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 jasoniscoolman2010x:
right now its to hard to know where the storm is going to go in 240 hours from now..likes u said the powerful a system go further north
A powerful system would go northward if it has no other forces acting upon it. If there is a high that will deter it, it won't be able to go poleward. A great example is Andrew (1992).
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
5982. Dakster
Quoting ElConando:


Tis merely an extension of another assention to another recession but in a different, dimension.


You took Comedy at FSU?
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5981. will45
Quoting earthlydragonfly:


I agree but the further you get away from the center of the high, the weaker the high gets and fluctuates... If you watch the (for example only) the sea level pressure model of the CMC.. you will see the A-B high pulse through each frame (every 6 hours) like a heart beat. So there is very little certianty as to how strong an outlier layer of the high will be when something gets there 4-5 days later.


agreed thats why i said a strong high
Member Since: July 18, 2009 Posts: 1 Comments: 994
Quoting ph34683:

Thanks! So, is there a reason that they only use the 90s?


Not really that I know of. However they do use the 80's for test invests. And I think they used 70's before for tests invests but I'm not completely sure on that one. Even though they aren't invests, they use the 0's 10's 20's 30's and even 40's (only the West Pacific has made it that far) for named storms or Tropical Depressions.
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how can the GFDL and HWRF be latched on when they are only run when we have an invest in the ATL or EPAC; which we don't
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5978. Levi32
Quoting 7544:
wave at 31 invest soon ? looks good so far


It may not even be a tropical wave. I was pretty convinced that it was a low-amplitude wave yesterday but it is taking on the looks of just an ITCZ disturbance now, though still well-defined and may be a threat down the road. It will have a hard time winding up out in the Atlantic, but should be watched..
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The ITCZ blob, or wave could become 90L at ANYTIME, according to Levis video, which was awesome btw!
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5976. 7544
Quoting will45:


nope a strong High will block it from going north



correct
Member Since: May 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6618
Quoting will45:


Depends on the strength of the high. If high is strong with no weakness no storm is gonna bust through it it will go around.


I agree but the further you get away from the center of the high, the weaker the high gets and fluctuates... If you watch the (for example only) the sea level pressure model of the CMC.. you will see the A-B high pulse through each frame (every 6 hours) like a heart beat. So there is very little certianty as to how strong an outlier layer of the high will be when something gets there 4-5 days later.
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5974. 7544
wave at 31 invest soon ? looks good so far
Member Since: May 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6618
5973. will45
Quoting jasoniscoolman2010x:
right now its to hard to know where the storm is going to go in 240 hours from now..likes u said the powerful a system go further north


nope a strong High will block it from going north
Member Since: July 18, 2009 Posts: 1 Comments: 994
Nice synopsis of the models Reed.
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Not sure that I understand the logic behind the models merging the ITCZ disturbance and the wave exiting Africa. There is significant distance between the two features, and both will be moving towards the west at similar forward speeds.
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5969. 7544
looks like the gfs has cought everyones attention now
Member Since: May 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6618
Quoting Jeff9641:


It looks as if well have great model runs as all the models are now latched. My buddy at FSU said the GFDL and HWRF seem latched on as well. So once 90L is designated then we should have a pretty tight cluster.


So all of the main models develop this. I want to see some yellows by the next TWO.
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5966. ph34683
Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


We just had 99L, so the next invest would go to 90L. And no, there would only be 7 previous ones if that were the case. It's numbered from 90 to 99. 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96 would be the previous ones.

Thanks! So, is there a reason that they only use the 90s?
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Quoting Jeff9641:


It looks as if well have great model runs as all the models are now latched. My buddy at FSU said the GFDL and HWRF seem latched on as well. So once 90L is designated then we should have a pretty tight cluster.


you are correct sir... The NOGAPS is on tilt (poker term that means when things dont go your way you start compounding your problem by making poor choices.) LOL
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5964. will45
Quoting earthlydragonfly:


It is my understanding that the bigger more powerful a system gets the less effect things such as Highs and other systems have on the storm.. Also the larger the storm is the Coriolis effect will be more pronounced tracking it further north.

And of course I can be full of manure since Im no MET!


Depends on the strength of the high. If high is strong with no weakness no storm is gonna bust through it it will go around.
Member Since: July 18, 2009 Posts: 1 Comments: 994
Models out more than 4-5 days are not accurate for the track, but they are more accurate to show the genesis of the storm. One of the articles that I read (can't remember which one)said that the track more than 5 days out on a storm that does not have an initialized center is no better than tossing a coin, you're likely to find the same odds.

