Thursday, March 28, 2013

Was Superstorm Sandy A Tipping Point In Regard To Opinions About Climate Change?

The persistent skepticism of Americans concerning climate change may have been altered by reactions to Superstorm Sandy. In a recent national survey, 82% of U.S. adults reported the they believe climate change is already occurring according to researchers at Stanford University.

In particular, many of those directly impacted by the storm appear to accept that climate change is occurring. As reported by
New Yorkers overwhelmingly agree that climate change was behind super storm Sandy. Fully 69 percent of Empire State residents blame climate change for the storm, while just 24 percent think it was “isolated weather events,” according to a Siena Research Institute poll. That includes at least 63 percent of voters in every region of the state, and even a near-majority — 46 percent — of Republicans. Two-thirds of independent voters also blame climate change. “There may be a debate about what has caused the global climate change, but for most New Yorkers there is no debate that it is occurring,” said pollster Steven Greenberg of the strong consensus.
Personal experience with extreme weather events is probably a huge driver of the increasingly common belief that climate change is occurring. The devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy, as well as all the other extreme weather events of the past two years that have directly impacted U.S. adults, seems like an opinion changer. Of course, the cold weather this spring may lead some folks that are on the fence about climate change to jump back to being skeptical.   

As pointed out by pollster Steven Greenberg, the debate about the causes of why global warming is occurring is likely to persist for quite some time. Many will continue to believe that global warming is a naturally occurring trend and be skeptical of suggestions that man made greenhouse gas emissions are to blame. 

While it is impossible to pinpoint whether any single extreme weather event is caused by climate change, I suspect that if we have another hot summer, the number of U.S. adults that are worried about climate change will be on the increase. 

As discussed in a previous postour minds are hard-wired to spot patterns as it helps us make sense of the world. Thus, we often confuse correlation with causation. In the case of extreme weather, at least some of the droughts, flash floods, and record breaking snowfalls of the last few years probably can be attributed to global climate change. It is easy to make a connection between changing weather patterns and the climate, and one that some researchers judge to be scientifically valid. Once an individual has made a connection between extreme weather and global climate change, it becomes more likely that they will make a connection between every extreme weather event and global warming.  

Related Link

Global Warming Scare May Be Overblown In Short Term, But Increased Droughts, Flooding and Wildfires Are Here Today

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Deep Ocean Warming - Yet Another Subject For Climate Change Alarmists and Deniers to Disagree Over

According to a recent study of ocean warming published in Geophysical Research Letters by Balmaseda, Trenberth, and Källén (2013). the deep ocean is warming dramatically. However, whether this is major finding or not is open to question. The Skeptical Science blog states that the new research confirms global warming has accelerated. On the other hand, I seriously doubt that climate warming skeptics will change their minds due to this new research. It seems pretty likely that Rush Limbaugh will continue to proclaim that "global warming is a hoax".

This research brings up the question of "what would it take to convince the those that are skeptical that the millions of tons of CO2 that humans are pumping into the atmosphere will lead to climate change? For those that are already convinced that climate change is a time bomb, this ocean warming research is important because it provides an answer to the question of why the models predicting a rise in the earth's surface temperature have been wrong. Yet for those that are skeptical about "global warming", this new research is probably meaningless.

My best guess is that there are a couple of things that could change the skeptics opinion about "climate change": 1) the weather changes so dramatically, that there it becomes obvious there is some sort of climate effect, or 2) TV weatherman start spouting a climate change message on a regular basis. Until one of those two things occur, Rush Limbaugh will continue to have an audience that buys into his "global warming hoax" message.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Is Cold March Just Fluky Weather or Beginning of Reinforcing Cycle of Climate Change

The first day of Spring in Chicago is 60 degrees colder this year than last. Despite the wildly differing temperatures, both extremes could in part be due to the impact of the thinning of arctic sea ice upon the jet stream.

Chicago Temperature
Actual High on March 20, 2012: 85 Degrees
Forecast High for March 20, 2013
: 25 Degrees
Difference: -60 Degrees

Some researchers think the thinning arctic sea ice may be leading to a weakened, meandering jet stream. When the jet stream meanders to the north (2011-2012), the Midwest gets a mild, dry winter. When it meanders to the south as it has this month, the Midwest gets cold, snowy weather.

