Storms of My Grandchildren by Dr. James Hansen

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 11:34 PM GMT on July 26, 2010

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"Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity" is NASA climate change scientist Dr. James Hansen's first book. Dr. Hansen is arguably the most visible and well-respected climate change scientist in the world, and has headed the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City since 1981. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. Dr. Hansen greatly raised awareness of the threat of global warming during his Congressional testimony during the record hot summer of 1988, and issued one of the first-ever climate model predictions of global warming (see an analysis here to see how his 1988 prediction did.) In 2009, Dr. Hansen was awarded the Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the American Meteorological Society, for his "outstanding contributions to climate modeling, understanding climate change forcings and sensitivity, and for clear communication of climate science in the public arena."

Storms of My Grandchildren focuses on the key concepts of the science of climate change, told through Hansen's personal experiences as a key player in field's scientific advancements and political dramas over the past 40 years. Dr. Hansen's writing style is very straight-forward and understandable, and he clearly explains the scientific concepts involved in a friendly way that anyone with a high school level science education can understand. I did not find any scientific errors in his book. However, some of his explanations are too long-winded, and the book is probably too long, at 274 pages. Nevertheless, Storms of My Grandchildren is a must-read, due to the importance of the subject matter and who is writing it. Hansen is not a fancy writer. He comes across as a plain Iowan who happened to stumble into the field of climate change and discovered things he had to speak out about. And he does plenty of speaking out in his book.

James Hansen vs. Richard Lindzen
Dr. Hansen's book opens with an interesting chapter on his participation in four meetings of Vice President Dick Cheney's cabinet-level Climate Task Force in 2001. It seems that the Bush Administration was prepared to let Dr. Hansen's views on climate change influence policy. However, Dr. Richard Lindzen, whom Hansen describes as "the dean of of global warming contrarians", was also present at the meetings. Dr.Lindzen was able to confuse the task force members enough so that they never took Dr. Hansen's views seriously. Hansen observes that "U.S. policies regarding carbon dioxide during the Bush-Cheney administration seem to have been based on, or at a minimum, congruent with, Lindzen's perspective." Hansen asserts that Lindzen was able to do this by acting more like a lawyer than a scientist: "He and other contrarians tend to act like lawyers defending a client, presenting only arguments that favor their client. This is in direct contradiction to...the scientific method." Hansen also comments that he asked Lindzen what he thought of the link between smoking and cancer, since Lindzen had been a witness for the tobacco industry decades earlier. Lindzen "began rattling off all the problems with the data relating smoking to health problems, which was closely analogous to his views of climate data."

Alarmism
Global warming contrarians often dismiss scientists such a Dr. Hansen as "alarmists" who concoct fearsome stories about climate change in order to get research funding. Dr. Lindzen made this accusation at Cheney's Climate Task Force in 2001. However, Dr. Hansen notes that "in 1981 I lost funding for research on the climate effects of carbon dioxide because the Energy Department was displeased with a paper, 'Climate Impact of Increasing Carbon Dioxide,' I had published in Science magazine. The paper made a number of predictions for the 21st century, including 'opening of the fabled Northwest Passage', which the Energy Department considered to be alarmist but which have since proven to be accurate." If you read Dr. Hansen's book and listen to his lectures, it is clear that he is not an alarmist out to get more research funding by hyping the dangers of global warming. Hansen says in his book that "my basic nature nature is very placid, even comfortably stolid", and that nature comes through very clearly in Storms of My Grandchildren. Hansen's writings express a quiet determination to plainly set forth the scientific truth on climate change. He has surprisingly few angry words towards the politicians, lobbyists, and scientists intent on distorting the scientific truth.

The science of climate change
The bulk of Storms of My Grandchildren is devoted to explanations of the science of climate change. Hansen's greatest concern is disintegration of the gerat ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica causing sea level rise: "Once the ice sheets begin to rapidly disintegrate, sea level would be continuously changing for centuries. Coastal cities would become impractical to maintain." Hansen is concerned that evidence from past climate periods show that the massive ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica can melt quickly, with large changes within a century. For example, sea level at the end of the most recent Ice Age, 13,000 - 14,000 years ago, rose at a rate of 3 - 5 meters (10 - 17 feet) per century for several centuries. Hansen is convinced that just a 1.7 -2°C warming, which would likely result if we stabilize CO2 at 450 ppm, would be a "disaster scenario" that would trigger rapid disintegration of the ice sheets and disastrous rises in sea level. Hansen advocates stabilizing CO2 at 350 ppm (we are currently at 390 ppm, with a rate of increase of 2 ppm per year.)

