Monday, July 31, 2017

Rest in Peace, Sam Shepard

We have lost another great American, playwright and actor, Sam Shepard. He passed alway from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He died Thursday. Sam won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1979 for his play, Buried Child. 
Sam is pictured above with Gen. Chuck Yeager. Mr. Shepard received an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Gen. Yeager in The Right Stuff. General Yeager, a genuine hero, is still with us.

The Right Stuff is one of my two favorite movies and is my favorite book.
What would be the greatest double feature of all time as seen on
the movie house on my train layout.
ALS is an especially awful disease for the victim and family. Mr. Shepard alluded to it in a tweet.
Rest in peace, Sam Shepard.

Emily Inland

Tropical Storm Emily is now inland and will weaken a bit while over the Florida Peninsula.

Tropical Storm Emily Has Formed

Tropical Storm Emily has just formed off the coast of Florida just south of Tampa. It is moving east and will turn northeast later today. Sustained winds are around 40 mph with gusts to 55 mph or a little stronger and a waterspout/tornado or two may occur. The main threat, however, is very heavy rains and flooding.

Surprised and Imperiled by a Tornado

Yes, in South America, people fail to take proper shelter until it is too late.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday Fun: Fire Tornado!!


My favorite part is where they tell you, "don't do this at home" and then give you the instructions for doing just that. The story is here.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Flash Flood Watch High Plains and Rockies

More than four inches of rain have already fallen near the Kansas-Colorado border. Additional heavy rains are possible.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Worsening Drought Over Northern Plains

The map below is a map we've displayed before, which is the NOAA map displaying the amount of rain -- above the average amounts -- needed to break a drought.
Over parts of the Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana and northern Nebraska is becoming quite severe and is cutting into crop yields.

Unfortunately, the rainfall amount forecast for the next seven days offers no hope of significant relief.
We'll keep an eye on the situation.

Update on Middle Atlantic Flood Threat

Here is an update on the significant 
flash flood threat in the East. 

Heavy rains and flash flooding are already occurring with flash flooding occurring around
Washington, DC with water rescues occurring. This is a serious situation, please monitor the weather throughout the next 36 hours. And, if you are traveling, make sure you have the AccuWeather app which will follow your car's location and provide storm warnings wherever you are. It can be located here.

Two Areas of Flood Risk This Weekend

Remember: Turn around, don't drown. 

High Plains and Colorado-New Mexico
For this part of our nation, these rainfall amounts are high, especially near the Colorado-New Mexico border. Risk of flash flooding is high.

Middle Atlantic
While it is hard to see the amounts, 4-5 inches are expected to fall on already wet soil in southern Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware, especially the next 30 hours or so. Flash flood risk is high.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Absolutely Mesmerizing!

Wow. I could hardly take my eyes of this video so I could write this high recommendation.


H/T: Martin Libhart.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Some Business to Take Care Of

The Mike Smith Enterprises Blog is (c) 2017 by Mike Smith Enterprises, LLC.

If you enjoy the blog, you will likely enjoy our books. While the hardcopies of both have sold out, there are great ebook versions available for Nook, Kindle and the (free) Kindle Cloud Reader which gives you the same reading experience as if you had a Kindle. 

The books are: Warnings The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather which tells the heroic story of how weather scientists created America's unique storm warning system that saves thousands of 
lives each year. It is written in the style of a novel. 

The other is When the Sirens Were Silent which is the story of the Joplin tornado.
Because the warning system failed that day, 161 people lost their lives -- the worst death toll for a single tornado since the civilian warning system began in the late 1950's. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Why We Tell People to Go to the Lowest Floor

There was an tornado overnight in eastern Maryland. Via Twitter and NewsChannel 8, here is a photograph of an apartment complex. As you can see, the higher up, the more damage.
With tornadoes, lower is better.

These apartments, on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay, were built with the garage on the ground floor to protect against hurricane storm surge. If I lived in that type of apartment, I would sit in my car (motor off due to carbon monoxide) in the garage until the threat passed.

Ever Want to Be Director of the National Hurricane Center?

