The Week That Was
Sept 24, 2005

For hurricane advisory and other info, go to

New on the Web: Nidra Poller, an American writer living in Paris, describes the treatment of Katrina by the French media. To be fair, however, the BBC and CNN were not much better.

Hurricane debate: Meanwhile scientific debate continues. In Science, Richard Kerr reports on global warming claims by Peter Webster:

Robert Ferguson has collected a variety of scientific comments on global warming claims:

CNN reports: Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, told a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday that we're in a period of heightened hurricane activity that could last another decade or two:
"The increased activity since 1995 is due to natural fluctuations (and) cycles of hurricane activity driven by the Atlantic Ocean itself along with the atmosphere above it and not enhanced substantially by global warming," he testified.

Mayfield's colleague at the National Hurricane Center, meteorologist Chris Landsea, said two recent studies about global warming and hurricanes raise more questions than they answer. He added that the impact of global warming is "minimal for the foreseeable future."

In Nature (Sept 22, 2005, p. 461), Quirin Schiermeier reports that "Hurricane link to climate change is hazy: Research may show why storms in different regions respond differently to global warming."

BBC environmental correspondent Richard Black (Sept 24) also expresses a somewhat skeptical view:

A news story: "Atlantic current may be creating a hurricane hatchery. And the cycle may last 20 years." (Item #1). The impact on the oil-gas supply -- and what should be done (Item#2) {SEPP is skeptical about recommendations 6 and 7]

And finally: A BBC-4 interview, in which the interviewer tried very hard -- and repeatedly -- to get me to confirm his personal opinion that there had been a shift in US public opinion on GW and that Bush was out of sync. I refused his offer and made the following points:

a] Most scientists believe that hurricanes occur on multi-decadal cycles, perhaps connected to the North Atlantic Oscillation. While sea surface temp is obviously important, the Gulf of Mexico always shows higher SST values. But these have upper limits because of increased evaporation, which cools the sfc.

b] Some Senators have become less skeptical of GW --even before Katrina. But they are using GW to promote nuclear energy.

c] I quoted Tony Blair ("whom we much admire") statements from Clinton's NY conference , where he pulled the plug on Kyoto (see TWTW of Sept 17). The BBC guy didn't like this at all

d] The US public will likely forget about GW after the hurricane season ends. In any case, they realize there is little we can do except prepare and adapt. This surprised the BBC guy.

e] Finally, I told him that cap-and-trade is a scam. Buying unused emission rights to avoid actual emission reduction has no effect on the atmosphere or on climate. All it does is to transfer money to those who were given such rights -- at the expense of the rest of us.

Not surprisingly, the BBC cut out points c], d], and e].

Back to the Hockey stick: The most widespread picture of climate variability in the last millennium is that only small changes occurred before the year 1900, and then a pronounced warming set in. But new results (Item #3) show an appreciable temperature swing between the 12th and 20th centuries, with a notable cold period around AD 1600. Most of the 20th century had approximately the same temperature as the 11th and 12th centuries.

Prof. David Legates discusses the Congressional demands that data and methods be available to researchers to permit independent verification of published results (Item#4).

More climate science: The crucial issue for climate policy is to determine if there is a human greenhouse signal in the temperature records, esp over the last 25 years. So far, no agreement with what climate models predict (Item #5).

And finally, some science that has no policy significance whatsoever; What does the Earth's core tell us about the disappearance of the oceans on Mars? (Item #6).

1. Storm frenzy is not an anomaly, but a phase: Atlantic current may be creating a hurricane hatchery. And the cycle may last 20 years.
By BILL COATS, St Petersburg (FL) Times, September 13, 2005

Back in 1995, surface waters in the North Atlantic Ocean warmed up a smidgen. The change was less than a degree, but it marked the first time in a quarter-century that waters were consistently warmer than average.

Storm experts warned of more hurricanes. But nobody grasped the sweeping change that Mother Nature had signaled.

The 10 years since then have been the stormiest decade in the recorded history of the Atlantic basin. Mitch tore up Central America. Four hurricanes hammered Florida last year. Katrina decimated the Gulf Coast.

Now climatologists say frenzied hurricane seasons will be a fact of life for the next 10 to 20 years, part of a lengthy cycle of stormy eras followed by calmer ones.

The engine driving these cycles is called the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation, or AMO. Scientists say it has triggered drought in the western United States while spawning hurricanes in the Atlantic.

At a time when some are theorizing that global warming may be the reason for more intense hurricane seasons, climatologists say the AMO is the real culprit.

