctuations are notoriously difficult to forecast, and the current forecast path of Gonzalo remains very close to a “direct hit” which will place the most intense eyewall winds over land.

We will know in the next 8 hours or so. In the meantime, here’s our Gonzalo tracking page, and check out the slideshow of preparations from the Royal Gazette.

The eyewall of Gonzalo is now showing up on the Bermuda radar loop.

Live Updates from

(I’m now deleting off-topic comments…I’ll let the snarky global warming ones pass for now. –RWS)

How Safe is the Air You Breathe in Planes?

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

sneeze_682_473022a-755805With increasing concerns that Ebola apparently spreads more readily than we were told, I thought it might be useful to mention a little experiment I performed a few months ago. I was on the way to Las Vegas to give climate talks, and I wanted to show how much greater the CO2 content of air is in the confined spaces we share than out in the ambient atmosphere.

Let me say up front I am not a germaphobe. I have flown hundreds of times over the years. I wash my hands a few times a day, but consider some limited exposure to germs to be healthy and necessary to keep our immune systems strong.

But I would wager no one — medical experts, doctors, nurses, or the CDC Director – is willing to expose themselves to tiny amounts of sputum from Ebola patients to prove that point.

I’ve always wanted to know just how much of the air in planes is recycled, versus fresh. It’s hard to find an answer to this question. This Wall Street Journal article from a few years ago summarizes several studies that did indeed document increased incidence of illness contracted by recent airline passengers.

I have a good handheld air quality meter that measures the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere. Humans exhale large concentrations of CO2, so I used the meter on one recent trip to see just how high the CO2 concentration gets on airplanes. The higher the CO2 content, the more you are breathing air that other passengers have exhaled.

Yes, I know the official word is that, unless you are swapping spit with someone who has contracted Ebola, you don’t have anything to worry about. But in the very confined space of an aircraft, there is some inadvertent spit-swapping going on, anyway.

And think of all of the surfaces inside the plane that MANY people are touching with unclean hands: Seat headrests along the aisles, overhead luggage compartment latches, air flow nozzles, trays, passing cups and trash, etc.

Oh, and those miniscule rest rooms.

Anyway, to the answer. On two flights — one a large plane, the other small — I measured CO2 concentrations of 1,600 ppm or more (coming out of the nozzles), which is 4 times ambient (400 ppm). In my office building I might measure 700 ppm, late in the afternoon. In small offices with several people confined I’ve measured 1,000 ppm, the point at which some people consider the start of “reduced” air quality.

So, it is true, a greater proportion of air you breathe on an airplane has been exhaled by others than in most other environments you are likely to be exposed to. It’s still hard to say from my measurement of 1,600+ ppm just how much fresh air is mixed in with the air that is recycled by the aircraft ventilation system, but I think the bigger concern is this: that you are in such close proximity to other people in a confined space, you are breathing other peoples air — including tiny aerosols — even before all of the exhaled air gets sucked back into the ventilation system and filtered.

Now, this doesn’t mean I’m going to forgo flying…unless many more Ebola cases start showing up which might have occurred through casual contact. I suspect we should know much more in the coming weeks and months.

Hurricane Gonzalo Intensifying North of Puerto Rico

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Here’s the latest MODIS color image of Hurricane Gonzalo, currently a 110 mph (Category 2) storm (click image for full-size):

MODIS image of Hurricane Gonzalo mid-day Tuesday, October 14, 2014.

MODIS image of Hurricane Gonzalo mid-day Tuesday, October 14, 2014.

Gonzalo is forecast to strengthen, possibly to a Category 4 storm, before impacting Bermuda later in the week.

Dr. Roy’s Earth Today #11: Dust Over the Arabian Sea

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Clouds of dust blow southward out of Pakistan over the Arabian Sea today, as seen in this Terra MODIS satellite image (click for full-size):

Windblown dust over the Arabian Sea on October 14, 2014, as seen by NASA's MODIS instrument on the Terra satellite, October 14, 2014.

Windblown dust over the Arabian Sea on October 14, 2014, as seen by NASA’s MODIS instrument on the Terra satellite, October 14, 2014.

Dr. Roy’s Earth Today #10: Montreal, Quebec City, Maine, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Spectacular fall color was captured in this MODIS satellite image yesterday covering Maine, New Hampshire, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island (click for large version):

NASA Modis image from the Terra satellite of the region around Maine, on October 13, 2014.

NASA Modis image from the Terra satellite of the region around Maine, on October 13, 2014.

Canadians will be watching Hurricane Gonzalo this weekend, which is currently forecast to pass close to Nova Scotia.

Watch Out, Bermuda: T.S. Gonzalo Approaches Hurricane Strength

Monday, October 13th, 2014

The various tropical cyclone track models have Tropical Storm Gonzalo tracking very near Bermuda on Friday. Gonzalo should reach hurricane strength this evening.

Here’s the latest MODIS image, just in from early this afternoon (click for full size):

Tropical Storm Gonzalo, early afternoon October 13, 2014, from the Aqua MODIS imager.

