Political Climate
Jan 13, 2018
Frigid holiday season, snow bomb, now what?; French Alps hit by ‘once-in-a-generation’ snow storms

Frigid holiday season, snow bomb, now ?

I am sure you will agree we just had one of the coldest early winter holiday stretches in recent memory.

The two weeks starting Christmas had 12 days with lows below zero and no days exceeding the freezing mark.

Here is a plot from nearby Concord Airport of the daily highs and lows from Christmas day through Sunday, January 7th.  The temperatures in this period averaged almost 18F below normal.

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The cold was punctuated by the big nor’easter. The 12 to 17 inches of snow in our region with the January 4th storm was driven by powerful winds making the brutal cold feel even more intolerable.

This new thermal infrared image shows stunning detail of the powerful ‘bomb cyclone’ that struck the East Coast of North America on Jan. 2-3, 2018.

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The powerful winter nor’easter delivered snow and ice, 50 to 80 mph wind gusts, and strong surf from northern Florida to Nova Scotia, Canada. Due to its rapid intensification (the barometric pressure at the center of the storm dropped 59 millibars in 24 hours), the storm ranks among the strongest ever observed along the East Coast.

The term ‘Bomb’ was coined by Professor Fred Sanders of MIT half a century ago. It refers to rapid intensification of winter storms in winter when both dynamic and thermodynamic factors combine to cause rapid storm development in a short period of time. I actually did my Master’s Thesis on Explosive Development in East Coast storms. They are most likely in very cold weather patterns like this one.

The cold and the snow brought some flashbacks to February 2015, which was the coldest month in the record books for Nashua and many other places in the northeast though this briefer stretch of very intense cold came with one significant snowstorm, 2015 had four in just over 5 weeks.

This year’s storm was likened to the Blizzard of 1978 though there were differences. Actually this storm was stronger storm with more wind, but snowfall amounts were less because the 1978 was a longer duration snow event. The tidal surge on the coast with this storm slightly exceeded the 1978 record levels but part of that was due to lunar factors.  We had just before the storm experienced what was called Supermoon 2018 – when the moon was closest to the earth in its orbit (called Perigee), which made it visibly larger and 30% brighter. The resulting increased gravitational factors were already inducing higher tides.

A WIDESPREAD COLD

The cold was not confined to New England. The week from Christmas to New Year’s Eve was the second coldest December 25-31 on record for Chicago. In Chicago below 0F lows occurred on 10 of the 14 days starting after Christmas. Madison and Milwaukee Wisconsin had their second coldest December 25 to January 6th behind only 1886/87. See three areas had averages of 18F or greater below the normal. Only the southwestern states were warmer than normal this period. This pattern is very much like the one we predicted for the winter in the fall.

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In cold winters, we often see the atmosphere take a break sometime from mid to late January before cold returns. That is called the January thaw.

It comes as Pacific air, which is blocked from entering the country during the cold period, invades from west to east, bringing mountain and northern tier snows but warmer temperatures and rains elsewhere. I remember in the winter of 1995/96, a winter with similarities to this one in the factors we use to forecast monthly and seasonal weather, we had a lot of early cold and snow and a blizzard on January 6-8th that deposited heavy snows from the Mid-Atlantic to southeastern New England.

It was followed by a January thaw and a heavy rainstorm that wiped out all the snow. The snow came back in February and March into April that left over 60 cities including Boston with all time seasonal snow records, broken here in the northeast in 2014/15.

The thaw has started this week and mild weather will continue on and off until late in the month or very early February when the cold pattern returns. Storms that occur during this interlude period will bring rain, wet snow of the threat of freezing rain. Our own model, which got the first part of winter right, has this for February and March.

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For large version go to page 10 here and click to enlarge.

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French Alps hit by ‘once-in-a-generation’ snow storms

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Parts of the French Alps have been hit by the kind of snowfall that only comes once every 30 years. These images show ski resorts buried in the snow.
Schools, nurseries have been closed and roads cut off in the French Alps after the Savoie department was placed on red alert—the highest warning—for avalanches on Monday.

Near the French-Italian border, in Haute Maurienne and Haute Tarentaise snow levels reached up to 80-90 centimetres in just 24 hours with the “maximum intensity” of the snowfall hitting on Monday evening.

“We will have had 2.40 m of snow in 48 hours,” said the mayor of Bonneval-sur-Arc Gabriel Blanc on BFMTV on Monday night.

The ski resorts of Tignes and Val d’Isere were in lockdown with the pistes closed until further notice.

The region remained on alert on Tuesday as it struggled to deal with the spell of snowfall that had an “unusually high intensity,” according to national weather agency Meteo France.

Preventative releases of avalanches will be set in motion as soon as the helicopters can take off, local authorities have said.

This shot was taken at the ski resort of Bonneval sur Arc.

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Jan 11, 2018
New York City mayor seeks billions from oil companies, blames them for climate change

By Valerie Richardson - Washington Times - Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A week after a brutal snowstorm froze New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered a one-two punch Wednesday in the name of climate change, announcing he will seek billions in damages from five major oil-and-gas companies while moving to divest from fossil fuels.

