Extreme events of 2011: climate change a major factor in some, but not all

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:54 PM GMT on July 11, 2012

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The science of quantifying how climate change changes the odds of extreme weather events like droughts and floods took a major step forward Tuesday with the publication of NOAA's annual summary of the past year's weather. The 2011 State of the Climate report contains a separate peer-reviewed article published in the July issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society titled, Explaining Extreme Events of 2011 From a Climate Perspective. In the paper, a group of scientists led by Peter Stott of the Met Office Centre in the United Kingdom looked at how climate change may have changed the odds of occurrence of some of 2011's notable weather extremes. These kinds of attribution studies require huge amounts of computer time and take many months to do, but the scientists plan to start making this a regular part of the annual NOAA State of the Climate report. Some of their findings for 2011:

- Determining the causes of extreme events remains difficult. While scientists cannot trace specific events to climate change with absolute certainty, new and continued research help scientists understand how the probability of extreme events change in response to global warming.

- La Niña-related heat waves, like that experienced in Texas in 2011, are now 20 times more likely to occur during La Niña years today than La Niña years fifty years ago.

- The UK experienced a very warm November 2011 and a very cold December 2010. In analyzing these two very different events, UK scientists uncovered interesting changes in the odds. Cold Decembers are now half as likely to occur now versus fifty years ago, whereas warm Novembers are now 62 times more likely.

- The devastating 2011 floods in Thailand caused an estimated $45 billion in damage, making it the world's most expensive river flooding disaster in history. The study found, however, that the amount of rain that fell in the catchment area was not very unusual, and that other factors such as human-caused changes to the flood plain and the movement of more people into flood-prone areas were more important in causing the disaster. "Climate change cannot be shown to have played any role in this event," the study concluded, but warned that climate models predict an increase in the probability of extreme precipitation events in the future in the region.

- The deadly drought in East Africa, which killed tens of thousands of people in 2011, was made more likely by warming waters in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific. While the scientists did not specifically tie the warming of these waters to human-caused global warming, they noted that climate models predict continued warming of these waters in the coming decades, and this will likely "contribute to more frequent East African droughts during the spring and summer."


Figure 1. An SH-60F Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 14, flies around the Bangkok area with members of the humanitarian assessment survey team and the Royal Thai Armed Forces to assess the damage caused by the 2011 floods. Image credit: Petty Officer 1st Class Jennifer Villalovos.

Weather on steroids
One interesting aspect of the paper was the scientists' use of the baseball player-steroids analogy to help explain how climate change can increase the odds of extreme weather: "One analogy of the effects of climate change on extreme weather is with a baseball player (or to choose another sport, a cricketer) who starts taking steroids and afterwards hits on average 20% more home runs (or sixes) in a season than he did before (Meehl 2012). For any one of his home runs (sixes) during the years the player was taking steroids, you would not know for sure whether it was caused by steroids or not. But you might be able to attribute his increased number to the steroids. And given that steroids have resulted in a 20% increased chance that any particular swing of the player’s bat results in a home run (or a six), you would be able to make an attribution statement that, all other things being equal, steroid use had increased the probability of that particular occurrence by 20%. The job of the attribution assessment is to distinguish the effects of anthropogenic climate change or some other external factor (steroids in the sporting analogy) from natural variability (e.g., in the baseball analogy, the player’s natural ability to hit home runs or the configuration of a particular stadium)."



Video 1. National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist Dr. Jerry Meehl explains how climate change's impact on extreme weather is like how steroids affect a baseball player.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting Neapolitan:
I've found through the years that the number of mentions of Al Gore's name in an internet article or blog post is almost always inversely proportional to the amount of intellectual honesty and/or scientific fact contained therein. This comment verifies that hypothesis.

But I'll bite off a piece of this stale and moldy bread anyway and remind everyone that any one person's failure to precisely toe the line where climate change mitigation is concerned in no way invalidates the fact that the climate is indeed changing, and very quickly. And for the record, the world isn't heating up because consumers are demanding the continued burning of fossil fuels; it's heating up because there are hundreds of billions--if not trillions--of dollars to be made in not switching to available (and could soon be available) alternatives, so those seeking to reap those billions have done, and continue to do, everything within their power to be sure no such switch is made.


Lots to do today and nothing looks too imminent in the tropics, so figured I would "quote" (repost) Neapolitan's post from earlier, because he hit the nail on the head
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


Have you been to Jupiter lately? Very big. Lots of gas. As far as we know, it also void of life.


