Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Wrong,, Atmospheric Rivers and Hurricanes are Not Getting Worse

A recent article at, originally published by the Chicago Tribune, says that climate change is behind the recent atmospheric river events in California, as well as an alleged increase in Category 4 and 5 hurricanes. This is false. Atmospheric rivers are a natural part of the West coast’s climate, and and neither historic data, nor recent trend data, indicate that the frequency or severity of those events are increasing. Likewise, there has been no increase in major hurricanes over the past hundred years of global warming.

In “Climate change is fueling extreme weather. How do we make a difference?,” writer Barbara Willard makes several false claims regarding climate change and extreme weather, the most immediately egregious being that recent atmospheric rivers are being fueled by climate change, and that deadly hurricanes are becoming more common. Single weather events, or even seasons of bad weather, can’t be used to measure climate change, which is measured as at least a 30-year trend of regional weather.

Willard gives credit to “extreme event attribution” science by the National Academy of Sciences for promoting the narrative that weather is worsened by climate change, but she misses the reason why this is a poor scientific standard. Attribution scientists begin with the assumption that carbon dioxide has a significant impact on climate, and that the modest warming of the past hundred-plus years is fueling, at least in part, extreme weather. It is an paradigm example of confirmation bias. They run multiple computer models, some that are fictional recreations of what they assume the climate might like be if humans didn’t exist on the planet, and some scenarios including humans but based on flawed emissions and temperature assumptions.

The misleading nature of attribution science has been pointed out multiple times at Climate Realism, for example, here, here, and here, as the accuracy of a computer models are only as accurate as the input of data and the assumptions concerning interactions and feedback mechanisms built into the models. None of these models have been confirmed to accurately portray recorded climate conditions. Since we can’t tap into a parallel universe where a storm was more or less extreme, there is inherent uncertainty, that makes these kinds of computer models interesting from a theoretical perspective, but not much more.

Real world weather data is available and improving, so the prognostications of attribution modelers can be checked over time. So far, when actual data is compared to computer models projections, the evidence undermines the “climate catastrophe” theory.

Regarding atmospheric rivers, Willard says climate change “fueled” the recent “precipitation episodes” in California. However, even scientists and publications who normally support alarmist messaging have admitted that recent California weather is not historically unusual. A senior hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Los Angeles told a Los Angeles Times writer that the recent atmospheric river events were “nothing as big as what we’ve gone through before.”

Indeed, there is a long history, both recorded by humans and indicated by paleontological proxy data, of major swings between drought and deluge in California. Willard writes that there is “broad scientific consensus that climate change increases water vapor in the atmosphere,” but recent studies have found no evidence of this occurring in the regions where west coast atmospheric rivers originate.

As for hurricanes, Willard’s claims are easily refuted with the most recent hurricane data. Major hurricanes, or those ranked as a Category 3 and above, have seen no increase over the past decades, and the past year has seen some of the lowest major hurricane counts since the 1980s.

As discussed in Climate at a Glance: Hurricanes, the IPCC claims only low confidence “for the attribution of any detectable changes in tropical cyclone activity to anthropogenic influences.” As recently as 2017 saw the end of the longest period without a major hurricane landfall in the United States in recorded history, a nearly 12-year period with no major hurricanes. The gap is seen in the figure below, showing major landfalling hurricanes in the United States through 2020.

2022 ended with the weakest storm levels in 42 years, despite predictions of an extreme hurricane season early on, as discussed in detail, here.

Willard ends the article with a call to climate action, including personal lifestyle changes like vegetarianism and traveling less, as well as political lobbying and proselytizing to your community. What she neglected, however, is looking into weather data and fact-checking political sources of climate alarm. When even the most basic research is conducted, climate change ceases to look so catastrophic.


Sorry, NPR, Your Story on the Great Salt Lake’s Decline Was a Half-Truth

A recent story on NPR’s Morning Edition, titled “Climate change and a population boom could dry up the Great Salt Lake in 5 years,” bemoaned recent historically low levels of the Great Salt Lake (GSL), tying the lake’s decline to two factors: climate change and population growth. The writer, Kirk Siegler, was only half-right. Population growth is arguably the prime factor leading to the GSL’s decline. The recent drought is likely another factor in this year’s low levels, however, because the current drought is not historically unusual, and is not part of a long-term trend of increasing drought frequency or intensity, climate change cannot be blamed for the GSL’s recent decline.

