Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Global Warming: Is There Anything It Can't Do? Drought and Flood Edition

Media Matters sent out a memo to numerous news outlets earlier today complaining that 96% were not reporting that climate change was responsible for the recent floods in the Midwest. No kidding. These days, too many/too few tornadoes, too many/too few hurricanes, and every flood is due to "climate change." It is as if there weren't reports of flooding four thousand years ago.

If climate science really can prove that the recent flooding in the Midwest was due to climate change  one would think they could have anticipated the heavy rains that caused the flooding. The question is, did they?

Here is the NOAA drought forecast made on February 7 for the period Feb. 7 to April 30.

While it calls for "some improvement" in a band from Missouri to South Dakota, it does not call for an end to the drought. When one looks at the NOAA drought map from May 4 (right after this precipitation forecast period ended; they are created once per week), you see the drought gone from that region, including the area where the forecast was for the drought to persist.

The NOAA forecast isn't the only one to get the end of the drought wrong. Take a look at this headline from Think Progress from less than a month ago:
Their story includes this (screen capture, bold print theirs):
I want you to consider this for a moment:

As recently as twenty-five days ago, climate science was calling for the drought to worsen to extraordinary levels (the comparison to the Dust Bowl). The official NOAA forecast 90 days ago did not call for the drought to end, let alone flooding.

So, climate science did not anticipate either the end of the drought or the flooding in the Midwest. 

Now, after the fact, they are pushing the story that global warming/climate change caused the flooding based on zero evidence and no advance predictions (hypothesis) offered.

Science is about advancing a hypothesis (the drought will worsen) and subjecting that hypothesis to testing (whether the drought in fact worsened). In this case, the hypothesis was wrong. The drought has ended in the Midwest and some areas experienced flooding. That result says that climate science cannot accurately forecast and, in the more recent example, anticipate, the cause-and-effect at work here. 

These days it seems that everything is caused by climate change. But, that isn't science. That is advocacy.


  1. Yes indeed, Mike. More evidence that the _catastrophic_ climate change hypothesis is unfalsifiable, which would lead folks like Popper to conclude that it is not science. Hence, as you say, it is advocacy, or worse, the new astrology. Which is funny given that the left touts itself as the "rational" side.

  2. Trey I was with you right up until the last line - trying to turn this into a 'left' vs 'right' issue is ridiculous - there should only be one 'side' on science - and that is fact.

    Given the evidence presented when Al Gore made his famous video - I was alarmed - given the results we've seen - not so much.

    Turning this issue into a political issue that determines where funds get sent for research - well now we are into the realm of hyperbole and politics - which is why this issue isn't being discussed "rationally".

    I thought it was amusing when NOAA put out the 'drought' article and commented as such - because of this blog I knew we were due for major rain a week before it happened. Oddly right around the same time the article was printed.

    Has climate change occurred - I believe so. Is it a disaster - I'm not willing to bet the farm on that yet.

    Is everything that they attribute to Global Warming in fact because of it - this I refuse to believe. Sadly I think this is a situation where if you believe the earth is at the center of the universe - all your calculations revolve around that assumption so of course it looks so - it's not until you get past the assumptions to see the truth - and the politics of this issue are getting in the way.

  3. Delurm: I think you miss my point. There is no "left" v. "right" here. I'm pointing out that Media Matters' (paraphrasing) "we knew it all along" isn't science, it is advocacy.

    Trey's point that global warming isn't "falsifiable" is right on the money.

  4. Hrmm I feel like I wasn't clear - I'm with you on the topic - I was with Trey up until he threw in his line about 'the left'

    One of the things I actually enjoy about your blog is the fact that you don't politicize your posts - you are one of the very few posting on climate change to avoid that trap (on either side of the fence).

    At least from my perspective please keep up the good work!

  5. Thanks, Delurm!

    While the functioning of government interests me as it should all taxpayers, politics (the art and science of winning elections) is of no interest to me at all. I'm a scientist and love science.

    When climate science consistently produces reliable forecasts I assure you that you will read about them here!

  6. Delurm,

    Okay, I can understand how the last sentence could be construed as a drive-by comment. The concern/non-concern for AGW, I agree, should not be a left versus right thing. However the evidence is clear: in the US, agreeing that global warming is something we should be very concerned about is correlated more with the left. (I hear that this is not quite the case in the UK.)

    Regarding the use of the word "rational", I invite you to look at the rhetoric of the left. They have tried to co-opt the idea that they are the supporters of science. For evidence, consider the title for this book:


    Roger Pielke, Jr., a progressive and friend our blog host, has written on how both sides abuse science for advocacy, but the see-no-evil has been more successful for the Dems, largly I think by couching themselves as the "rational" ones.


    Now both sides certainly take advantage of global warming to promote their causes. Some examples on the right: ethanol which is supported by plenty of Republicans if corn is in their district. Also, Texas has ~10GW of wind power, which got a kick start from former Gov. Bush and Enron. See:


    Nothing more than crony capitalism.

    On an individual level however, an unscientific sampling of my friends and family would indicate that political allegiances are aligned well with thoughts on global warming. If you have evidence to the contrary, I would be interested.

    1. Sadly I have no evidence to the contrary, I could site some but anecdote != evidence.

      I may be one lone voice against the wind here - but ultimately I think you will find that you will gain no supporters to your side when you toss out comments that disparage the people you are trying to reach.

    2. Duly noted. I'm afflicted with "online disinhibition effect". I will repeat to myself that "temperance is one of the seven virtues". Note, I used to be on the left, but I won't go there now... temperance, temperance, temperance ;)

  7. Actually, I agree with you there is a general alignment of "pro"-global warming on the left (D) and "anti" on the right (R).

    I'm (in the hierarchy of these things) a "lukewarmer." I believe increasing greenhouse gasses, other factors equal, trap heat and warm the planet. But, I don't see it at a catastrophic rate even if other things are equal and they are clearly NOT equal right now with the odd behavior of the sun. So, I get frustrated when billions and billions are spent on studies typing CO2 to prostitution (no kidding!) little spent on the solar effects on climate.

    I think corn ethanol is a giant boondoggle bordering on immoral. I've said that on the blog many times. I am against wind power in its present form (I'm completely open to improved wind and/or improved storage technology).

    I'm pro solar research and pro deploying solar where it makes sense. I think I see huge potential next-generation nuclear. Finally, it looks like science is making progress on nuclear fusion which would be best of all.

    Yes, there is a LOT of crony capitalism out there. I dislike it on both sides but especially the Rs who should know better.

    I've often commented on the blog the best way to describe my politics is "Reagan conservative" which is a conservative with some libertarian leanings. I'm happy to disclose my politics because I want people to know where I'm coming from so they can make their own judgments about what I write. Thanks for asking.

    1. Mike, I'm in agreement with everything you say. Thanks for the followup.


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