Tuesday, January 22, 2013

President Obama's Inaugural Climate Comments

Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. 

I'm sorry to have to disagree with our President the first day of his second term in office but the above statement is simply unsupported by the science.

President Obama used the word, "impact." The U.N.'s Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its latest Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events (SREX) in December. The IPCC is the group that was the co-recipient of the Nobel Prize along with Al Gore.

Using its "Summary for Policymakers" here is what the latest science says pertaining to "impacts."

Long-term trends in economic disaster losses adjusted for wealth and population increases have not been attributed to climate change, but a role for climate change has not been excluded. (page 8)

No increased losses attributable to climate change.

What about the storms themselves?


There is low confidence in any observed long-term (i.e., 40 years or more) increases in tropical cyclone activity (i.e., intensity, frequency, duration), after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities. (page 6) 

You can verify for yourself there is no upward trend by going to Dr. Ryan Maue's web site and looking at the index of world tropical storms and hurricanes that measures both number and the storms' intensities. You can see there is no upward trend in the data ending November 30, 2012 (which includes Hurricane Sandy):
Data goes back only to 1970s due to lack of world satellite coverage prior to that time.
Click to enlarge.
To further under score the unfortunate nature of the President's remarks, the United States -- with every passing day -- increases its ongoing record for longest interval without a Category 3 or stronger hurricane striking our shores. This data goes back more than a century. The last Cat. 3 hurricane to strike the U.S. was Wilma in 2005. We are approaching eight years before this record could even be broken since the 2013 season doesn't start until June 1.


The IPCC says,

There is low confidence in observed trends in small spatial-scale phenomena such as tornadoes and hail because of data inhomogeneities and inadequacies in monitoring systems.  (page 6)

If anything, the trend in major tornadoes (F-3 or greater) is down according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration which, of course, is part of our executive branch of government and ultimately works for President Obama:

The IPCC SREX says,

There is medium confidence that some regions of the world have experienced more intense and longer droughts, in particular in southern Europe and West Africa, but in some regions droughts have become less frequent, less intense, or shorter, for example, in central North America and northwestern Australia. (page 6)

At worst, drought is a wash. My study of rainfall trends in south central Kansas (admittedly a small geographic area) shows that droughts are less common the last two decades.  

The bottom line: President Obama's statement about climate is unsupported by current climate science. 


  1. I agree with you 100%. President Obama has no science to back up his clam! I expect that 10 years from now, everyone will be talking about all the severe effects the cold has on Earth! People will be dead across the U.S. due to severe cold. The Global Warming idea will be long gone! Len Holliday with firsthandweather.com

  2. This is the problem we see with all of politics today. The truth isn't sought or even desired. It's the emotions and the desire to "spin" information and ideals to support the desired conclusion that's passed off as discussion and proof. Logical and critical though have given way to emotional appeals and irrational arguments supported by lies. The whole argument of our weather and it's changes needs a fair hearing with rational science as the judge. But don't hold your breath as both sides in this argument have much to lose and so will say or do anything to sway people to their point of view.

  3. What I would find interesting would be data that plots storm effect over as many years as possible. Not sure what metric you would use. You could use number of fatalities or injuries, but as you have pointed out many times, a storm today, generally, has fewer fatalities than the same storm in the past due to better warnings. You could compare years based on estimated cost of storms in dollars, but there you would obviously have to correct for inflation and perhaps other things.

    Whatever metrics you would use, I wonder how the last 10-20 years compares with the previous 50+ years in terms of "damage". You have shown that there is no scientific evidence that storms are larger or more frequent recently, but are they causing more damage? That could give the impression that there are worse storms now than in the past. If the storms are not worse, but the damage is, then that would not be a climate thing, but rather explained by the size of infrastructure or various policies or whatever.

    Hurricane Sandy is an obvious recent example of this. Not that impressive of a storm in terms of hurricanes, but very large damage footprint. Same may be said of many tornados the last couple years.


  4. @Steve. Yes, they are causing far more damage due to societal trends in general and business strategies in particular.

    Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr. has an excellent plot of normalized hurricane losses back to 1900. It is here: http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2012/12/updated-normalized-hurricane-losses.html

  5. I believe you meant Obama's second day in office, Mike. Sunday was his first.

  6. @John, you are correct. Thank you.


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