I have general comments about this below. The main thing I spoke to that is not below is that the only reference to hurricanes is:
In the case of coastal properties, for example, such requirements could include use of hurricane shutters and certain types of roof and door designs to make the structure more resistant/resilient against storm surges and high winds.
I think hurricane readiness deserves more attention. Within the current period of increased hurricane activity, the recent shift of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, may be setting us up for more active years with a greater than normal chance of hurricane landfall on the eastern seaboard. Similar conditions were in place in 1938 when the major storm of that year made landfall in Rhode Island and felled a huge amount of timber within New Hampshire and brought flooding similar the great flooding in 1936.
One reason for the damage was that rainstorms a couple weeks earlier left the ground saturated and promoted both uprooting and runoff. Curiously enough, 1938 was soon after the previous PDO shift. Instead of blaming recent stormy seasons on Global Warming, it may be we are simply repeating a pattern seen 70 years ago. It is now too late for a repeat of the 1938 storm, though rivers are high, but I will not be surprised if we find ourselves one week away from a repeat of 1938 and the realization that, like New Orleans and Galveston, we aren't prepared either.
This item says in part:
The existing K-12 school curriculum standards should be enhanced to promote the development of a citizenry that has a comprehensive understanding of the complex issues of climate change and the opportunities to engage in energy efficiency and conservation measures. Greenhouse gas emission reductions would be achieved as the students carry their growing knowledge of sustainable behavior back to their families and communities. Sustainable behaviors can happen as a part of daily habits, life-long decisions, individual advocacy, and community involvement.
This would be fine if you taught all sides of the issue. Read it from the viewpoint of someone who has has good reason to believe CO2's best warming is behind it or that circulation patterns have a greater impact on global temperatures. What you get is indoctrination, not learning. Government mandated science was behind Lysenkoism that set back Soviet biology decades. The science behind global warming is not settled, the science behind climate change is not settled. Government has no business saying otherwise.
I attended part of the task force's meeting at the NH Audubon center and have read several of the documents produced by the task force. My interest in the subject centers around my long interest in climatology. However, I was surprised to find that most of the task force's product will be recommendations on conservation and that there is very little about climatology.
Conservation is certainly something to be encouraged, though given current gasoline and heating oil prices, conservation is happening through market forces. There is certainly much more to be said about conservation, but for the most part I will leave that to people more interested in the subject than I am.
Linking conservation and climate change together is a bit of an odd mix, especially if you look at just the winter heating season. If the climate is warming, then residents of the state will heat less. If the climate is cooling, then the pressure of an expensive heating season will encourage many forms of conservation. If global warming is due to CO2 emissions, then a negative feedback path exists as residents will heat less and therefore produce less CO2. If CO2 has little impact on global warming and if the climate cools, then the conservation pressure will be largely economic.
My goal in this presentation is to report on some fascinating developments in climatology that I have not seen in your reports. In fact, the only references I have seen refer equate climate change with global warming and include a tacit understanding that CO2 is at fault.
So, lets start with CO2. In the past year, there have been many anecdotal reports of cooling. It has snowed in Melbourne Australia, Johannesburg South Africa, Baghdad Iraq, and most recently in Brazil. Sydney Australia just had its coldest August in 60 years. Earlier in the year in China and Vietnam freezes devastated rice crops and killed thousands of farm animals. Many people in Afghanistan lost limbs due to the cold. In Tajikistan frozen mountain rivers forced the shutdown of a hydroelectric plant that powered the capital. In the United States snow persisted well beyond normal melt dates from the Rockies to the Cascades. This summer, Anchorage Alaska reached 70 degrees on only 2 days this year, last year they did on 21 days, in 2004 they set a record for the most days at 49. Here in New Hampshire, temperatures have been unremarkable, but snow last winter surpassed all but the 1873-1874 season. This, of course, was blamed on global warming, but given that 7 of the top 10 snowfall seasons occurred in the last three decades of the 19th century, it may make more sense to worry about a return to those years.
Recent rain and flooding in New Hampshire has been blamed on global warming. Global warming has a supposed connection to extreme weather, but note that there were serious floods in 1895 and 1896, the all-time worst flood was in 1936 (it started the flood control dam building projects) and two years later in 1938 the worst hurricane in the region's history brought more rain to already soggy ground and led to a flood nearly as bad as 1936.
Cold weather isn't supposed to be happening - CO2 is a greenhouse gas, it's clear that concentrations are increasing, shouldn't temperatures be rising? There's a problem - CO2 warms by absorbing and reradiating infrared light of a particular range of wavelengths, and there is enough CO2 in the atmosphere to absorb nearly all of that range. That means increasing CO2 levels will have less and less additional effect.
The above shows how much of the incoming and outgoing radiation is blocked by atmosphere components. Note the rightmost band for CO2, that's the IR portion that CO2 blocks, note that it's saturated except for the edges of the "window."
Above is a graph showing the correlation between CO2 and US temperatures. It's not as up-to-date as it should be and doesn't show the leveling off and recent decline in temperature. CO2 continues to climb.