If so, click here. Note: It is a really tough job.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Fun: The History of Wichita As the "Air Capital of the World"

This is a brief but extremely interesting piece. One thing it doesn't mention is our great new airport to complement all of the planes designed and built here.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Gore: Couldn't Agree More

It would be nice if, just once, Al Gore led with something truthful. Here is an interview from yesterday, and this is the first statement:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Al Gore says that recent environmental devastation and extreme weather, more than anything, is what is changing minds on the climate crisis.

This is absolutely untrue. From Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr., and including the first half of 2017, here is the trend in weather-related disasters.
Disasters are diminishing! There is no doubt on this. Some will say, "more billion dollar disasters" but that is just inflation and people putting more (luxury homes on the coast in the path of hurricanes).

As always, Gore is wrong.

Drug Expiration Dates Aren't

Kathleen gets unhappy with me when I take a drug (shortly) after its expiration date. As it turns out, they last much longer. That said, read the whole thing. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Why Science Should NEVER Be Based on "Consensus"

More here.

Keep in mind this consensus failure when people talk about the global warming consensus.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Survey of Television Weathercasters: When Politics Outweighs Science

The American Meteorological Society (AMS) has departed from the mission of its first 80 years, which was to advance and disseminate meteorological knowledge. The Society has wandered from that mission to one of advocacy related to the politics and public opinion pertaining to climate change. There has been no vote of the members of the Society on this change of emphasis.

As part of its advocacy on climate change, the AMS periodically takes a number of actions to influence the public, political leaders and its members. Those include briefings in Washington, DC, press releases, "policy statements," and even pressure on individual members to a espouse views concordant with the so-called “consensus” pertaining to catastrophic global warming.  

For example, I received a call from the Executive Director of the Society, during which he urged me to stop writing articles on my blog that raised questions about aspects of the science and politics of climate change. I declined to comply. Coincidentally, I had resigned from the Society two weeks prior to the call because of these types of activities.

The purpose of this essay is to discuss a new survey of weathercasters taken by the AMS. The preliminary version of the survey is published here: http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/BAMS-D-15-00206.1  prior to its formal, peer-reviewed publication in the print version of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

The survey, conducted by the American Meteorological Society and George Mason University, is designed to influence society members and the public through publication and discussion beyond the AMS and its membership. See, for example, https://blogs.agu.org/blog/2017/07/15/weathercasters-views-climate-change-dramatically-shift/  ).  

In contrast to the near-yearly polling pertaining to global warming, I was a member of the Society from 1966 to 2016 and during that time I do not recall any poll of the membership, or any subset of the membership, on scientific issues more central to the AMS’s mission that were debated in the public arena. For example, there was no poll as to whether Hurricane Sandy should have been considered a hurricane at the time it made landfall, a subject of some debate within our science, and of some importance to both policy makers and to the business community.

The title of the 2014-16 preliminary version of the survey report is,

TV weathercasters’ views of climate change appear to be rapidly evolving
By Maibach and others,
 which will be referred to as Maibach 2017. The paper begins,

For more than a decade, academic researchers and members of the 
broadcast meteorology community have been studying TV weathercasters’ views about human-caused climate change. The primary motivation behind this research has been to determine the degree to which these TV news professionals – who, in most cases, are the only scientist in their newsroom – are up to speed on the science of climate change, so they can report on it.

As we will learn, nearly half of the “newsroom professionals” who are “the only scientist in their newsroom” have no formal scientific background.

Survey Background

The Maibach 2017 paper states,
For more than a decade, academic researchers and members of the broadcast meteorology community have been studying TV weathercasters’ views about human-caused climate change.

The paper then says (lightly edited for clarity),
Surveys in 2010 and 2011 by Maibach and colleagues found somewhat higher rates of weathercasters convinced of climate change. The 2010 study – an attempted census of AMS and National Weather Association (NWA) broadcast members (response rate=52%) – found that over half (54%) indicated global warming is happening, while a quarter (25%) indicated it isn’t, and 21% responded they didn’t know. The 2011 study – another attempted census of AMS and NWA broadcast members (response rate=33%) – found that over half (54%) of weathercasters indicated that climate change “caused mostly by human activity” (19%) or “caused more-or-less equally by human activity and natural events” (35%) is happening; 29% indicated that climate change “caused mostly by natural events” is happening. Fewer than 1 in 10 felt climate change was not happening (9%), or they didn’t know (8%).

