Archive for March, 2017

Trump’s Rollback of EPA Overreach: What No One is Talking About

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

President Trump’s actions yesterday to rein in the EPA on a number of fronts involves the usual tension between environment and prosperity. Trump has rightly asserted that we can have both a relatively clean environment and prosperity, but this falls on deaf ears in the environmental community. His actions are painted as Republican’s desire to harm your children, because a more polluted environment is claimed to be worse for human health and welfare than achieving a cleaner environment.

But such assertions must be rejected, and forcefully. Because exactly the opposite is true — at least in an America which is already pretty clean.

Let me give you a simple example. Let’s say you pay to have your house cleaned once a week, and for a reasonable price the house is 90% cleaner each time.

Now let’s say you decide you want your house 99% cleaner on a continuous basis. Cleaner is better, right?

You have crews come in and work for hours every day, cleaning every surface with disinfectant. You buy the best air and water filtration systems. The cost goes up dramatically, and as a result you can no longer afford, say, the health care you once could afford before.

Then your young child falls ill from something she picked up at daycare. You figure she will probably be OK, kids get sick all the time, and you don’t take her to the doctor.

But this time it’s something more insidious. A rare disease left untreated leads to the rapid formation of an aneurysm in her coronary artery. Several years later she dies at a young age.

All because you wanted your house cleaner.

You might think this example is outlandish. Well, in the past week one of my grandsons was diagnosed with this disease. But since America has invested a great deal of money in our health care system, rather than wasting it on green energy schemes, it was caught in time.

In a theoretical sense, we can always work to make the environment “cleaner”, that is, reduce human pollution. So, any attempts to reduce the EPA’s efforts will be viewed by some as just cozying up to big, polluting corporate interests. As I heard one EPA official state at a conference years ago, “We can’t stop making the environment ever cleaner”.

The question no one is asking, though, is “But at what cost?

It was relatively inexpensive to design and install scrubbers on smokestacks at coal-fired power plants to greatly reduce sulfur emissions. The cost was easily absorbed, and electricty rates were not increased that much.

The same is not true of carbon dioxide emissions. Efforts to remove CO2 from combustion byproducts have been extremely difficult, expensive, and with little hope of large-scale success.

There is a saying: don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough.

In the case of reducing CO2 emissions to fight global warming, I could discuss the science which says it’s not the huge problem it’s portrayed to be — how warming is only progressing at half the rate forecast by those computerized climate models which are guiding our energy policy; how there have been no obvious long-term changes in severe weather; and how nature actually enjoys the extra CO2, with satellites now showing a “global greening” phenomenon with its contribution to increases in agricultural yields.

But it’s the economics which should kill the Clean Power Plan and the alleged Social “Cost” of Carbon. Not the science.

There is no reasonable pathway by which we can meet more than about 20% of global energy demand with renewable energy…the rest must come mostly from fossil fuels. Yes, renewable energy sources are increasing each year, usually because rate payers or taxpayers are forced to subsidize them by the government or by public service commissions. But global energy demand is rising much faster than renewable energy sources can supply. So, for decades to come, we are stuck with fossil fuels as our main energy source.

The fact is, the more we impose high-priced energy on the masses, the more it will hurt the poor. And poverty is arguably the biggest threat to human health and welfare on the planet.

But isn’t it true that renewable energy such as solar and wind actually employ more people than the fossil fuel business? Yes, but once again there is a basic economic concept people need to keep in mind. We could put all of our unemployed people to work tomorrow by having them dig holes in the ground and filling them up again.

Yet, what would that do to increase prosperity? In order to build wealth, jobs need to be efficiently producing goods and services that people want… not just moving dirt around. So, just because it takes more people to provide more expensive renewable energy that can’t meet our needs anyway… that’s not a good thing.

People want — and need — inexpensive energy to prosper. Energy is required for everything humans do. Everything. The more it costs, the less money we have available for other more pressing problems.

So, the elephant in the room no one is talking about is that fact that the Clean Power Plan (which Trump is trying to dismantle) will make poverty worse, and as a result more people will die. Expensive attempts to make things too clean will be worse for human health and welfare — not better.

And what would have been gained for all that extra expense? Even the EPA has admitted that President Obama’s plans for reducing CO2 emissions will have no measurable effect on global temperatures in this century… only hundredths of a degree reductions in global warming, even if the “consensus of scientists” theory is correct.

This is why Obama’s coal-killing efforts have been legitimately characterized as all pain for no gain.

So, this is an issue where we global warming “skeptics” have the moral high ground. Let’s take it and own it.