Another of Hansen's main concerns is the extinction of species. He notes that studies of more than 1,000 species of plants, animals, and insects have found an average migration rate towards the poles due to climate warming in the last half of the 20th century to be four miles per decade. "That is not fast enough. During the past thirty years the lines marking the regions in which a given average temperature prevails (isotherms) have been moving poleward at a rate of about thirty-five miles per decade. If greenhouse gases continue to increase at business-as-usual rates, then the rate of isotherm movement will double in this century to at least seventy miles per decade."

Hansen's other main concern is the release of large amounts of methane gas stored in sea-floor sediments in the form of methane hydrates. If ocean temperatures warm according to predictions, the higher temperatures at the sea floor may be enough to destabilize the methane hydrate sediments and release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 - 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Solutions to the climate change problem
Dr. Hansen is a controversial figure, since he has stepped outside his field of expertise and become an activist in promoting solutions to the climate change problem. He devotes a chapter called "An Honest, Effective Path" in the book to this. His main theme is that we need to tax fossil fuels using a "fee-and-dividend" approach. All of the tax money collected would be distributed uniformly to the public. This carbon tax would gradually rise, giving people time to adjust their lifestyle, choice of vehicle, home insulation, etc. Those who do better at reducing their fossil fuel use will receive more in the dividend than they will pay in the added costs of the products they buy. The approach is straightforward and does not require a large bureaucracy, but currently has little political support. Hansen is vehemently opposed to the approach that has the most political support, "Cap-and-trade": "Cap-and-trade is what governments and the people in alligator shoes (the lobbyists for special interests) are trying to foist on you. Whoops. As an objective scientist I should delete such personal opinions, to at least flag them. But I am sixty-eight years old, and I am fed up with the way things work in Washington." Hansen also promotes an overlooked type of nuclear power, "fast" reactors with liquid metal coolant that produce far less nuclear waste and are much more efficient than conventional nuclear reactors.

Quotes from the book
"Humanity treads today on a slippery slope. As we continue to pump greenhouse gases into the air, we move onto a steeper, even more slippery incline. We seem oblivious to the danger--unaware how close we may be to a situation in which a catastrophic slip becomes practically unavoidable, a slip where we suddenly lose all control and are pulled into a torrential stream that hurls us over a precipice to our demise."

"In order for a democracy to function well, the public needs to be honestly informed. But the undue influence of special interests and government greenwash pose formidable barriers to a well-informed public. Without a well-informed public, humanity itself and all species on the planet are threatened."

"Of course by 2005 I was well aware that the NASA Office of Public Affairs had become an office of propaganda. In 2004, I learned that NASA press releases related to global warming were sent to the White House, where they were edited to appear less serious or discarded entirely."

"If we let special interests rule, my grandchildren and yours will pay the price."

"The role of money in our capitals is the biggest problem for democracy and for the planet."

"The problem with asking people to pledge to reduce their fossil fuel use is that even if lots of people do, one effect is reduced demand for fossil fuel and thus a lower price--making it easier for someone else to burn...it is necessary for people to reduce their emissions, but it is not sufficient if the government does not adopt policies that cause much of the fossil fuels to be left in the ground permanently."

"I have argued that it is time to 'draw a line in the sand' and demand no new coal plants."

"The present situation is analogous to that faced by Lincoln with slavery and Churchill with Nazism--the time for compromises and appeasement is over."

"Humans are beginning to hammer the climate system with a forcing more than an order of magnitude more powerful than the forcings that nature employed."

"Once ice sheet disintegration begins in earnest, our grandchildren will live the rest of their lives in a chaotic transition period."

