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WMO 2013 climate summary: laws of physics not negotiable, extremes to be expected on a warming planet Gareth Renowden Mar 25

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The World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) state of the climate report for 2013 was released on Sunday (pdf), and provides a very useful overview of last year’s weather and climate events. It confirms that 2013 was the 6th warmest year in the long term record (tied with 2007), that 13 of the 14 warmest years in that record have occurred this century1, and that the litany of extreme weather events that struck the planet is in line with what would be expected on a warming planet.

WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said:

There is no standstill in global warming. The warming of our oceans has accelerated, and at lower depths. More than 90 percent of the excess energy trapped by greenhouse gases is stored in the oceans. Levels of these greenhouse gases are at record levels, meaning that our atmosphere and oceans will continue to warm for centuries to come. The laws of physics are non-negotiable.

On extremes, Jarraud was equally direct:

…many of the extreme events of 2013 were consistent with what we would expect as a result of human-induced climate change. We saw heavier precipitation, more intense heat, and more damage from storm surges and coastal flooding as a result of sea level rise – as Typhoon Haiyan so tragically demonstrated in the Philippines.

Here’s the full list of the WMO’s key climate events of 2013:

  • Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), one of the strongest storms to ever make landfall, devastated parts of the central Philippines.
  • Surface air temperatures over land in the Southern Hemisphere were very warm, with widespread heat waves; Australia saw record warmth for the year, and Argentina its second warmest year and New Zealand its third warmest.
  • Frigid polar air plummeted into parts of Europe and the southeast United States.
  • Angola, Botswana and Namibia were gripped by severe drought.
  • Heavy monsoon rains led to severe floods on the India-Nepal border.
  • Heavy rains and floods impacted northeast China and the eastern Russian Federation.
  • Heavy rains and floods affected Sudan and Somalia.
  • Major drought affected southern China.
  • Northeastern Brazil experienced its worst drought in the past 50 years.
  • The widest tornado ever observed struck El Reno, Oklahoma in the United States.
  • Extreme precipitation led to severe floods in Europe’s Alpine region and in Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, and Switzerland.
  • Israel, Jordan, and Syria were struck by unprecedented snowfall.
  • Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere reached record highs.
  • The global oceans reached new record high sea levels.
  • The Antarctic sea ice extent reached a record daily maximum.

The WMO has published a very nifty interactive map of the year’s notable events here (requires Flash). Clicking on individual events brings up a pop-up with details of what happened. Well worth exploring.

Meanwhile, the prospects for 2014 and 2015 are becoming more “interesting” with each passing week. The chances of the tropical Pacific slipping into El Niño mode are increasing according the Bureau of Meteorology in Australia and NOAA in the US. El Niño years are generally associated with a spike in global temperature and increased extreme weather events.

See also: The Conversation, The Guardian, Climate Progress.

  1. The 15 warmest years have all happened since 1998.

TDB Today: WACCy weather and a warm year Gareth Renowden Jan 29

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WACCyweather

A classic case of WACCy weather in the northern hemisphere, seen here in a map from the excellent Climate Reanalyzer site, prompts me to discuss the 2013 global temperature numbers, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, and what sea ice loss is doing to northern hemisphere weather patterns in my post at The Daily Blog this week. We live in interesting times…

Salinger upsets cranks: Treadgold’s toys exit cot Gareth Renowden Jan 27

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Jim Salinger’s analysis of the climate crank campaign to cast doubt on New Zealand’s long term temperature record, published last week at The Conversation, has drawn an astonishing response1 from Richard Treadgold (left), the man who kicked off the whole sorry process over four years ago. In an intemperate and libellous comment at his web site, Treadgold accuses Salinger of deception, stupidity and questions his mental stability:

Painting our efforts as some kind of attack on science is stupid. Salinger is either mentally unstable or he’s trying to hide his deceptive treatment of the national temperature records. We asked for details. You’re obviously hiding something if you call that anti-science.

