Effects of Warming

Retreating Glaciers

One of the panicky claims of global warming catastrophists is that some sort of "unprecedented" melting and retreat of glaciers is occurring tied to anthropogenic global warming.  I have seen anecdotal evidence for a while that this melting of glaciers began long before the 1950-present "anthropogenic" era, but I had not seen anything systematic on the topic until I discovered this study by  L. Oerlemans et al as published in Science in 2005.  Download Oerlemans 2005 as pdf.  His results look like this (click to enlarge):


His data for the last decade is a little squirrelly because the data sets he uses are slow to update, but the overall picture is pretty clear -- a pretty steady 150+ year history of steady retreat, with the only change is slope being a flattening rather than an acceleration of the curve.  Here are a few individual glaciers he highlights:


One is again left in a quandary - if recent glacial retreats are due to anthropogenic warming, then what cased the retreats before 1950 or so?  And, whatever caused the earlier retreats, what made this natural effect "switch off" at the exact same instant that anthropogenic effects took over?   

Update:  Here is a piece of annecdotal evidence to match, a map from Alaska Geogrpahic on the retreat of the glaciers at Glacier Bay


No Trend in Drought or Floods

It is often said by warming alarmists that a) global warming will increase both extremes of droughts and floods and b) that we already see these conditions accelerating  (ie with California droughts and this year's midwestern floods).  The recent NOAA/NASA draft CCSP climate change report I commented on last week said

Temperature and precipitation have increased over recent decades, along with some extreme weather events such as heat waves and heavy downpours...

Widespread increases in heavy precipitation events have occurred, even in places where total amounts have decreased. These changes are associated with the fact that warmer air holds more water vapor evaporating from the world’s oceans and land surface. Increases in drought are not uniform, and some regions have seen increases in the occurrences of both droughts and floods

The Antiplanner, in an article on firefighting, shares this data at the National Climate Data Center that I had never seen before.  It is the monthly estimate of the percent of US land area subject to extremes of wet or dry weather.  First, the dry weather:


Then the wet weather:


There is no trend here, and certainly no acceleration** of a trend, merely what is obviously a cyclical phenomenon.   

** I am constantly amazed at the ability of alarmists to dedice the second derivitive of natural phenomenon (eg an acceleration in a rate of change) from single data points (e.g. 2008 flooding in the Midwest).

Update:  Since the claim is an increase in total extreme weather, to be fair I also looked at the history of the two data sets above combined:


Thre is a slight trend here, on the order of about a 2-3 percentage point increase per century.  I am fairly certain this does not clear the margin of error. 

This Too Shall Pass (By Popular Demand)

In perhaps the largest batch of email I have ever gotten on one subject, readers are demanding more coverage of the effect of trace atmospheric gasses on kidney function.  So here you go:

In early July, when a former government employee accused Dick Cheney's office of deleting from congressional testimony key statements about the impact of climate change on public health, White House staff countered that the science just wasn't strong enough to include. Not two weeks later, however, things already look different. University of Texas researchers have laid out some of the most compelling science to date linking climate change with adverse public-health effects: scientists predict a steady rise in the U.S. incidence of kidney stones — a medical condition largely brought on by dehydration — as the planet continues to warm.

I am certainly ready to believe that this is "the most compelling science to date" vis a vis the negative effects of global warming, though I thought perhaps the study about global warming increasing acne was right up there as well.

Here are 48,900 other things that "global warming will cause."  More from Lubos Motl.  And here is the big list of global warming catastrophe claims.

Update:  I am not sure I would have even bothered, but Ryan M actually dives into the "science" of the kidney stone finding

Today's Exercise

Using this chart from the NOAA:


Explain how midwestern flooding in 2008 is due to global warming.  For those who wish to make the argument that global temperatures, not just US temperatures, matter because the world is one big interelated climate system, you may use this chart of global temperatures instead in your explanation:


For extra credit, also blame 2008 spike in tornadoes on global warming.  Thanks for charts to Anthony Watt.