"After the ice is gone, would Earth proceed to the Venus syndrome, a runaway greenhouse effect that would destroy all life on the planet, perhaps permanently? While that is difficult to say based on present information, I've come to conclude that if we burn all reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty."

"One suggestion I have for now: Support Bill McKibben and his organization 350.org. It is the most effective and responsible leadership in the public struggle for climate justice."

Commentary
James Hansen understands the Earth's climate as well as any person alive, and his concern about where our climate is headed makes Storms of My Grandchildren a must-read for everyone who cares about the world their grandchildren will inherit. Storms of My Grandchildren retails for $16.50 at Amazon.com. Dr. Hansen's web site is http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Yeah ITCZ disturbances tend to move slowly if not at all (e.g 92L) for sometime. As Levi says, "We shall see what happens!"


Yup. If anything significant were to happen with their merger, I'd think it would be beneficial to development...but I'm not sure.
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Well, I know it's early, but at least the NOGAPS keeps it going west into the Yucatan, keeps it away from TX. Subject to change, of course.
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Quoting extreme236:


I noticed that their forecasting PGI22L to be absorbed by PGI21L which is still over Africa. 22L is moving slow.
Yeah ITCZ disturbances tend to move slowly if not at all (e.g 92L) for sometime. As Levi says, "We shall see what happens!"
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Quoting Levi32:
12z CMC develops both systems


I do not like where they are showing the second hurricane being at 144 hours
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This update for PGI21L over Africa was posted before the current one, but still seems relevant

ECMWF: Phase Speed: -6.8 Determination: average Level tracked: 700 hPa

As PGI21L moves off of Africa, it absorbs PGI22L. However, just
to the west of PGI22L, another ITCZ circulation develops. After
PGI21L absorbs PGI22L, this western ITCZ circulation appears to
grow and absorb PGI21L.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
12z CMC 144 hours in agreement with the 12z NOGAPS.

The CMC suggests that after it breaks free of the ITCZ that it will go NW. Then when it meets the subtropical ridge it starts moving towards the W/WNW.
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6126. angiest
Quoting Snowlover123:
The 12Z CMC makes both hurricanes.

http://moe.met.fsu.edu/cgi-bin/cmctc2.cgi?time=2010072912&field=Sea+Level+Pressure&hour=Ani mation


Did you look at vorticity?
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Pouch Name: PGI22L Official Name: Initial Center Point: 12N 26W
Notes:

Should have started this system yesterday, if not earlier!
Yesterday's 00Z 650-hPa analysis depicted a meridionally short
trof north of the 650-hPa jet axis and well to the north of the
convection. However, by today's 00Z analysis, the trof extends
well to the south.
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6124. xcool
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
GFS pouch tracking on PGI22L.



I noticed that their forecasting PGI22L to be absorbed by PGI21L which is still over Africa. 22L is moving slow.
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6122. angiest
Just got to look at 12Z CMC. Oooh now its getting fun.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
5 day track for aoi at 20%,takes it towards the area between jamaica and hondorus NE coastline IMO...
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I wouldn't get too excited about the 20% blob just yet. It is still in the ITCZ and has to break free. But if it does, then conditions are pretty favorable.
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12z CMC 144 hours in agreement with the 12z NOGAPS.

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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
The NHC recognizing that the showers and thunderstorms near 30W are an ITCZ disturbance and not a tropical wave.

2. AN AREA OF DISTURBED WEATHER IS LOCATED OVER THE EASTERN ATLANTIC
OCEAN ABOUT 600 MILES SOUTHWEST OF THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS. SOME
SLOW DEVELOPMENT OF THIS DISTURBANCE IS POSSIBLE DURING THE NEXT
COUPLE OF DAYS AS IT DRIFTS TOWARD THE WEST OR WEST-NORTHWEST.
THERE IS A LOW CHANCE...20 PERCENT...OF THIS SYSTEM BECOMING A
TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

I'm just happy the tropics are active. This blog was unbearable 48 hours ago.
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GFS pouch tracking on PGI22L.

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6116. Levi32
12z CMC develops both systems
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The 12Z CMC makes both hurricanes.

http://moe.met.fsu.edu/cgi-bin/cmctc2.cgi?time=2010072912&field=Sea+Level+Pressure&hour=Animation
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Quoting FLdewey:
Global warming nuts AND storm nuts... The Planters doood would be pleased.