If not CO2, then what? A link between Sun and climate has been found in several areas since 1801. Solar output (total solar irradiance, TSI) correlates better with temperature. above is a graph showing both for the United States.
The multi-decadal oscillations in the neighboring oceans produce the best correlation. This is even better in more recent data with the downward shift in the PDO and US temperatures.
The link between solar activity and ocean circulation is unclear, let's look at each in a little more detail. Solar activity is related to sunspot counts, and we're currently in a protracted solar minimum at the end of solar cycle 23. This has made cycle 23 quite a bit longer than recent cycles, and some solar scientists claim that a long cycle means the next cycle will be weak. One forecast is calling for cycle 24 to be strong but 25 to be weak.
Of the Pacific and Atlantic oscillations, the Pacific, being larger, has the most overall impact. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) flipped to its cool phase in 2007. A cool PDO cools the Pacific region and favors the formation La Ninas, and those also bring cooling. The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) has been in a warm phase since 1995. A warm AMO brings warmer sea surface temperatures, and that's largely responsible for the active hurricane seasons since 1995. The AMO may flip cool in a few years, and that should reduce hurricane activity to the low levels we had in the 1960s and 1970s. It may also bring back the cold winters of that period.
If US and global temperatures are indeed more affected by ocean currents or solar activity than CO2, then there is no reason to connect conservation with CO2 reduction. In fact, if the recent cooling continues, advocates for conservation may find themselves tangled in the wrong coattails.
Above is a chart of recent temperatures. The 2007 peak is due to El Nino, that was followed by the PDO transistion to the cool phase and a La Nina late 2007 to mid 2008. Currently we are in a neutral period, but may be slipping back into La Nina conditions.
Climatology data is hiding in the noise of day-to-day weather. This means that we need a long period of data to get a handle on what's happening, especially when looking at multi-decadal cycles. However, there are exceptions, the best is when we want to take an early look at something. The PDO warm to cool transition is one of these. When it last changed in the late 1970s, it went from cool to warm and nearly simultaneously global temperatures took a step upward. Hence, given the recent warm to cool transition it's only natural to look for recent cooling, and we see it.
Looking ahead, what can we expect? The cool PDO (with its suppression of El Ninos) and warm AMO are key indicators of active hurricane seasons. Some hurricane forecasters see a greater risk of landfalling hurricanes on the east coast. The AMO will flip negative in maybe 5-10 years and we'll enter another period or lower hurricane risk. (Note that Andrew occurred in one of these periods, so the risk never goes away!) This is something the task force all but completely ignores - the only reference to hurricanes in the Adaptation draft is about requiring hurricane shutters on coastal buildings.
The Blue Hill Weather Observatory in Massachusetts has found that average wind speed was about 15-16 mph between 1880 and 1980, but then started a decline to a current average of 13 mph. At the same time, there has been a diminution of nor'easters' impact in towns like Hull and Scituate. I know of no explanation for this, it would be worthwhile understanding if NH has seen a similar decrease and if we have somehow put ourselves at greater risk of storm damage if wind speed returns to past conditions. This is certainly something a task force on climate change could investigate.
Solar cycle 24 will finally assert itself, probably in the next year or so, but that may set the stage for sunspots fading from view in 2014 or 2015. Observations by William Livingston and Matthew Penn of the National Solar Observatory show a decline in the magnetic field strength that slow convection in sunspots. The slow convection allows the plasma to cool and appear dark. As the field weakens, more convection occurs and the net result will be that sunspots will fade from view. This has never before been seen, except possibly during the Maunder Minimum. No one knows what this means climatologically.
An old Chinese curse is "May you live in interesting times." When it comes to climatology, we are living in fascinating times. 50 years from now people will look back at these years as the "Golden Era" of climatology. We are finally gaining the ability to understand the components behind climate drivers and will be able to gauge how much impact each has (and how they are interrelated). The odd happenings with the extended transition between solar cycles and the Livingston/Penn study may lead to understanding how much impact solar variability has on climate.
It's a pity that so little of this is in the task force's documents.
On November 21st, the task force met at the NH Audubon Center for a day-long meeting. I attended part of it to see if my comments in September had any impact. The answer, of course, was I had made no impact. While listening to one presentation I noticed that if every mention of "climate change" had been replaced with "conservation" it would have sounded about the same and would not lose impact.
I left on a table a copy Climate Action Plans Fail to Deliver which claims that if New Hampshire cut its CO2 emissions to zero, the savings would be wiped out in just 13 days of continuing growth in China. If the task force were serious about affecting climate change, it should focus its attention on getting China to clean up coal fired power plants and reducing the soot and other black carbon they emit.
While driving to the meeting I passed an Irving gas station selling gasoline at $1.849 per gallon (due to the economic collapse) and the temperature was about 23°F (Joe D'aleo's winter forecast is on track). Perhaps it's time to declare success.
Contact Ric Werme or return to his home page.
Written 2008 September 15, last updated 2008 November 21.