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Saturday, June 04, 2011

Yes, impossibly stupid "weather panic" IS the new normal

Newsweek Weather Panic cover
Is Newsweek actually heeding the instruction of Linnaeus to "know thyself"? Their latest panic-mongering cover seems pretty self aware.

Panic is a loss of reason:
pan•ic (pænɪk), noun: a sudden, overpowering terror, often affecting many people at once.

Verb: to feel or cause to feel panic

Synonyms: go to pieces, overreact, become hysterical, have kittens

Yes, Newsweek "science editor" Sharon Begley is all het-up with teh kittehz, and offers readers a guide for how they too can work themselves into a state of unreasoning fear. A few details from her grab bag of hysteria provide an interesting look into this pathological mind.

Drier and wetter, IN THE SAME PLACE

This is just strange:
Picture California a few decades from now, a place so hot and arid the state's trademark orange and lemon trees have been replaced with olive trees that can handle the new climate. Alternating floods and droughts have made it impossible for the reservoirs to capture enough drinking water.

Higher temperatures (unlikely to be coming, now that the sun has quieted down) would probably change some weather patterns, making some places wetter and some places drier. Overall increased evaporation would make for more rain, but this rain might miss California, as a scare story from 2009 alleged.

That was KTVU's tropopause height extravaganza, put together by "science editor" John Fowler. There is speculation that the width of the tropical weather zone is a function of the height of the top of the troposphere, which has risen since 1958. If continued warming continues to raise the tropopause, we're doomed:
Fowler: Since 1960, the sand colored desert regions have crept northward, according to this research, now up to about Los Angeles. They could cover the [San Francisco] Bay Area in a few decades.

All of the world's increasing rainfall is apparently going to land on Seattle. But at least they weren't claiming that the same part of California was going to become both drier and wetter. Where did Begley get the idea that global warming will cause flooding and droughts in the same place?

A little poking around on the Newsweek website (now a subsidiary of The Daily Beast) turns up Begley's source, another "new normal" story posted on May 21st, linking the following "global weirding" drivel from Reuters:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Heavy rains, deep snowfalls, monster floods and killing droughts are signs of a "new normal" of extreme U.S. weather events fueled by climate change, scientists and government planners said on Wednesday."It's a new normal and I really do think that global weirding is the best way to describe what we're seeing," climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University told reporters.

"We are used to certain conditions and there's a lot going on these days that is not what we're used to, that is outside our current frame of reference," Hayhoe said on a conference call with other experts, organized by the non-profit Union of Concerned Scientists.

An upsurge in heavy rainstorms in the United States has coincided with prolonged drought, sometimes in the same location, she said, noting that west Texas has seen a record-length dry period over the last five years, even as there have been two 100-year rain events.

So west Texas had a record five year drought punctuated by two 100-year rain events. Is that even possible? Wouldn't the rainfall from two 100-year events be enough to lift the rainfall total of that five year period far above the lowest totals on record? In any case, this is the epitome of local weather, and Sharon Begley is extrapolating it to the entire world. Unusual weather seen in one place one time will now be seen everywhere all the time. Some science editor! And I thought Fowler was bad.

But let's give Katharine Hayhoe credit as well. What did she expect when she called a single cherry-picked five year span of weather in one location "the new normal"? Begley is just following Hayoe's instructions for inciting irrational PANIC. Still, aren't science editors supposed to, you know, edit? When they see something scientifically insane, aren't they supposed to cut it out, not extrapolate it as world-covering truth?

Blast from the past: in 1974 Newsweek blamed tornadoes on global cooling
Scientists have found other indications of global cooling. For one thing there has been a noticeable expansion of the great belt of dry, high-altitude polar winds — the so-called circumpolar vortex—that sweep from west to east around the top and bottom of the world. Indeed it is the widening of this cap of cold air that is the immediate cause of Africa's drought. By blocking moisture-bearing equatorial winds and preventing them from bringing rainfall to the parched sub-Sahara region, as well as other drought-ridden areas stretching all the way from Central America to the Middle East and India, the polar winds have in effect caused the Sahara and other deserts to reach farther to the south. Paradoxically, the same vortex has created quite different weather quirks in the U.S. and other temperate zones. As the winds swirl around the globe, their southerly portions undulate like the bottom of a skirt. Cold air is pulled down across the Western U.S. and warm air is swept up to the Northeast. The collision of air masses of widely differing temperatures and humidity can create violent storms—the Midwest's recent rash of disastrous tornadoes, for example.
That's a lot more plausible than tornadoes being caused by "global weirding." As our friend Dr. Spencer notes, it is influxes of cold air that tend to create tornadoes. What keeps getting weirder are the claims of our global weirding scientists.

Cross-posted at WUWT. Here I have broken the post into two parts. This is part one. Part two follows above.

It's ironic how the most accomplished ones are the most ignorant and dimwitted.
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