The truth, of course, is that Treadgold and his friends at the Climate “Science” Coalition have spent the last four years quite deliberately attacking Salinger and the science team at NIWA by alleging they acted to deliberately overstate warming in New Zealand. They’ve taken their case to the High Court, and lost. Now they’re running away from facing the legal consequences, by refusing to pay court-ordered legal costs and leaving the NZ taxpayer to foot the bill2.

This has never been about science. It has always been a political campaign, as Treadgold himself acknowledged when he admitted to the “essentially political objectives of our paper”. Having the lost the argument, he’s now behaving like a spoilt child, throwing a hissy fit at Salinger for telling an uncomfortable truth. His pettiness even extends to posting articles suggesting that Salinger’s affiliations with the Universities of Auckland and Tasmania may be false3.

The last line of his typically prolix comment is interesting.

Finally, it’s insufficient that you merely repeat Salinger’s empty allegation of ‘errors’ in our audit. If you want us to respond to the allegation, specify the errors.

The hypocrisy evident here is breathtaking. The “audit” refers to a reconstruction of the NZ temperature record produced by Treadgold’s Coalition pals4 that was submitted as evidence in their High Court case. Treadgold and the CSC know perfectly well that NIWA found significant errors in that reconstruction, because a detailed description of those errors formed an important part of NIWA’s evidence produced in court.

If Treadgold and the CSC are so sure that their “audit” is faultless, why do they not submit it for peer review at an academic journal? I’m sure that Chris de Freitas, never averse to lending his academic weight to the climate crank cause, would be willing to act as lead author and help to usher it past peer review, as he has done for so many papers over the years. I hear that Pattern Recognition in Physics could have a new publisher who might be interested. In the meantime, if Treadgold has any sense of decency he will apologise to Salinger for so maligning an honest man. Past history would suggest that I should not hold my breath.

  1. Web cited so that he can’t “disappear” the evidence.
  2. I will have a great deal more to say on this issue, unless and until Barry Brill, Terry Dunleavy, Bryan Leyland and Doug Edmeades pay the costs awarded against their shonky trust
  3. They aren’t.
  4. Statistical Audit of the NIWA 7-Station Review, NZCSC, July 2011, available here.

When climate cranks lose at law: Salinger on the failed attempt to sue the NZ temperature record Gareth Renowden Jan 23

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If you do nothing else today, take the time to read Jim Salinger’s account at The Conversation of the attempt by New Zealand’s little coterie of climate deniers to cast doubt on the country’s temperature record. It’s a useful summary of the cranks’ ludicrous effort, but Jim points out that it is just a small part of a much larger global PR campaign — drawing heavily on the strategies and tactics first used by the tobacco lobby — to undermine action to reduce emissions:

Earlier this month, the news broke that major tobacco companies will finally admit they “deliberately deceived the American public”, in “corrective statements” that would run on prime-time TV, in newspapers and even on cigarette packs.

It’s taken a 15-year court battle with the US government to reach this point, and it shows that evidence can trump doubt-mongering in the long run.

A similar day may come for those who actively work to cast doubt on climate science.

Frankly, that day can’t come soon enough.

Meanwhile, the latest news on the attempt by the men behind the trust used to bring the legal action — the NZ Climate Science Education Trust, fronted by Bryan Leyland, Terry Dunleavy and Doug Edmeades — to dump the costs of their failed case on the New Zealand taxpayer is that the official liquidator rates the “prospect of dividend” – that is, a payout by the trust — as “unlikely”. In the latest report (pdf) posted at the Companies Office1, the liquidator comments that he has only be able to contact one of the NZCSET trustees and that “he has thus far been co-operative with the liquidation”. If the other two trustees are not helpful, the liquidator warns that “they will be summonsed to attend a meeting to provide the necessary information”.

