Another Mention In Print

Wow – two print mentions in the past week. This time Joe Amarante of the New Haven Register called to ask about our lack of winter.

I’m not sure “alarmist crap” is be a phrase I’d use again for attribution. It was inelegant and crude. Unfortunately, it’s an accurate quote. Sometimes stuff just comes out.

I think writers, like Joe and Charlie Walsh at the Connecticut Post (who quoted me last week), have a distinct advantage over TV people. We need to haul our sorry butts to the scene of the crime. Newspaper people can just pick up the phone and interview a half dozen people in the time it takes us to drive to some far off little town.

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Global Warming

I watched Miles O’Brien’s CNN documentary on global warming this past weekend. Miles and I met at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena a few years ago. I’ve always enjoyed his space oriented science reporting. I was more than a little disappointed in this particular documentary&#185.

I knew where it was going as soon as I heard:

But now the scientific debate is largely over. There is overwhelming consensus that the threat is real, that humans are at least part of the cause, and that something must be done.

Maybe I missed the memo. I don’t think the debate is over, and I know I’m not alone in thinking that.

This all goes back to my view that the concept of global warming is being treated as both a scientific and political concept. I don’t mind hearing about the science, but most of the time it is a partisan political story, but portrayed as a scientific one.

Ask yourself, have you ever heard anything positive about global warming? In a true scientific discussion all the effects would be presented, not just the bad ones.

In any weather change scenario there will be winners and losers – but we only hear about the losers. You never hear about how much you’ll save in heating bills or how farmers in the Northern Plains and Siberia will get a longer growing season.

Is that a big deal? I’m not sure. But I’m sure growing season changes, or less need for heating oil in the industrialized world has to have more impact than what happens on Tuvalu – an island of a bit more than 10,000 people, that Miles spent lots of time on.

Among the operational, or forecasting, meteorologists I know, or whose opinions I read in online chat rooms, most are skeptical about the whole concept. Meteorologists involved in research or theoretical meteorology are more likely to be enamored with the concept.

Recently, one of the skeptics wrote on

Here are just a few things I deal with or have dealt with in forecasting: We still cannot find and correct the cool bias in summer and warm bias in winter of the Great Lakes within forecast models. I have computer models showing me highs today and this weekend in the mid to upper 40’s with a wind off 33 degree lake water. We know the lake temp. It is factored into the models, even our local meso models, and still it cannot forecast an accurate temp. The Great Lakes, I believe, have been here as long as modern Meteorology.

He’s right. Temperatures are very tough to forecast, even when we have a total understanding of the initializing conditions. We’re not aways right, even when we don’t need to make assumptions, as we do for most global warming scenarios.

The whole concept of global warming throws many variables into the mix. It’s not just the greenhouse gases, but also the offshoots of any warming, like cloudiness or increased water vapor in the atmosphere. Many of the individual variables are working against each other. Many are not properly or totally accounted for.

I’ve told this story here before. While sitting on an airplane, waiting to take off from the Tampa Airport, I looked at the sky. It was overcast.

When I looked closer, I realized the clouds were airplane contrails that had become diffuse with the weak upper air winds over Florida. These ‘clouds’ were unpredicted. They certainly changed the heat budget below them.

How did the computer models we use for forecasting handle them? I asked a friend, someone familiar with numeric weather prediction. His simple answer was, they’re not taken into account at all.

I am not doubting that greenhouse gases can make a difference, or that the greenhouse concept is, by itself wrong. Get into a parked car on a warm sunny day. That’s greenhouse warming at its finest!

All I’m saying is, there are lots of people speaking with total clarity about a subject on which, in my opinion, the jury is still out. And, they’re doing it using forecasting techniques that only see part of the picture.

&#185 – CNN provides online transcripts for many of their shows, including this documentary.

Bad Forecasting 101

Whatever the reason, the forecast through the Great Lakes tonight has been atrocious. A strong line of thunderstorms stretched from the Quebec/Ontario border southwestward into the United States.

At least two tornadoes touched down in Michigan. There was NO Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado Watch in effect.

There might have been a Tornado Warning or Severe Thunderstorm Warning for the counties affected, but since those don’t get issued until a storm is sighted, they afford little in the way preparation time.

I’m not at the Storm Prediction Center and certainly don’t know what goes on in their mind(s), but over time, it has seemed to me like they are reticent to issue a watch box once a storm has already gotten going.

I’ve seen it in Connecticut, and tonight in Michigan. It’s wrong.

Certainly issuing a watch while the storm is already in progress signals a blown forecast, but it allows all sorts of secondary actions to take place which will sensitize residents to what is taking place.

I will read, with interest, the Michigan newspaper websites over the next few days.