Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Explaining why Dr. Trenberth owes CBC meteorologist an apology.

The Map vs Territory problem.

Why does the quest for numerical certainty trump acknowledging the fundamental physics unfolding in front of us?  I understand scientists need to be dedicated to numerically “Mapping” out physical reality with exacting precision.  No detail can be left unexplored.  Still, in the end all this effort is so we can better understand our physical world, the “Territory” if you will.

Please consider, when it comes to explaining climate science understanding to an under-informed collection of leaders and citizens, is it a service or disservice to constantly return the discussion to uncertainties rather than focus on all we do know and the conclusions that can be drawn with great certainty?  

Minutia that in itself requires additional background knowledge to appreciate.  What good does it do? What sort of abuses has it opened scientists up to?  Consider the case of Dr. Mann, one simply needs to read the caveats within those early papers and all the contrived charges made against him and the work of his team evaporate.  But, did anyone take notice?  

Nope, the contrarians fabricated a fantastical storyline, which has dominated the public discussion on both sides ever since. Exploding trivia into a show stopper.  That was a result of a failure of imagination and failure to convey all you do know in a way that presents folks with a fundamental understanding and the critical thinking skills to see through the contrarian deceptions.  

Instead, in the public arena, soberly learning about climate understanding has been left behind for preoccupations with endlessly playing defense against a repetition of contrived childish politicized nonsensical fabrications that have been embraced by all too many.

What about the sins of omission?   By that I mean not acknowledging fundamental physics, which we know act according to their own exacting and unchanging laws, whether we understand every detail of their behaviors or not.

In the past week there have been countless attempts at explaining the ‘hurricane Harvey climate change connection’ and too many read like the proverbial V8 running on six or seven cylinders.  For starters the hideous framing of the question, with goofy terms like “Climate Change Connection”, and non sequitur questions such as “Did climate change ‘cause’ Harvey?”, etc.  Come on, give credit where credit is due climate change is the result, manmade global warming is the cause.  Global warming doesn’t cause hurricanes, but it sure does intensify them.

Then I came across the following a few days ago and heaped on top of all the other incomplete news stories of late, this one fired me up.  I mean Dr. Trenberth earned his Sc.D. when I was a sophomore in high school learning the fundamentals which haven’t changed one bit during the intervening 44 years, and I’ve been paying attention.  Plenty of surprises and unanticipated details, but no reversals, it all fits together just like parts of the same puzzle.

I’ve learned from Dr. Trenberth’s excellent articles, YouTube lectures and interviews for literally decades, yet sometimes his words, and gaps, frustrate me to no end. 

He’s among the best of the best climate scientists out there, yet the price of that level of complex understanding seems to be a fixation on the Map, resulting in a certain withdrawal from appreciating the Territory itself; If it isn’t detailed in every aspect it does not exist for this discussion. - is how it comes across to me.  Yet the fundamental physics are all pushing in a known direction, so conclusions can be made, even if underlying fine details remain to be worked out! 

Dr. Trenberth was shown a one minute clip of a CBC meteorologist explaining that global warming has altered jet stream behavior, resulting in a more meandering jet stream, prone to looping and stalling.  The jet stream pushes and pulls weather systems around the Earth and indeed it was the jet stream blocking that stalled hurricane Harvey that contributing to the "biblical" rainfall.

Dr. Trenberth responded: “I don’t think it was helpful in that some of the information she was trying to pass along is probably not correct.”  But then he never actually defined what was incorrect in his estimation.  

Instead he went vague on us and blamed it on a random “weather situation,” whatever that is. He avoided the term Jet Stream until late, almost in passing.  Nor did he acknowledge the findings of Jennifer Francis and others who are actively studying our increasingly chaotic jet streams as they unavoidably transition into a new warmer global regime.

It wasn’t right, it was incomplete, his disparaging the CBC meteorologist for incompleteness, then to leave his audience no better informed.  That’s why I transcribed the interview and wrote up my arguments.  Pondering her words and his words, it seems to me, he owe’d her (us) either a serious detailed explanation that can be looked at, or now he owes her and CBC an apology.  

