Of Pure Weather Ignorance, Yaks on Faces, and Your Holiday Gift Shopping

A curious, and possibly deeply sad, facet of modernity: journalists successfully convincing people that they're witnessing the demise of the climate system.

A curious, and possibly deeply sad, facet of modernity: journalists successfully convincing people that they’re witnessing the demise of the climate system.

People have no idea regarding weather. They don’t know that they’ve been manipulated with HD video into believing that their own time is strange, unprecedented, extreme. They don’t know why they would be manipulated (via a combination of noble cause corruption and reflexive leftism in the Ivory Tower). They don’t know the parameters of the system (don’t generally want to know how many floods and droughts there have been in the past). They don’t know what’s happening anywhere but their own backyard (where global warming is ruining their whole week). They don’t know what “normal” was, meteorologically, around the globe five decades ago, five centuries ago, or five minutes ago.

That’s OK. I don’t blame them. Being someone obsessed with weather and climate has seldom been a ticket to the inner sanctum of polite society. And that’s just as true today as it was when Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were among the earliest weather freaks the United States had produced. Believe me, those two rose to prominence in spite of their weather mania, not because of it.

This is all a somewhat longwinded way of introducing a somewhat amazing weather tidbit. At this particular juncture, which happens to be noon on Friday, December 14, the temperature in an obscure Siberian town is -65 degrees Fahrenheit. As is generally the case when the temperature is so low, the weather conditions are listed with a single word: “Smoke.” You more or less need an inversion layer to yield temperatures that low, and with the inversion layer comes capture of the abundant woodsmoke generated by the locals desperately trying to stay warm. Frigid cold and smoke, in Siberia and elsewhere around the globe, often go hand in glove. The name of the town, by the way, is Ojmjakon. This is pronounced “Oh, my God, a yak is frozen on my face.” Just mumble it a bit and say “on” at the end, slur the “my face” part completely, and you’re good. You’d be surprised how many yaks freeze to your face when it’s -65 degrees Fahrenheit, by the way.

Why, you wonder, is it -65 degrees in Ojmjakon and too warm to snow in New York City? One answer: which way the wind blows. Last year’s warm winter in the U.S. was largely a function of what meteorologists refer to as zonal flow, west to east movement of mild Pacific air, a powerful and fast-moving river of warmth far too strong to allow anything like normal winter weather to unfold. And a similar process has been at play so far this winter. While we’re basking in “terrifying” warmth, Canada is freezing its remote provinces off.

Meanwhile, last year, as the the headline writers were working themselves into a sweat over the death of winter here, people were dying of cold in droves in Europe and Asia, and Alaska was seeing records for both snowfall and cold. You read the headlines about all that, right? No? I am shocked!

Returning to the serious business of weather and climate, on this day, December 13, 2012, a draft of the United Nations’ next assessment of Earth’s climate has been published at wattsupwiththat.com. The single most salient detail in the report, for those paying close attention at home: Svensmark’s mechanism for cloud formation and global cooling via galactic cosmic rays is specifically mentioned. I learned doing interviews for my book this year that going into this subject is a sure-fire way to produce blank stares, if not out and out rage.

That’s OK. Svensmark is relatively young, and, with any luck, the day will come when he can compare his Nobel prize for climate-related research to the one Al Gore was given in 2007. The world’s a strange, and sometimes funny, place.

If you’d like any of your friends to be able to understand the United Nations’ change of heart, buy them a copy of my book for the holidays on Amazon. All you need to get them a Kindle copy is their e-mail address and the knowledge that they read on Kindle. You can also buy them a hard copy. This will plant seeds of climate awareness that rise as beautiful flowers a few years from now. Nothing more and nothing less than that.

Posted in Climate change, crying wolf, don't sell your coat, global warming, harold ambler, winter | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Surprised By White

The first “pure” Nor’easter of the season is delivering snow to East Greenwich this evening.

The storm, another potent one just nine days after Hurricane Sandy devastated the region, was snowier than the National Weather Service initially forecast along Narragansett Bay. Even at the time of the early-evening update, when snow had already broken out in East Greenwich and points northward, no winter weather advisory was forthcoming.

With snow sticking to grassy surfaces, cars, buildings, and eventually streets, residents of East Greenwich found themselves surprised by the white stuff.

Computer models were indicating anywhere from two to four inches for East Greenwich and locations in the central part of the state, with more anticipated in the traditional snow belt farther north.

