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Last Updated: 6:25 AM GMT on December 08, 2013
— Last Comment: 12:48 AM GMT on December 09, 2013
|Posted by: RickyRood, 1:23 AM GMT on November 22, 2011
Extreme Weather: Can we use predictions to plan?
Been on an unexpected hiatus and coming back slowly. Thanks to Angela and Jeff for a bit of cover. First I want to regain my blogging legs a little and return to my previous entry on Politics, Events, and the Weather. In that entry I mentioned that Representative Ralph Hall announced that the Science, Space, and Technology Committee will start an investigation into NOAA and whether or not NOAA is forming an “unauthorized” climate service. Many federal agencies have been operating without a current year budget for a long time. I say that so that I can include the whole name of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act that extends the Fiscal Year 2012 Continuing Resolution. If you want a good summary of budget information that includes climate and weather research then you might try this site. In the final negotiations for this Act, Congress prohibited NOAA from organizing existing resources to form a climate service.
Organizations such as the Reinsurance Association of American recognize the need to address climate change, and in fact they are taking action. Better collection, provision, and interpretation of climate information seem warranted, and that is the main purpose of the climate service reorganization.
At least implicitly, another call for better information comes from Congress - Representative Lynn Jenkins calls hearing on Missouri River Flooding. In 2011 there was an enormous flood of the Missouri River and many of its tributaries. This was one of several Billion Dollar Events during the summer of 2011 (see, Chris Burt, Weather.com, Earth and Sky).
In ClimateWatch Magazine there is a long article on the Missouri River Flood. As with many extreme events, several factors came together to cause this flood. There was large snowpack in both the Rocky Mountains and on the Plains in the Upper Missouri Basin. This was followed by heavy spring rains, that melted the snow yielding flows in May and June that equaled what is normally seen in the entire year. In this article there is also the description of the role of La Nina in the flood. La Nina is often described as the “negative” of El Nino. In the sense that El Nino is a warmer than average eastern Equatorial Pacific Ocean, La Nina is a cooler than average eastern Equatorial Pacific. It is well known that there are changes of weather patterns over the U.S. associated with El Nino and La Nina, but it is not so well known exactly what the impact of those changes might be.
This year we once again have a La Nina forming, and we have the prediction that it is highly likely that the event will persist and, perhaps, intensify. A question that arises is how can we better anticipate and plan for the consequences of the La Nina? Will we face another year of floods in the upper Missouri Valley? Will the drought continue in Texas? (Where I am collecting some El Nino – La Nina references.)
Figure 1. Characteristic position of wintertime jet streams during La Nina. From ClimateWatch Magazine: “The jet streams are high-altitude, racing rivers of air that can influence the path of storms as they track over North America from the Pacific Ocean. The jet streams meander and shift from day to day, but during La Niña events, they tend to follow paths that bring cold air and storms into the Upper Missouri River Basin. Map based on original graphics from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. Adapted by Richard Rivera & Hunter Allen.”
As a climate change blogger, I have some responsibility for bringing this blog a bit to climate change. Currently, I think a lot about how to use information from climate models. I argue that thinking about how we can use a 2011 La Nina prediction to assess the risk of 2012 Missouri River flood is a pretty good exercise. Compared to a 100 year projection, this is strong prediction. We need to understand how global models inform regional scales. We have a problem with complex interactions between different features of the Earth’s weather and climate. We learn how to work with people who have to assess risk and make decisions.
OK: Here is the link to the Montana Conservation District's website. And here is a quote from Montana farmer Buzz Mattelin’s testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Mattelin’s testimony is a remarkable summary and evaluation of the 2011 flood. Here’s one of Mattelin’s suggestions on how to improve the situation. He refers to the Corps, which is the Army Corps of Engineers who have the mission of managing the Missouri River.
“The Corps’ Annual Operating Plan (AOP) begins each new runoff year at a normal or average starting point when we rarely if ever have an average year. The Corps does a good job of incorporating mountain snowpack, plains snowpack, and short term precipitation into the AOP but falls short in using variables like soil moisture and climatic trends. Soil moisture data is readily available in weekly crop reports that rank soil moisture as short, adequate, or surplus. We should also look at El Nino and La Nina events. When you overlay past La Nina events with high runoff years in the Basin, there are definite correlations during the high runoff years in the 70’, 90’s and this year. Pacific Decadal Oscillation or PDO is another ocean temperature phenomenon that show promise as a predictor of precipitation on the Northern Plains. Incorporation of these types of variables into the AOP could significantly improve flood control.”