It may be that Christmas and summer holidays is slowing down the process, but if the NZCSET trustees are being deliberately unhelpful, I hope the Insolvency Service uses all of its powers to make them comply with the law. These men have wasted large amounts of taxpayer money pursuing their idiotic political agenda, and must be made to pay for their folly.

  1. Go to the Societies and Trusts Online section, click search register, then use the NZCSET registration number – 2539286 – to find the documents.

It’s hot down here: 2013 was the New Zealand region’s 2nd warmest year Gareth Renowden Jan 06

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NZ temperature expert Jim Salinger has been crunching last year’s data, and this morning confirmed that 2013 was a hot year in the New Zealand region — the second warmest in the long term record, beaten only by 1998. Based on 22 land stations and the three offshore islands, the annual average temperature was 0.84ºC above the 1961–1990 long term average of 12.17°C (1998 was +0.89ºC).

Winter 2013 was the warmest ever recorded, and Masterton, Omarama, Timaru, Invercargill and the Chatham Islands set new annual temperature records. In the last ten years only two years (2004 and 2009) have been cooler than average, and the ten year mean temperature was 0.26ºC above average, the highest on record.

NZ2013Salinger
Source: Jim Salinger

During 2013 the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) was in a neutral phase, and the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) was negative. According to Salinger, this favours more easterlies and north easterlies when temperatures are above average. Sea surface temperatures were also well above average, especially around the South Island and to the east of the country. Jim is also expecting 2014 to be warm:

ENSO neutral conditions are expected to persist at least until winter 2014, and negative IPO conditions are very likely to persist for the remainder of 2014. These conditions are expected to bring temperatures of +0.2 to +0.6°C above average for the New Zealand region.

Across the Tasman, Australia has just recorded its warmest year since records began — with a remarkable number of heat records being set. Final figures for the annual global average temperature on main terrestrial datasets has yet to be released, but the World Meteorological Organisation expects 2013 to be 6th warmest. A few days ago the University of Alabama in Huntsville revealed that its satellite temperature dataset provisionally put 2013 in 4th place since 1979.

Prat watch #13: still crazy, after all these years Gareth Renowden Dec 02

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There’s a parallel world out there — the planet inhabited by climate cranks and deniers. It’s a world where you can say whatever you like, be as wrong as you like, be shown to be wrong repeatedly, even comprehensively lose court cases, and yet you never have to say you’re sorry, or admit to your mistakes. It seems incredible to those of us who have to deal with reality, but there are people out there who will hang on your every word and take it as gospel, however outrageously wrong it may be. The latest dazzling effulgence from the pen of Richard Treadgold is a fine example of the genre. And yes, he is still banging on about NIWA and the NZ temperature record:

First, for the serially dishonest critics of our persistence on this topic, let me explain (yet again) that we have never disagreed with the occasional need for adjustments, we merely wish to know how NIWA makes them.

The serial dishonesty on display is Treadgold’s own. Here’s what he had to say when he launched this sad fiasco back in 2009:

The shocking truth is that the oldest readings have been cranked way down and later readings artificially lifted to give a false impression of warming, as documented below. There is nothing in the station histories to warrant these adjustments… [my emphasis]

I struggle to see how this statement is congruent with Treadgold’s re-imagining of history in his latest post. But he’s capable of much worse, it seems…

After all these years, after questions in the Parliament, a court case and an aborted appeal, newspaper and blog articles, radio reports and private emails, NIWA scientists have still not told us how they make the adjustments.

That’s an outright lie. NIWA published an exhaustive account of the methods they used when calculating their latest long term NZ temperature record — which turned out to be more or less identical to the old one. There are 169 pages of excruciating1 detail — as Treadgold well knows, because he links to it from his article one paragraph later! The mind boggles at the mental — er, agility — required to contradict yourself so comprehensively in the space of so few words, in a post headlined Epic fail, NIWA! Your methods are a global secret.

