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Gore’s Katrina con exposed February 26, 2010

Posted by BlueGreen in Doesnt Understand, Misrepresentation, Smear.
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Bolt’s Post 26 February, 2010

Andrew Bolt uses the summaries and extracts of Roger Pielke Junior made from a scientific paper to claim proof that:

Al Gore cynically exploited Hurricane Katrina to sell his warming scare…

And:

Most shamelessly, Gore even seized on the cyclone which devastated Burma in 2008 as proof of a warming world.

Let’s see if Bolt is correct in his assertion that he is justified in accusing Gore of a con and lying.

Firstly, what was it that Gore actually claimed in relation to the Burma cyclone? Bolt quotes Gore as saying (in a linked post) by Bolt that this cyclone and others indicated that:

we’re seeing consequences that scientists have long predicted might be associated with continued global warming.

As I’ve said before, there are times where Gore appear to say more than he is qualified to say and, given the large uncertainties in the cyclone and hurricane data, there are certainly limitations in the statistical confidence that can be discerned from trends – particularly with data from the 1800s through to the 1950s before the advent of satellite data and improved accuracy and spatial resolution of measurement of relevant surface and upper air parameters.

However, if Bolt were the least bit concerned with being fair to Gore, rather than attempting to misrepresent him, we might expect that he’d have included this statement by Gore, also in the same article Bolt linked to, which provides qualification of the first statement:

“It’s also important to note that the emerging consensus among the climate scientists is that even though any individual storm can’t be linked singularly to global warming – we’ve always had hurricanes,” Gore said. “Nevertheless, the trend toward more Category 5 storms – the larger ones and the trend toward stronger and more destructive storms appears to be linked to global warming and specifically to the impact of global warming on higher ocean temperatures in the top couple of hundred feet of the ocean, which drives convection energy and moisture into these storms and makes them more powerful.”

So, clearly, Gore did not claim the cyclones were caused by global warming but was making the point that the intensity (i.e. the strength) of such cyclones and hurricanes (clearly already devastating) was predicted to increase as a result of global warming and he even provides a bit of the science behind why this is the case – perfectly reasonable.

Note that Gore does not appear to have mentioned anything in relation to the frequency of hurricane or cyclone events in general (i.e. overall numbers of events). The statement about the category 5 cyclones is merely a statistical consequence of the fact that, if the intensity of tropical storms increases, more are likely to fall within the higher severity categories.

To scientifically expose Gore as a liar (albeit in a very loose sense, given Gore’s qualification and the fact that the paper wasn’t around when Gore made the statements!), Bolt and Pielke would actually have to prove that global warming had no influence on the intensity of the particular storms mentioned and that would be virtually impossible to do as they would have to show that global warming had not in any way effected those parameters critical to cyclogenesis in the areas in which the storms evolved.  And, given that global sea surface temperature increase and low-level atmospheric warming is an established scientific fact, an argument couched in probabilistic terms would certainly favour Gore.

So, Gore has actually correctly stated the scientifically based projections of climate scientists and modellers.

To contradict the scientists and the models upon which Gore and the IPCC have based their claims, Bolt and Pielke would have to prove that there has and will be no increase in the intensity of tropical storms arising out of global warming.

Both Bolt and Pielke provide a link only to the abstract for the paper which Bolt claims proves Gore a liar and therefore makes it impossible to determine the context and validity of the statements made relating to the extracts used.

The paper is:

Tropical cyclones and climate change, Thomas R. Knutson , John L. McBride , Johnny Chan , Kerry Emanuel , Greg Holland , Chris Landsea , Isaac Held , James P. Kossin , A. K. Srivastava & Masato Sugi

In relation to analysis of historical data for storm intensity (not frequency – which is irrelevant given that Gore talked only about intensity) Pielke provides only this extract:

The short time period of the data does not allow any definitive statements regarding separation of anthropogenic changes from natural decadal variability or the existence of longer-term trends and possible links to greenhouse warming. Furthermore, intensity changes may result from a systematic change in storm duration, which is another route by which the storm environment can affect intensity that has not been studied extensively.

Whilst the first statement says that the length of the data record does not allow sufficient confidence in trends in storm intensity associated with changes due to global warming, it certainly does not conclude that global warming has no effect or that there has been no increase in intensity due to AGW. The second statements says that there is the possibility that the increase in the energy levels of storms may actually be manifested in longer-lasting storms rather than or in addition to more severe storms. In other words, strong winds associated with some storms could blow for longer instead of winds being stronger  (only).

The paper (from Pielke’s extract) then says this in relation to projections for storm intensities and the ability to detect or measure the change due to global warming:

The intensity changes projected by various modelling studies of the effects of greenhouse-gas-induced warming (Supplementary Table S2) are small in the sense that detection of an intensity change of a magnitude consistent with model projections should be very unlikely at this time, given data limitations and the large interannual variability relative to the projected changes. Uncertain relationships between tropical cyclones and internal climate variability, including factors related to the SST distribution, such as vertical wind shear, also reduce our ability to confidently attribute observed intensity changes to greenhouse warming. The most significant cyclone intensity increases are found for the Atlantic Ocean basin43, but the relative contributions to this increase from multidecadal variability44 (whether internal or aerosol forced) versus greenhouse-forced warming cannot yet be confidently determined.

The first part says that the intensity changes due to global warming currently are likely to be relatively small and difficult to separate or distinguish. It does not say that intensities will not increase as a result of global warming.

The second part repeats what even Bolt must know by now: there have been significant increases in hurricane intensities in the Atlantic but, again, the component due to increase in greenhouse gases cannot be confidently determined and separated from other natural climate variability. Again, no contradiction of the IPCC science or Gore.

And from the abstract itself we obtain this:

However, future projections based on theory and high-resolution dynamical models consistently indicate that greenhouse warming will cause the globally averaged intensity of tropical cyclones to shift towards stronger storms, with intensity increases of 2–11% by 2100. Existing modelling studies also consistently project decreases in the globally averaged frequency of tropical cyclones, by 6–34%. Balanced against this, higher resolution modelling studies typically project substantial increases in the frequency of the most intense cyclones, and increases of the order of 20% in the precipitation rate within 100|[nbsp]|km of the storm centre. For all cyclone parameters, projected changes for individual basins show large variations between different modelling studies.

So, the paper backs up Gore’s claim that tropcial storm intensities are projected to increase over the period to 2100.

Conclusions:

  • The paper, Pielke and Bolt do not contradict scientists or Gore in relation to the projected increase in intensity of tropical storms due to AGW;
  • The paper does not conclude or allow the conclusion that AGW does not affect the intensity of tropical storms;
  • Bolt misrepresents Gore and is wrong to accuse him of a con or of lying.
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