While the southern dip of the jet stream has led to cold, snowy weather in the Midwest, it has also produced near record warm weather for March in Greenland. Temperatures above the arctic circle have peaked above freezing on numerous days instead of hovering around 20 F degrees. Thus, the start of the arctic sea ice melt season is starting even earlier that usual. Given the early start of the melt, this year the arctic ice extent may again decline to record or near record lows. (Last year set a record low for arctic sea ice extent)

Here is where the reinforcing feedback loop could be coming into play. If the low extent of arctic sea ice is indeed leading to the meandering jet stream and the unusually warm above freezing temperatures above the arctic circle, this could lead to even more melting of arctic sea ice. The further reduction in arctic sea ice could have an more extreme impact on the weather in the future.

Admittedly, the above theory about climate change being in a reinforcing cycle is just speculation. We could just be the victims of fluky weather.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Below Average Extent For February Arctic Sea Ice A Mixed Signal For Global Warming Alarmists and Deniers

Arctic Sea Ice Extent - February
Arctic sea ice extent for February 2013 was 
14.66 million square kilometers 
(5.66 million square miles). The magenta line shows 
the 1979 to 2000 median extent for that month. 

In the ongoing battle between global warming alarmists and deniers to make their case, the non linear nature of weather makes it challenging for either side to win the hearts and minds of the undecided. An unusually hot season which seemingly provides evidence of global warming is often followed by a season of fairly normal weather. On net though, the failure of global and regional temperatures to move in a linear pattern from season to season and/or year to year is a factor that provides ammunition for the climate change deniers.

The recent publication of the measured extent of arctic ice extent this winter is yet another example of the non-linear nature of weather making it confusing for the undecided to make heads or tails of the global warming debate. The February Arctic sea ice extent is the seventh lowest in the satellite record since 1979 according to the Colorado-based National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Given that the arctic sea ice extent was the lowest ever recorded this summer, it would help make the case of  global warming alarmists if the new record lows had been recorded again this winter. However, being the 7th lowest February arctic ice extent is a real glass half full/half empty result. Both sides in the global warming debate can use it to help make their case. 

If the global warming alarmists are going to be able to make a case that tilts opinion toward their arguments, the shrinking arctic sea ice extent may be their smoking gun. Since the weather is so variable, and CO2 emissions are not visible to the eye, proof of carbon emissions causing global warming that the masses can believe in may come from the melting of arctic sea ice  And although the plight of polar bears due to shrinking arctic sea ice is probably being wildly overstated, photos of starving polar bears might be an effective way to engage the masses in the cause of reducing carbon emissions. 

So here's a big question, will the arctic sea ice melt during the summer 2013 set new records, or will the non-linear nature of weather win out again and result in a sea ice extent that is below average but nowhere near as low as last summer? The only thing that seems certain is that regardless of the loss in arctic sea ice this summer, neither the global warming alarmists nor the deniers will admit that it proves they might be wrong.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Is The 1/10 Inch Per Year Rise In Sea Level A Big Deal?

One of the most the maddening aspects of the global warming debate is the challenge in pinning down facts. As an example, the question of whether the oceans are rising should seemingly be a question that is easily answered by hard facts. However, the skeptics and alarmists make conflicting claims over the data. A key issue is that the change in sea level is not uniform; the ocean is rising in some parts of the world and falling in others. Thus, any aggregated measurement of the ocean's rise conflicts with local observations. Also, the differences in measured change in differing locations creates lots of issues prompting attacks upon the methodology used in determining the aggregated rise in sea levels.

The most frequently referenced source of data on annual sea level change is provided by the Colorado University Sea Level Research Group. Viewing their sea level graph derived from the TOPEX satellite data published last year shows a key factor fueling the debate. As shown in the chart below, as of last year, it seemed as if the rise in sea level had stalled. The skeptics jumped on this result as proof that the sea level had stopped rising.

Global Mean Sea Level By Year (Year Ago)

However, there was significant rise in sea level in the past year, and the trend in the increase in sea level rise is once again intact. Notably, the global warming skeptics have tended to ignore the updated results that weaken their case that the sea level is not rising. Here is the updated chart.