The earlier survey (“2010-11 survey”) was of television meteorologists. The 2010-11 survey found that 54% indicated “global warming is happening.” It also found that 54% is believed global warming is “caused mostly by human activity.”

Compared to the 2010-11 survey, the new survey that finds weathercaster’s “feelings” more “evolved” (the authors’ choice of words is not unbiased). However, the new poll is not a survey solely of meteorologists. The exact breakdown of the respondents’ scientific background as explained in the 2017 paper is not completely clear. Here are the paper’s words:

·        Most hold a BS (59%) or MS (8%) in meteorology/atmospheric science, or a BS or BA (8%) or MS or MA (2%) in broadcast meteorology. Other commonly reported degrees are a certificate in meteorology/broadcast meteorology (19%), a BA in journalism/mass communication (17%), and a BA or BS in other disciplines (13%).

Stated another way, 19% + 17% + 13% = 49% have no degree in atmospheric science.  However, the study’s author says 59% hold a BS in meteorology/atmospheric science and then mentions other scientific degrees. The numbers add to far more than 100%. Based on working with broadcast meteorologists for the past 46 years, it is infrequent for someone to attain a degree in journalism and then to get a degree in meteorology or vice versa. So, we will use the number 100% - 59% = 41% to estimate the number of respondents without formal degrees in meteorology or atmospheric science.

Comparing the 2010-11 survey of broadcast meteorologists to a group where nearly half have no degree in science is comparing apples to oranges.

Why would the AMS and George Mason add non-scientists to the survey? It is because non-meteorologists may be more subject to being influenced by media reports and peer pressure on this topic. In the Society’s own words (“Meteorologists’ views about global warming: A survey of American Meteorological Society professional members” by Stenhouse, Maibach and others, published in 2014):

perceived scientific consensus was the strongest predictor of views on global warming, followed by political ideology, climate science experience, and perceived organizational conflict.

So, according to the statement above, if one eliminates “climate science expertise” which would be the case for weathercasters with degrees in journalism, etc., the only things remaining are opinion and ideology. By adding non-scientists to the 2014-16 survey” the results may be skewed by broadcasters more likely influenced by “consensus” rather than their own independent evaluations of the science.


Misleading Definition

There are methodological problems as well.

The Maibach 2017 paper says,

We began these surveys by stating the AMS definition of climate change; only then did we ask respondents for their views. No prior weathercaster survey has used the AMS definition (or any science society’s formal definition) prior to asking questions about climate change.

Because the new paper does not reproduce the American Meteorological Society’s definition of “climate change,” the reader could be seriously misled by the survey’s results as, for many, “climate change” is synonymous with “human-caused climate change.”

Here is the AMS’s definition of “climate change,”
The American Meteorological Society (AMS) defines climate change as: “Any systematic change in the long-term statistics of climate elements (such as temperature, pressure, or winds) sustained over several decades or longer. Climate change may be due to: natural external forcings, such as changes in solar emission or slow changes in the earth’s orbital elements; natural internal processes of the climate system; or anthropogenic forcing.”

Under the AMS definition, “climate change” includes changes that may be entirely natural!

So, when the survey asked if climate change is occurring, and 90% replied in the affirmative, the answer is scientifically correct (the climate is always changing) but meaningless and misleading because the phrase “climate change” is deeply connected to an intense political debate, much of which has little to do with science.

The paper goes on to state,

·        More than 90% of weathercasters indicated that climate change is happening, and approximately 80% indicated that human-caused climate change is happening (see Figure 1).

