Saturday, March 30, 2013

Where's Credible Climate Information?

Saturday, March 30, 2013
12:59 A.M.


Finding Waldo took me about 15 seconds. I guess I just got lucky. But finding truthful, scientifically-accurate sites about global warming and climate change? Yikes. I'm still looking.

Thankfully, there are quite a few sites out there that have pretty darn good information and are scientifically sound. For me, a 'scientifically sound' site is one that is backed up my multiple, peer-reviewed resources and draws its information from a variety of sources. I am wary of sites that continuously cite one author or one group on either side of the 'debate.' I put 'debate' in quotations because despite what the public may hear, there is nearly unilateral consensus among scientists that the Earth is warming because of human emissions of carbon dioxide. Scientists differ on many other aspects, such as how strong the warming signal will be and how quickly the arctic will become ice-free. However, one must take into account that there are different projections of fossil fuel emissions for the future, and the responses in the Earth's climatological system will vary based on the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere.

Here are some sites I believe are good, scientifically-sound resources for information regarding climate change.


http://www.climate.org/ - Climate Institute

Well, this site easily wins the award for the best domain name. Almost as good as http://www.climate.gov/ (which is part of NOAA and is another great website).

The Climate Institute is a non-profit organization and their site is one of the best sites out there for essentially everything climate-related. Not only do they give a brief overview of what climate change is and discuss its affects, they help policymakers, scientists, institutions, and the general public create programs that address the climate change problem. They also make an effort to catalyze research on climate change and help communicate the scientific findings of current research to the general populace in a more approachable format. This site is great for people who want to know what is actually being done about climate change. Additionally, since climate change is such a multi-faceted issue, there are a lot of opportunities for people of various backgrounds to make a positive impact by providing information on possible places to travel to, seek employment at, or study at. They even have internship opportunities in Washington D.C.


http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/index.html - EPA Global Warming Page

What more can you say... it's the EPA. This page awesome for so many reasons. It provides a very approachable yet thorough discussion on why the climate is changing, what we can do about it, and what the effects are. One of the coolest things about this site is that you can look at the specific effects in different United States region. You hear stuff like "Global warming will make droughts worse" and other broad, overreaching, unhelpful statements like that. For the Northwest region, they specifically talk about the impacts of climate change upon water resources, forests, agriculture, food supply, and coastal resources and they give specific examples of how climate change will impact these things. They also talk about adaptation strategies, which is very important because climate change cannot be stopped; it can only be mitigated. A fantastic website in every sense of the word.


http://www.skepticalscience.com/ - Skeptical Science

The home page of this website reads "Scientific skepticism is healthy." Let me make this very clear: some scientific skepticism is healthy. I don't think James Dobson's attempt complete rejection of evolution is very healthy, but he's not a scientist and complete denial is different than skepticism. Anyway, there are a LOT of misconceptions in the public about global warming, and this site attempts to specifically address these misconceptions. Although I'm against 'biased' websites (and this could be interpreted as one), this one does it right. Their sources are good and their facts are right on. They even have a page that has climate change deniers to watch out for. Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, and Rick Santorum are all there. Richard Lindzen, a professor of atmospheric sciences at MIT notorious for his contrarian views on global warming and tobacco smoking, is also shown. The one thing I worry about is that this site can act to fuel a debate between those who believe in global warming and those who don't, and as I've personally experienced, being in these debates can be very frustrating.



http://www.realclimate.org/ - Real Climate

This site is similar to Skeptical Science in that it is not funded by any organization and is primarily an information resource composed by a variety of scientists who are passionate about global warming education. Many of the scientists who both support and oppose the global warming hypothesis have plenty of credentials, but the trick is to look at the sources they cite and the data they use. Go to their 'data sources' page and you'll see what I'm talking about.

The cool thing about both Skeptical Science and Real Climate is that they are largely discussion-based and you can always count on a fair number of comments to be at the bottom of each post. These comments can be very enlightening and many of them also link to other interesting sources. You don't get as much 'trolling' on these sites as you might think.

Alright, now on to the sites to watch out for.

Believe it or not, The Heartland Institute actually used this billboard. They took it down 24 hours after it was put up.
http://climateconference.heartland.org/ - The Heartland Institute - International Conference on Climate Change

If you search for The Heartland Institute online, the description for the site reads "Database of published research, primarily against environmental regulation." In 2012, The Economist called them "The world's most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change." The worst part though is the name of the event they sponsor to help spread their ideology: the International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC)." The ICCC is a conference that solely features speakers who oppose the mainstream scientific view of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions being responsible for global warming. It is completely different from the IPCC, which stands for the "International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)." The IPCC was founded first.