As with so many Nor’easters, the potential exists for changeover to rain near the coast. Indeed warmer air was forecast by Mark Searles of NBC 10 be pulled into the middle levels of the atmosphere overnight, leading to a changeover to freezing rain and then plain rain by dawn.

But the presence of more cold air at the coast than the National Weather Service had anticipated should raise at least one eyebrow on any incipient changeover.

Dedicated sledders’  best hope for a run is either before bedtime tonight, or first thing in the morning before school.

Judging by the feel of a snowball hurled by my 7-year-old daughter striking between my shoulder blades, the snow was close to ideal for making a snowman — clumpy!

Posted in don't sell your coat, rhode island, winter | Tagged , , ,

Sandy in Context

Areas along the Belt Parkway near the Verrazano Bridge in Gravesend Bay, getting breached at 9 a.m. Monday morning, nearly 12 hours before Hurricane Sandy’s more destructive evening surge, Oct 29, 2012. Photo by Todd Maisel, courtesy of The New York Daily News.

The following Op-Ed was published, after I received an invitation to write it on Halloween, in the Friday, November 2, 2012, edition of The New York Daily News. 

I remember reading Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock” in high school during the 1980s, a little more than a decade after it came out. Toffler’s idea was that chronic stress had become the baseline normal for an entire generation. He said this stress was due to the accelerated pace of change in a “super-industrial society.”

Today, Toffler’s ideas seem almost quaint. But they are vital to understanding how the media, the political world and science itself have largely left reason behind when it comes to climate change.

Weather, which used to be experienced either on one’s head or via newspapers, today is delivered to ever-sharper screens at an ever-increasing pace and an ever-growing level of repetition. The Tri-State Tornado of 1925, which killed 695 people (in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana) wasn’t captured on HD video – and as far as most people were concerned, it might as well have never happened.

On the other hand, the Joplin Tornado of 2011, which killed 158 people, was captured on video and seen by millions of people. The Joplin Tornado, less lethal than the Tri-State, was effectively used by the promoters of manmade climate change – even though by comparing these two tragedies, the climate change one observes is moving in a positive direction. That’s how powerful video is. When people see footage of a storm that happened yesterday, it has a visceral effect that nothing else can duplicate.

This is where Toffler was prescient. The endless loop of destruction is what people know best today.

Hurricanes are another case in point. People’s consciousness has been saturated with images of hurricanes for at least 25 years. Meanwhile, horrific hurricanes have been killing people on U.S. shores since the founding of the Republic. The deadliest of these, the Great Galveston Hurricane, which occurred in 1900 and killed 8,000, predates the start of manmade climate change (which is conventionally given as the end of World War II) by a good four decades.

Quick, pop quiz! 1) When was the last major (category 3 or above) hurricane to make landfall in the U.S? 2) What is the longest period that the U.S. has ever gone through without a major hurricane making landfall?

Answers: 1) Wilma, Oct. 24, 2005; 2) The current stretch, which is seven years and nine days. Sandy, for all the destruction it has caused, was a post-tropical cyclone by the time it hit.

All this is just a piece of the record of a single nation. Super-powerful ocean storms have been killing people the world over throughout recorded history.

One of the most chilling of these historic ocean storms was the Grote Mandrënke, or Great Drowner of Men. A gale that blew in from the North Sea on Jan. 16, 1362, Grote Mandrënke reshaped the coast of much of what is now Germany and killed at least 25,000 (some say 100,000). A previous storm that took place on the same date in 1219 killed 36,000 and shaped much of the coast of what is now the Netherlands.

That is what ocean storms do. They lash coastlines , pushing sand it has no weight, battering infrastructure, drowning people. The world is big – bigger than most people give it credit for – and it has seen a lot more destructive weather events than most people would wish to believe.

Bear this in mind, though: Not a single iteration of United Nations climate documents, reports the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has indicated that extreme climate events have increased during the past half-century. Scientists have said they should, or will, or might, but the panel hasn’t yet said that they have. In the meantime, the media make hay out of climate change, just as they have for more than a century.

Ambler is the author of “Don’t Sell Your Coat: Surprising Truths About Climate Change.” He lives in Rhode Island.

Posted in Climate change, don't sell your coat, harold ambler, hurricane sandy, media | Tagged , ,

Storm Surge Commences in Rhode Island

Wickford Village, three hours before high tide, as Sandy’s storm surge began to be seen in Rhode Island. Photo by Harold Ambler

As of 6:30 pm, the Rhode Island coast has started seeing effects of the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy.