It's been a few years but there is life. They're a bit odd though...drink their beer warm
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compare 2012 2011 at bottom ice data images

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54372
Quoting Grothar:
Yes, plants and trees absorb carbon. They also release carbon. While planting a trees is not bad, it will not solve all the problems. Many of the worlds forests have been severely disrupted.

However, there are some points not being considered in some arguments. How much carbon can a tree absorb and how much to too much.

If a tree begins to absorb a lot of carbon, it will likely grow faster and larger; the same with plants. This sounds good, but here are some of the problems with that logic.

1. If a tree grows faster than its genetic enginering, will it also be prone to diseases to which is has no resistance? Will certain insect popluation begin being attracted to these trees?

2. Will too much rain cause certain diseases>

3. Will plants that are growing faster begin to die faster? Will they also be prone to diseases/

While carbon is essential to plant growth, too much many not necessarily be better. Humans need vitamins to survive. If we take millions of units of a vitamin, it could kill us. The same with plants. Many of us have had plants that we watered too much and they died.

What has to always be considered are the consequences of one action over another. Our biossphere and ecology is still much of a mystery. We do not always know what the consequences are of removing just one element, or rather altering the elements. The effects may not be immediate, so we therefore tend not to pay too much attention.

Anyone who has been to school knows that the Earth changes all the time. We know there have been countless cycles by known causes and unknown causes. To state that humans have had no effect on the ecology or climate is just as incorrect as stating all changes are attibuted to humans. I do not know of any serious scientist who believes all the changes we are seeing are "solely" due to human intervention. Quite the contrary. However, if one person tells me the sky is falling, I smile. If two people tell me, I raise my eyebrows. If a third person tells me, I look up. If a fourth person tells me, I ask where I can find the information as to what might cause it.
You have a good point Grothar.
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Yes, plants and trees absorb carbon. They also release carbon. While planting a trees is not bad, it will not solve all the problems. Many of the worlds forests have been severely disrupted.

However, there are some points not being considered in some arguments. How much carbon can a tree absorb and how much to too much.

If a tree begins to absorb a lot of carbon, it will likely grow faster and larger; the same with plants. This sounds good, but here are some of the problems with that logic.

1. If a tree grows faster than its genetic enginering, will it also be prone to diseases to which is has no resistance? Will certain insect popluation begin being attracted to these trees?

2. Will too much rain cause certain diseases>

3. Will plants that are growing faster begin to die faster? Will they also be prone to diseases/

While carbon is essential to plant growth, too much many not necessarily be better. Humans need vitamins to survive. If we take millions of units of a vitamin, it could kill us. The same with plants. Many of us have had plants that we watered too much and they died.

What has to always be considered are the consequences of one action over another. Our biossphere and ecology is still much of a mystery. We do not always know what the consequences are of removing just one element, or rather altering the elements. The effects may not be immediate, so we therefore tend not to pay too much attention.

Anyone who has been to school knows that the Earth changes all the time. We know there have been countless cycles by known causes and unknown causes. To state that humans have had no effect on the ecology or climate is just as incorrect as stating all changes are attibuted to humans. I do not know of any serious scientist who believes all the changes we are seeing are "solely" due to human intervention. Quite the contrary. However, if one person tells me the sky is falling, I smile. If two people tell me, I raise my eyebrows. If a third person tells me, I look up. If a fourth person tells me, I ask where I can find the information as to what might cause it.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26486
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
NO POLITICS
Sorry ill behave now.
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NO POLITICS

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north pole cam 2

watching ice melt

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54372
Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


Have you been to Jupiter lately? Very big. Lots of gas. As far as we know, it also void of life.
well Jupiter wasnt built to sustain life in the first place. or else we all would be there instead of here.
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Quoting LargoFl:
..why would you say that?..one tree absorbs 22 hundred pounds of co-2 a year..one tree


No, it doesn't.

A tree (depending on the species) can take about 2200 pouinds of CO2 out of the atmosphere temporarily. But it eventually goes back into the atmosphere, through loss of leaves, death, and decomposition.

Take a look at a graph of CO2 in the atmosphere. You'll notice that there are yearly minimums and maximums the coincide with the seasons. This is due to plant growth and death. The carbon cycle. Planting more trees doesn't remove the carbon. It just shifts it. Since it is still on the surface it will eventually be released back to the atmosphere. A long term net-zero.