I will confess sitting in my office today talking about this problem, and we came pretty much to the same conclusion as Mattelin. Mattelin, many academic papers, and common sense say that if there are better forecasts, or perhaps more appropriately, longer lead times, then risk, damage, and cost can be reduced. We, the collective we, have much of the information that is required, but it is not all in one place. It is not all provided by a single agency. It is not integrated together towards a specific application like flooding in of the Missouri River. That service is not provided.
I am, let’s say, a minor participant in a project where over the next few months we will try to pull together this information and see if we can use this data better (initial link. If we can do it for a seasonal climate prediction, then we will learn to do it better for decadal climate projections. Stay tuned.
Here is a link to a new series on Green.TV on extreme weather. Let me know what you think.
And since people mentioned it ... Shearer and Rood on the media and extreme weather.
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Updated: 3:59 PM GMT on December 02, 2011
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|Posted by: RickyRood, 3:38 PM GMT on November 03, 2011
Last month, a team of scientists from Berkeley called the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) group released results from research they did on the Earth surface temperature record. Though there have been numerous studies and time series created on surface temperature, they wanted to take an independent look at the data and create a new temperature record. What they found was surprising to some in the "skeptic" community, though not surprising to most climate scientists.
Dr. Richard Muller is the founder and scientific director of the BEST group, which is made up of physicists, statisticians, and climatologists. Though Dr. Muller has been described as a climate change "skeptic" and "denialist," he has an impressive and extensive curriculum vitae in physics, including being a consultant for the U.S. Department of Defense, and a MacArther Foundation Fellow, and the recipient of the National Science Foundation Alan T. Altman Award. His skepticism is evidenced most frequently in the press by his funding from the Koch brothers, who have made billions of dollars in the oil industry. The BEST project also accepted funding from Koch, among many other organizations, though the funders had no influence over methodology or results, which is almost always the case in peer reviewed science. The BEST group also includes Dr. Judith Curry, the chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, who has recently been vocal about the need for a more transparent scientific process, and more eyes on the data, especially when it comes to research on man-made global warming and the temperature record.
The BEST team was open with their hypothesis: they expected to find that, when using temperature stations that other organizations failed to include, the warming trend wouldn't be present, or at least not as dramatic. Their objectives are listed on their website (which also includes access to data and submitted papers), which include:
-- Merging land surface data into a raw dataset that's in a common format and easy to use
-- Developing new and potentially better ways of processing, average, and merging the data
-- Creating a new global temperature record
-- To provide not only the raw data and the resulting record, but also the code and tools used to get there, making the process as transparent as possible
Figure 1. Locations of the the 39,028 temperature stations in the Berkeley Earth data set (blue). Stations classified as rural are plotted on top in black.
The BEST project collaborators combined data from 15 sources that, wherever possible, did not include the tried and true data that the "big three" (NASA, NOAA, or HadCRU) used in their analyses, mainly the GHCN Monthly dataset, which is widely used because of its requirements that the each station in the data set have plenty of observations, no gaps, and no erroneous data. However, the BEST project was born to create a new global surface temperature record, and to "see what you get" if you use observations that other institutions have weeded out. BEST looked at data from 39,028 different temperature measurement stations from around the globe (Figure 1), and developed an averaging process to merge the stations into one record, which you see below in comparison to previous records that have been constructed.
Figure 2. Temperature time series from the big three: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Science (NASA GISS, blue), NOAA (green), and the Hadley Centre and Climate Research Unit of East Anglia (HadCRU, red) along with the results from the BEST project (black).
The result was a new land surface temperature series to be added to the well-cited records of NOAA, NASA, and HadCRU, in addition to some truly independent, amateur compilations. The new temperature record agrees with the records from "the big three," and agrees with them on a warming of 1°C since 1950. BEST also addressed concerns raised by the skeptic community about station bias and urban heat island effect. They conclude that the urban heat island effect does not contribute significantly to the land temperature rise, given that urban area is only 1% of the land area in the record. Also, they looked at the stations that Anthony Watts has reported as "poor" quality, and have found that they also showed the same warming as the stations that were reported as "OK." This helps to show that temperature stations were not "cherry picked" in previous studies for warming trends, but for honest station quality.
The addition of another (eventually) peer-reviewed temperature series is good, and more eyes looking at the data is good, but the result is not surprising. However, it might have changed the minds of some skeptics who have been wanting to see an analysis from scientists that they find trustworthy. I think Dr. Muller sums their results up nicely in his Wall Street Journal opinion article:
When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn't know what we'd find. Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that.
The BEST project has four papers out for review in various journals. Having released the results to the public eye before undergoing the scrutiny of peer review, they've also made some updates to the analysis since these papers were submitted, thanks to a peer review process of its own: the internet.
Links and references:
Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature
BEST Press Release
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