Do not accept the premise that everything the EPA wants to do is good for America. The EPA provided a useful service years ago when it required us to clean up our air and waterways. Now it is a bloated bureaucracy in a continuing search for relevancy. It wants to force us to make everything not just 90% cleaner, but 99% cleaner.

And THAT is bad for human health and welfare.

The Global Warming Debate Spectrum

Friday, March 24th, 2017

In the debate arena, the public likes simple narratives. If the narrative supports their pre-conceived notions, they like it even better.

On technical issues which have major public policy impact, however, the nuances can be very important even if they are not easily explained or grasped.

The scientific nuances in the climate change realm are abundant: How much of recent warming has been natural? We aren’t sure. Will clouds respond to warming in ways that make it worse, or lessen it? We aren’t sure.

In the global warming (aka climate change) realm, there is a spectrum of beliefs among the public, as the following chart shows:

Those who tend to view issues in black-or-white terms, and who don’t want to be bothered with understanding the details of the global warming debate, tend to gravitate to one or the other extreme. Which one they choose depends upon their worldview, or even their view of the role of government in our lives.

I’ve heard from people representing the opposite ends of the spectrum over the last 25 years in emails, claiming either increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere simply cannot affect climate, or claiming that we have pushed the fragile climate system past a tipping point and unstoppable warming, more severe weather, rapidly rising sea levels, death, destruction, and mayhem, are the inevitable result of our burning of fossil fuels.

I find it more than a little ironic that Greenpeace was basically forced to admit its own extremism of message in their defense against a defamation lawsuit in Canada that their extremist statements really can’t be taken as factual, but more as hyperbole.

It should be obvious that the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes in the above chart. That is sort of a trivial statement, though, without much value because it is so unhelpful in the policy realm since it covers a wide range of potential outcomes.

Policy changes depend partly upon our confidence in our predictions. If we are certain that in exactly one year a large asteroid will hit Earth, there would be a legitimate global effort to come up with a scheme for averting disaster, no matter the cost. But if there is a relatively small chance of it happening in the next 100 years, there might be little or no effort.

Costs versus benefits must also be addressed, including the impact of forcing more expensive energy on the poor through either legislation or EPA regulations. If it was relatively painless to switch to renewable energy sources, sure, do it.

But it’s not. Ask the countries that have tried.

Also, global greening in recent decades indicates more CO2 isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Crop productivity continues upward, even without planting more acres. 2016 saw record yields in corn, soybeans, and wheat. I’ve been a consultant with corn market interests for the last 6 years, and climate change isn’t even on their radar screen… except indirectly, since the ethanol mandate was supposedly intended to reduce CO2 emissions. It didn’t.

We see in the global warming policy arena there has been a gradual loss of public interest in doing something about global warming. A lot has happened since NASA’s James Hansen sensationally testified in Congress that he was mostly sure that the 1988 heat wave and drought were at least somewhat the fault of humans influencing the climate system.

Despite the initial alarm, in the last 20 years Gallup polling has shown that climate change has remained at the bottom of the list of environmental concerns among Americans. Except for the most recent survey results, there has also been a long-term downward trend over that 20 year period in how serious the public views the threat of global warming.

Why has the public lost interest? The reasons are many.

For example, most of the world’s population experiences many tens of degrees of natural temperature variation, yet they are asked to fret over two degrees of warming on time scales so long almost no one would notice it in their lifetime. The observed rate of warming has been about half of that predicted by the average climate model, and the climate model average is what guides energy policy.

Furthermore, the models do not produce realistic natural climate variability without considerable fudging and tinkering to fit the observed temperature record. As a result, we really aren’t sure recent warming isn’t partly or even mostly natural in origin. (Our study of ocean warming since the 1950s suggests about 50% each).

Finally, like the rock musician who is embarrassed to admit he actually likes ABBA, we are hesitant to admit we love our fossil-fueled transportation. We like the convenience of flying in jets. And the smaller cars get, the more pickup trucks we buy. Leonardo DiCaprio loves his yacht, I’m sure.

The polarization of the debate has led to a simplification of the narratives: you are either a denier if you tend toward the no-impact end in the above chart, or an alarmist if you tend toward the dangerous impact end of the spectrum. Judith Curry has written a lot about the polarization of the debate in the years since the Climategate email release pushed her into the skeptic camp.

In the quarter century I have studied this issue, I dont think we are much closer to having an answer to just where the climate system will end up. Just about anything is theoretically possible. The science is much more difficult than putting a person on the Moon, which was basically just an engineering exercise involving man-against-gravity, and making sure he has air, food, and water for several days.