The only way for a tree to remove CO2 permanently from the atmosphere is if you bury it after it grows. Otherwise, the CO2 will eventually make it's way back into the atmosphere.
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Deleted
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


When they are bought and paid for, then they are no different from what we have now, in my opinion. What you are saying then is that you to buy the politicians that will reflect your ideology?
well you dont "buy" them. just vote some into office that have some common sense and know how to run a goverment.
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north pole cam 1

watching ice melt

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54372
Deleted
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Quoting LargoFl:
..................be careful Stormtracker...another bad batch is headed your way

I am going to be camping near Eustis for a whole week starting on Sunday.
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Quoting wxmod:


All the tree growing ground already has trees on it and is presently growing and dying and regrowing. Are you suggesting that somehow people can extend the natural range of forests? All of the world's deserts are GROWING and inundating the tree growing ground.
By the way, Santa Clause is going to die soon. Do something! Cut down your carbon emissions! Talk is cheap.


Uh, no, all the tree growing ground IS NOT currently occupied with trees. Alot of it has been developed and has any number of things on it now: condos, homes, malls, buildings, soybean crops, livestock, etc. In case you aren't aware, de-forestation is probably a larger problem than greenhouse gas emissions. We're cutting down trees worldwide at a nauseating rate.

500 million trees have been killed in Texas, likely from the droughts that stem from climate change. Do you realize how many trees that is? Half a billion! Honestly, if we could return to global forestation levels of 200 years ago, our greenhouse gas emissions probably wouldn't be an issue right now as we'd have the essential "scrubbers" necessary to absorb them. How about gaining some insight into the importance of trees instead of being insensitive and dismissive?

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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


In the absolute literal sense, your statement is correct. When one evaluates how well life, as we know it, fairs on this planet then we do see a great destruction. Not a destruction of the planet itself, but in the diversity of life itself on this planet. Perhaps even enough of a change to end all but the microbial life on Earth. Yes, this planet will still be here, but perhaps only as a place holder in our solar system.
Well i was talking about life as we know it. this earth is too big for some gases to destroy all life on it. And there are plenty of checks and balances to keep that from happening.
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261. 7544
hmmm the blob is moving away from the se fl coast but another one in the bahamas forming looks like this year will be blob watching
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Quoting LargoFl:
..plant tree's..who absorb and eat..carbon, but no one will, cant get taxes from planting tree's


Trees are carbon neutral. Unless you're burying the tree afterwards, the carbon the tree absorbs is not sequestered and is therefore still part of the surface carbon cycle.

To get rid of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere, it has be removed from the carbon cycle. Planting more trees, while good in other senses, will not solve the problem.
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Quoting wxmod:


If you have your mind made up that it will not happen, how are you going to accept scientific discoveries that disagree with you?
Well if i have my mind made up then i just wont accept them.
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Deleted
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Im out till later --- from Allan Huffman weather site..look for a trough split..

The Ensemble guidance looks to support a trough over the East coast of the US in the 11-15 day period which would take us into the last week of July. If this is true one would expect temperatures near or slightly below normal with a good chance for shower and storms. All and all, the data could change, but right now it does not support a major heat wave coming back anytime soon, although a day or two of big heat here or there is likely to happen with mid to late next week being potentially one of those events.
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256. wxmod
Quoting VINNY04:
I didnt say you had to trust me, but it will not happen.


If you have your mind made up that it will not happen, how are you going to accept scientific discoveries that disagree with you?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Emilia kinda looks like a doughnut.

UW - CIMSS
ADVANCED DVORAK TECHNIQUE
ADT-Version 8.1.3
Tropical Cyclone Intensity Algorithm

----- Current Analysis -----
Date : 11 JUL 2012 Time : 160000 UTC
Lat : 14:40:51 N Lon : 117:22:39 W


CI# /Pressure/ Vmax
6.1 / 946.9mb/117.4kt


Final T# Adj T# Raw T#
6.1 6.5 6.5

Estimated radius of max. wind based on IR :N/A km

Center Temp : -4.6C Cloud Region Temp : -73.1C

Scene Type : EYE

Positioning Method : RING/SPIRAL COMBINATION

Ocean Basin : EAST PACIFIC
Dvorak CI > MSLP Conversion Used : PACIFIC

Tno/CI Rules : Constraint Limits : NO LIMIT
Weakening Flag : OFF
Rapid Dissipation Flag : OFF

C/K/Z MSLP Estimate Inputs :
- Average 34 knot radii : 80km
- Environmental MSLP : 1010mb

Satellite Viewing Angle : 26.6 degrees

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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


thought u just said it wasnt a tropical storm?
it isnt one i was asking what he thought it was going to do. the rain. sorry im not too good with weather terminology.
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Quoting VINNY04:
Interesting.... I didnt know that. Maybe i should move there to get better shots.... no i dont think so.