“Approximately 80% indicated that human-caused climate change is happening”? Since the basis for that statement is a reference to the paper’s Figure 1, which is reproduced below, let’s examine the veracity of the “80%” contention.
click to enlarge
The percentage of weathercasters that say climate change could be “largely,” “entirely,” or “mostly,” caused by human activities is just 49% -- nowhere near the 80% number claimed. In fact, even if one adds in the “more or less” responses, the number is comes to just 70%, again short of the 80% claimed.

Given that St. Louis’ Metromex project in the 1970’s proved that human activities affect the climate, the fact that just 49% of weathercasters believe climate change is mostly driven by human activities is a low number. It is also interesting that the 49% of the weathercasters in 2014-16 who believed human activities were primarily the cause of a changing climate is a smaller number than the 54% in the 2010-11 survey. This is the opposite of the paper’s central contention.

More Inconsistency

The paper Maibach 2017 paper also states,


Indeed, in our 2016 survey, 21% of weathercasters indicated that their opinion about climate change had changed in the past five years with 82% of these people stating that they have become more convinced that human- caused climate change is happening.

Given the different sets of respondents, one of AMS members, some of whom hold advanced degrees in atmosphere science, and the nearly half with no formal academic background in atmospheric science, the above statement is meaningless and not supported by the survey results, especially the “five year” assertion since the newer survey was taken over three years.


Station Scientists

The paper goes on to say,

AMS has long championed the role of “station scientist” for broadcast meteorologists. The role of local climate educator – or local climate reporter – can add a significant new and important dimension to the role of the station scientist.

It then recommends using “Climate Matters,” which is a resource for broadcasters desiring to report on global warming. Specifically, it says,

In a recent…article…we described “Climate Matters,” an extensive set of climate education resources available to members of the weathercaster community. These resources should make it easier for broadcasters to perform this new job function well.

“Climate Matters” is produced by a de facto advocacy group, Climate Central.

Other than reproducing the output of an advocacy group, there is no advice as to how non-scientists are supposed to independently judge the quality and accuracy of the various claims and counterclaims related to climate change.

The weathercaster and broadcast meteorology communities, for more than a decade, have been subject of a focused campaign to force them to cover global warming in a manner acceptable to the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union and other advocacy groups. For example, the previously cited AGU blog makes the preposterous claim, which I put in bold print below, that failure to cover climate change in weathercasts is unethical!

I can imagine a weathercaster in Texas, Oklahoma or Kansas would get a lot of feedback from angry viewers if they came out of the climate science closet. They need to though, especially my friends in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Our job as science communicators is to give our viewers good science and omission because it is politically unpopular is unethical journalism.


Concluding Remarks

The AMS/GMU 2017 survey is another unfortunate attempt by the American Meteorological Society, using questionable techniques, to manipulate opinion rather than engage on matters of science.

The AMS is of course not alone in embracing advocacy related to climate change. There are plenty of organizations involved in advocacy, on all sides of the issue. However, there are very few organizations that have chosen to stand above the political fray, and to offer a forum for the expression of diverse perspectives on science and its implications. Climate change is important, but so too is science. The decision by the AMS to become a climate change advocacy group is why I am no longer a member.


(c) 2017 Mike Smith Enterprises, LLC

Welcome Paul McCartney

Glad to have you in Wichita.

Tornado Risk Later Today

The brown (5%) are is where there is a significant threat. There is also the potential for high wind event. So, please keep an eye on the weather later today.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Saving the Monarch Butterlies

We are about six weeks from Monarch butterfly season in southern Kansas. But I, too, have noticed the declining numbers. Here is an interesting article as to what can be done to save the species.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

New in Aeronautics: The Weinermo-Drone

Yes, the folks at Oscar Mayer have done it again. A drone that can deliver a single hot dog. Details here.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Stunning Image of Jupiter's Red Spot

Keep in mind, the red spot is a storm. Meteorologists love looking at a storm of this terrible storm without having to worry about it! Credit: NASA.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Union Pacific Train on Weather Radar

Saw something I have never seen before this evening: what I believe is a Union Pacific (UPRR) double stack train moving across the prairie on weather radar. I measured the size of the echo and it ranges from 2 to 3.5 miles (depending on angle from the radar) which is roughly the right length and, where it can be observed, the echo passes north of the center of Greensburg and Cullison, Kansas. The train runs through the north side of those towns.