The rest of Treadgold’s post is a vain attempt to drum up some sort of outrage about anodyne statements made by NIWA’s chairman. Given the comprehensive failure by Treadgold, Brill et al to gain any traction with their ludicrous assertions about NZ’s temperature record, it’s perhaps not surprising that they resort to blowing smoke to cover their embarrassment.

An illustration of the Treadgold/Brill view of the world comes from this sentence in Treadgold’s post:

NIWA’s secret methodology grossly overstates the country’s warming as 0.91°C per century—using data from seven long-term weather stations, it increased every one of them—an incredible failure of chance alone.

If the New Zealand climate wasn’t warming, then that might be the case. But we know from other evidence — such as the shrinkage of NZ’s glaciers — that the climate has been warming. Seeing warming in the long term temperature record is exactly what you would expect. Physics and evidence trumps Treadgold’s naive interpretation of chance.

The Treadgold/Brill position, seen in the choice of words — the “secret methodology” that isn’t, that “grossly overstates” warming — only makes any kind of sense if you believe that NZ’s climate science community, and NIWA in particular, have somehow conspired to overstate warming in New Zealand.

That’s all the cranks have got left. There’s no science left to comfort them, no compelling evidence that doesn’t point to continuing warming, so they retreat into a fantasy world where everyone else is distorting the truth, and they are the sole guardians of some holy grail — the cup that cools.

Science is not done by fools and lawyers. It is not judged by courts or curmudgeons. It describes the uncomfortable reality in which the inhabitants of the world must live.

Meanwhile, one wonders if the trustees of the NZ Climate Science Education Trust, who brought the disastrous legal case against NIWA, have finally stumped up the costs awarded against them. If they haven’t, then the NZ taxpayer deserves to be told why not. That is a much more pressing question than any posed by Treadgold or Brill about NZ’s temperature record.

[Mr Simon, of course.]

  1. Sorry, Brett and the team!

Crusaders of the lost wallet: NZ’s climate cranks lose costs case Gareth Renowden Nov 12

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News reaches HT (hat tip to Rob Taylor) that the Appeal Court has rejected the NZ Climate “Science Education” Trust’s appeal for a reduction in the costs awarded against them when they lost their original case against the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research over the New Zealand temperature record. This latest judgement finds that the NZCSET “did not act reasonably”, and has “mounted something of a crusade against NIWA’s records” (excerpts courtesy of Rob Taylor here).

The judgement comes as no surprise to members of the reality-based community, but the final failure of their futile finagling leaves Barry Brill, Richard Treadgold and the trustees of the NZCSET with questions to answer. I posed three, as yet unanswered, questions last time I covered this issue. To keep things simple for these bears of little legal brain, this time I’ll only ask two.

Are you planning to meet the costs awarded against you? If not, why do you think you should be above the law you so egregiously abused in bringing the case in the first place?

The trustees of the NZCSET are Bryan Leyland, Doug Edmeades and Terry Dunleavy. One rather hopes they have deep pockets…

The last refuge of scoundrels Gareth Renowden Oct 14

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Tomorrow, in the Appeal Court in Wellington (pdf), Justices Harrison, French and Miller will hear argument in the case of the NZ Climate Science “Education” Trust (NZCSET) versus the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), in the continuing effort of the cranks to litigate away warming in New Zealand over the last 150 years. According to the man who kicked off the whole process, Richard Treadgold of the “Climate Conversation” web site, the NZCSET bases its appeal on two main points:

The focussed grounds are that all three NIWA temperature series resulted from serious mistakes of fact, which impugned the rationality of the Crown Entity’s decisions.

This seems somewhat surprising, given that the judge in the original case was so scathing of the NZCSET’s expertise in his judgement delivered a year ago. One wonders how the Appeal Court will react to any attempt to relitigate the original decision, given Justice Venning’s findings. But then perhaps the whole appeal has rather more to do with the second basis for appeal:

The Coalition is also seeking reversal of the High Court’s costs order.