Then I folded it up and walked away from this project.  Just what I wanted, add Kevin Trenberth to my list of insulted and pissed off scientists whom I actually admire.  

Still, its been a few days, now we have Irma barreling in with Jose beyond that.  As I've been rewriting/editing this today I’ve been watching Irma evolving into a true monster, but she isn’t.  Irma represents the new normal.   

In the Gulf we have a tropical wave looking like it’s following Harvey’s path and my disappointment and critique won’t let me be, I need to get this out and explain it to the best of my abilities.  

Statistical certainty should not trump admitting to the fundamental physics unfolding in front of us.  Please consider:

Mainstream Media Misrepresents Hurricane Harvey's Climate Change Connection

Dimitri Lascaris interviews Kevin Trenberth

Published by TheRealNews on Aug 29, 2017

From the description: It's "extremely annoying when all of these extreme events occur, whether it's a wildfire or an extreme hurricane like this, and there's no mention of the fact that climate change has actually exacerbated the situation," says Dr. Kevin Trenberth Distinguished Senior Scientist of the National Center for Atmospheric Research.  (It’s a good start.  Indeed most of his words are spot on, but the gaps deserve to be called out.)

I've transcribed the video and included time signatures:

1:15 Dimitri Lascaris introduces Dr. Trenberth.

Lascaris asks about the hesitation among media to link global warming with Hurricane Harvey. (Worth noting is that Dimitri calls it what it is.)

2:20 - Clip from CNN interviewing Bill Reed, former director of Nat’l Hurricane Center, asking if global warming intensified Harvey?

Bill Read:  “I’d probably would attribute what we are looking at here, (pause) this is not an uncommon occurrence to see storms grow and intensify rapidly in the western Gulf of Mexico as long as we’ve been tracking storms.  The why for the big rain is the stationarity, the fact that it’s going to come inland and not move, that’s.  While it has happened in some cases, to have a really big storm like this come and stall like this is really rare.”

Lascaris:  Dr. Trenberth do you view that as a complete answer, …

3:05 - Dr.Trenberth:  “What he said was certainly true there’s a tremendous amount of variability and these storms can certainly form without climate change.

Seepage in action?  Language matters.

Climate Change is a result.  
Global Warming is the cause.

Manmade GHG induced Global Warming is what’s driving current Climate Changes!

Dr. Trenberth:   What he didn’t address is the fact that there is climate change, oceans are warmer, sea surface temperatures are higher, the air above the oceans is warmer and moister than it used to be and the environment in which all of these storms form is simply different than it used to be and this adds to the rainfalls in particular. It adds to the activity in a general sense.  That activity is usually manifested in the forms of more intense, larger and longer lived storms.  

On the other hand  (more accurately)  Additionally, one large storm can play the role of three or four smaller storms.  We don’t actually expect more storms rather we expect there may be fewer storms but they’re bigger and more intense with climate change.”
Wouldn’t  “… but they’re bigger and more intense in a warming climate system.” be more vividly explanatory?

4:15 - Lascaris:  Brings up the British Columbia wild fire season and wonders when is “the time” to talk AGW linkage about ongoing catastrophes?

Is this an appropriate time to have that discussion?

Lascaris also mentions Naomi Klein’s recent article: 

“Harvey didn’t come out of the blue.  Now is the time to talk about climate change.”

5:10 - Dr.Trenberth:  “Yes very much so at least from a scientific stand point, we can make very clear statements about the causes as to why this thing happened.  What the influences are that have come into play.  Now it’s a different matter as to what you might do about those things and that’s really were the politics comes in.  That aspect of the politics I would say indeed we should set it aside.

It’s extremely annoying when all of these extreme events occur, whether it’s a wildfire or extreme hurricane like this and there’s no mention of the fact that climate change has actually exacerbated the situation.  As a result the general public, I think, is poorly informed about this sort of thing. (hearing such a frank statement, makes what’s to come so much more difficult to understand.)

