The paper from the primary scientific literature comes from a scientific journal from the Nature publishing group, a relatively new journal, Nature Climate Change. The title of the paper is "A Decade of Weather Extremes" and is written by two scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Dim Coumou and Stephen Rahmstorf.
It is found in the current issue, as of this writing, of that journal: Nature Climate Change, Volume 2 Issue 7. The full reference is Nature Climate Change 2, 491–496(2012)
Irony Alert: The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research is located in Germany, where they have announced that they intend to phase out the world's largest, by far, source of climate change gas free primary energy. That would be nuclear energy, which is, as anyone who is familiar with my writings, is my environmental cause célèbre.
The paper addresses the question that is often posed by apologists for the dangerous fossil fuel industry, whether they be right wingers, (and addressed in a diary here by the incomparable - if overly optimistic - Adam Siegel Village tolerance of Will-ful deceit) or (in a more parochial case I will address below) simple minded anti-nukes nominally, at least, "on the left" who think that we can wait around for their so called "renewable energy" fantasies to come to pass after most of us here will be long dead: Are these extreme weather events so frequently in the news of late normal fluctuations or are they truly indicative of the collapse of the planetary climate?
I'll excerpt some stuff from the paper - in case one cannot access it directly - briefly discuss the list of catastrophic weather events the paper contains - allude to the methods of analysis and then excerpt the conclusion of the paper.
Here is the excerpted introduction:
For the United States, 2011 was a year of extreme weather, with 14 events that caused losses in excess of US$1 billion each1. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spoke of “a year seemingly full of weather extremes” after July had set new monthly heat records for Texas, Oklahoma and Delaware2. The period from January to October was the wettest on record for several northeastern states, with wet soils contributing to the severe flooding when Hurricane Irene hit the region in August. During spring, the southern United States had been hit by the worst recorded tornado outbreak in history: April saw 753 tornadoes, beating the previous monthly record of 542 (from May 2003) by a large margin3. Other regions in the world were affected by extreme weather in 2011 as well: rainfall records were set in Australia, Japan and Korea, whereas the Yangtze Basin in China experienced record drought1. In western Europe, spring was exceptionally hot and dry, setting records in several countries (Table 1)1.
But 2011 was not unique: the past decade as a whole has seen an exceptional number of unprecedented extreme weather events, some causing major human suffering and economic damage4 (Table 1 and Fig. 1). In August 2010, the World Meteorological Organization issued a statement on the “unprecedented sequence of extreme weather events”, stating that it “matches Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections of more frequent and more intense extreme weather events due to global warming”5. The Moscow heatwave and Pakistan flooding that year illustrated how destructive extreme weather can be to societies: the death toll in Moscow has been estimated at 11,000 and drought caused grain-harvest losses of 30%, leading the Russian government to ban wheat exports. At the same time Pakistan was hit by the worst flooding in its history, which affected approximately one-fifth of its total land area and 20 million people6.
The unprecedented meteorological events listed in Table 1 occurred in a decade that was likely the warmest globally for at least a millennium7. But are these two observations linked? We focus our discussion on the unprecedented extremes of the past decade, that is, those setting new meteorological records in the observational data available, because these often have the greatest impacts on societies, they grab the headlines and their uniqueness simplifies statistical analysis (compared with analysing extreme events exceeding a given threshold value).
The events listed in the table include the record breaking rain in England and Wales in autumn of 2000: (where records have been kept since 1766), Record breaking single day rainfall in Germany in 2002: the 2003 European heatwave, for which the death toll is reported to be 70,000 (cf .Comptes Rendue Biologies 331 (2008) 171–178
); - somewhat more than the zero
deaths observed for that oft discussed affair in Fukushima, Japan involving the nuclear reactors - the 2005 hurricane season in the United States where a record 5 category 5 storms were observed, including the deadly Katrina; the 2007 cyclone in the Arabian sea, the first South Atlantic Hurricane in 2004; the 2009 record heatwave in Australia - the records go back 154 years - and the related wildfires that killed 173 people; the 2010 heatwave in Russia that destroyed 30% of the wheat crop; the 2010 flooding in Pakistan that affected 1/5 of the land area of the country and drowned about 3,000 people and affected 20 million others; the 2011 Texas and Oklahoma drought/heatwave that involved the burning of 3 million acres; the 2011 Tornado season which was the most active on record in the American midwest, which destroyed the town of Joplin, Mo; the hottest and driest spring ever recorded in France in 2011 which destroyed 15% of the grain harvest; and the extreme rainfall in Nara Prefecture in Japan, which killed 73 people, and finally, last, but not least, the record breaking rainfall in South Korea, which flooded Seoul and killed 49, left 77 missing, and affected 125,000 people.
Don't worry. Be happy.
That reactor thing, that was bad, was it not? If I read correctly - it was the only important energy disaster that ever occurred, Chernobyl excepted.
Climate change? It's, um, normal fluctuations. Doesn't count, sort of like that thing about the oil that took place in the Gulf of Mexico, and that stuff that you may have heard somewhere about the collapsed coal waste impoundment dams. Not a problem.