Costs of $118,000 were awarded against the NZCSET — a trust formed specifically to bring the original court case, and which did not legally exist until weeks after the original court documents were filed. Could it be that the trustees of the NZCSET, being Terry Dunleavy, Bryan Leyland and Doug Edmeades1, aren’t happy to pay the costs incurred by their leader and legal eagle, Barry Brill? One hopes that they’re not planning to fold the trust in the event that their appeal isn’t successful, thus avoiding having to pay NIWA’s costs. After all, they founded the trust with lofty aims:

… to promote a heightened awareness and understanding of, and knowledge about, the climate, environment and climate and environmental issues among scholars and researchers, members of the professions and members of the public… (see Sec 4.1.1 of the certificate)

I have a few questions for the trustees:

  • How much money has the trust disbursed amongst scholars and researchers since it was established on July 30, 2010? Over three years of fund raising and charitable endeavour has surely delivered more than a footling little court case?
  • In what ways, other than by bringing an unsuccessful court case, has the trust “heightened awareness and understanding of climate”?
  • In the event that you are unsuccessful in your appeal, are you planning to pay up in full for the costs awarded against you by Justice Venning? If not, why not?

I eagerly await assurances from the NZ Climate Science Education Trust that their laudable education effort continues, and that it has adequate funds to meet the costs they’ve incurred by taking NIWA to court. No doubt they will have plans for further and more productive education efforts in the near future. But I won’t be holding my breath…

Update: Tuesday 15th @ 3-50pm

Word reaches me that the NZCSET have just capitulated and abandoned their appeal against Justice Venning’s decision — in other words, a comprehensive victory for NIWA and a further vindication of the work done by their team on the NZ temperature record. The Appeal judges have reserved their judgement on costs, but it’s possible that the NZCSET’s legal bill might just have increased a fair bit.

  1. According to the certificate of incorporation: go here, click on Register Search, insert 2539286 in the appropriate box, and click “search”.

The big warm: NZ heading for warmest-ever winter Gareth Renowden Aug 26

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If you think it’s been a warm winter in New Zealand, you’re right. NZ is rapidly approaching the end of a record-breaking winter — the warmest for at least 150 years1. Calculations by Auckland climate scientist Jim Salinger show that NZ’s average temperature for June/July/August is running at 9.5ºC, a remarkable 1.2 deg C above the 1971-2000 average, and comfortably ahead of 1998′s old record of 9.3ºC. Commenting on the numbers, Salinger notes the absence of cold snaps in recent months:

The door to cold spells from the Southern Oceans — apart from a brief surge in June — has been well and truly closed this winter. September-like temperatures have been occurring throughout August, giving the country its warmest winter and August ever.

The long term warming signal is clear, he says:

The clearest climate warming signal is seen in winter, where temperatures are now 1.1 deg C warmer than they were around 1870. The warming trends have been very consistent, especially since the 1950s, when frosts days have decreased dramatically across the country.

I can certainly vouch for the absence of frost. At Limestone Hills, we recorded 19 frost days in 2011 and 23 in 20122, but only 6 so far this year. Evidence of winter warmth can be seen in gardens around the country. The asparagus spear pictured above first poked its head out of our soil two weeks ago, and is now being joined by half a dozen more — at least a month earlier than normal for North Canterbury.

To unpick just why this winter’s been so warm, I asked VUW climate scientist Jim Renwick to look back at the atmospheric circulation set-up in the New Zealand region. Here’s his (lightly edited) analysis:

For the winter as whole:

Pressures were anomalously high to the east of New Zealand, weakened westerlies. Unusually low pressures down over the far south central Pacific. 1000-500hPa mean temperatures were 1-1.5 deg C above normal over New Zealand. The NIWA outlook for winter temperature was near-perfect!