6:00 - Lascaris: Asks about the way the Canadian media is informing the public about this kind of thing. he brings up a clip from the Canada state broadcaster CBC flagship news program, The National.

6:15 - CBC Clip from August 28th:CBC announcer: A lot of people are asking is climate change a factor and how much (referring to Harvey)?  
CBC Meteorologist responds:  
“Well we can’t take this entire event and connect it to climate change.   But part of the reason why hurricane Harvey has already been so devastating is because it’s being forced to sit and spin off the coast.   
That in part is connected to these blocking systems to the north including a big high pressure system sitting right over British Columbia, and that’s forced Harvey to sit in place not allowing it to move forward or northward out of the hardest hit regions and more and more climate studies are connecting these blocked weather patterns with a jet stream that’s getting stuck in place thanks to a warming climate.  It’s not moving weather systems forward in time. 
That's part of new research that climate scientists are looking at and that is the case with Harvey being forced to sit off that coast meandering in place until that high pressure ridge over B.C. finally moves out on Wednesday night that will finally allow Harvey to move inland hopefully giving some relief for the second half of the week.”
7:17 - Lascaris:  Dr. Trenberth how do you assess the answer given by the meteorologist in terms of accuracy and completeness in explaining the linkage?

7:27 - Dr. Trenberth:  “I don’t think it was especially helpful in that some of the information she tried to pass along is probably not correct.”  

At this point one would expect him to define her specific errors,  
because I look at her sentences I don’t see one that’s unsupported or misleading. 

CBC Meteorologist:
“Well we can’t take this entire event and connect it to climate change.   
          {she made clear this is but one component}

But part of the reason why hurricane Harvey has already been so devastating is because it’s being forced to sit and spin off the coast.  
          {no one disputes that}

That in part is connected to these blocking systems to the north including a big high pressure system sitting right over British Columbia, 
          {that’s what all the weather maps showed}

and that’s forced Harvey to sit in place not allowing it to move forward or northward out of the hardest hit regions 
          {that’s what all the weather maps showed}

and more and more climate studies are connecting these blocked weather patterns with a jet stream that’s getting stuck in place thanks to a warming climate.  
It’s not moving weather systems forward in time.
          {seems pretty fundamental}

That's part of new research that climate scientists are looking at and that is the case with Harvey being forced to sit off that coast meandering in place until that high pressure ridge over B.C. 
finally moves out on Wednesday night that will finally allow Harvey to move inland hopefully giving some relief for the second half of the week.”
          {this is basically what happened}

Dr. Trenberth:  “The best understanding we have at the current time is that the track of these storms and whether it stalls is largely a function of the weather situation.  

The CBC’s meteorologist specify mentioned the jet stream!  
In a fair critique that specific claim should have been directly addressed.
It is not fair to switch terms, particularly to something as fuzzy as “weather situation.”

“Now she did make that clear and she talked about it, but the weather situation is probably not greatly influenced at all by the climate change aspect.

What is this “weather situation” ?
She spoke specifically about the Jet Stream’s influence on storm tracks.

What’s going on?  Did Dr. Trenberth actually say: 

*  The jet stream is probably not greatly influenced at all by the global warming aspect? 
*  Or that the Jet Stream doesn’t greatly influence storm paths?

Neither one makes sense.
Can someone explain?

“One of the examples might be Superstorm Sandy were it recurved in an unusual direction back into the Jersey shore, and (8:05) there have been a number of experiments done with numerical models that have replicated the storm very very well, and they’ve changed the sea temperatures, they changed the environment in ways that would be happening with climate change 

Why the vagueness?  
What changes to the “environment” were made?  
Variety of jet stream paths and patterns, or changing temperatures, humidity and such?

“and the track of the storm is identical, in just about every case.

‘So the storm track is dictated by the weather situation, where the cold fronts are, where the jet stream is and that’s largely by chance.” 

“largely by chance”?  Really?
The Jet Streams are a product of the geophysics of the atmosphere and heat distribution from equator to poles.  How can warming our nearly closed global system do anything but profoundly impact the location and character of our jet streams?   