I'm guessing it was a double stack or auto rack train as they would be more reflective of the weather radar signal than a merchandise train (boxcars). A rough estimate of the speed would be 60-70 mph which is approximately correct if a train was getting "clear" signals. The train would be on the UPRR's Golden State Route that runs from Topeka to El Paso.

The first photo from 9:40pm shows the train echo between Mullinville and Bucklin. The track is located north of the highway from Bucklin to Cullison to Pratt. This is a wide view. The radar would be just off the image at upper left.

The next image (zoomed in) clearly establishes that it is a train on the UPRR. Between Greensburg and
Mullinville, US 54 takes a jog to the south while the Union Pacific continues with its same routing. The echo is clearly north of the highway.

At 10:58  9:58pm, the train is between Greensburg and Haviland.

The last image is at 10:14pm. Again, the echo is clearly centered north of US 54.
Past Cullison, the echo fades away because, even with super refraction, the beam would be above the train.

I have been watching trains since I was 5-years old and have been watching weather radar more or less daily since I was 19. I have never seen anything like this. I'm sure a temperature inversion diverted the Dodge City National Weather Service's radar beam toward the ground (meteorologists call it "super refraction") which is what made this image possible.

Update: From a Union Pacific employee posting at Trainorders.com, "Looking at the trains out there right now, there is an auto train, the APXLAR 11, that passed Wellsford at 10:08PM. That is about half way between Haviland and Cullison. Don't know what else it could be. The train is 75 empty auto racks."

And, in the interest of accuracy, there were some Trainorders users who reported seeing trains on weather radar before. If you are interested, go to: https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?1,4338439

(c) 2017, Mike Smith Enterprises, LLC

The View From the Smith Ranch

Kansas Sky on a Friday Evening....

Earlier Today

Images from a time-lapse captured by the NWS at El Paso from earlier today.


The center photo shows a "haboob" moving across I-10 and the Union Pacific Railroad west of El Paso. A haboob is triggered by a thunderstorm. The cold air that pours out of a thunderstorm is heavier than the warmer air surrounding the thunderstorm. So, it clings to the ground while picking up dust.

Global Warming: Now, Let Me Get This Straight...

...global warming is going to wipe out the human race. So, the way we are supposed to fight global warming is: not to have children. Got it.

Since the outcome of both scenarios is exactly the same (no people on earth), I'll add this editorial comment: Having and raising children is great fun.

Science and Religion Complement Each Other

An article well worth your time.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Fake Weather, Hurricane Style

During hurricane season, one of National Weather Service's models, the GFS, has a propensity for forecasting hurricanes the never form. As I often put it, it forecasts "9 out of every 2 hurricanes."

Unfortunately, there are a number of meteorologists, storm chasers and weather aficionados who, in order to get clicks or make a name for themselves, post these forecasts. This has occurred twice in the last week. The GFS forecasts a hurricane and the click bait begins. So far this year, it is forecast five hurricanes with zero actual hurricanes.

I am intentionally not forecasting the images/forecasts because I don't wish to contribute to this madness.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Want the Warning First? AccuWeather App is the Answer!

I saw this item on Twitter yesterday.
Craig is writing about the FCC's program where your cell phone is supposed to trigger if a tornado, flash flood, tsunami or other life-threatening natural disaster is imminent. I have found the FCC's is not 100% reliable.

As result of multi-state, multi-storm testing, I can confidently state the AccuWeather app is both more reliable and more timely delivering NWS warnings than the FCC's WEA system. Especially with the tornado threat in the Midwest today, I recommend it for you and your family! It is free: Download it today.

The Global Warming Crowd Goes Delusional


I want to thank the North Carolina reader that brought this to my attention this morning. Two words come to mind. One is the obvious, "delusional." The second is, "sad." It is just sad that there are people who, as the case for catastrophic global warming collapsed, feel the need go against the science and publish an article that is nothing but hype.