Maybe you should. You might find it enlightening.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6061
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:



Emilia is trying to get Better...
More like she is getting better than this morning/ last night.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Emilia kinda looks like a doughnut.



no no no.
you are inviting the meme-ers

The sinking over the Atlantic is quite strong, keeping everything right in the epac.

i still say 11-4-2
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Quoting LargoFl:
..the methane seeping out in the artic is a much more potent threat than our carbon..no one is paying attention to that fact, wonder why...maybe they cant get any taxes out of That?


Quite the contrary, scientists are paying quite a bit of attention to it.

And, to counter your point, methane is a more potent greenhouse gas but it does not last very long in the atmosphere compared to CO2. Methane has an atmospheric half-life of around 12 years, while CO2 has an atmospheric half-life of around 150 years. Even if all the methane buried in the arctic would release at once, it would only cause a temporary spike in global average temperatures. The CO2 that results from the breakdown of methane would then contribute to the long term increase in temperatures that is already occuring.

The main reason CO2 is the main focus is because of its staying power. The natural carbon sinks that have been absorbing some of the excess carbon are starting to saturate. The biggest threat from artic methane is more CO2.
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Quoting wxmod:


Why should I trust your word? You don't listen to scientific findings. What is your word made of?
I didnt say you had to trust me, but it will not happen.
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Quoting VINNY04:
The blob on post 208


thought u just said it wasnt a tropical storm?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Go back to sleep.
LOL, I got stuff to do as usual :)
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


As in buying another politician?
Well only if hes better than what we got in office now.
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245. yoboi
Quoting wxmod:


Why should I trust your word? You don't listen to scientific findings. What is your word made of?


what are the 3 biggest lies ????

the check is in the mail
?? ??
??? ??
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Emilia kinda looks like a doughnut.

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Quoting StormTracker2K:


TWC says this area is something to watch over the coming days in their Tropical Outlook. This blob looks good on sat and it is even sending rain bands up toward Melbourne which hasn't had much rain at all so far this month so this is great news for the east coast of FL.


I see no banding. Don't get carried away.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6061
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Just woke up... in a bad mood, lol.

Go back to sleep.
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Quoting Grothar:


Which one?
The blob on post 208
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Quoting Xyrus2000:


We did do that. That was part of the reason why we had a slight cooling during the 60's and 70's. The problem is that this also created acid rain which caused quite a number of other issues.

In order to use a reflective aerosol, it has to 1) have a relatively decent atmospheric half-life and 2) not be destructive to the environment. Otherwise, you're just trading one ecological set of problems for another.


is there none that doesnt have acid rain?
the main problem i see is that trace amounts of some of them are deadly to humans, im sure we could solve the acid rain part, the human part might be a tad harder
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Seeya later, going to the park
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Deleted
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Quoting jrweatherman:



I was just there and it was hotter than the last time I was there. Thats a fact.


So what you're saying is you have no actual proof of your previous statement? For some reason I'd had in my head you were a serious contributor here... I won't make that mistake again.

Anyway, back to actual science. I look forward to seeing how the drought map changes tomorrow. We got nearly 3" of rain over the weekend across most parts of Boulder County... enough to completely extinguish the Flagstaff Fire near Boulder and more than we usually get for the entire month of July.

Member Since: March 26, 2006 Posts: 44 Comments: 1520
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


no i know what you meant, i was just saying u might get shot in rwanda..
Oh... yah thats true!
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Quoting VINNY04:
So whats your opinion on this storm DR. Grothar?


Which one?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26486
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


there is no storm....

-Dr. Grothars associate, self-appointed
that "blob", not a tropical system.
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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
why dont we mass produce sulfates and aerosols like the ones that come from volcanos and continually emit them while cutting down on carbon.
We could make our goal to reduce insolation to 80% of our pre-greenhouse gas level so as the reverse the effect slowly
Ive seen hydrogen sulfide as a candidate, why not continually produce and release millions of tons of it?

It seems like it would work faster


We did do that. That was part of the reason why we had a slight cooling during the 60's and 70's. The problem is that this also created acid rain which caused quite a number of other issues.

In order to use a reflective aerosol, it has to 1) have a relatively decent atmospheric half-life and 2) not be destructive to the environment. Otherwise, you're just trading one ecological set of problems for another.
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Quoting Articuno:

Fine, I am 6th... :L


and 6th doesnt matter :O

jk
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About

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