“It’s time for them to start paying for the damage they have done,” Mr. de Blasio said at a press conference at the Manhattan Youth Center. ‘’it’s time for Big Oil to take responsibility for the devastation they have wrought.’

The two-front attack was promptly pilloried by industry groups as a cynical political stunt, even as it put New York City at the forefront of the environmental movement’s campaign to recruit local governments as allies in the climate change fight.

Flanked by municipal leaders and top climate activists, the Democratic mayor said his goal is to divest the $189 billion public-pension funds from fossil fuels by 2022, which he said would make New York the first major U.S. city to do so.

Mr. de Blasio also announced that the city has filed a lawsuit against five top energy producers, blaming the companies for greenhouse-gas emissions that he said have produced disasters such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

“I remember those days after Sandy in the Lower East Side. I remember how desperate it was. I remember how much fear and confusion there was,” said Mr. de Blasio. “And this was a tragedy that was wrought by the actions of the fossil-fuel companies. Let’s be clear: That’s where it came from.”

The lawsuit seeks unspecified bill"ons from five companies - BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell - to fund a proposed $20 billion infrastructure project that would “build resilience against rising seas, more powerful storms, and hotter temperatures.”

“The City of New York is taking on these five giants because they are the central actors, they are the first ones responsible for this crisis, and they should not get away with it anymore,” said Mr. de Blasio.

Pushing back were oil-and-gas and industry representatives, who accused the mayor of doing more to curry favor with environmentalists than address human-caused global warming.

“This lawsuit is factually and legally meritless, and will do nothing to address the serious issue of climate change,” said Chevron spokesman Braden Reddall. “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global issue that requires global engagement. Should this litigation proceed, it will only serve special interests at the expense of broader policy, regulatory and economic priorities.”

The legal action comes on the heels of lawsuits filed in the last six months by seven California localities, including Oakland and San Francisco, demanding billions from oil companies in order to build higher seawalls and other climate-driven infrastructure projects.

“Similar to recent lawsuits in California, this headline-seeking stunt is an absurd attempt to politicize natural disasters, rather than a good-faith effort at securing meaningful change,” said Linda Kelly, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Association of Manufacturers.

“De Blasio is showing where his priorities really are by choosing to make his announcement flanked by controversial environmental activists.” she said.
“Ironically, this attack on energy manufacturers comes at a time that New Yorkers have depended on natural gas and heating oil to carry them through the recent extreme cold.”

Those backing the mayor at the press conference included climate activist Naomi Klein, Greenpeace’s Naomi Ages and 350.org’s Bill McKibben, who called the event “one of the most important moments” in the 30-year-old climate-change movement.

“New York City got very, very real today,” said Mr. McKibben. “Today, the mightiest city on our planet takes on its most powerful industry, its richest and most powerful and most irresponsible industry.”

Companies countered that the courts are the wrong venue to decide public policy issues like climate change.

“Climate change is a complex societal challenge that should be addressed through sound government policy and cultural change to drive low-carbon choices for businesses and consumers, not by the courts,” said Shell spokeswoman Natalie Gunnell.

ExxonMobil spokesman Scott Silvestri said the firm “welcomes any well-meaning and good faith attempt to address the risks of climate change,” but that lawsuits :filed by trial attorneys against an industry that provides products we all rely upon to power the economy and enable our domestic life - simply do not do that.”

The theory championed by Mr. de Blasio - that climate change makes storms and other weather events worse - has been hotly contested in academic circles.

University of Colorado professor Roger A. Pielke Jr. released a chart Monday showing that global weather-related losses as a proportion of GDP actually declined from 1990 to 2017.

“The most important caveat: don’t use disasters to argue about trends in climate. Use climate data. Duh,” Mr. Pielke said in his post on Climate Fix.

What’s more, no hurricane made U.S. landfall from 2005-2016 during the so-called “hurricane drought,: the longest on record. Hurricane Sandy degraded to a post-tropical storm before hitting the eastern seaboard.

Debate over divestment

The fossil-fuel divestment campaign has faltered in recent years amid decisions by universities to retain their investments in the name of fiduciary responsibility, but New York City has a recent history of using its pension funds to make political statements.

In 2016, the city’s employee pension fund announced it would sell its holdings in three sporting-goods retailers that sell firearms.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said the city would submit a resolution Thursday on divestment and insisted that it could be accomplished without jeopardizing the pensions of police, teachers, firefighters and other public employees.

Divesting from fossil fuels would pull roughly $5 billion from the city’s five public pension funds, and would represent the largest municipal divestment in U.S. history, according to the mayor’s office.

“We’re going to crunch the numbers and make a plan so that we get New York City’s pension funds in the business of making our planet cleaner and greener with our investments, and we’re going to do it while maintaining our fiduciary responsibilities,” Mr. Stringer said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed last month pulling fossil-fuel investments from the state’s retirement fund, prompting state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to reiterate that “there are no immediate plans to divest our energy holdings.”

Matt Dempsey, spokesman with the pro-industry group Divestment Facts described Wednesday’s announcement as a “prime example of ‘ready, fire, aim.’”

