Is this year what we can expect?

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 6:38 PM GMT on August 03, 2011

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Is this year what we can expect?

In recent weeks a question I have been asked often, “is this year, the last couple of years, like what we can expect in the future?” The question is often asked quietly, perhaps by a planner, say, someone worried about water in their city. The question follows from not only a perception that the weather is getting “weird,”, but also some small aspect of experience in their job. For example, a water manager recently said they were seeing their local river showing a distinct change to sporadically high flow in the winter, smaller spring flows, and extremely small flow late in the summer. Is this what I should expect in the future? The short answer is yes.

This question of expectation has rolled around in my head for years. I am a gardener with aspirations for small farmer. Over the last 30 years, I have definitely pushed my planting earlier in the year. When I was in Maryland, I felt wet, cool Mays were becoming the “norm,” with my tomatoes sitting in sodden soil. At the same time I would recall plots I had seen in some recent presentation that showed modeled shifts in the warm-cold patterns suggesting springtime cooling in northeastern North America. These are the sorts of casual correlations that lead people to think are we seeing a new “normal.”

In 2008 I wrote a blog about the changes in the hardiness zones that are reported on the back of seed packages. These are the maps that tell us the last frost date, and there were big changes between 1990 and 2006. These changes in the seed packets caught the attention of a lot of people. Recently, NOAA published the “new normal.” This normal relies on the definition of climate as a 30 year average. (AMS Glossary) What was done - at the completion of the decade NOAA recalculated a 30 year average. That is, 1981-2010 rather than 1971-2000. This average changed a lot, with notable warming of nighttime minima. There was some regional reduction of summertime maxima; that is, cooling. All in all, the average temperature went up, with most of the increase in nighttime minimum, a fact that is consistent with both model simulations and fundamental physics. This also came with another update of those hardiness zones.

When trying to interpret climate information and determining how has climate changed and how will it change, the combination of observations, fundamental physics, and models provide three sources of information. The combination of this information and the determination of the quality of that information is subject to interpretation. In the case of determining whether or not we are already experiencing the climate of warming world and how that change will be realized in the next decades it depends on how we use the models.

In my previous entry on heat waves, I implied how to use these pieces of information together. There are fundamental physics in the relationship between temperature and moisture in the air; hot air holds more water; warm water evaporates more quickly. The question of the model is - how well does the model represent the movement of that moisture? For the heat wave example, it is important how well do the models represent persistent high pressure systems over North America in the summer? Are these high pressure systems represented well by the models for the right reasons? The answer to the model question has a range of answers. The model does represent these systems, but if you are an expert in summertime persistent high pressure systems, then you can provide a long list of inadequacies. How can we glean information about the quality of the model? If we look at weather models, then we were able to predict the heat wave – even with the inadequacies that the expert or skeptic can list. Returning to the climate model, do we see like events in the current climate, and do these events change as the planet warms? The answer is yes. Then can we use this to guide our development of plans to adapt to climate change? The answer is yes, if we can connect the model back to data and the fundamental physics. This does become a matter of interpretation – how strong or weak is that connection?

The more I work with planners the more I hear the need for interpretive information, expert guidance, advisories about climate and climate change. People start with the notion that they want digital data from climate models that looks like current weather data. Once presented with 1) the logistical challenges of using that data, 2) the complex nature of the uncertainties associated with that data, and 3) the relative importance of climate to other parts of their decision package – once presented with these facts, they move to the need for advice. This makes sense - most of us want a narrative weather forecast, rather than model output. And the models play the same role in the use of weather forecasts as they do in climate projection. The models guide our thinking, with the ultimate forecast based on that guidance refined by observations and fundamental physics.

This entry started with the question I hear more and more – is this year what we can expect more of in the future? I have a mantra which is that on average the surface of the Earth will warm, ice will melt, sea level will rise, and the weather will change. What we are seeing here is weather changing in a warming, more energy laden, environment. The extraordinary extremes that we have seen in the last year and are seeing this year are quite solidly connected to both fundamental physics and the guidance from climate and weather models. Hence, my answer, as I walk around my garden, thinking how to get better tomatoes next year, thinking about my irrigation system in my doddering retirement, is yes, what we are seeing this year tells me about what to expect in a future that is relevant to me - not something far off.

r

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Hey Streamtracker! How have you been?