The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, which was presented in 2007, was produced by thousands of authors and editors from various countries and cited over 6,000 peer-reviewed articles. The Fifth Assessment Report is set to take place in 2014. The ICCC has had eight conferences so far, and most of them just involve some keynote speakers who deny global warming without much specific peer-reviewed literature at the events. They did produce an 880-page rebuttal to the 2007 IPCC report in 2009, and you can find it here. I should read it at some point.


http://wattsupwiththat.com - Watts Up With That

This website is ran by Anthony Watts, which is a fitting name for a scientist. (Cliff Mass, Anthony Watts... what's next? Charles Coulombs?). It advertises itself as "The world's most viewed site on global warming and climate change," a quote ascribed to it by another global warming skeptic who wrote about Climategate (I'll go into that whole thing in another blog... I've already spent 2 and a half hours researching stuff for this one!). I sincerely like his "Reference Pages" section of the site because it has a lot of useful data. Other than that, I dislike the site. Much of it seems more like a blog than an actual site. When somebody is posting videos of Al Gore and Bill Nye failing at doing a simple CO2 experiment (I kid you not, this is on the website) alongside their views on why there is no such thing as anthropogenic global warming, one has to worry about the credibility of the site.



http://climateaudit.org/ - Climate Audit

This site is pretty similar to that of Anthony Watts in many ways. It is chiefly run by one person - Steve McIntyre - and it is written in more of a blog style than a logically laid out website. Like Watts' site, this site has some great links to other sites, but I am unimpressed with McIntyre's blogging. The blogging style allows somebody to take a look at a specific piece of evidence and devote a whole post on how it does not support global warming, and that is what this site does. There are plenty of things that would seemingly contradict global warming; the growth of Antarctic sea ice is one example. The principle reason for the increase in sea ice is because there has been a general shift in the winds that drive the ice drift to a regime that is more effective for enhancing sea ice cover. In the limited space of a blog post, it is easy to provide a seemingly scientific reason for such a change to occur when in reality the reasons behind this change are incredibly complex.

There is very little debate in the scientific community about CO2 and other greenhouse gases driving the increase in temperatures we have seen over the last 50 years. There is more debate about what the effects will be. But there are a few high profile scientists (and a lot of high-profile politicians) who deny global warming altogether. Organizations like NOAA and the EPA need to do a better job of communicating reliable climate information to the public.

Thanks for reading. Three hours! But I learned a lot in writing this post, and I hope you learned a lot in reading it. Spreading accurate global warming knowledge is one of my main goals of this blog and is one of my main goals in life.

Charlie

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Accusations of 'Manipulating Climate Data'

Wednesday, March 27, 2013
10:24 P.M.

Don Easterbrook speaking at the 4th International Conference on Climate Change, sponsored by The Heartland Institute - May 16, 2010: Retrieved from nofrakkingconsensus.com

I spend a lot of time on KOMO's website, particularly because of their wonderful weather forecasts by Shannon O'Donnell and Scott Sistek. I've always been impressed with the writing of these two, and if their excellent weather discussions weren't enough, Scott Sistek runs an excellent weather blog about miscellaneous weather and other scientific topics. You can visit his blog here: http://www.komonews.com/weather/blogs/scott.
Because I visit the KOMO website so often, I see all the other news and articles that are posted up there. Yesterday, I came across a headline that caught my attention. The article was titled: "Washington lawmakers here from global warming skeptic." Here's a link to it for your convenience. http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Washington-lawmakers-hear-from-global-warming-skeptic-200149941.html

This article talks about Don Easterbrook, a professor emeritus of geology at Western Washington University, and a Republican-dominated majority in the state Senate setting aside some time to listen to his views on climate change. Easterbrook believes that federal agencies like NOAA and NASA manipulate climate data, and he bases this claim off his beliefs that the climate is not warming but cooling and that carbon dioxide does not account for global warming. His findings that the climate is actually cooling are backed by his use of different climatic data than is used by most scientists, who use the data collected by NASA and NOAA to assist in their research. The article did not mention where Easterbrook got his data and stated that Easterbrook has no hypothesis as to why these federal agencies would tamper with climatic data.