Well, these authors wiggle around and then they say this:
Statistics and the detection problem
Using statistics, scientists can analyse whether the number of recent extreme events is significantly larger than expected in a stationary (that is, unchanging) climate. Statistical methods thus may link extremes to an observed climatic trend, but this does not address the question of whether this trend is anthropogenic or caused by natural factors. Extreme-event statistics are challenging: extremes are by definition rare, so the tails of the probability density function are not well constrained and often cannot be assumed to be Gaussian. There are many types of conceivable extreme, such as for different regional entities or time periods as well as different weather parameters (some 27 indices for extremes have been proposed11). To pick the type of extreme post hoc — for example, to study Pakistan rainfall extremes after a record-breaking event there — risks selection bias, that is, bias by selecting just the kind of time series that shows recent extremes. Proper statistical analysis of changes in the observed number of extremes thus requires: (1) a single, comparable type of extreme; (2) selection of time series by a priori objective criteria; and (3) sufficiently long-running high-quality data.
In a stationary climate, the number of threshold-exceeding extremes should remain constant over time. Therefore, if a trend is detected in their number then this can be attributed to nonstationarity, that is, climatic change. The causes behind such nonstationarity can be a change in the mean, a change in the shape of the probability density function, or a combination of both. Some recent studies12–16 have focused on record-breaking extremes rather than on those exceeding a fixed threshold value. The advantage of studying record events is that knowledge of the probability density function is not required: the probability of a record in a stationary climate is simply 1/n in any year, where n is the number of years in the time series up to that year. This simple but fundamental property makes it easier to detect the amount by which the number of records exceeds that expected in a stationary climate, irrespective of whether this is owing to a change in mean9 or in variance12.
They carry on and on and on and thus conclude thusly:
Many lines of evidence — statistical analysis of observed data, climate modelling and physical reasoning — strongly indicate that some types of extreme event, most notably heatwaves and precipitation extremes, will greatly increase in a warming climate and have already done so.
In 2007, the IPCC concluded that a future increase in the frequency of heatwaves and extreme precipitation events caused by greenhouse warming in most continental areas is very likely (>90% probability) and an increase in intense tropical cyclone activity and drought-affected areas is likely (>66% probability)7. Some extreme events will decrease — extreme cold being the most obvious one. However, the overall number of extremes is expected to increase. Human society has adapted to the kind of extremes experienced in the past, so a lesser number of these will bring only modest benefits. But unprecedented new extremes can be devastating, as the Pakistan flooding of 2010 illustrates...
The authors also whine thusly in the paper about our very stupid media and our very stupid public:
Many climate scientists (including ourselves) routinely answer media calls after extreme events with the phrase that a particular event cannot be directly attributed to global warming. This is often misunderstood by the public to mean that the event is not linked to global warming, even though that may be the case — we just can’t be certain. If a loaded dice rolls a six, we cannot say that this particular outcome was due to the manipulation — the question is ill-posed. What we can say is that the number of sixes rolled is greater with the loaded dice (perhaps even much greater). Likewise, the odds for certain types of weather extremes increase in a warming climate (perhaps very much so). Attribution is not a ‘yes or no’ issue as the media might prefer, it is an issue of probability. It is very likely that several of the unprecedented extremes of the past decade would not have occurred without anthropogenic global warming. Detailed analysis can provide specific numbers for certain types of extreme, as in the examples discussed above.
Believe me, it's not easy to discuss science
with the public. The public is often - at great risk to itself - smug, glib, delusional, and in denial.
I'd like to say that this sort of thinking is limited solely to the political right, but I can't.
What we have, right and left, is a public that runs on dogma, a public incapable of doing what Abraham Lincoln advised the public of his times to do almost 150 years ago: "Think anew."
But it's clearly, given the list above, in my view for "thinking anew" to save very much, if anything.
I'd like to close this diary with a quote from a very uneducated and very unenlightened anti-nuke who, much to my moral disgust, shows up in my diaries from time to time.
Could just be weather, (0+ / 0-)
you know. Which is quite a different subject than actual climate change. I did look at the calendar today, and sure enough, it's July 1st. Honest to goodness summer here in the northern hemisphere, where it gets up into the 90s and even triple digits for days at a time through the height of the season. Pretty much always has, just like it gets bone-chilling cold for days at a time through the height of winter. Always has...
Hence while it's sure darned hot, it's not exactly unheard-of. Oddly enough, droughts aren't that rare either. Why, back in my parents' day there was a whole Dust Bowl thing happening in the southern midwest, it didn't rain for years and years. crops dried up, houses and town got buried in blowing dust, Okies migrated en masse to California looking for viable cropland.
Honestly, if we're to panic and scream that every heat wave, cold snap, tornado outbreak, thunderstorm, hurricane and/or blizzard is Global Climate Change Writ Large, we just might end up shooting ourselves in the proverbial foot. People who actually live their lives in the world with enough functional memory to recall the last decade or two or three's worth of weather will simply tune it out as hyperbole (Chicken Little stuff). Is that going to be helpful?
That's not from George Will or Jim Inhofe or someone like that; that's from our membership right here at Daily Kos.
Um...um...um...she is obviously unfamiliar with the contents of science books, but you already knew that.
If you want to know whose fault this - and I include myself in this statement - look in the mirror.
Have a pleasant evening.