That's a very nice graph that goes with that paper but there's a problem. It's a reconstruction of past climate. What I mean is a forecast model of future temperatures. I should have been more specific. Let's start with the suite of IPCC AR4 models. Then we can go back in the past to the IPCC AR1 models and see how they stack up, now a full 21 years into their predictions. And those predictions weren't nearly as bad as more recent IPCC assessment reports.
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Neapolitan,

You're a funny guy. You tell me how you do not wish to offend. You tell me you won't use that term with me. Then the very next sentence you take it all back. Do you read what you type out before you post it? That would be like me saying, "OK, I'm not going to call you an idiot anymore. OK, idiot?"

And, once again, I think there's a failure to communicate here. You tell me I made this statement: "...while there may be short-term changes in the nature of the extreme weather events, the overall number of extreme weather events remains fairly constant." proceed to tell me it's false, then use another exaggerated hypothetical but which basically reiterates my statement, that there's short-term changes in the nature, the nature, of extreme weather events. Right now, being in a warmer period than 30 years ago, of course we're more likely to see record highs outpace record lows. Is an ~2:1 ratio a little odd for the last cumulative decade? Yeah, it is a little odd. But can you force out a decadal trend out of just three decades of records? No, you can't. Three is the operative number too because the fourth decade back, the 1970's record lows outpaced record highs at an ~4:3 ratio, same for the 1960's. So for the three decades prior to the most recent three decades the trend was negative. But using just three decades isn't a trend on a decadal time scale. Indices such as the AMO are said to operate on decadal time scales but if you only use 30 years of data you'll never get a full picture of the behavior of that oscillation. You have to look back over at least 70 years of data to pull out a trend from that type of data.
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NW passage open now?

Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20396
5. theshepherd
This comment has been removed for violating the Community Standards


So, it's not "what" you say...it's "who" you say it to?

Sounds fair.
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Quoting streamtracker:
The observations are on the high end of this suite of model scenarios. Simply put, the models actually are very close to observed and tend on average to estimate less warming than observed, not more.

If past model performance in an indicator of future behavior, then there is a high probability that future temps will reach those modeled.

Well stated. How anyone could possibly miss the only obvious conclusion is beyond me...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13473
13. streamtracker

I pulled them out of Jeff Masters' hat.
Ever heard of him?

I have an excellent memory, except when it comes to accurately identifying frog species by the eggs they lay, and I'm not crawling through the racks to appease you.

Do your own research and prove me wrong.
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Hmmmm???
Shouldn't multi-decade climate change models undergo at least the same scrutiny as a 3 day hurricane model prediction that gets shrouded with the Mariners 1,2,3 Rule.

One of you geniuses do the math for this ignorant country boy and extrapolate the three day cone of uncertainty applied to hurricane models with their percentages of accuracy as compared to the climate change models and thier sloppy performance over a 3 "DECADE" period and "thier" percentages of accuracy.

What do dat cone of uncertainty look like, Skippy ???

Many await your learned response.
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Sorry,,,,, whispers, observations from an admin person, seed pack info, new normal?

Sounds more like a ShamWow commercial........

Remember these quotes .....

"the complex nature of the uncertainties associated with that data"

"models guide our thinking"

Disappointing.

End post ~
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8185
Quoting theshepherd:
10. streamtracker
***If past model performance in an indicator of future behavior, then there is a high probability that future temps will reach those modeled.***



If 18% is the best they can come up with then I'd say Black Jack is a better bet. You can reach 21% there....and "still" go home broke.
But, you must forgive my ignorance, I'm simply relying on past posts by Jeff Masters.

In the future when you post model conclusions, please post their precentage of accuracy....or stay home


What hat are pulling the 18% out of and what exactly are you referring too? Your comment is so vague that I can't really reply it.

But, take a look at how close model and observed data are. If I had a model for stock market performance that worked as well, I'd be a very very rich man.

I posted the pdf of the paper. You can dig into the IPCC report for details on the models scenarios and model performance.

I won't be staying home any time soon.


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10. streamtracker
***If past model performance in an indicator of future behavior, then there is a high probability that future temps will reach those modeled.***



If 18% is the best they can come up with then I'd say Black Jack is a better bet. You can reach 21% there....and "still" go home broke.
But, you must forgive my ignorance, I'm simply relying on past posts by Jeff Masters.

In the future when you post model conclusions, please post their precentage of accuracy....or stay home
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8th place


Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20396
Quoting sullivanweather:
It's occurring but not at the rate which is claimed and won't reach the values modeled.