As most of you know, Easterbrook's views are contrary to the scientific consensus on climate change. Ninety-seven percent of the most prominent climate scientists believe that global warming is caused by anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other various greenhouse gasses, and even more believe that the Earth is warming. In response to Easterbrook's presentation, the Western geology department stated that they agree with the scientific findings my the National Academies of Science, the National Research Council, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that global climate has warmed significantly since the 1950s and that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gasses are responsible for this warming. Finally, the article connects Easterbrook's views and the hearing that was attended by the Republican majority of the state Senate to a measure passed by Washington's state Legislature that would result in a study of the practices most suitable for mitigating climate change.

After reading this article, the first thing that came to my mind was how polarized the whole global warming debate has become in our current political climate. Despite the overwhelming majority of scientists believing in global warming, there is a huge rift in the political atmosphere with respect to it. Things were much less polarized before Al Gore's movie, which, by the way, is a very scientifically sound movie and it is unfortunate that the skeptical side to the global warming debate has painted this as untrue. And no, those puns weren't intended, my obsession with weather carries over to my writing.

But the biggest thing that stood out to me was Eastenbrook's belief that American scientists are tampering with data to support their claims that global warming is occurring. It is healthy for there to be differing scientific opinions regarding global warming when they are backed up by solid evidence. The only evidence that Eastenbrook has to support his claim is that the numbers he used were different than the ones used by the thousands of climatologists who dedicate their lives to studying the effects of human-induced global warming. Eastenbrook makes a very serious accusation, but he does not have substantial evidence to back it up.

While it is true that the evidence for global warming based on measured temperature rises is currently not that obvious due to natural variability and the lag behind carbon dioxide emissions and the resulting increase in Earth's temperature due to the many positive feedbacks that amplify a warming climate, the evidence for global warming occurring based on ice cores, model predictions, and environmental trends is very strong. The evidence for measured temperature rises will become obvious by 2050 and will only increase exponentially from there.

There are lots of misconceptions regarding global warming... I will explain these in detail in a later post. I have to be careful not to get too riled up regarding global warming deniers... but it's a serious issue for my generation and will only get worse. If you have any questions or comments about this post or global warming in general, comment below! And if you'd like me to address one of your questions with a blog post, I'd be happy to do so.
On another note, I'm still looking for bloggers for WeatherOn. If you are interested in blogging for us, contact me. It's a great opportunity to help any prospective atmospheric scientists improve their resume, and it's really fun too.
Meteorologically yours,
Charlie

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Not So Fast, Mister Spring

Thursday, March 21, 2013
6:08 P.M.



This past winter was, by all accounts, unbearably boring. I made a seasonal weather outlook for WeatherOn last fall calling for an increased probability of 'extreme' events, since this was forecast to be a 'neutral' (not El Nino or La Nina) winter and neutral winters often bring our biggest storms.

Boy was I ever wrong.

But spring has given me new hope. Ever since 4:02 A.M. March 20, weather life has been looking up. We had a vigorous storm system come through yesterday (on par with the strongest we've seen all winter long) that brought a solid dose of rain to the lowlands, gobs of snow to the mountains, and some surprisingly strong winds throughout the Puget Sound metropolitan area.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Muggy and Rainy

March 11, 2013
10:40 P.M.


I tried to be creative and somehow link the post I made ten days ago to this one, but when I typed "Lil' Wayne Rain" or even "Lil' Wayne Precipitation" on Google Images, all I got was Lil' Wayne making it rain (aka throwing money in the air, because that's what it takes to become a highly esteemed individual in 21st century pop culture. Kids these days...).

In any event, we are seeing that same sort of "atmospheric river" pattern I was talking about, except this time, we are getting clobbered with rain. Take a look at the column-integrated water vapor chart below. In essence, this chart shows how much water vapor is in the atmosphere, and you'll notice that a fat stash of good ol' gaseous dihydrogen monoxide is being conveniently transported right to the Pacific Northwest. Awesome.

Valid 11:00 am PDT Tue, 12 Mar 2013 - 18hr Fcst: UW 00z WRF-GFS: 36km Column Integrated Water Vapor
Compare this picture to the one on my last blog post, and you'll notice that this one has a lot more chutzpah, although it may not be as perfectly symmetrical.

Valid 04:00 am PST Fri, 01 Mar 2013: UW 12z WRF-GFS: 36km Column Integrated Water Vapor
What does this large influx of moisture mean? A LOT of rain. But not for everybody.