He said the process of divesting from co-mingled funds necessitates “extensive transaction fees and ongoing management fees,” which have the power to “rob endowment funds of as much as 12 percent of a fund’s total value of a 20-year time frame.”

“When pressed on the details of divestment, both officials ran into real trouble: In addition to being a costly and ineffective effort, divestment is also not something that happens overnight but a long and costly process resulting in little more than a feel-good headline,” said Mr. Dempsey.



Jan 05, 2018
Failed Amstrup polar bear predictions have climate change community in a panic

By Susan J. Crockford

Polar bear experts who falsely predicted that roughly 17,300 polar bears would be dead by now (given sea ice conditions since 2007) have realized their failure has not only kicked their own credibility to the curb, it has taken with it the reputations of their climate change colleagues. This has left many folks unhappy about the toppling of this important global warming icon but ironically, consensus polar bear experts and climate scientists (and their supporters) were the ones who set up the polar bear as a proxy for AGW in the first place.

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Cover image_Twenty Reasons_polarbearscience

I published my professional criticisms on the failed predictions of the polar bear conservation community in a professional online scientific preprint journal, which has now been downloaded almost 2,000 times (Crockford 2017; Crockford and Geist 2017).

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Crockford 2017_Slide 12 screencap

My paper demonstrates that the polar bear/sea ice decline hypothesis, particularly the one developed by Steven Amstrup, is a failure. I’m not the only one who thinks so, as emails obtained from the US Fish and Wildlife Service show. The argument the paper lays out and the facts it presents have not been challenged by any one of the consensus polar bear experts who object to it so strenuously. Instead, they have chosen to misrepresent my work, and publicly belittle my credentials and scientific integrity in the published literature (Harvey et al. 2017) and online.

Harvey and colleagues suggest in their paper that I and others use polar bears as a proxy for AGW as part of a deliberate plan to undermine the public’s confidence in global warming.

Harvey et al. state:

“...the main strategy of denier blogs is therefore to focus on topics that are showy and in which it is therefore easy to generate public interest. These topics are used as “proxies” for AGW in general; in other words, they represent keystone dominoes that are strategically placed in front of many hundreds of others, each representing a separate line of evidence for AGW. By appearing to knock over the keystone domino, audiences targeted by the communication may assume all other dominoes are toppled in a form of “dismissal by association.” [my bold]

I do not recall ever stating or implying that if polar bear predictions of doom were wrong, then general climate change models must also be wrong. But if any other bloggers have done so, they can hardly be blamed.

A bit of reflection shows it was the climate science community itself - in collaboration with Arctic researchers and the media - who by the year 2000 (below) set the polar bear up as an icon for catastrophic global warming. They made the polar bear a proxy for AGW.

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TIME Magazine Cover_ Arctic Meltdown September 2000

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polarbrs iceberg Daily Mail 010207_468x762
Al Gore used the polar bears on an ice flow image (above) to seal global warming icon status for the polar bear in his 2007 movie, An Inconvenient Truth (see National Post March 2007 article
here).

As Harvey et al. co-author Michael Mann said only a few years ago (24 March 2014):

“We are now the polar bear”.

A clear association was made between polar bear survival and AGW, time and time again, as recently as last February (2017):

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Stroeve 2017 we are all ice dependent species

So, when the polar bears failed to die by the thousands as polar bear models predicted, after years of lower summer ice than any sea ice models predicted (see graphic below), some people may have logically stated or implied that perhaps general climate models are similarly flawed.

In essence, Mann’s “we are now the polar bear” statement came back to bite him and his colleagues in the ass, Amstrup and Ian Stirling included.  Predictably, they would like to blame someone else for their failure and embarrassment, so they wrote a sloppy tandrum paper that pretends my polar bear/sea ice decline document doesn’t exist.

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Fig 3 Sea ice prediction vs reality 2012

I guess we all should have seen it coming.

Predicted sea ice changes (based on 2004 data) at 2020, 2050, and 2080 that were used in 2007 to predict a 67% decline in global polar bear numbers vs. an example of the sea ice extent reality experienced since 2007 (shown is 2012). See Crockford 2017 for details.

REFERENCES
Crockford, S.J. and Geist, V. 2018. Conservation Fiasco. Range Magazine, Winter 2017/2018, pg. 26-27. Pdf here.

Crockford, S.J. 2017. Testing the hypothesis that routine sea ice coverage of 3-5 mkm2 results in a greater than 30% decline in population size of polar bears (Ursus maritimus). PeerJ Preprints 2 March 2017. Doi: 10.7287/peerj.preprints.2737v3 Open access. h

Harvey, J.A., van den Berg, D., Ellers, J., Kampen, R., Crowther, T.W., Roessingh, P., Verheggen, B., Nuijten, R. J. M., Post, E., Lewandowsky, S., Stirling, I., Balgopal, M., Amstrup, S.C., and Mann, M.E. 2017. Internet blogs, polar bears, and climate-change denial by proxy. Bioscience. DOI: 10.1093/biosci/bix133



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