Maybe one small bright spot in an otherwise grim story of a looming ecological disaster. The lake doesn’t really stink anymore because it’s drying … and dying.

Scientists point to climate change and rapid population growth — Utah is one of the fastest growing states and also one of the driest — as the culprits. A recent scientific report from Brigham Young University warned that if no action is taken, the Great Salt Lake could go completely dry in five years.

Over two decades of the western megadrought, water diversions from rivers that feed the lake have increased in order to support farms and thirsty, growing cities.

Without action to reduce water diversions and withdrawals from the rivers and streams feeding the GSL, it may, in fact, disappear. Salt Lake City, the surrounding cities and mountain states in the region, are among the fastest growing in the nation. This has increased the demands for water from the rivers and streams feeding the GSL. However, contrary to Siegler’s claims, neither Utah, nor the region is in the midst of a long-term megadrought.

Utah is a relatively arid state, receiving just 13.56 inches of precipitation on average annually, much of it delivered in the form of snow. Utah has received below average rainfall for the past couple of years, although with recent winter storms, the drought has lessened modestly. However, data from the U.S. Drought Monitor show the state received well above average precipitation as recently as 2019, with 99.7 percent of Utah being drought free in July 2019, and only 0.3 percent listed as being abnormally dry. Utah also received well above average precipitation in 2016 and 2015.

Indeed, records from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that contrary to Utah being in a midst of a two-decade long megadrought; since 2000 Utah has experienced two years of approximately average rainfall, eight years of above average rainfall, and ten years of below average rainfall, meaning there is no evidence of a two decade long drought. In point of fact, Utah’s recent precipitation history resembles the state’s precipitation history since official record keeping began in 1895.

As discussed in a prior Climate Realism, “No, Climate Change Isn’t Behind Great Salt Lake Decline,” because the GSL is a relatively shallow lake, modest declines in elevation or lake levels can amount to huge declines in area covered by water. During the present drought, the GSL did set a new record for low levels of 4190.2 feet in elevation in October 2021. However, that was only a foot lower than the prior record of 4,191.35 feet set in 1963. Tellingly, the previous record low elevation was set during a period when the earth was in the midst of a cooling trend and many scientists were warming of a pending ice age. It should also be noted that Utah’s precipitation in 1963, although slightly below average, was still more than 4 inches greater than Utah received in 2020.

Droughts come and go in Utah as they have throughout history and the data provides no support for the claim that climate change has made them more severe or frequent in the region. Indeed, as explained in Climate at a Glance: Drought, the current drought is a weather phenomenon of very recent vintage; not an indicator of long-term climate change. The U.N. IPCC reports with “high confidence” that precipitation has increased over mid-latitude land areas of the Northern Hemisphere (including the United States) during the past 70 years. Also, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports the United States recently underwent its longest period in recorded history with fewer than 40 percent of the country experiencing “very dry” conditions. The United States recorded its lowest percentage of land area experiencing drought in recorded history in 2017 and 2019.

Since the GSL has undoubtedly declined, and climate change isn’t a factor, what is? This is where NPR got the story right. Utah is one of the fastest growing states in the United States and it has been so for some time. When the previous low elevation record for the GSL was set in 1963, Salt Lake City had a population of approximately 387,000 people and was growing at an estimated rate of 3.2 percent annually. Today, although the city’s annual population growth has slowed, at 0.92 percent annually, it is still increasing faster than most other cities across the country. The most recent estimate of Salt Lake City’s population is 1,203,000. In other words, Salt Lake City’s population increased by approximately 211 percent, between the GSL’s previous record low and the most recent record being set.

The record is clear; rainfall patterns in Utah haven’t changed. Yes, the state is currently experiencing a severe drought, but it is a recent phenomenon, not part of a long-term trend. What has changed for the GSL, the primary cause of the present conditions there, is the huge increase in water users. There have been huge increases in demand for water for the millions of urban and agricultural users added to Salt Lake City and the surrounding area. The growing populace is drawing from the streams and rivers which historically have fed and replenished the GSL. Water volumes and flows have decreased in those rivers and streams not because weather patterns have, they haven’t, but rather because of increased users.