Here is an excellent treatment of models versus observations:

Recent Climate Observations Compared to Projections. Stefan Rahmstorf et al. Science 4 May 2007: Vol. 316 no. 5825 p. 709

This is a key graph from that paper:


(1973 to 2006, ticks are 5 year intervals)

From the caption: "Changes in key global climate parameters since 1973, compared with the scenarios of the IPCC (shown as dashed lines and gray ranges). Annual global-mean land and ocean combined surface temperature from GISS (red) and the Hadley Centre/Climatic Research Unit (blue) up to 2006, with their trends."

From the paper: "The global mean surface temperature increase (land and ocean combined) in both the NASA GISS data set and the Hadley Centre/Climatic Research Unit data set is 0.33°C for the 16 years since 1990, which is in the upper part of the range projected by the IPCC."

This graph shows several of the model scenarios. The observations are on the high end of this suite of model scenarios. Simply put, the models actually are very close to observed and tend on average to estimate less warming than observed, not more.

If past model performance in an indicator of future behavior, then there is a high probability that future temps will reach those modeled.
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Cold snap brings near-record low temp

Last updated 05:00 02/08/201

Last week's cold snap has seen Timaru record its second lowest temperature for July since records began in 1906.

On July 26, the minimum air temperature recorded in Timaru was -7.8 degrees Celsius. It was also the fourth-lowest minimum temperature for any month since 1906, according to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa).

Senior climate scientist Georgina Griffiths said the coldest temperature recorded was -9.1C in August 1998, followed by two cold days in 1966 which saw -8.9C in June and -8.8C the next month.

''It was a near record cold, so it was a pretty significant event.''

On July 25, the maximum temperature for Timaru was 6.9C at 3pm.


Link




Aug 3 (Reuters) - Australia's 2011/12 wheat crop is suffering from cold dry weather in the key eastern grain producing state of New South Wales, which may cut output, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia said in a report on Wednesday.




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3. sullivanweather

OMG, oh snap, and whuppidy do.

This man can actually speak without monitors in front of his podium and actually use freehand speak instead of factoids to present his view in a conservative(small letter c), intelligent, and mature manner obviously fascillitated by an unbigoted interpretation of fact.
...Yeah, I hate compound sentences also, but sometimes the emotions just flow.

It's times like this that prompt me to edit my iggy list to see a response..."NOT"!!!

It ain't worth the pain and suffering.

Luv ya sulli-mon

I bow at your feet.

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Quoting sullivanweather:
Report from previous blog and, oh, how relevant.

Neapolitan,

While I appreciate your recognition I'm not particularly fond of your interpretation and comprehension of my comment. The point of my comment was the following: "...there are hundreds of examples of extreme weather of varying nature for various places at various stable lengths of time that can be compared against each other." So while there may be short-term changes in the nature of the extreme weather events, the overall number of extreme weather events remains fairly constant. And by fairly constant I mean despite all the ups and downs the filtered values don't leave a predictable range of values, as shown in this graph of US climate extremes.



So while the number of extreme events recently is higher than it was 40 years ago, for the US, it's roughly the same it was 90-100 years ago. There's essentially no way one can determine what the future of this graph will look like based in the information contained therein. This is why my statement was as such: "There isn't one shred of evidence that today's weather is any more extreme than any other period on record in question in any other region of the world" We can compare today's extreme's (1995-present) with extremes from 1910-1935 for the US and the numbers aren't that far apart with any difference easily explained by much improved data collection/increase in reporting stations. We can also look at the period of 1955-1975, a lull in extremes over the US, but should data exist for other areas of the globe that's compiled and analyzed similarly there would be regions where 1955-1975 were above their long term average of extreme weather events while we were below ours. Keeping this in mind, these aren't even 'stable' climatic periods, which is at a minimum 70 years in length to account for well-documented cyclical changes in the state of ocean basins.

Moving on from real data to a hypothetical. Let's say that the climate of Region 'A' for a 100-year period 'a' had 'X' number of extreme weather events, say 253. Meanwhile the climate of Region 'B' for a 100-year period 'b' had 'Y' number of extreme weather events, say 197.
If the following 100-year period Region 'A' has 212 and Region 'b' has 270. . . and the following 100-year period Region 'A' has 235 and Region 'B' has 233, using this example, over the 300 total years both Regions have 700 extreme events a piece, yielding an average of 233 extreme events per 100-year period.