Environmentalist Dr. Bjorn Lomborg calls articles like these, "climate porn." He points out that even the United Nations, in its assessment of the economic effects of global warming, says "The impact of climate change will be small relative to the impacts of other drivers. Changes in age, income, technology, relative prices, lifestyle, regulation, governance and many other aspects of socioeconomic development will have an impact on the supply and demand of economic goods and services that is high relative to the impact of climate change."

There seems to be a subset of people who are only happy when they are scared. That is all this article is. Nothing more.

Midwest Tornado Risk Later Today

The brown area is where there is a significant risk of tornadoes later today. It includes Detroit, Flint, Milwaukee, Grand Rapids, Toledo and the northernmost suburbs of Chicago.

If you were following me on Twitter yesterday (@usweatherexpert) you saw the major tornadoes in North Dakota and Minnesota that largely missed populated areas. The same weather system will be affecting the Lake Michigan Region later today.

So, keep up on the weather when thunderstorms approach.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tornado Watch: North Dakota and Minnesota

A tornado watch has been issued until 10pm for eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota.
Please keep an eye on the weather when you hear thunder or other signs of the approach of thunderstorms.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Drive-In Etiquette: Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Yes, it is summer, time to visit Drive-Thru restaurants. 

Went to Sonic this afternoon to get a Diet Coke with lime. As I was turning from the street into the parking lot, there was a black pickup with a large Dallas Cowboys emblem at the ordering position already ordering as I approached. There was no one in front of her. I noticed it was 1:31. At 1:41, the drive-thru window was shoveling sacks, giant hot dogs, malts, drinks, ice cream sundaes, etc., etc. for what was obviously intended to feed numerous people. She drove off at 1:42. Eleven minutes for a single person.

By the time I got to the drive-thru, the line behind me was as far as the rear-view mirror could see.

People, come on. When you are feeding the entire office or team a late lunch, please pull into a stall! Yes, that means you have to tip. So, what?! My (very accurate) car thermometer said it was 97° and if you were the carhop, you would want a tip, too.

Thank you for reading my venting.

Global Warming: Is There Anything It Can't Do??!!

California drought headlines:


H/T: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Insightful Thought of the Day

"The (safety) behavior we recommend during inclement weather (i.e., tornado warnings, hurricane evaluations, etc.) has to outweigh the cost and inconvenience."  -- Dr. Laura Myers, University of Alabama

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Tornado Risk: Minnesota

The NWS SPC is forecasting a significant (5%, brown) tornado risk generally west of the Twin Cities this evening.

From there, there is an enhanced chance of damaging winds (15% is the signifiant threshold in this forecast) from the Twin Cities to Rockford and the Quad Cities.
I recommend that people in these areas prepare accordingly.

Today's Sunday Fun: "One of the Coolest Towns I've Been To"

Wichita's "Keeper of the Plains", the symbol of our city.
Kevin Connelly
From Bill On the Road:

It’s not something I often write about, but for me,  every city falls into one of two categories:  a place to live or a place to visit.  Very rarely does a city or town meet both criteria.  Some places may be great to visit, even often, but it just doesn’t feel like home.
Only a handful of places I’ve encountered have fallen into both categories.  Wichita, Kansas feels like a place I could call home and it’s such a fun town that I’ll definitely go back.
And, for the people that call this home – I apologize if you wanted to keep it under wraps – but, I can’t keep it to myself.  Wichita, Kansas is one of the coolest towns I’ve been to.
I had lunch two weeks ago with the President of a Wichita company who was a native of Houston. She has lived in Austin (college) then spent her adult life in Houston until moving to Wichita three years ago to take her present job. Her comment: "Wichita feels just like Austin twenty years ago." She further commented that she thought Wichita is about to "take off." Had lunch yesterday with a person born in the Wichita area who moved back recently after 17 years living in four cities. She commented how much Wichita changed and how she is especially impressed with Wichita State's Innovation Campus. So am I.

If you are looking for a place to live, check us out. We are dead center in the United States and our terrific new airport makes it easy to get anywhere you want.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Why Can't Monkeys Talk?