Sure where they are on any particular day has a random component, but only within a range.  

Being able to predict exactly when/where it will manifest itself, that is the challenge.  But the reality, the Territory, is that global warming has altered the character of Jet Stream behavior, it’s there in the observations over time.

The connection between Hurricane Sandy and global warming

How Global Warming Made Hurricane Sandy Worse
By Andrew Freedman

How can an altered jet stream, not alter the impact of the storm systems it pushes and pulls around the globe.  Which is exactly what’s being observed.  

Why are we discouraged from assuming known, if not perfectly defined, physical connections?

8:30 - Dr. Trenberth:   “The parts she didn’t address are the parts relating to the intensity of the storm, (True, but she had all of one minute.) the prodigious amount of rainfall, and the fact that the oceans are warmer they are feeding more moisture into the storm.  

One of the things these storms do is to take the heat out of the oceans in the form of moisture, evaporative cooling of the ocean and then moistening the atmosphere, then when that moisture rains out, with excess amounts of rains, that’s what causes the flooding and does the tremendous amount of damage and is certainly what’s happening in the case of Harvey.  

And there’s a strong climate change component to that.  Climate change doesn’t cause these things, climate change is making them worse by adding to the amounts.”

Plenty true, still, manmade global warming is the action, the driver, climate change is merely the result.

9:20 - Lascaris:  Could you also talk to us about the question of sea level rise.

9:30 - Dr. Trenberth:  “That is caused by humans. …  (9:40) … and so we know what’s happening to global sea level and its going up at a rate of 3.4 millimeters per year, so that’s about 15 inches per century, so that’s the current rate.  Sea Level since 1993 have gone up 3 1/4 inches.  It’s global number and that is cause by climate change.  That is cause by global warming the increased trapping of heat carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that is caused by humans. …”

Here I was surprised and disappointed that Dr. Trenberth made no mention that the rate of sea level rise has been accelerating, nor that observations of our cryosphere make plain that the rate of increase will increase radically over the next two decades.  It’s an important detail worth stressing.
Reassessment of 20th century global mean sea level rise
Sönke Dangendorf, et al. 2017

10:50 - Lascaris:  Many climate experts don’t seem particularly surprised by the intensity and duration of Harvey despite its unprecedented nature.  Are you surprised … ?

11:05 - Dr. Trenberth:  “Yes, this has been amazing in quite a few respects.  

Firstly it was in the far western part of the Gulf, so it was close enough to land, Mexico to the west and Texas to the north.  Some of the air coming into Harvey was from over the land and therefor it’s very dry air and that doesn’t help the storm at all.  But, there was a tremendous amount of moisture coming from the south and the east into the storm from over the Gulf and the Gulf was very very warm, about 87°F and tremendous amounts of moisture flowing into the storm that enabled it to get to a category 4.  

So that was pretty amazing given that it was so close to land.  If it had been further out over the central Gulf it could have easily become a category five storm and even bigger still.  

Then it made land fall and the average time for a storm over land to last is about 27 hours and then it sort of peters out, because it loses the connection to the ocean and there’s greater friction over the land.”  

No mention of the Brown Ocean Effect which certainly seems a new global warming driven development, in keeping with well understood physics and what’s to be expected in a warming biosphere, we humans just didn’t see it coming until recently.  

'Brown Ocean' Can Fuel Inland Tropical Cyclones
July 16, 2013

In the summer of 2007, Tropical Storm Erin stumped meteorologists. Most tropical cyclones dissipate after making landfall, weakened by everything from friction and wind shear to loss of the ocean as a source of heat energy. Not Erin. The storm intensified as it tracked through Texas. It formed an eye over Oklahoma. As it spun over the southern plains, Erin grew stronger than it ever had been over the ocean.

