Sunday, September 10, 2017

Harvey and Irma

By scientific observation the denialati are trying to shift the question to whether climate change CAUSED these storms.  Eli's response which has been somewhat successful is to say that climate change increased the DAMAGE from these storms and that their refusal to acknowledge climate change CAUSED more damage because nothing was done in anticipation, FL being the poster child

Florida has provided funding to save the Everglades, the tropical wetlands in South Florida, but Miami Beach City Engineer Bruce Mowry said the state has not funded his city’s $500 million flood prevention programme.
Kerry Emanuel studies hurricanes and talks on them. So here is the abstract

and here the full paper

Closing with prayer last night as Irma moved towards Key West

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered

-Warsan Shire


Fernando Leanme said...

Lack of preoaradness in Florida has little to do with "denialism", Its associated with the political influence of developers and builders who want to keep building unsound structures at a fast pace, and who get politicians elected willing to ignore the flooding problems caused by land subsidence of developments on swamp land and soft soils. They don't have to be geniuses to understand sea level rise is X cm per decade, extrapolate and act accordingly. However, the introduction of politics by the left wing into this problem has turned it into a hot potato. Right now we see a lot of exaggeration and lies, and this makes it very difficult to have an intelligent conversation.

Harvey may have had 20 kmph higher speeds due to the temperature anomaly. However the stall was caused by the way it got trapped in a cul de sac of high pressure. Most of the flooding was caused by the slow storm velocity. To prove to me that global warming was a major factor you would have to display the precipitable water per unit area anomaly for the Gulf of Mexico. I've suggested that makes a sound argument. But even though extracting the data from several reanalysis products is quite viable, this far nobody shows anything to back the point.

Bernard J. said...

I made a comment at Tobis's earlier today, similar to Brere Eli's observation. To wit:

"...causality is always awkward"

Indeed, and I'd argue that using cyclonic parameters is one of the most awkward ways of determining human emissions as a causality for climate phenomena. It's the nature of the beast - their frequencies and sizes are to an appreciable extent constrained by the physics of an Earth-like Earth (to torture a tautology), and their inherent variability sans human emissions mean that one needs much more than a thirty year sampling period (or in lieu of that, a control planet) to detect any human impact.

As many above and elsewhere have noted physics necessarily dictates that we've had an effect, even if we don't have the statistical power to yet detect it, and other metrics certainly show much more clearly how humanity has affected the climate. The thing that will sooner or later bite us is how these changes integrate to impact on our financial and/or ecological economies. People seem to thing that there'd be a long, slow trajectory from economic Nirvana to collapse, and that at some point on that tidy sliding scale we could say "OK, it's a bit rough now, we'll get our shit together and sort out the problems," when in fact a catastrophic transition between phases may be subtle and statistically imperceptible for quite a period of time around the tipping point(s).

And locked in long before then...

To bring it back to the hurricane example, the cost of clean up after Irma was today touted on radio reports as being in excess of $100 billion. That's the cost of one extreme climate event. What change in frequency of such events (on top of the cost of increase in other climate extremes) can the US shoulder before the cost of responding to hurricanes becomes unbearable? And would that unbearability come after just one final big hurricane too many? What would that unbearability look like in its unfolding, and would the milieu of the USA's climate have looked much different statistically-speaking in the near-term lead-up compared to, say, the 30 years before now?

Bernard J. said...

FL, your comment seems to me to be an exercise at pointing at squirrels. It's your predictable and obsessive wont to make it about politics, and about straw men, and to ignore the underlying problem.

As I note above in my copied post from Michael Tobis's, the point is how the system integral of a warming planet over time affects human economy and global ecology. All the evidence from science indicates that the end point of our current trajectory is profoundly serious.

Any "intelligent conversation" would acknowledge that absent urgent and immediate action we're on a hiding to nowhere, and that just because some people can't see it coming doesn't mean that it isn't. A bit like Hurricane Irma itself, on a different scale - without science most people in Florida wouldn't have known what was happening until a few hours before the winds hit...

What humanity is doing more broadly with respect to mitigation of emissions-caused global warming (and what you always seem to endorese with your posts here) would be like not high-tailing it out of town until there are storm clouds on the horizon...

jch1952 said...

The Houston region has been visited by four extreme rain events in the 21st century where stalling contributed to their extremeness: TS Allison; Memorial Day Flood; Tax Day Flood; H Harvey.