Tropical Storm Gonzalo, early afternoon October 13, 2014, from the Aqua MODIS imager.

Here’s the latest track forecasts, from the South Florida Water Management District (right-click, “view image” for full-size):

Life as You Know It Will End if John Kerry is Wrong…OR Right

Monday, October 13th, 2014

The silliness of some politicians never ceases to astonish me. I know, I know…I should be used to it by now. But repeating a lie like “2 plus 2 equals 37” doesn’t seem to convince me no matter how many times it’s repeated.

Or, maybe it’s the silliness of so many people who believe those politicians.

A few days ago, an article written about a speech Secretary of State John Kerry gave last Thursday opened with:

“Life as you know it on Earth ends” if climate change skeptics are wrong (according to John Kerry).

Well, given the catastrophically high cost of converting even 50% of our fossil-fuel based energy to renewables (if that’s even possible, since they are intermittent sources), most of us will be living in poverty if Sec. Kerry gets his way.

I’m sure he and his friends won’t be. But we will.

And it doesn’t matter if the world is in for serious warming or not. Life, as you know it, will end.

Besides, it’s already well known, based upon the IPCC’s own modelling, that you could eliminate the United States altogether and it would have an unmeasurable impact on global temperatures by the end of this century. Hundredths of a degree.

Is that the warming that Sec. Kerry is claiming will end “life as we know it on Earth”? Really?

So, why is Sec. Kerry persisting with this issue? Is there some political angle I am missing, separate from what is good for the country?


Here’s a short video, in which I and energy policy experts describe how the premature push toward renewable energy on a large scale will increase human suffering:

Climate Change: A Meaningless Artifact of Technology?

Monday, October 13th, 2014

swemson120727Climate change, to the extent that such a thing exists, only matters if it is significant enough to affect humans or ecosystems. And even if it does exist, there is no way to know how much is natural versus human-induced. Contrary to popular belief, there are no “fingerprints” of anthropogenic global warming.

There is no question that weather variations affect us all. And there is no question that in certain regions, there can be multi-decadal changes which, as far as we know, have always occurred from time to time: e.g. Alaska warmed up in the late 1970s, and has mostly remained warm since. The Sahelian drought lasted decades…then went away. The Medieval and Roman Warm Periods were good for human prosperity.

Large year-to-year changes in weather are particularly common. Please don’t bore me with claims they are the fault of Exxon-Mobil.

Yet we are now wringing our hands over current temperatures which are arguably no different than during previous periods of human progress and abundance, 1,000 and 2,000 years ago. Even a modern Methuselah wouldn’t be old enough to remember back that far.

Hubert Lamb, who founded the UK’s Climatic Research Unit in 1972, had the proper perspective on climate, a perspective that is sorely lacking in the new crop of climate researchers who anthropomorphize everything they see in nature. Lamb’s books on past (natural) climate change show how humans have been affected by what I call “climate chaos” throughout the centuries and millennia.

Now to the point of this post: With huge variations in temperature or precipitation being the norm for most life on the planet, would anyone have noticed “climate change” if not for thermometer records which (after much fiddling) researchers have extracted warming trends so small that no one alive would ever notice? I doubt it.

Those who “see climate change out their window” apparently can’t separate their emotional response to weather events (which there is no long term change in) with real long-term change, which can’t be observed by humans looking out their windows.

Our satellite systems can monitor global temperature changes to hundredths of a degree. Interesting, but mostly irrelevant to life on Earth. Warming of the deep oceans, if it is even occurring, is only thousandths of a degree.

The satellite microwave radiometers that have been flying since 1979 have seen Arctic sea ice decreases, but Antarctic sea ice increases, with the global sea ice now running close to the long-term average. Would we even notice this if not for satellites?

We can measure change in the CO2 content of the air to better than 1 part in a million…but the increase in CO2 in the last 100 years amounts to only 1 part in 10,000. Does our precision with which we can measure change determine the significance of the change to life on Earth?

Admittedly, most glaciers have been seen to be retreating. But that’s been happening for at least 150 years, which is before humans can be blamed. Some of the retreating glaciers in Europe, Canada, and Alaska are revealing tree stumps…evidence of past warmth greater than the most recent centuries which similarly cannot be blamed on humans.

And why do we assume all change is “bad”? There has been a documented greening of the Earth due to modest warming, and especially to that 1 part in 10,000 increase in the life-giving gas, carbon dioxide.

I’m sure you can find parallels in a variety of environmental pollutants that technology has allow us to measure to infinitesimal levels of precision. This inspires the EPA to regulate pollutants to ever-decreasing levels which reduces prosperity, destroy jobs, and will likely cause more harm than good.

This seems to be the fate of our advanced society — we must find increasingly obscure things to fret over as we solve our major problems…hunger, disease, water-borne illness, infant mortality. But with real problems now appearing – renewed terrorist threats, Ebola — I fear we are straining gnats as we swallow camels.