Erin is an example of a newly defined type of inland tropical cyclone that maintains or increases strength after landfall, according to NASA-funded research by Theresa Andersen and J. Marshall Shepherd of the University of Georgia in Athens.
Before making landfall, tropical storms gather power from the warm waters of the ocean. Storms in the newly defined category derive their energy instead from the evaporation of abundant soil moisture – a phenomenon that Andersen and Shepherd call the "brown ocean.”

"The land essentially mimics the moisture-rich environment of the ocean, where the storm originated," Andersen said.

The study is the first global assessment of the post-landfall strength and structure of inland tropical cyclones, and the weather and environmental conditions in which they occur.


Dr. Trenberth:  This storm was still going after 60 hours, then it went back over the ocean again, and so the duration of the storm over land was one of the other very amazing things.  

What you could see was there were these tremendous spiral arms that were bringing tremendous amounts of moisture, a lot of them flowing right over Houston into the storm. The size of the storm enabled it to reach out and still tap into all of this access moisture over the Gulf and feed itself and it didn’t peter out in the same way.  So again this is very likely a climate change aspect to it, the fact that it has maintained its identity for as long as it has.”

And that behavior was directly attributable to the weird blocking pattern of the Jet Stream, which is, not coincidentally, being increasingly impacted by global warming as documented by Jennifer Francis with ever increasing supporting evidence.

Scientific Studies on Jet Stream and Climate Change

Evidence for a wavier jet stream in response to rapid Arctic warming
Jennifer A Francis and Stephen J Vavrus
Published 6 January 2015

New metrics and evidence are presented that support a linkage between rapid Arctic warming, relative to Northern hemisphere mid-latitudes, and more frequent high-amplitude (wavy) jet-stream configurations that favor persistent weather patterns. We find robust relationships among seasonal and regional patterns of weaker poleward thickness gradients, weaker zonal upper-level winds, and a more meridional flow direction. These results suggest that as the Arctic continues to warm faster than elsewhere in response to rising greenhouse-gas concentrations, the frequency of extreme weather events caused by persistent jet-stream patterns will increase.

Wobbly Jet Stream Is Sending the Melting Arctic into 'Uncharted Territory’
By Bob Berwyn, INSIDECLIMATE NEWS | JUN 9, 2016

It turned out to be tough finding precisely what the objections to the Jet Stream global warming connection are.  There was this, but “something funky going on” seems more handwaving than informative.

Gavin Schmidt, with NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, is among the climate scientists who aren't yet convinced of the connection between a warming Arctic and recent extreme weather events.

Schmidt says global weather is "a very rich system, and we can find patterns in rich systems all the time... 

Schmidt says findings like Francis's need to be plugged into climate models and compared to other results. He says it's too early to know whether there's really a cause and effect link between the warming Arctic and weird weather to the south. But Schmidt says there is definitely "something funky" going on.

"The funky thing that's going on is that we're increasing the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere beyond what they've been naturally in 800 thousand years, maybe millions of years. That's a huge perturbation to the system. Everything in the system [is] being affected by that.”

But figuring out exactly how these complex systems are reacting to that disturbance takes time. …

Right, and this brings us back to the Map vs. Territory dilemma. 

I believe that Gavin, out of scientific professionalism, refuses to acknowledge a phenomena unless every angle and curve can be mapped out and understood.  

I have a simpler perspective, one honed on learning about Earth’s evolution and geophysical processes, and coupled with 45 years of witnessing developing observations and climate science news.  

This reluctance to acknowledge the global warming driven transition in the character of jet stream patterns ignores that the Arctic Ocean used to sport a complete ice cap that reflected the sun’s warming rays, and that our current transition has cascading consequence.  Or to elaborate on Dr. Trenberth’s words:

The fact is that there is Global Warming, oceans are warmer, sea surface temperatures are higher, the air above the oceans is warmer and moister than it used to be.  At the North Pole the Arctic ice cap used to reflect sunlight through desiccated air, now we are witnessing its transformation into a massive solar heat-collection pond, one that fills the atmosphere above it with convection cells of moisture and heat.  The environment where the Jet Stream travels is simply different than it used to be.

I rest my case.

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