"The consensus among hurricane researchers and forecasters is that the hurricane landfalls of 2004 resulted from the AMO, a natural cycle of hurricane activity, combined with a lapse in the incredibly good fortune of the previous 35 years," Hugh Willoughby, a hurricane researcher at Miami's Florida International University, wrote in an essay last fall.

"The effect of global warming was at most second order," he wrote, "and probably not present at all."

Today's climate researchers owe a debt to mariners of the late 1800s. "They would lower buckets into the water and measure the temperatures," said Thomas Delworth, a physical scientist at a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration laboratory in New Jersey.

Steamship engines used ocean water to cool steam in their condensers. The colder the ocean, the stronger the engines ran. Chief engineers kept meticulous temperature logs, helping them predict their top speeds.
Now those logs are helping scientists unravel the cycles of the Atlantic.

After studying temperature records dating to 1854, two University of Illinois researchers reported in a 1994 edition of Nature that air and surface-water temperatures in the north Atlantic were cyclically rising, then falling, over 65 to 70 years.

William Gray, the renowned hurricane forecaster from Colorado State University, also was studying the Atlantic. The warmer surface water in 1995 prompted Gray to predict an unusually stormy hurricane season. His warning proved too tame.

Eleven hurricanes and eight tropical storms erupted in 1995, the highest tally since 1933. Hurricane Opal, after strengthening into a major hurricane the night before it struck Pensacola Beach, inflicted $3-billion in damage.

Such mayhem prompted Gray to question his statistical analyses. He concluded the 1995 ocean warming had rendered them unreliable. Gray began giving top emphasis to water temperatures in the Atlantic. By 1997 his forecasts began warning of "a new era" of hurricanes.

A flurry of studies ensued. In one, Steve Gray, an Arizona-based research associate with the U.S. Geological Survey, led a team that tracked the weather cycles backward by studying ancient tree rings from Europe and the southern United States. Healthy weather produced wide tree rings. Drought or other trauma caused narrow rings.

The climate cycles kept repeating "It's been working in the same way for at least five centuries or so," said Gray, whose study was published last year.

How far back might the cycles extend? "I'll go out on a limb and say at least one or two millennia," he replied.

Climatologists had long known that ocean temperatures influence weather, earlier reinforced by the Pacific Ocean's El Nino phenomenon. But discoveries about the AMO in the mid-1990s helped explain why certain types of weather - storms, drought and rainfall - unfold in long patterns.

Researchers learned that AMO cycles depend on how fast the surface waters of the Atlantic flow north past Greenland, chill in the Arctic wind, then sink and head back south. It's like a liquid conveyor belt.

If the conveyor belt slows, surface waters have more time to cool as they journey north. If the belt speeds up, the water stays warmer farther north. This is the AMO's warm phase, the hurricane hatchery.

Why this flow speeds up and slows down is largely a mystery. NOAA's Delworth thinks the key influence is the rhythm of the Arctic winds. Salinity matters, too. When evaporation makes the water saltier, it is denser and quicker to sink.

Records show the AMO was cool from 1900-1925, warm from 1926-1969, cool from 1970-1994 and warm since 1995. Climatologists look at those dates and realize a generation of Americans is virtually blind to the true threat of hurricanes, having never experienced a major hurricane firsthand, at least until last year's four Florida hurricanes.

"During the time when so few hurricanes hit North America, we as a society framed decisions about land use, construction standards and other aspects of our lives around the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico," wrote FIU's Willoughby last fall. "Built into those plans was the unstated assumption that hurricanes would continue to stay away from our shores as they had for the last third of a century."

Another expert said the hurricane seasons of the 1940s, in the heart of the last AMO warm phase, would stun today's Floridians. "Imagine variations of 2004 occurring every year for 10 years," said Roger Pielke Jr., a University of Colorado professor who studies risk and has written a book about hurricanes.

Moreover, some researchers say records for the 1940s and earlier may undercount that era's storms because reconnaissance flights and satellites still were in their infancies. "We don't know what was going on out in the middle of the ocean," Willoughby said.

But they know Florida has been extraordinarily lucky. "The last major storm to come through Florida, before Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992, was Hurricane Betsy in 1965, which went through the Keys," William Gray, the hurricane forecaster, told Discover Magazine in its September issue.

"Eight of the last 10 years have been very active," he said. "In fact, we've never had as much activity on the records, going back to about 1870 or so, as in the past 10 years - and yet we went from 1992 until last year with no hurricanes coming through Florida."

As the 2005 hurricane season continues to rage, NOAA reports that half the nation now lives on 17 percent of the land: the coasts. "A major hurricane - a Category 3, 4 or 5 - can't come ashore anywhere in the United States without causing a major disaster," Pielke said.