Global Mean Sea Level By Year (Current)

Thus, based on this evidence, the proposition that the sea level is rising by about 1/10 inch per year or more seems to be the most likely conclusion. It also seems likely that the sea level will continue to rise. Based on the results from the past couple of decades this increase will be about 1/10 inch per year (although some researchers predict that rate of rise in sea level will accelerate in the future). 

The consequences of a continuation in the trend of rising sea levels largely depends upon time frame. If the sea level rises by 1/10 inch per year, the consequences over the next decade or two is vastly different than the consequences over the next 60 years. An inch or two rise in sea level will not be nearly as damaging as a 6 inch or greater rise in sea level. Thus, for those with an expected life span of 20 years or less, the rising sea level may not be a big deal during their lifetime. However, for those with a 60 year expected lifespan, and those that are concerned about their children and grandchildren, the rise in sea level is likely to be a  very big deal. A study by Climate Central suggest that 3.7 million people in the U.S are vulnerable to flooding over the course of the next century. The damage from future hurricanes could be even more severe than from Katrina and Sandy. And the consequences on a world wide basis could be life changing for hundreds of millions of people

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

How Both Sides Of The Global Warming Debate Use Same Data To Make Their Case

In a post on by contributor James Taylor published on  3/6/13, he stated that "global temperatures are essentially the same today at they were in 1995". The statement directly contradicts a claim made in a post on published on 2/27/13 that indicates "climate change is making the world, on average, a warmer place. The United States is no exception".

The reason that both claims can be supported is that by cherry picking the starting point on a step chart it is possible to support vastly different conclusions.

As shown in the chart below, adding a trend line to U.S. temperatures going back to 1900 shows a steady rise . However, graphing a line from 1995  to 2012 indicates that the U.S. temperature has remained relatively unchanged.

The above chart offers a good illustration of how cherry picking the starting point on a step chart can dramatically impact the slope of a trend line. The case made by global warming skeptics that the earth is not warming would be stronger if they were able to make their case without cherry picking the warm years of 1995, 1998, 2002, 2007, or 2010. It could well be that Mr. Taylor is correct that the earth's temperature has stopped rising. However, it seems much more likely that he has disingenuously cherry picked a starting point that allows him to make his case. Using a 17 year period to measure a trend seems rather unusual unless talking about cicadas.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Will Beijing Real Estate Market Stumble Due To Pollution Problems?

Who wants to live in a city where the air pollution is so bad that it is damaging to the health of your family? That is the question that confronts the citizens of Beijing. The smog was so bad during January that it was referred to as "airpocalypse" or "airmageddon"

On January 12, the index for airborne particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM 2.5) reached 886 micrograms per cubic meter, about 35 times the guideline set by the World Health Organization. These particulates contained a “complex mixture of solid and liquid particles of organic and inorganic substances” that contribute to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and lung cancer.

While the elevated levels of smog only lasted for 20 days, it seems likely that air pollution will get even worse in the future and that Beijing's blackest day is still to come (as predicted by While the P.M 2.5 level returned to levels below 20 in early February, a combination of a sandstorm and smog raised the level back to 500 again on February 28.  

The wealthiest residents of Beijing (and presumably government officials) are purchasing pricey air purifiers and sending their children to the elite schools that can afford expensive air filtration systems. However, this does not seem like a very desirable long term solution for those with sufficient financial resources to leave Beijing and is not a viable solution at all for the vast majority of the population.

While most of the 20 million residents of Beijing have little choice but to remain in the city due its position as China's political, cultural, and economic center, and headquarters city for many of China's state owned companies, at least a small exodus may be in the offing. So far, despite the pollution, housing in Beijing remains tight. Thus, at present there is no basis to support speculation that the air pollution levels will lead to a population exodus  However, as the problem worsens, there is certainly the potential for an out migration to occur among those that have the wherewithal to leave the city. And if this exodus occurs, the real estate market will stumble. 

It may be that the bigger short term threat to the Beijing real estate market is China's recently implemented property curbs. However, if smog inversions become more common, it would be a serious threat to the real estate market.

Time will tell if the cost of residential real estate in the prime areas of Beijing remain at $1,600 a square foot. However, current prices seem insane for real estate in a city which already is having bouts of toxic air quality and is likely to have more in the future.