Earlier this week on the blog I reviewed Tom Wolfe's The Kingdom of Speech. Today, the Washington Post ran an article about why monkeys cannot speak. I suggest reading Wolfe's book and then reading the Post's article.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The One Day Read

Would you like a great summer book that you can read in a day? 

It tells the minute-by-minute story of the Joplin tornado -- the worst tornado in more than half a century.

And, as a bonus, it provides complete tornado safety suggestions for home, school and the office.

The softcover book sold out quickly. The ebook is available for Nook, Kindle or Amazon's free Kindle Cloud Reader. We priced the ebook version for an extremely reasonable $2.99.

Short, To The Point, Summary of Climate Points

With take about two minutes (tops) to read. It will summarize nicely what we know about climate change. Click here.

Summer Ozone and the Central United States

I was asked to comment on a scientific article and paper pertaining to harmful ozone in the Central United States. The article was published July 4. The hypothesis is that thunderstorms penetrating the tropopause (the atmospheric layer right below the stratosphere) and extending into the stratosphere cause a chemical reaction to occur that can lower concentrations of stratospheric ozone that are good aloft but bad when they reach the ground and then create accordant risks to people.
I admit I have not read the paper. They want (depending on period of time) $10 to $25 for access to the entire paper. I have a philosophical problem paying twice (my tax dollars and the article access fee) for this research. So, I am going to excerpt the article from weathernationtv and comment on each item that I question.

The Paper Begins
A new study out of Harvard University reveals that the protective stratospheric ozone layer above the central United States is vulnerable to erosion during the summer months from ozone-depleting chemical reactions, exposing people, livestock and crops to the harmful effects of UV radiation.
Powerful storm systems common to the Great Plains inject water vapor that, with observed temperature variations, can trigger the same chemical reactions over the central United States that are the cause of ozone loss over the polar regions, according to a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
If their hypothesis is correct, this could indeed be a problem depending upon the geographic extent and time duration of of the lessened ozone.

The Problem Climate Scientists Sometimes Have With Meteorology
Then they employed recent NEXRAD weather radar observations to demonstrate that on average 4000 storms each summer penetrate into the stratosphere over the central United States, which is far more frequent than was previously thought.

I'm shocked the researchers believed believed "far fewer" than 4,000 storms per year penetrate the tropopause. This is a part of the knowledge loss that occurred when the National Weather Service installed the network of WSR-88D radars from 1991-1996. In that (average) quarter-century since, meteorologists no longer use a display called a Range-Height Indicator (some use an imitation of it that is not as accurate). I used one every day for 21 years.
Range-Height Indicator
University of Oklahoma
Prior to the WSR-88D's National Weather Service radar operators, at least once per hour, were required to switch to the RHI. We saw how frequent it was that storms penetrated into the stratosphere. In fact, since we are talking the entire Central United States, 4,000 seems a little low. The WSR-88D's were a great step forward in many ways, but there were issues with the RHI, timeliness and resolution that are now just being solved.

While this, by itself, is not a major matter it does point out that climate scientists sometimes have issues with understanding weather -- which is the basis of climate. This is hardly the only time meteorology verses climatology knowledge has come up.

The Medical Issue
Stratospheric ozone is one of the most delicate aspects of habitability on the planet. There is only marginally enough ozone in the stratosphere to provide protection from UV radiation for humans, animals and crops. Medical research specific to the United States has determined that a 1 percent decrease in the amount of ozone in the stratosphere corresponds to a 3 percent increase in the incidence of human skin cancer. There are now 3.5 million new cases of skin cancer each year reported in the US alone. Thus, for each 1 percent reduction in ozone, there would be an additional 100,000 new cases of skin cancer annually in the United States.

This is the medical issue proposed by the authors. I am not able to comment on this as it is outside of my area of expertise.