They make great stocking stuffers around the holidays too!
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In the meantime we can refer to the disturbance near 30W as PGI22L and the wave near the Antilles as PGI20L.
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6112. xcool
we need new blog 123page
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Looks like things are getting more active.
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Quoting EtexJC:

I've got that pic somewhere....
I'd be surprised if most guys don't, or have never seen it. Yes, i stand corrected, it was Monroe. see post 6107
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6108. xcool
90l come soon get readyy
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6107. EtexJC
Quoting HouGalv08:
Ahhhhh, now the blog will really go nutso and fill up. Sort of like the famous picture of Sophia Loren staring at Marilyn Mansons very filled top part of her dress.

I've got that pic somewhere....and that's Monroe, not Manson... and just one more correction is Jayne Mansfield she's looking at...
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The NHC recognizing that the showers and thunderstorms near 30W are an ITCZ disturbance and not a tropical wave.

2. AN AREA OF DISTURBED WEATHER IS LOCATED OVER THE EASTERN ATLANTIC
OCEAN ABOUT 600 MILES SOUTHWEST OF THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS. SOME
SLOW DEVELOPMENT OF THIS DISTURBANCE IS POSSIBLE DURING THE NEXT
COUPLE OF DAYS AS IT DRIFTS TOWARD THE WEST OR WEST-NORTHWEST.
THERE IS A LOW CHANCE...20 PERCENT...OF THIS SYSTEM BECOMING A
TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.
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Im very surprised that there's not a new blog up for the discussion of these new areas.......

oh well....
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6104. Levi32
Quoting StormW:
Hey Levi!


Good morning Storm!
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Ahhhhh, now the blog will really go nutso and fill up. Sort of like the famous picture of Sophia Loren staring at Marilyn Mansons very filled top part of her dress.
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6102. EtexJC
Quoting ElConando:
I dunno about a blog post limit but the blog may crash from the amount of posts were about to get.


So, let's shoot for 10K?
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Good afternoon,,,,,,,,

Things appear to be cranking up.... Next week could be a "Look out" week.....

Especially the area that just came off africa 48 hours ago.....

Stay tuned......... ;-)

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YES I WAS RIGHT I SAY WE HAVE OUR SELFS A INVEST ORE MAYBE 2
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Quoting reedzone:
Anyone seen Ike??

I did first-hand!



...Oh wait, you meant the blogger, didn't you... (lame attempt at humor :P)
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I wouldn't be surprised to see 2 Invests by tomorrow...
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Quoting Levi32:


There was never any thinking to be done lol. The models clearly develop the ITCZ disturbance and not the wave behind.


Lol there were some in here arguing that it was the wave behind the disturbance. I believed you all along, you can see it in the EURO, I dunno how people could have missed it, they should know that models are done 6 hours before it's current position.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Same here.


I agree as well, and I probably would have given them close to the same percentages myself
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It will be interesting to see what the Euro has to show this afternoon.
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hey guys I say two yellows one at 20% and the other at 10% the highest at out CV AOI
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for anyone interested, here is an image of 92L back on June 13 right off African coast

http://blogs.chron.com/sciguy/archives/2010/06/seasons_first_name_storm_on_tap.html
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6089. Levi32
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Levi, you pointed out on your video that a cyclonic turning is the W of the disturbance, I seem to recall Felix developing in a similar manner.


You'll have to forgive me if I don't really remember the conditions in which Felix developed lol.
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Anyone seen Ike??
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6087. Levi32
Quoting reedzone:
Apparently the models are developing the area under 20% chance, not the wave in back of it.. This was my thinking all along.


There was never any thinking to be done lol. The models clearly develop the ITCZ disturbance and not the wave behind.
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Dang, Levi beat me. :P
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Quoting Levi32:
There we go....the two most obvious threats are getting attention from the NHC and they did a perfect job assessing their potential this morning. 10% and 20% is perfect and is what I would have given them.
Same here.
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awwww man we have yellow circles now

you mean the TWO isn't empty?
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.