So we know with absolute certainty that the improbable had nothing to do with the elephant.

Russell Seitz / Bright Water said...

A clear thermodynamic feedback is in evidence when extra heat spins up stronger hurricanes- the faster winds spiral in to the low, the taller the eyewall gets and the taller it gets , the colder clouds get at the top

The day before landfall, Irma had a peak delta t of over 200 F between the + 88 degree F sea surface
and the -117 F cloud tops.

izenmeme said...

Global warming does not cause hurricanes.
Given the drop in ACE in recent decades it may inhibit them.

But a hurricane is not a 'Caused Thing'. Like a fire it emerges when a combination of factors (ignition, fuel, oxygen) combine.
The factors that trigger, or inhibit, a hurricane are complex and contingent. The proverbial butterfly's wing may even have role.

But once a hurricane has started, the amount of energy it expends becomes a much simpler matter of thermodynamics. To stretch the metaphor, many things can light a fire, but the size depends on how big the pile of fuel it can burn.
Hurricanes derive their power from deep warm water. The amount of intensification, and speed, is caused by the amount of Joules available in the water it travels over.

The rise in SSTs and ocean heat content (as shown by sea level rise) are unequivocal. The effect on hurricane intensity (but not initiation) is inevitable.

EliRabett said...

Clearly the effect of a few really nasty hurricanes is to, as Admiral Byng's superiors would put it, to concentrate a few minds. FL's friends have too long resisted doing useful things that might both help forestall or at least slow down climate change as well as improve this earth. A major sickness of the right wing is that they exist only to aggravate anybunny to the left of Ghengis Khan and therefore there is no reasoning with them and, as FL points out there is a lot of money egging them on for gain and profit.

Given that damage scales as the cube of wind speed even a 10-20 kph change in wind speed is significant. Sad to say, the best hope we have today in the US is the reinsurance industry.

Eli, an old kineticist, appreciates Izen's point, that initiation is hard but beyond that fuel supply dominates.

As to what Bernard J said, somewhere there is a tweet of Eli's that you really don't want to be in a world where the effect of climate change on hurricanes and other extreme events is so large that no question as to causation of individual unhappinesses. Of course, it was a bit pithier, less than 140 characters as it were. Were Eli ATTP perhaps this would be another thumb sucker of a post . . hmm.

Bob Loblaw said...

It takes a very special talent like Fernando to be able to post a paragraph that includes "...the political influence of developers and builders ... who get politicians elected..."

and then follows on to say ...the introduction of politics by the left wing into this problem...

Yep. It wasn't the developers and builders that introduced politics into the problem, it's those leftist pinko commies again.

Seriously. A very special talent.

Jeffrey Davis said...

" the introduction of politics by the left wing into this problem has turned it into a hot potato"

How can pointing out a problem in our common lives (which is what politics is about) be said to have "introduced" politics into the issue? It can't, of course. But it's now a commonplace among certain types that Democratic concern exacerbates the issue. If only Democrats would let the matter drop, things would get better, attitudes would change, etc. because, as everyone knows, problems always solve themselves. Wickedness subsides when left to its own devices. Just like that time when ...

Good men doing nothing and all that.

JohnMashey said...

Over time, the insurance guys will have a strong say.

For example, Munich Re is pretty savvy on climate science, no rejection of the science.
After all, they are paid to assess & price risk.

A Munich Re board member just said

'Jeworrek said that Munich Re wasn’t especially exposed to Florida.
“Florida for us is not an attractive state in terms of prices and margins,” he said. “We are not in the most exposed situation here.”'

Fernando Leanme said...

Bernard J, read over Eli's comment "a major sickness of the right"....the issue is so polítical it turns off people, and causes a blowback. There's nothing worse than a socialist/communism arguing that the best solution to a problem is Marxism and nationalization, living in comunes and raising children in collective farms. And I happen to be reading a lot of that garbage. Including Figueres saying the best solution may be an autocratic fascist pseudo Marxist regime like the one in China.

Bernard J. said...

Blowing back in the face of scientific best understanding is itself a political option, and simply cutting off one's nose to spite one's face.

Also, fallacy of composition...

marcoclimate said...

Fernando, citation needed that Figueres said that.

Russell Seitz / Bright Water said...

46,000 gun owners have sighed up on Facebook to take hurricanes down a notch the old-fashioned way, by shooting them

Bob Loblaw said...