Pielke has calculated that a 1926 hurricane that ravaged Miami would create $110-billion in damage today. The 1921 hurricane that created a 15-foot tide in Oldsmar would cause $6-billion in damage, Pielke estimated.
Bill Coats can be reached at 813 269-5309 or
© Copyright 2003 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved

2. Oil and gasoline prices likely to increase again when Hurricane Rita hits Gulf region
By Gretchen Randall , Winningreen LLC, September 20, 2005

Here are some statistics from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) that indicate that another hurricane in the Gulf will drive up oil and gas prices:
28.5% of U.S. offshore crude oil production is from the Gulf of Mexico with more than half of it still off line.
47.4% of our national refining capacity is in the Gulf region
60.4% of our crude oil imports come into Gulf region ports
19.2% of our total offshore natural gas production is produced in the Gulf region.
5% of refinery capacity is expected to remain shut for months as a result of Katrina If these figures aren't enough to cause concern, consider that we now import about 63% of our petroleum needs from other countries. Add to that the fact that "worldwide spare production capacity is at its lowest level in three decades" (EIA).

What Congress and the Bush administration could do:
1. Make recovery of energy in the U.S. a priority much as President Kennedy challenged the country to get to the moon in a decade. Speed up leasing, permitting and exploration.
2. Open offshore exploration both in the Gulf of Mexico (additional areas) and off the East and West coasts.
3. Make permanent the EPA waiver on boutique fuels to reduce the number of types of gasoline. This would enable gasoline to be shipped anywhere in the country as needed.
4. Open more federal lands to oil and gas exploration; grant environmental waivers to speed permitting for pipeline and refinery construction; make closed military bases available for refineries; grant construction loans or guaranteed loans for such construction.
5. Build a new generation of nuclear power plants to recycle spent fuel rods now stored around the country at current nuclear power plants.
6. Grant tax breaks to companies implementing coal-to-diesel and coal-to-gas technologies; reduce depreciation schedule for energy related investment.
7. Speed pilot programs in oil shale recovery with federal grants.

3. Highly variable Northern Hemisphere temperatures reconstructed from low- and high-resolution proxy data.
Moberg, Anders, Wibjorn Karlen et al., 2005. Nature 433,. 613-617, Feb. 10

A number of reconstructions of millennial-scale climate variability have been carried out in order to understand patterns of natural climate variability on decade to century timescales, and the role of anthropogenic forcing. These reconstructions have mainly used tree-ring data and other data sets of annual to decadal resolution. Lake and ocean sediments have a lower time resolution, but provide climate information at multi-centennial timescales that may not be captured by tree-ring data. Here we reconstruct Northern Hemisphere temperatures for the past 2,000 years by combining low-resolution proxies with tree-ring data, using a wavelet transform technique to achieve timescale-dependent processing of the data. Our reconstruction shows larger multi-centennial variability than most previous multi-proxy reconstructions, but agrees well with temperatures reconstructed from borehole measurements and with temperatures obtained with a general circulation model. According to our reconstruction, high temperatures similar to those observed in the twentieth century before 1990 occurred around AD 1000 to 1100, and minimum temperatures that are about 0.7 K below the average of 1961 90 occurred around AD 1600. This large natural variability in the past suggests an important role of natural multi-centennial variability that is likely to continue.

4. Where's the data?: Holding science to prospectus standards would stop climate researchers from launching misrepresentations like the 'Hockey Stick'

By David Legates, Financial Post (Toronto). September 20, 2005

In June, the energy and commerce committee of the U.S. House of Representatives opened an investigation of a prominent scientific study and the circumstances under which it became the centrepiece of a report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The investigation has many observers, including climate scientists themselves, up in arms. The Washington Post called the committee action a "witch hunt," while others have compared it to the Spanish Inquisition. The American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society have written a joint letter of protest, accusing the House Energy Committee of undermining science and attempting to intimidate its authors. Editors of prominent journals like Nature and Science have weighed in on even stronger terms.

Although critics contend the issue is about scientific freedom, the questions actually pertain to disclosure, due diligence, and the need for access to publicly funded scientific data when public policy is at stake. In reality, the investigation is not only entirely proper, but long overdue.

The saga begins in 1998, when Michael Mann and colleagues published a graph in Nature that they argued represents the air temperature history of the Northern Hemisphere for the last 1,000 years. Owing to its shape, the curve is called the "Hockey Stick." It shows a relatively constant air temperature (with a slight decline) from A.D. 1000 until the late 1800s. But over the last century, the air temperature dramatically increases by about 0.6C, which, the authors and believers assert, proves that humans are indeed responsible for virtually all of the climate change of the past millennium. It was the Hockey Stick that originated the sound bite declaring 1998 to be the "warmest year" of the millennium and the 1990s the "warmest decade" -- a sound bite used by the Canadian government in making the case for adopting the Kyoto Protocol.