Will the GSL survive another five years or more? If rain and snowfall increases it should, for a while, but if population continues growing and ways of managing water use to keep or return more water to the rivers are not discovered and implemented, then the GSL’s days as “Great” may be numbered regardless of climate change


UK energy minister faces Tory mutiny over new green tax plans

The extra green levy, which under Government plans would be added onto energy bills from 2025 to fund the production of low-carbon hydrogen, has been met with anger amid concerns households will be paying for energy that they never use.

It would be the first piece of legislation passed by Rishi Sunak's new energy department, but Mr Shapps has been warned that the levy, which critics have branded as another tax, would stoke inflation, going against one of the Prime Minister's five key priorities announced last month.

Former Business Secretary Jacob Rees Mogg said he tried to block the levies when he was the minister in charge of the bill under Liz Truss.

"Let's not beat around the bush, these levies are taxes and tax is already too high," he told the Telegraph. "Putting more taxes will make the UK more inefficient.

“Energy is already expensive enough," he added. "The Government should try to help people get cheaper energy, not more expensive energy. There is no justification for further levies on bills."

Mr Rees-Mogg said the row over the funding exposed the risks of having a standalone net zero department, after it was hived off from the business department in Rishi Sunak’s recent reshuffle.

“When I was in the department for business, energy and industrial strategy, there was some countervailing pressure from the business side to say is this economic?” he said. “But if they are just net zero zealots this is unlikely to be very economic.”


House GOP makes first big push to boost energy production by curbing climate rules

House Republicans launched their legislative energy agenda Tuesday of more than a dozen measures aiming to increase domestic oil and natural gas production by curtailing environmental regulations.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee debated 17 energy-related bills, underscoring the party’s desire to combat President Biden’s climate agenda, which they argue has stifled American energy and contributed to soaring prices.

“Hydropower, nuclear, fossil energies, wind, solar and batteries — we need all of them in order to secure a stronger, more prosperous America, reduce costs and emissions, address climate issues, and create more robust and resilient communities,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Washington Republican and the panel’s chairwoman.

“A rush to green energy policies, both at the state and federal level, has curtailed reliable energy and infrastructure, resulting in everything from blackouts to spiking prices,” she said.

That rhetoric drew jeers from Democrats, who accused their GOP colleagues of being in the pockets of energy companies and ignoring the environment.

“Republicans are showing today that their top energy and environmental priorities are to do the bidding of Big Oil and to undermine our nation’s bedrock environmental laws,” said Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, the panel’s top Democrat. “House Republicans are stuck in the past and failing to address the energy challenges and opportunities we face today.”

The debate over House Republicans’ energy priorities came just hours before Mr. Biden was set to deliver his State of the Union address to Congress, in which he’s expected to tout Democrats’ signature tax-and-climate-spending law, the Inflation Reduction Act.

House Republicans’ proposals include repealing a new methane emissions fee for natural gas in Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act; condemning Mr. Biden for axing the Keystone XL oil pipeline; and rolling back climate regulations in the Clean Air Act and other laws in a bid to fast-track more fossil fuels and critical minerals production.

The Protecting American Energy Production Act is also on the table, which would restrict a president from banning fracking used in oil and natural gas exploration.

The hearing’s witnesses included former government officials at energy agencies, climate activists and energy lobbyists, but noticeably absent were any current Biden administration officials.

The committee’s Republican majority said that Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Willie Phillips all declined to appear.

Their absence sparked a moment — albeit brief — of bipartisan frustration.

“I agree with my Republican colleagues that we should seek and expect to hear from the agencies at legislative hearings,” said Rep. Paul Tonko, New York Democrat. “But we should also make efforts to accommodate their participation, including by providing legislative texts well in advance and being flexible with the hearing calendar.”

The agencies were provided a roughly two-week notice, a similar time frame offered by the committee to other administration officials who have appeared for separate hearings.

An Energy Department spokesperson said the department only received an invitation eight days ago, on Jan. 30.

“Unfortunately, it is not possible for the Department to prepare substantively for a legislative hearing on such a timeline, and we remain committed to working with Committee leaders to ensure that it has the Departmental perspectives and expertise that it needs to inform legislation,” the spokesperson said.

EPA did not respond to a request for comment.




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