Shorter Fernando:

...polítical ... socialist/communism ...Marxism and nationalization ... comunes ... collective farms.... autocratic fascist pseudo Marxist regime ... China.

The remainder can be filled in as the subject changes, but the core argument is always the same. Seriously, dude, you need a new set of flash cards.

Everett F Sargent said...

Who said this?

It seems to me the USA is being undermined by cadres of extremists who want to have the student body controlled and properly brainwashed so they support the rise of a communist dictatorship. It's like Germany in the early 30's!!!

... and this ...

Thus I have to conclude this censorship culture we see arising in USA campuses is extremely dangerous and will eventually lead the USA towards a communist dictatorship!!!!!!

No. It isn't Jordan B Peterson (but it could be for all intents and purposes)

Canman said...


Here's Figueres being quoted:

Bloomberg News: The political divide in the U.S. Congress has slowed efforts to pass climate legislation and is 'very detrimental' to the fight against global warming, she said.
'China, the top emitter of greenhouse gases, is also the country that’s “doing it right” when it comes to addressing global warming, the United Nations’ chief climate official said.' 'China is also able to implement policies because its political system avoids some of the legislative hurdles seen in countries including the U.S., Figueres said.'

marcoclimate said...

Canman, this is in no way what Fernando makes it sound.
In principle it is a logical observation that in the Chinese political system certain big decisions are more easily made. That's the nature of the system. That does not imply that she believes it to be the solution.

Unless you are Fernando Leanme and see communists everywhere.

Michael Tobis said...

Thanks for the videos. Excellent presentations (despite a few amusing minor flaws) and very informative.

As for "But once a hurricane has started, the amount of energy it expends becomes a much simpler matter of thermodynamics. To stretch the metaphor, many things can light a fire, but the size depends on how big the pile of fuel it can burn" this seems to be what is behind what has emerged as the Standard Claim:

"Global Warming did not cause hurricane H, but it certainly exacerbated it".

I have a number of points of discomfort about this claim.

Nobody sane disputes that hurricanes like warm water, and the warmer the water, the higher intensity a hurricane could conceivably attain to. But as Emanuel points out in the longer lecture, most hurricanes do not achieve that speed limit.

Note that the speed limit is a function of water temperature. Whatever the ceiling that a given storm operates under, a small fraction attain to that limit. Why?

The details are complex. But it is certainly not the case in practice that the amount of fuel available is the dominant factor in setting the maximum.

I think it is certainly the case that anthropogenic climate change causes increased sea level, and that change is for practical purpose superimposed on storm surge (modulo adaptation time scales). So sea level makes storm surge worse, and it makes sense to say that for a given storm H.

Is it the case that anthropogenic climate change exacerbated the intensity of a particular storm H?

Well, it's fair to say that the warm temperatures have an anthropogenic component; one could sensibly attribute that component to a local trend.

Can we in turn say that the ensemble of storms emerging from that environment are stronger as a result of that warming? All else equal, yes. But anthropogenic climate change affects other features of the environment. It is at least conceivable that the net of anthropgenic change makes a given storm intensity less likely. But even this claim is weaker than the one we are expected to support.

The claim is that "anthropogenic climate change made storm H worse". At this point I am at a loss for a counterargument because in the event that storm H did not attain to its speed limit, we don't have any way of comparing storm H to a counterfactual identical storm H' in the undisturbed climate.

Now you may say I am hairsplitting here, but it matters, because defending this claim involves handwaving. We know the hurricane community is chock-a-block with climate change grumblers, not to mention full-on naysayers, in the tradition of Bill Grey, who reviled the whole idea of climate change. We needn't mention Eli's nemesis by name here.

As is usual for people looking for null results, these people have a whole slew of them. And they'll defend their null with ferocity and not without ammunition. The empirical record is especially equivocal on this matter.

I have little doubt that Emanuel is right and that the physically most intense storms will be getting worse. But Harvey wasn't that.

Harvey was fairly large, and stationary over a population center. We don't have any theory about whether stationary storms increase (as far as I know; I didn't understand the size of Emanuel's ensemble. He ought to look at that, methinks.)

The promulgation, even, indeed, the unseemly told-ya-so celebration of Harvey is not polemically convincing.

The arrival of a genuine speed-limit storm hot on its heels makes the matter so much more exasperating. Irma is an example of what we can expect. We ought to talk about that. Harvey is just a grey swan, of a subspecies about which we as yet know nothing.