The Missing Storms

Increasing cyclonic storms is one of the bogeymen most cited by global warming alarmists as a negative impact of warming.  The problem is, despite a world that is several tenths of a degree warmer than it was 30-40 years ago, no one can find any increasing trend in such storms:

We have written so much about the link between climate change and hurricanes (a.k.a., tropical cyclones, TCs) that we sometimes wonder if there could be anything new to report. No sooner than we have such a thought, yet another article on the subject appears in some leading scientific journal. A sentence in the abstract from this new article really caught our eye as we read “For the 1981/82 to 2005/06 TC seasons, there are no apparent trends in the total numbers and cyclone days of TCs, nor in numbers and cyclone days of severe TCs with minimum central pressure of 970 hPa or lower.”

This latest research gem appears in a recent issue of Geophysical Research Letters, and the work was conducted by a team of climatologists employed in Melbourne at the National Climate Centre of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Kuleshov et al. note that “Concern about the enhanced greenhouse effect affecting TC frequency and intensity has grown over recent decades. Recently, trends in global TC activity for the period 1970 to 2004 have been examined by Webster et al. [2005]. They concluded that no global trend has yet emerged in the total number of tropical storms and hurricanes.”...

Had these scientists found an increase in the total number of tropical cyclones in the Southern Hemisphere, they would need to hire press agents to handle the global coverage. Their work would be front page news all over the world, Time and Newsweek would be all over the story, and thousands of web pages would trumpet the results. However, they found no trends, or even downward trends, in total tropical cyclone frequency over a huge area of the planet – coverage at World Climate Report is about all they can expect.

There is one problem with this in my mind that makes the findings less powerful.  The problem is that the southern hemisphere really has not experienced much warming in the last 30 years, and the tropics have experienced no warming.  So perhaps this study does not say much for the link between warming and cyclonic activity.  But of course, if there has been no warming, who cares?

What Really Drives Weather Deaths?

While this may seem an odd statement, the main driver behind weather deaths is probably not weather:

For tornadoes, since peaking in the early decades of the 20th century, deaths declined by over 80% while death rates declined by 92% (based on 10-year moving averages for 1916-2006) . [See Figures 6 and 7.]

For other extreme events — lightning, floods and hurricanes – US deaths and death rates are also below their peak levels of a few decades ago. Their declines in annual mortality range from 62 to 80%, while mortality rates declined 75 to 95%.

Globally, mortality and mortality rates have declined by 95% or more since the 1920s. The largest improvements came from declines in mortality due to droughts and floods, which apparently were responsible for 93% of all deaths caused by extreme events during the 20th Century. For windstorms, which, at 6%, contributed most of the remaining fatalities, mortality rates are also lower today but there are no clear trends for mortality.


Imagine three regressions, each between the declining deaths above and some variable.  The first is against CO2 and/or temperature.  Many global warming alarmists argue that increasing temperatures leads to more severe weather and weather deaths, but clearly this is not even the right sign. 

The second variable is total severe weather events, which is a line that is relatively flat over time with a lot of noise.  Again, clearly this does not have much explanatory power. 

The third variable is global wealth and development, which is growing strongly.  I think the best correlation you would find is with this latter, or rather, with its inverse, which can be thought of as the reduction of poverty.  As people get wealthier, they are better able to either escape or survive severe weather events.

The reason I bring this up is because it is interesting to see the preferred solutions being offered for supposed man-made climate change.  All of these proposals, whether they admit it or not, sacrifice wealth and development for reductions in CO2.  They all reduce the one variable proven to decrease mortality from weather (ie welath) and substitute a focus on a variable (CO2) that has absolutely no explanatory power for the historical data, except perhaps in its inverse.

We All Know Warming Hurts Crops, Don't We?

Via Tom Nelson, emphasis added:

In the Corn Belt, widespread frost was reported this morning across the Great Lakes region, including much of Wisconsin and Michigan. In isolated locations, hard freezes (temperatures at or below 28 degrees F) may have posed a threat to fruit crops—such as cherries—and emerged corn and soybeans. Elsewhere in the Midwest, crop development remains slow due to below-normal temperatures, while isolated showers dot areas west of the Mississippi River.

Visits (Coyote Blog + Climate Skeptic)

Powered by TypePad