Nevertheless, a little-known hint of what direction the science might be going is the fact that the latest U.N. IPCC report (AR5), which historically tends toward the alarmist extreme (at least in its Summary for Policymakers) has lowered the lower limit of warming to about 1 deg. C for a doubling of atmospheric CO2. (How could this be, you ask, if weve already experienced about 1 deg. C of warming without CO2 doubling? Because there could be natural warming influences causing a substantial portion of observed warming.) Admittedly, they consider 1 deg. C to be extremely unlikely. If I had to choose a number, I’d go with about 1.5 deg. C, but they consider that unrealistically optimistic as well.

The fact that our satellite observations have shown less warming than the surface, rather than more warming as would be expected theoretically is another hint that the theory encapsulated in the models has a serious bias. The most obvious potential reason for this is that water vapor feedback is not as strong in reality as in the models, since those models with the strongest positive water vapor feedback also produce the strongest amplification of warming with height in the troposphere.

My opinion tends toward the little-impact end of the spectrum. I suspect that future warming will be slow and relatively benign (say, 1.5 deg. C by the end of this century), severe weather events won’t become demonstrably worse, and slow sea level rise will continue roughly as it has for centuries. People will adapt to whatever slow changes occur.

And renewable energy (or maybe safer nuclear energy) breakthroughs will come from the private sector and market forces, not from legislative fiat.

While climate science will continue to try to nail down just where we are in the spectrum of climate impacts, what we hear in the news media will continue to veer toward the ends of the spectrum, with exaggerated claims from opposing tribes, based upon fears and click-seeking more than on evidence. Heat waves, freezes, floods, droughts… these events make news, just as they have throughout recorded history. Average weather does not. We lukewarmers will continue to be lost in the noise.

I suspect we will not have much more scientific confidence ten years from now. A lot will depend on where global temperatures go from now on, because the science will just remain too uncertain until Mother Nature shows her hand.

Congressional hearings into climate issues, put on mostly for show, will continue to pit competing views against one another. As usual, the opposing views will largely cancel each other out, despite each of the tribes claiming victory.

And the wheels on the bus go round and round.

The Russians Hacked our Winter Weather

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Now that winter has officially ended, I thought it would be useful to address the central role that Russia played in ending California’s drought, as well as in the unusually warm conditions over the eastern U.S. this past winter.

First, let’s address the record California rains and mountain snowpack. While such a wet winter usually requires a strong El Nino, we had just the opposite — a weak La Nina.

So, what happened?

California: The “Atmospheric River” Doesn’t Explain It

Blaming the wet winter in California on the “atmospheric river” effect is, in my professional opinion, rather lame. It’s like blaming a flash flood on “too much water”. Well, duh.

So, what caused the atmospheric river?

A persistent series of extratropical storms (low pressure systems) coming into California.

But what caused the storms?

An enhanced temperature contrast between the tropics and mid-latitudes, always required for the formation of such low pressure systems.

But what caused the enhanced temperature contrast?

It wasn’t El Nino, the usual culprit in stormy California winters, because we had the opposite — La Nina.

It was because our winter was hacked by the Russians

It all started back in October, 2016. (Before the election! A coincidence? I think not.)

October experienced an unusually rapid buildup of the cold season air mass in Siberia, as seen in this temperature departure-from-normal map (all maps courtesy of

By November, those unseasonably cold air masses were traveling across the North Pacific, cooling the upper layers of the ocean, and turning the previous Warm Blob of sea surface temperatures into a Cold Blob:

This set up a stronger-than-normal temperature contrast zone (“baroclinic zone” to us meteorologists), which is what’s necessary for extra-tropical storm formation. The temperature departures from normal for the winter months of Dec-Jan-Feb reveal the persistence of this feature, which then led to repeated formation of low pressure systems and the warm, moist flow of air out ahead of those lows as they tracked eastward:

The unusual warmth of the eastern U.S. was likely the result of this chain of events as well. The process has now ended, but not before the cherry blossoms in D.C. were fooled into coming out early, and then the Canadians with their own flavor of frigid air swooped in and ruined everything about a week ago.

So, I suggest it’s time for congressional inquiries into the pre-election Russian hacking of our winter weather.

Brace Yourselves: Snowstorm to Breed Global Warming Hysteria

Monday, March 13th, 2017

With apologies to Benjamin Franklin, only three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and blaming bad weather on global warming.