Right now, using NCDC US data as a crutch, we're 17 years into the second 100-year period of Region 'B' and you're looking at the first 100-year period and comparing it against the increase you're seeing in the beginning of the second 100-year period and extrapolating that out to the third, while ignoring Region 'A'. And, in using this example, in the third 100-year period the number of extreme events at Region 'B' falls back to 'normal'. Furthermore, Region 'B' in having only 197 extreme events over the first 100-year period is going to have a smaller sample of events to be able to determine what exactly is a 100-year event. Using this example its still hard to define what a 100-year event would be considered and that's with three separate 100-year periods. This is why using weather events is, in my opinion, short-sighted when trying to win a climate debate. There's endless apples to put up against infinite oranges.

This is why I take issue with your use of the term denialist, which is an insult to those who actually do take the time out to educate themselves about this subject. So you twist my words to fit me into your 'c' category of denialism, which is "refusing to accept the climate is changing." Using my examples above, extreme weather events can change up and down many times over while the climate remains stable, which is why, again, using weather events to promote the theory of human-induced climate change (the greenhouse gas kind) is short-sighted. It's a lazy argument. How much effort does it take to copy and paste a news article about snowfall in the Atacama Desert?

But I shall go on. You say "I've not seen you say anything in support of AGWT, so I think I can safely assume item 'a'" but right I did write the following: "You don't, in fact, have to convince me that the planet has warmed. So your fingers can save some work there." So again, I ask, why throw around the term denialist? What am I denying in that statement?

And what about your 'b' point? Very simply put, AGWT is overstated. It's occurring but not at the rate which is claimed and won't reach the values modeled. I don't know what else you want me to say here because real world data does not fall into line with GCM's. It just doesn't.

So from here on out you may just want to study a person's curriculum vitae before making an absolute fool of yourself through presumptuous comments.



I understand you are unhappy with my use of the shorthand term "denialist", so in the future I will avoid using it with you; I truly don't wish to offend. However, when a person states unequivocally, "...AGWT is overstated. It's occurring but not at the rate which is claimed and won't reach the values modeled," some term besides "skeptic" must be applied, for that isn't skepticism, but denial; there's simply far too much evidence refuting your conclusion. Now, I might have said otherwise had you explained just how it's overstated, or had you gone into detail about how you arrived at your conclusion that it won't be as bad as the vast majority climatologists believe it will be. But, well, there you go.

I do far more than highlight online articles that show climate change indicators happening, of course. But I like those for their inherent usefulness; while some people can easily understand peer-reviewed papers, articles in the mainstream press that talk about increasing natural disasters--especially those that don't even mention the words "climate change" or "global warming"--can be extremely effective in communicating to the average person just what is happening. And there's much to communicate.

You wrote, "...while there may be short-term changes in the nature of the extreme weather events, the overall number of extreme weather events remains fairly constant." Couple of things: even if that statement were true--which it's not--it doesn't tell enough of the story. Suppose that one year--let's say 1950--there were (and these are made up numbers) 80,000 cold records in the U.S, and 80,000 heat records. In 1980, there are, say, 60,000 cold records, and 100,000 heat records. In 2010, there were 25,000 cold records, and 135,000 heat records. Yes, the number of extreme temperatures remained constant at 160,000--but that stat alone doesn't come close to telling the whole story. But on a larger note, as Dr. Rood alluded to, we're not talking about "short-term changes in the nature of the extreme weather events"; we're talking about a real and measurable decadal trend in those extreme weather events.

And if AGWT is even half right, we've only seen the beginning...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13473
Quoting Dr. Ricky Rood:
The extraordinary extremes that we have seen in the last year and are seeing this year are quite solidly connected to both fundamental physics and the guidance from climate and weather models. Hence, my answer, as I walk around my garden, thinking how to get better tomatoes next year, thinking about my irrigation system in my doddering retirement, is yes, what we are seeing this year tells me about what to expect in a future that is relevant to me.

Absolutely--and, more importantly, provably--true.

Thanks as always for the very fine entry, Dr. Rood.
Quoting Patrap:
Record Report
Statement as of 07:30 PM CDT on August 02, 2011

... Record high temperature set at New Orleans Audubon Park...

A new record high temperature of 99 degrees was set at New Orleans
Audubon Park yesterday. This broke the old record of 98 degrees which
was previously set in 2006.