How the Proposed Process Works
“Rather than large continental-scale ozone loss that occurs over the polar regions in winter characterized, for example, by the term Antarctic ozone hole, circumstances over the central US in summer are very different,” said Anderson. “In particular, because of the very frequent storm-induced injection events detailed by studies at Texas A&M and the University of Oklahoma using advanced radar methods, this structure of highly localized but numerous regions of potential ozone loss requires carefully specified observational strategies and systematic surveillance in order to provide the basis for accurate weekly forecasts of ozone loss.”
The researchers are calling for extensive characterization of the stratosphere over the central United States in order to forecast short-term and long-term ozone loss related to increasing frequency and intensity of storm systems, higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane, and other factors.
I have some issues with the process as it is described in the illustration above (from the Harvard University Press release). It is difficult for me to understand how, for example, the "North American Monsoon" (a/k/a the Southwest Monsoon that runs from around July 15 to September 15 each year) produces stratospheric moisture as far northeast as Iowa, especially since it occurs only about 1/6th of the year. 
Final Comments
This is an interesting hypothesis. Whether the amount of ozone depletion, if any, is genuinely enough to increase cancer occurrence and other health issues remains to be seen if future work confirms their finding.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

No, We Will Not "Soon" Have Weather Forecasts "Years or Even Decades" into the Future

I don't know who to blame more: public relations agencies/people who work for meteorological organizations wanting to improve the political climate for spending money on weather or reporters who lean toward hyping global warming wanting the public to believe we can accurately forecast the weather years into the future and thus detect differences in the weather caused by climate change. The answer is likely both.
This July 4 article from Australia mirrors several articles that have appeared in the United States recently.

Pro Tip: It will be decades before we'll have accurate forecasts decades into the future. Because of atmospheric chaos, it is entirely possible that we'll never have accurate forecasts in the decades time frame.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Book Review: "Kingdom of Speech"


I just finished reading Tom Wolfe’s Kingdom of Speech. It is the story of human beings’ unique ability to speak and communicate. It also discussed science’s rather surprising 150-year lack of progress in understanding how human’s speech ability developed. The issue of how speech developed calls into question evolution as it has been previously understood.

At several points, I was reminded of the current back-and-forth about global warming and the often petty politics of the academy. It also discusses how difficult it is for new ideas to make it into the peer-reviewed literature. 

The book's discussion of Wallace and Darwin was fascinating. However, when he turns to Noam Chomsky, the book becomes too much of a polemic. While Chomsky certain deserves criticism, it becomes far too personal. For that reason I give Speech 4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, July 3, 2017

If You Want to Save Lives From Major Storms Just...

...add CO2 -- the evil greenhouse gas -- to the atmosphere. While that comment is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, it isn't entirely TIC.

Let us begin with the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Regardless of the addition of CO2, as we have written many times before, there is no upward trend in hurricane, tornado or any other type of storm deaths in spite of what you have read in the media and elsewhere. Here's proof:

Worldwide Total Weather-Related Deaths
Please note: The above graph is total number of deaths. In spite of a 20-fold increase in population, weather-related deaths have plummeted to a tiny fraction of what they were 90 years ago. Of course, much of this is due to better warning systems, better communications and better emergency management techniques. That said, the forecast of a relentless rise in climate deaths ("climate refugees") could not be more wrong.

United States Hurricanes Are Not Getting Worse
Remember how, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the media was filled with "hurricanes are going to get worse!" stories? Here is how well that forecast has worked out.
At the bottom of each bar in the bar graph is the concentration of CO2 at the start of that decade. As the concentration of CO2 has gone up, the number of major (at least Cat 3 intensity) hurricanes to strike the United States has gone down -- way down!

Tornadoes
A recent episode of Weather Geeks had a meteorologist researcher proclaim there is "no signal" in the trend of tornadoes. Wrong. He didn't want a trend because the pro-global warming crowd wants us to believe global warming is more serious than it is. I agree with him that the data on all tornadoes is unreliable due to changes in radar, storm chasing, etc. But, for strong tornadoes, we have a pretty good idea of how many occur each year. The trend in strong tornadoes the last 50 years? Down.

Conclusion
Yes, global warming is a genuine issue. And, some of its effects are serious. But, weather-related storms are not getting worse in the United States or worldwide.