The Hockey Stick stands in stark contrast to a long-held view, amply supported by work of other researchers, that the last 1,000 years were characterized by a warm beginning (the Medieval Warm Period), a rapid cooling around A.D. 1500 (the Little Ice Age), and a latter-day recovery from this cooler period. The Hockey Stick became entwined with energy policy when the IPCC replaced this traditional view and featured the Hockey Stick prominently in its 2001 assessment of climate science -- in a section written by Mann himself. It surprises many to learn that the IPCC assessment often is written by scientists who dominate the debate about specific issues.

Clearly such scientists have axes to grind and, in Mann's case, he used the IPCC as a forum to promote his own research. Other IPCC authors admonished Mann to include other, less Hockey Stick-like representations in his assessment. They were ignored in the final report, however, and, owing to the influence that the IPCC reports carry, the Hockey Stick became a public icon, enthusiastically promoted by supporters of the hypothesis of greenhouse warming.

The statistical methods used by Mann and his colleagues have been the subject of much recent scrutiny. Based on our own research and a detailed comparison with the published evidence, Willie Soon and I raised the spectre of flawed statistics in the Hockey Stick when we testified with Mann at a U.S. Senate committee hearing in 2003. Subsequently, two Canadians with strong statistical training -- energy analyst Stephen McIntyre and economist Ross McKitrick -- attempted to replicate Mann's results using the data he had supplied them. They found a number of errors, improper calculations, and misrepresentations of methodology. In the refereed literature, other researchers have expressed concerns about and demonstrated problems with the Hockey Stick. The McIntyre and McKitrick study led to a Corrigendum in Nature, where Mann and his colleagues admitted to various inaccuracies in their original description of their data and analysis. Nature took the extremely unusual step of requiring Mann and co-authors to provide a new archive of data and a new verbal description of their methodology. But even with this revised release, key aspects of the Hockey Stick remain impossible to replicate -- and replication is a hallmark of scientific inquiry. Mann continues to refuse requests for full disclosure, telling The Wall Street Journal that to do so would amount to "giving in to intimidation."

Despite the importance of the Hockey Stick for climate policy and the repudiation of scientific ethics implicit in Mann's statement, there was no reaction to The Wall Street Journal article by the U.S. National Research Council or any learned societies -- and virtually no shock or surprise from climate scientists themselves. However, these extraordinary and injudicious remarks by Mann did attract the attention of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, an important committee with broad investigatory powers, which carried out hearings on Enron, for example.

But the issue here goes beyond data and methodological documentation. The Congressional committee asked Mann and colleagues about the withholding (from their analysis) of vital statistical information that was highly adverse to their claims. This amounts to selectively choosing data to support their position and ignoring data that refutes it. But the academic community has misconstrued the intent of the Committee by largely assuming it is attempting to decide nuances of statistical interpretation. In fact, the Committee is on much more familiar turf than the learned societies have appreciated: Their request regards issues of disclosure, framed in the language of securities legislation -- terminology with which the House committee is completely familiar. If science were subject to prospectus standards, withholding of such information would not have been permissible.

"Informational hoarding" is being challenged. Some academic journals now require publication of all data and computer code along with the article itself. The U.S. National Institutes of Health, which funds many billions of dollars worth of medical research, has mandated that large grants are conditional on data sharing. Other federal agencies are now beginning to consider NIH's lead to provide verification of important findings.

Since the House energy committee is responsible for energy policy, it has every right to demand additional scrutiny for studies upon which energy policy is being made. Failing to disclose data or methods is not an acceptable option when energy policy is at stake. Moreover, since Mann was the author of the section of the IPCC that touted his own research before others had the opportunity to critically examine his work, serious questions must be raised about conflicts of interest within the IPCC and how it came to promote speculative findings that had not been independently evaluated and which since have been shown to be flawed.

The outrage expressed by the AGU, AMS and other scientific societies is hypocritical. Funding for climate science amounts to several billion dollars a year, but these groups strongly protest the accountability that goes with it. Both the AGU and AMS have adopted statements calling on the United States to change its energy policies in light of the climate-change issue. Yet while they insist that this research be the basis for policy decisions, they object to its scrutiny by policymakers.