That's toasty. Elsewhere: Little Rock, AR, reached 114 degrees today, and Ft. Smith reached 115, the all-time hottest day ever in either of those cities.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13473
Record Report
Statement as of 07:30 PM CDT on August 02, 2011

... Record high temperature set at New Orleans Audubon Park...

A new record high temperature of 99 degrees was set at New Orleans
Audubon Park yesterday. This broke the old record of 98 degrees which
was previously set in 2006.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Report from previous blog and, oh, how relevant.

Neapolitan,

While I appreciate your recognition I'm not particularly fond of your interpretation and comprehension of my comment. The point of my comment was the following: "...there are hundreds of examples of extreme weather of varying nature for various places at various stable lengths of time that can be compared against each other." So while there may be short-term changes in the nature of the extreme weather events, the overall number of extreme weather events remains fairly constant. And by fairly constant I mean despite all the ups and downs the filtered values don't leave a predictable range of values, as shown in this graph of US climate extremes.



So while the number of extreme events recently is higher than it was 40 years ago, for the US, it's roughly the same it was 90-100 years ago. There's essentially no way one can determine what the future of this graph will look like based in the information contained therein. This is why my statement was as such: "There isn't one shred of evidence that today's weather is any more extreme than any other period on record in question in any other region of the world" We can compare today's extreme's (1995-present) with extremes from 1910-1935 for the US and the numbers aren't that far apart with any difference easily explained by much improved data collection/increase in reporting stations. We can also look at the period of 1955-1975, a lull in extremes over the US, but should data exist for other areas of the globe that's compiled and analyzed similarly there would be regions where 1955-1975 were above their long term average of extreme weather events while we were below ours. Keeping this in mind, these aren't even 'stable' climatic periods, which is at a minimum 70 years in length to account for well-documented cyclical changes in the state of ocean basins.

Moving on from real data to a hypothetical. Let's say that the climate of Region 'A' for a 100-year period 'a' had 'X' number of extreme weather events, say 253. Meanwhile the climate of Region 'B' for a 100-year period 'b' had 'Y' number of extreme weather events, say 197.
If the following 100-year period Region 'A' has 212 and Region 'b' has 270. . . and the following 100-year period Region 'A' has 235 and Region 'B' has 233, using this example, over the 300 total years both Regions have 700 extreme events a piece, yielding an average of 233 extreme events per 100-year period.

Right now, using NCDC US data as a crutch, we're 17 years into the second 100-year period of Region 'B' and you're looking at the first 100-year period and comparing it against the increase you're seeing in the beginning of the second 100-year period and extrapolating that out to the third, while ignoring Region 'A'. And, in using this example, in the third 100-year period the number of extreme events at Region 'B' falls back to 'normal'. Furthermore, Region 'B' in having only 197 extreme events over the first 100-year period is going to have a smaller sample of events to be able to determine what exactly is a 100-year event. Using this example its still hard to define what a 100-year event would be considered and that's with three separate 100-year periods. This is why using weather events is, in my opinion, short-sighted when trying to win a climate debate. There's endless apples to put up against infinite oranges.

This is why I take issue with your use of the term denialist, which is an insult to those who actually do take the time out to educate themselves about this subject. So you twist my words to fit me into your 'c' category of denialism, which is "refusing to accept the climate is changing." Using my examples above, extreme weather events can change up and down many times over while the climate remains stable, which is why, again, using weather events to promote the theory of human-induced climate change (the greenhouse gas kind) is short-sighted. It's a lazy argument. How much effort does it take to copy and paste a news article about snowfall in the Atacama Desert?

But I shall go on. You say "I've not seen you say anything in support of AGWT, so I think I can safely assume item 'a'" but right I did write the following: "You don't, in fact, have to convince me that the planet has warmed. So your fingers can save some work there." So again, I ask, why throw around the term denialist? What am I denying in that statement?

And what about your 'b' point? Very simply put, AGWT is overstated. It's occurring but not at the rate which is claimed and won't reach the values modeled. I don't know what else you want me to say here because real world data does not fall into line with GCM's. It just doesn't.

So from here on out you may just want to study a person's curriculum vitae before making an absolute fool of yourself through presumptuous comments.


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is this year what we can expect more of in the future?

or decade? or century? or millenium?

Climate, Erosion, Tectonics, Orbits, Evolution, Everything...is dictated by natural shifts, and the mosiac of matter that which we can and cannot see or understand will never be constant forever.



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whew!

new blog

refreshing..
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About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.