Pineapple Express events are the bringers of incredible amounts of moisture, but the Olympics to our west are the wringers of said moisture. I remember a time back in 2009 when there were record-setting floods on some of the Cascade Rivers. The Snoqualmie River at Carnation crested at 62.31 feet on January 8, over a foot above the previous record set in 2006. It was insane. But in the meantime, Seattle hardly got any rain. I remember going to school the morning of January 7 and having a hard time wrapping my head around the thought of major flooding occurring in the Cascades.

07:25 am PST Wed 07 Jan 2009
I remember Cliff Mass blogging about this storm. This is what he had to say in a blog he posted later that Wednesday morning.

It was kind of surreal for me this morning....I biked to work absolutely dry and in warm conditions, while ten miles to the south there was moderate rain and all hell was breaking loose in the mountains.

In any event, that same sort of thing is going to happen this time around too. The flooding in the mountains won't be anywhere close to as severe as it was back in January 2009, but the models still paint a pretty profound dry socket around Seattle.

Valid 05:00 pm PDT Wed, 13 Mar 2013 - 48hr Fcst: UW 00z WRF-GFS: 4km 48-Hour Precipitation, 10 meter winds
The 48-hour totals for the Olympics and North Cascades? Up to seven inches in spots. On the UW campus? Maybe one tenth of an inch.

Will most locations see gratuitous amounts of rainfall? Absolutely. Will most people see gratuitous amounts of rainfall? I'd have to do a census check before jumping to any conclusions, but Seattle looks to stay pretty darn dry throughout this entire event, and I know there's a good number of people here.

Alright, off to explore the wonders of alternating currents! Up, up, and awaayyyyy!!!

Charles

Friday, March 1, 2013

Muggy

Friday, March 1, 2013
11:39 A.M.

Weezy approves of the weather.
Well everybody, it has been awhile. I had a midterm today, and I have midterms Monday and Thursday next week. It never ends! However, I have a brief break between classes and I thought I'd post a blog instead of eat some lunch. I'm not hungry.

Although we don't get super humid like the East Coast, we can get relatively humid on winter days when some subtropical moisture gets entrained in the jet stream and is directed toward us. Many of you (especially those of you who live by rivers) are familiar with the infamous "Pineapple Express."  During a Pineapple Express event, an 'atmospheric river' of moisture from the subtropics (often originating near Hawaii, hence the name) is directed northward into our area and often brings incredible amounts of rain. Some might say it rains cats and dogs, but I prefer to say that it rains pineapples. The picture below is the only thing I could find on the internet that resembled the raining of said pineapples... I guess I'll have to buy a video camera to catch the raining of pineapples next time the Pineapple Express hits the west coast.


To summarize, Pineapple Express events involve obscenely high amounts of rainfall and very mild/humid air. We are seeing some pretty mild and humid air right now, but the rainfall over us is relatively sparse. So what's happening? 

Although our warmest wintertime temperatures come during Pineapple Express events, we can still get quite warm when the Express is to the north of us. And that's precisely what is happening now. We are getting the warm temperatures from the south side of the baroclinic band (which is a fancy way to describe a semi-stationary front) since the southern part of a storm in the northern hemisphere is where the warmest air resides, as air is pulled from the tropics into the low. 

11:30 am PST Fri 01 Mar 2013 - UW West Coast NWS GOES-West 4km Infrared Satellite
This isn't a very strong Pineapple Express... maybe you could call it a Pineapple Trolley. Nevertheless, so how the moisture coming into the area originates from the subtropics near Hawaii? That's where our warm air is coming from, even though the precipitation is above us. The moisture train itself is modeled beautifully by the UW's WRF model. Check out the picture below from the model initialization this morning.

Valid 04:00 am PST Fri, 01 Mar 2013: UW 12z WRF-GFS: 36km Column Integrated Water Vapor
You can really see why these streams of moisture originating from the subtropics and extending into the mid-latitudes are called atmospheric rivers. Moisture simply flows along this front, which is often stationary. The stationary factor is one of the reasons why these Pineapple express events cause flooding... they drop lots of rain over the Pacific Northwest (especially the mountains) and just don't let up. I remember the huge Pineapple Express event from November 5-7, 2006, in which an atmospheric river stalled over our area for nearly two days. Many rainfall records were broken, and Mt. Rainier was particularly hard hit, as they got 18 inches of rain in 36 hours. Simply incredible.

video

I could watch this all day. 

Ok, time to go to physics and learn about magnets!

Peace,
Charlie