I believe Storm said something similar yesterday, in that the models are beginning to show storms developing is more a sign that the tropics will become more active, than a true sign of where they will go or what the intensity level will be.
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Quoting ph34683:
Can someone explain how the numbering works? I think we just had 97L, right? Does that mean there were 96 previous ones?


We just had 99L, so the next invest would go to 90L. And no, there would only be 7 previous ones if that were the case. It's numbered from 90 to 99. 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96 would be the previous ones.
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Quoting muddertracker:
m Oh, OK, so how is this derived? tia


I'm not aware of the exact formula the models use to calculate sea level pressure.
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5959. ph34683
Can someone explain how the numbering works? I think we just had 97L, right? Does that mean there were 96 previous ones?
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Link ITCZ disturbance looks interesting this afternoon.
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Quoting Jeff9641:


No everyone along the SE US needs to monitor this as we talking next weekend and I know things can change but it is eary that all models are now onboard with what looks to be Colin in the making.


I've seen models that have had Cat 5's hitting S Fla and then NOLA for multiple model runs and then weaken it or drop it all together. I understand your concern, you are worried about the Southeast.

You must remember that these are long range models. The amount of times these model runs verify from a week plus out are far and few between. We will see what happens when we get there.
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5955. Levi32
Good morning all.

Tropical Tidbit for Thursday, July 29th, with Video
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NOGAPS 12z 120 hours -- 2 tropical storm; one in the Caribbean another in the Atlantic.

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
So here's what we have concerning the blob in the ITCZ and the TW coming off of Africa...

GFS - merges and moves it WNW towards South FL, then turns it north up the coastline to the Carolinas (Ernesto like track).

EURO - merges both the areas and moves it WNW, a bit NW in the end just north of the islands, then veers it westward on the last two frames towards FL.

CMC/GEM - develop a powerful storm, moves it in the general direction of Floyd (1999) and Isabel (2003), towards either the Mid-Atlantic coastline or the Carolinas.

NOGAPS - Develops many weak systems in the Atlantic, has gone nuts.

All this coming out to a really good potential for development and the fact that 90L is coming very soon.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
If we can't post anymore past 6000 comments feel free to head over to my blog...it'll be moderated.


That would be a P6K bug... LOL
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same track as ivan?
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 90
Good afternoon ALL!!! Just a lurker/learner here. You know when the tropics are quiet because people are talking about model runs out 15 days. It's still interesting to see if any of the scenarios actually materialize.
Have a great day, ALL!!!
Gary
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
NOGAPS develops 3 systems...the disturbance near 30W and the tropical wave behind it. It also develops the tropical wave in the Caribbean. It also shows a significant tropical wave emerging off of Africa. The run has yet to finish but I'll post it when it's done.

NOGAPS 12z 96 hours




Colin, Danielle, and Earl?
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Things are lining up with the models.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23012
If we can't post anymore past 6000 comments feel free to head over to my blog...it'll be moderated.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
NOGAPS develops 3 systems...the disturbance near 30W and the tropical wave behind it. It also develops the tropical wave in the Caribbean. It also shows a significant tropical wave emerging off of Africa. The run has yet to finish but I'll post it when it's done.

NOGAPS 12z 96 hours


Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting earthlydragonfly:


It is my understanding that the bigger more powerful a system gets the less effect things such as Highs and other systems have on the storm.. Also the larger the storm is the Coriolis effect will be more pronounced tracking it further north.

And of course I can be full of manure since Im no MET!


Absolutely right, the GEM shows somewhat like Floyd (1999) or Isabel (2003)..
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5941. MahFL
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
00z GGEM takes our disturbance towards Florida as a hurricane.


Oh that sounds good.
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Quoting Jeff9641:


Looks like 2004 all over again. I knew this pattern would set up.


please dont say that even if it is true!!!
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Good Afternoon!
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
GFS combines the ITCZ disturbance with the tropical wave off Africa to create a system.


It then looks like it splits back to two storms almost. but that is so far away I couldnt imagine this would hold up...IMO
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
GFS combines the ITCZ disturbance with the tropical wave off Africa to create a system.


This is what I was thinking earlier..
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Quoting DestinJeff:


Correct. Most economists agree that it is merely a Great Recession.


Tis merely an extension of another assention to another recession but in a different, dimension.
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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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