By mid-week this week, newspaper and website stories will be reporting that climate experts (e.g. Al Gore, Bill Nye) have now blamed the historic snowstorm and unseasonable cold now descending on New England on climate change.

I suspect a few of these experts already have their tweets composed, just waiting for snow totals to exceed one foot.

Indeed, the latest GFS model forecast shows that by midday Wednesday some rather spectacular snow totals will have probably accumulated, from the DC area through Philadelphia, NYC (maybe 20 inches there), and Boston (graphic courtesy of

The Nor’easter and cold temperatures will be blamed on the same climate change that caused the unusual warmth over the eastern U.S. over the past couple months.

Global warming theory is in fact so malleable that it predicts anything. More cold, less cold. More snow, less snow.

What a powerful theory.

And what’s even more amazing is that climate change can be averted by just increasing your taxes.

But what nobody ever reports on — because it would be boring — are the storms and severe weather events that haven’t happened. For example, U.S. tornado counts have been running below average, or even at record lows, in recent years.

Amazingly, the low tornado activity has been blamed on climate change. So, too, have actual tornado occurrences!

What a grand and gloriously useful theory global warming provides us.

Is it any wonder that the public tends to be skeptical of what the experts tell us, when those experts continually change the narrative as their forecasts turn out wrong?

Winters in the U.S. are notoriously variable. Typically, if it’s warm in the East, it’s cold in the West. This is exactly what has happened this winter, except for this brief reversal before winter’s end.

Normal people call it weather. More enlightened people, in contrast, call it climate change. Next winter it could be the opposite. No one knows.

Like death and taxes, though, what is certain is that anything “unusual” that happens will somehow be blamed on your SUV.

UAH Version 6 Dataset Paper Published Online

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

At long last, our Version 6 dataset paper has been published, with the online version available as of today:

UAH Version 6 Global Satellite Temperature Products: Methodology and Results

We have been working with NCEI (old NCDC) to get the dataset and code archived there (contrary to some claims, our Version 5.6 dataset and code have been archived there for years). This takes time as NCEI has procedures, review meetings, etc., before they can host a dataset and code.

(I can download the PDF…maybe someone can tell me if it’s publicly available, too.)

UPDATE: Since the paper is paywalled, here’s our final submitted version.

UAH Global Temperature Update for February, 2017: +0.35 deg. C.

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

The Version 6.0 global average lower tropospheric temperature (LT) anomaly for February 2017 was +0.35 deg. C, up a little from the January value of +0.30 deg. C (click for full size version):

The global, hemispheric, and tropical LT anomalies from the 30-year (1981-2010) average for the last 26 months are:

2015 01 +0.30 +0.44 +0.15 +0.13
2015 02 +0.19 +0.34 +0.04 -0.07
2015 03 +0.18 +0.28 +0.07 +0.04
2015 04 +0.09 +0.19 -0.01 +0.08
2015 05 +0.27 +0.34 +0.20 +0.27
2015 06 +0.31 +0.38 +0.25 +0.46
2015 07 +0.16 +0.29 +0.03 +0.48
2015 08 +0.25 +0.20 +0.30 +0.53
2015 09 +0.23 +0.30 +0.16 +0.55
2015 10 +0.41 +0.63 +0.20 +0.53
2015 11 +0.33 +0.44 +0.22 +0.52
2015 12 +0.45 +0.53 +0.37 +0.61
2016 01 +0.54 +0.69 +0.39 +0.84
2016 02 +0.83 +1.16 +0.50 +0.99
2016 03 +0.73 +0.94 +0.52 +1.09
2016 04 +0.71 +0.85 +0.58 +0.93
2016 05 +0.54 +0.65 +0.44 +0.71
2016 06 +0.34 +0.51 +0.17 +0.37
2016 07 +0.39 +0.48 +0.30 +0.48
2016 08 +0.43 +0.55 +0.32 +0.49
2016 09 +0.44 +0.49 +0.39 +0.37
2016 10 +0.41 +0.42 +0.39 +0.46
2016 11 +0.45 +0.40 +0.50 +0.37
2016 12 +0.24 +0.18 +0.30 +0.21
2017 01 +0.30 +0.27 +0.33 +0.07
2017 02 +0.35 +0.54 +0.15 +0.05

The slight warming in February came from Northern Hemisphere land areas. The tropics have cooled by about 1 deg. C from the peak El Nino warmth of 1 year ago.

The UAH LT global anomaly image for February, 2017 should be available in the next several days here.

The new Version 6 files should be updated soon, and are located here:

Lower Troposphere:
Lower Stratosphere: