Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Statistical Certainty vs Geophysical Realities - communication challenges

Looks like Bates is on hold for a couple posts so I can look at a discussion at the blog …and Then There's Physics Though I'm prefacing it with an essay I wrote "Colorado Floods - statistical certainty vs geophysical realitiesabout the September 2013 televised release of the preliminary report on the torrential rain event that hit central Colorado a few weeks earlier. Given by the Western Water Assessment (WWA) together with Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES).  

All in all it was an excellent understandable detailed report, fact after fact after fact.  But when reporters asked scientists to tie those facts together, the messaging broke down into babble because the panel members were too ...?... to dare make Thee AGW connection.  

I'm prefacing my repost, with the kickoff comment at ATTP.  Some commenters are rather critical of what I've done, though some appreciate what I'm trying to convey and agree.  My unpolished style has taken a few hits.  No doubt I wish I had more time to focus on it, bet I could do much better, bit more schooling would have been lovely, alas that is not my fate, doing the best I can with what I got, I ask the reader's indulgence and focus on the issue being raised.

izen says:

I agree that the rate of warming, or the distribution between land, sea and air of the energy accumulating from a rising forcing is a matter of scientific interest. 

How that interest, and research is reported and framed has been shaped by seepage. The result is what can look like reasonable scientific language, but because of a carefully established misleading context that language can be parsed in general terms that confirm the misinformation.

Has a characteristically trenchant breakdown of the Fyfe paper, and I expect Willard could analyze it more elegantly, but as anyone who has encountered natural language programming, LISP or linguistics will recognize there are standard ways in which the brain derives meaning from declarative statements.

So taking the first two sentences of the Fyfe paper abstract –
It has been claimed that the early-2000s global warming slowdown or hiatus, characterized by a reduced rate of global surface warming, has been overstated, lacks sound scientific basis, or is unsupported by observations. The evidence presented here contradicts these claims.
– Remove the duplicate descriptors and qualifiers to get the core meaning. 
It has been claimed that the early-2000s global warming slowdown – is unsupported by observations.

The evidence presented here contradicts these claims.

In science refuting a hypothesis is not automatically considered to imply the opposite is True. But in general discourse this is rhetorical trope, a litotes. We often intend to strongly imply our positive beliefs by repudiating its converse. So the derived meaning is –

The evidence presented here -supports- the early-2000s global warming slowdown.
Scientifically informed reading will allow the fact it was part of the surface that exhibited a slowdown, not all global warming, and that the underlying dispute is about statistical methodology as much as anything.

But in general discourse the take-away is another ‘nail in the coffin’ of the AGW cumulative trend theory because of the strategically generated contextual bias from the ‘No warming since… crowd.


I wrote this  for November's Four Corners Free Press concerning the recent rains and flooding in Colorado.  Should anyone find anything of value in it feel free to lift and use as you see fit.  Memes for the sharing.  {I have added many links that offer authoritative support for my claims along with basic education}.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
Colorado experienced its most extreme weather event in memory between September 9th to the 15th. Golden, Boulder and Larimer counties received the worst of it with rain accumulations of sixteen/seventeen inches and more, some areas receiving nine inches on Thursday alone, resulting in massive flooding compounded by destructive run-off from mountainsides of burned-out forests that could no longer hold water.

Predictably folks are asking: Is this related to manmade Global Warming? It's an easy and tough question to answer.

Consider please, our climate system is a global heat distribution engine and our land, atmosphere, and the oceans have indisputably warmed, not only that, our atmosphere's moisture content has been measurably increasing. Given such geophysical realities, it is self-evident that all extreme weather events contain elements of this newly energized climate system.  And that much more of the same must be expected.

On the other hand,
it's an exceedingly difficult question to answer if the demand is to know precisely every attribution down to fine detail. Fortunately for interested citizens, scientists have been trying harder to convey their knowledge of those details.

For example, less than two weeks after the flooding, the Western Water Assessment (WWA) together with Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) released a preliminary report during an hour and a half long videoed web news conference

For more see: wwa.colorado.edu

The CIRES/WWA event was a collaborative effort of many people and interconnected agencies, including NOAA's ESRL (Earth System Research Laboratory) Physical Science Division, and the Colorado State University's Climate Center. It was a good example of scientists stepping forward and personally sharing their data and discussing the state of their science.

Watching the September 25th presentation I was reminded what straight-forward conservative lot scientists are. They will say what they know for "sure" and stop. Then they will back-track and share every doubt they have in order to prove that they do indeed understand weaknesses and further questions regarding their area of study.

The report, "Severe Flooding on the Front Range" (Sept. 2013), explained that "the extraordinary rainfall in this event was due mainly to the unusual and persistent weather pattern that funneled abundant moisture towards the Front Range and enhanced the lift."

To understand what this means, you need to know about the Polar Jet Stream, a high speed ribbon of air that's driven by atmospheric temperature differentials between Earth's hot Tropics and cold Polar regions. It's been there for millennia whipping around the Northern Hemisphere pushing and pulling weather patterns with it.

You see, one result of our society "salting" our atmosphere with "greenhouse gases" is that it has increased its "insulating" ability. That's because these atmospheric gases catch Earth's heat waves as they rise towards frigid outer space.  More GHG molecules, means catching more heat, so the planet warms. {Link to more rigorous explanations.}
Since the industrial revolution society has increased that greenhouse gas component by about a third. Causing the Earth to retain more heat within our climate system than it used to.

One of the cascading consequences of this is that the Polar atmosphere is actually swelling and changing its relative elevation. This, in turn, causes a decrease in the differential between polar and tropical regions. This, in turn, has manifested itself in a slower and more meandering Jet Stream pattern. This, in turn, has been at the root of some very extreme events such as the September Colorado rains and floods.

What happened was that in mid-September Colorado got stuck between two such stalled Jet Stream loops for about a week before they moved on. Technically, and to quote the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) -- what happen was that in the upper atmosphere above the Great Basin west of the Rockies, a "quasi-stationary upper-level cyclonic circulation" developed, while across the mountains, over the Great Plains, a "lower-tropospheric anticyclonic circulation" pattern set in.

While down south off Baja California tropical cyclone Lorena was dissipating and the two stalled circulation patterns started sucking up all that tropical moisture right into Colorado. It then got funneled up the mountain slopes, saturating the air to record breaking levels and then dropped out of the sky in a "biblical" deluge.

All this information was explained in wonderful detail. 

And then, disturbingly, when a reporter asked pointedly about the Jet Stream global warming connection, these geophysical facts suddenly became "speculation" subject to further study.

Using a freak, but similar, Colorado event back in September 1938 as justification, Dr. Hoerling rejected making any firm connection to global warming. We need further study. As I understood him, he also felt we needed a more accurate understanding of past extreme weather events.

I was left wondering, what good is a time consuming perfect understanding of past events, when that atmosphere's composition was radically different from today's? It's nice to know, but it is background information and not that relevant to our contemporary climate which has been and continues to be supercharged.

Beyond that I found it odd Dr. Hoerling used one 1938 freak event to warn against making premature assertions.  While not acknowledging the recent drum beat of "Jet Stream blocking pattern" driven extreme events such as the record shattering European killer heat waves of 2003, 2006, 2011 and the Russian heat wave of 2010, and the floods in Russia and Pakistan in 2010, and the recent Calgary floods and the extreme winters on the East Coast three and four years ago.

In fact, I did write Professor Hoerling and asked why he seemed to rejected all the studies that have shown evidence for global warming driven Arctic Amplification influencing the Jet Stream, such as those being reported by Dr. Jennifer Francis and colleagues. Unfortunately, I didn't get a response, in fairness he is a very busy man. 

Still I find it disturbing when scientists, who are supposed to inform and advise leaders and the public about dealing with the world we have in front of us, slip into that professorial deep-thought mode and focus on minutia while ignoring the "big" picture. 

The professor is typical of many conscientious scientists, statistical certainty is their calling - but from my boots on the ground perspective, statistical certainty does not trump common sense, nor the laws of physics, nor the geophysical reality we are actively altering. Think about it, are the exact details really that important?

Doesn't a basic climatology outline tell us enough to know we need to stop denying and start collectively, all of us, getting real about what is happening out there?

A visual tour of our global heat distribution engine.
The groundbreaking two-hour special that reveals a spectacular new space-based vision of our planet. Produced in extensive consultation with NASA scientists, NOVA takes data from earth-observing satellites and transforms it into dazzling visual sequences, each one exposing the intricate and surprising web of forces that sustains life on earth.

Earth From Space / Nova


Weather and Climate Summit - Day 3, Dr. Jennifer Francis

Session 6: Dr. Jennifer Francis - Rutgers University
Topic: Wacky Weather and Disappearing Arctic Sea Ice: Are They Connected?

Hot Off The Press:

One of the most troubling ideas about climate change just found new evidence in its favor

Publishing in Nature Scientific Reports, Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University and a group of colleagues at research institutes in the United States, Germany and the Netherlands find that at least in the spring and summer, the large scale flow of the atmosphere is indeed changing in such a way as to cause weather to get stuck more often.
The study, its authors write, “adds to the weight of evidence for a human influence on the occurrence of devastating events such as the 2003 European heat wave, the 2010 Pakistan flood and Russian heat wave, the 2011 Texas heat wave and recent floods in Europe.”
But what does it mean for global warming to alter the jet stream? The basic ideas at play here get complicated fast. The study itself, for instance, refers to “quasi-resonant amplification (QRA) of synoptic-scale waves” as the key mechanism for how researchers believe this is happening — terminology sure to impart terror in nonscientists worldwide. ...


Processes and impacts of Arctic amplification: A research synthesis 
Mark C. Serreze , Roger G. Barry
Global and Planetary Change 77 (2011) 85-96

1 comment:

citizenschallenge said...

Hat tip to izen for sharing the following

Fyfe et al have written to Lamar Smith explaining what their paper means.