For August:

Anomalously high pressures southeast of New Zealand, linked to a negative Southern Annular Mode (SAM) signature. Northerly flow anomalies over New Zealand. 1000-500hPa mean temperatures around 2 deg C above normal over New Zealand. You can see a warm ‘tongue’ extending from subtropics to Antarctic, at the longitudes of New Zealand.

When I contacted Jim R for his take on the winter, I noted that the Antarctic sea ice — which in recent years has tended to “bulge” north towards New Zealand — is reduced to our south, but unusually far north in the Pacific to the west of South America. He found that a strong northerly flow anomaly over Ross Sea ( giving anomalously warm air there), southerly over Amundsen/Bellingshausen (anomalously cold there), helped to produce that sea ice pattern.

Jim R’s conclusion:

So, it has been a warm winter, brought about by persistent anticyclones east of New Zealand, a combination of the negative SAM (at times) and the tendency for zonal wave 3 ridges3 to sit near the Date Line. Lots of northerly wind flow anomalies over New Zealand, associated with persistently warmer than normal air.

Across the Tasman, Australia has also had an unusually warm winter, and 2013 is shaping up to be the country’s hottest year on record. The NZ record, with updated numbers, will be officially confirmed by NIWA in early September.

Listen to Jim S discussing the record on RNZ National’s Morning Report:

Warmest winter on record

  1. Reliable temperature records in NZ date back to the 1860s.
  2. For the full year. Frost days are any day where the temp falls below zero, and are unusual (1 – 2 a year) after August.
  3. Aka Rossby waves. Zonal waves can be considered as persistent “wiggles” in the jetstream that affect the way that surface weather systems track around the world. Jim will be giving a talk on ZW3 at AGU in December.

A new world record(?) Gareth Renowden Dec 23

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2013forecast

Last week the UK Meteorological Office issued its annual forecast for the global average temperature for the year ahead. They’re expecting a warm year, but very few people seemed to notice just how hot. Here’s what the press release had to say:

2013 is expected to be between 0.43 °C and 0.71 °C warmer than the long-term (1961-1990) global average of 14.0 °C, with a best estimate of around 0.57 °C, according to the Met Office annual global temperature forecast.

Taking into account the range of uncertainty in the forecast and observations, it is very likely that 2013 will be one of the warmest ten years in the record which goes back to 1850, and it is likely to be warmer than 2012.

Most press coverage ran with the “one of the warmest years” line, a simple elaboration of the press release, but few noticed that the Met Office were actually predicting a new global temperature record — perhaps because the Met Office wasn’t exactly trumpeting the fact from the rooftops. Admirable caution, you might say.

The Met Office “best estimate” for 2013 is that global average temperature will be 0.57ºC above the long term average (1961-1990), and that’s a comfortable 0.03ºC above the previous record years of 2005 and 2010. Take a look at the graph above. I’ve plotted global temperatures from 1993 to 2012 (data here), and added a line showing the linear trend over that period. The Met Office’s projection is just above an extension of the trend line. The grey “whiskers” on 2012 and 2013 show the full range covered by the projections. 2012 came in 0.03ºC below the December 2011 forecast.

2012 will end up as the ninth warmest year in the long term record, mainly because the year started out with a strong La Niña (which has a cooling effect on global temperature, with a six to nine month lag), and the El Niño (warming effect) which seemed to be on the way in mid year has all but fizzled out. Nevertheless, 2013 will start without a La Nina, and unless a strong one develops early in the year, the Met Office are clearly expecting that the long term warming trend will exert itself.

It’s a bold forecast — but one that’s in line with the warming of the last 20 years. Carbon dioxide continues to accumulate in the atmosphere, and energy continues to pile up in the climate system. New high temperature records are inevitable and unavoidable until the climate gets back into energy balance, and that isn’t going to happen any time soon1. We ain’t seen nothing yet, and that’s not good news.

[ELO]

  1. 30 years is the usual period estimated to allow the upper layers of the ocean to “catch up” with warming

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