In this instance, the House energy committee has uncovered a real problem in science -- one that extends far beyond the climate-change issue. Scientists must demand that results and conclusions stand up to independent verification. Yet since the climate-change community has failed to impose such standards on itself, it cannot be surprised if legislators have opted to do the job for them.
Dr. David Legates is an associate professor and director of the Center for Climatic Research at the University of Delaware in Newark, Del.

Draft SFS/9/6/2005
5. Comparison of observations with climate models

Abstract for AGU Fall Meeting Dec 5-9, 2005
David H Douglass and S Fred Singer

A key problem is to establish the extent of the human contribution to climate change, especially in the past 25 years. This task involves the careful comparison of observations of surface (from land and oceans) and troposphere (from radiosondes and satellites) temperatures with climate models that incorporate all relevant forcings, including those from rising levels of greenhouse gases.

Unfortunately, uncertainties are still very large. Modeled climate sensitivities can range from about 1.5 C up to 11.5 C (for a doubling of CO2) depending on details of parameterization of clouds [Stainforth et al, Nature 27 Jan, 2005]. We will discuss the disparities reported for observed temperature trends from the MSU satellite data by the UAH [Christy and Spencer] and RSS [Mears and Wentz, Science, 2 Sept. 2005] groups and the ongoing corrections of radiosonde trends [Sherman et al, Science, 2 Sept. 2005], and describe efforts for their resolution [Thorne et al].

A concordance of temperature trends for surface and troposphere is a necessary but not sufficient condition; it seems to exist for short-term climate fluctuations but not on a decadal scale [Santer et al, Science, 2 Sept. 2005]. The latitude variation of temperature trends does not accord with models - esp. in the Arctic and Antarctic. Also, the observed dependence of trends does not match what models predict [Douglass, Pearson, Singer, GRL, 9 July 2004].

It would be premature therefore to claim that observations and greenhouse models agree or that most or all of recent warming is anthropogenic.

6. What Can The Super-Rotation Of Earth's Inner Core Tell Us About The Disappearance Of Oceans On Mars?
[SFS/9/2/2005] Abstract for AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, Dec 2005

Zhang et al (Science 309, p.1357, 26 Aug. 2005; also news story by Richard Kerr) have confirmed that the Earth's inner core is spinning faster than its outer layers. [Earth has a solid inner core whose radius is about 1,200km and a fluid outer core with a 3,500km radius. The core plays an important role in the dynamo that generates the geomagnetic field.]
The researchers compared seismic waves produced by pairs of earthquakes occurring at the same location on the planet, but at different times. Waves from these nearly identical quakes passed through the Earth's core. The results show that the inner core is rotating faster than the rest of the planet by about 0.04 seconds per year.
We now develop a chain of speculative hypotheses, as follows:

1. We posit that the super-rotation of the inner core is driven by lunar tidal forces and depends on the differences (between inner and outer core) in distance from Earth center and in elastic constants - and therefore their different dissipation rates of rotational kinetic energy. {We note that this difference in rotation rate -- and therefore also the geomagnetic field - were much greater when the Moon was closer to Earth some billions of years ago. Such a stronger field also would have provided a better shield against high-energy cosmic rays and led to a lower atmospheric albedo.]

2. To support the idea that the Moon drives the geomagnetic field, we note that Venus, which has no moon, has no appreciable magnetic field. What about Mars?

3. The present Martian moons Phobos and Deimos are much too small to have much effect on Mars rotation or its core. But if we accept that they are the remnants of a very much larger body, captured by Mars into a retrograde orbit shortly after its creation [1], then we might have a mechanism for producing differential rotation within Mars and create a magnetic field.

4. But this Mars-Moon disappeared - except for small remnants - within a short time by spiraling into Mars because of tidal friction, thus removing the driving force for Mars magnetic field, which slowly decayed away. Evidence for such a paleo-field has been reported.

5. Once the Martian field had decayed, Mars lost its protective magnetosphere. This now permitted the solar wind to sweep away hydrogen and oxygen ions - thus greatly enhancing their escape rate beyond that for a neutral exosphere. In this manner, water on the surface would be quickly removed -- as water vapor was dissociated and ionized by solar UV radiation. This process may explain why Mars oceans disappeared while subsurface water was preserved.

An important corollary: Was Earth's life-giving ocean preserved because of the prograde capture of the Moon, which has maintained the geomagnetic field and the protective magnetosphere?
1. Singer, S. F. (2003), Origin of Phobos and Deimos: A new capture model, paper presented at the Sixth International Conference on Mars, Calif. Inst. of Technol., Pasadena, 20-25 July.


Announcement: S. Fred Singer will present this hypothesis in a seminar talk at the Naval Observatory in Washington DC on Dec. 1, 2005 at 10AM.
For details and clearance send an e-mail to <>



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