In Narragansett, Beach Street was closed, with washover from Narragansett Town Beach flooding the road. Boston Neck Road was on the verge of being cut by water a hundred yards south of the bridge over Narrow River, which had already exceeded its flood tide plain.

Also in Narragansett, South River Road was breached by storm surge in at least three locations, with the tide rising rapidly. Many residents along the low-lying road who had not heeded calls for mandatory evacuation could be seen looking anxiously toward the river.

In North Kingstown, Wickford Village was cut off by water. Police had closed the corner of Brown and Main as well as a second point at the intersection of Newton and Main.

The waters of East Greenwich harbor were spilling onto Water Street, which the police had closed to traffic at Queen Street.


Posted in hurricane sandy, sandy, Wickford damage | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Peak Winds Approaching Rhode Island Right Now

A packet of intense winds approaching Rhode Island appears as a brown “hook” coming in from the northeast. Image, from the NAM computer model, comes courtesy of Dr. Ryan Maue of Weatherbell Analytics.

Dangerous Hurricane Sandy is increasing in size and intensity as it approaches the Greater New York metropolitan area. According to meteorologist Ryan Maue of Weatherbell Analytics, the city is “insufficiently prepared.”

After initially downplaying storm surge from the hurricane, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg reversed course on Sunday and began ordering mandatory evacuations for low-lying areas in the city. The subway stopped running Sunday evening, and will remain closed through at least Tuesday morning.

The surge in Long Island Sound and New York Harbor is likely to be extremely distractive.

For those of my readers in Rhode Island, where my family and I are based, it is the next 12 hours that will be critical. A packet of strong winds should be start taking the state in the next 30 minutes and last for four or more hours. If power lines are going to come down, this is the most likely time for it to happen.

The storm surge in Narragansett Bay will largely coincide with the evening high tide at 8:26 pm, and will cause flooding. As of 12 noon EST, the National Hurricane Center indicated a probably peak surge for the bay of 5 to 7 feet.

Beach erosion from Cape Cod to the Outer Banks of North Carolina will range from severe to extreme, with waves of 15 to 20 feet pounding the coastline for 24-48 hours.

In the midst of the extreme conditions, the National Hurricane Center has chosen to play games with terminology. The NHC, anticipating a transition of Sandy from a “pure” hurricane with tropical characteristics to an extratropical cyclone, declined to issue hurricane warnings throughout New England and even the New Jersey coast where the storm is expected to make landfall.

Although Sandy has been a hurricane for longer than ten days, and may yet make landfall as a hurricane, the likelihood of the extratropical transition has convinced the meteorologists employed to serve the public to instead confuse it with the designation protocol.

Make no mistake. Under normal circumstances Cape Cod to Montauk would be under a tropical storm warning. Montauk to Delaware Bay would be under a hurricane warning. And Delaware Bay to the Outer Banks would be under a tropical storm warning.

People understand these designations, and they should be used in situations like this, academic purity be damned.

If you are in Rhode Island, the time to seek shelter and ride out the storm is right now. How’s that for clarity?

Posted in hurricane sandy, hurricanes, rhode island, storm surge | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Computer Models: Hurricane Sandy to Slam Northeast

The U.S. Navy computer model showing Hurricane Sandy approaching the Northeast Monday morning. (Image courtesy of Penn State eWall.)

Top-of-the-line computer models have been forecasting a devastating blow delivered by Hurricane Sandy to the Northeast early next week for several days now. In the computer model scenarios, Sandy could come ashore anywhere from Maryland to Cape Cod and would do damage to a wide swath of coastline and many inland locations as well.

As of Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service in New York City issued a preliminary public advisory:


That the NWS wants to avoid worrying the public over a “fish storm” made perfect sense for the initial two or three days that Sandy began to be seen by the computer models. However, as of this writing, the great majority of members of NOAA’s Global Forecast System climate model are indicating a curve toward New York City and the densely populated I-95 corridor.

With Arctic air rushing south on the western edge of Sandy as it makes landfall, the potential exists for an unusual (though not unprecedented) one-two punch, with the dire effects of a hurricane on the coast (and well inland) and a crippling snowstorm 250 miles to the west.

A full moon early next week, and its attendant astronomic high tides, stands to increase the effects of beach erosion and storm surge.

In this observer’s opinion, preliminary preparations for the tens of millions living in the region that would be affected by Sandy should be begun before the weekend, with unusually long power outages among the risks posed by the storm.

There’s a reason that the NWS avoids making forecasts too soon: It can’t afford to cry wolf. But it’s time to let the public know that something is in the offing here.

The situation is that serious.

Posted in computer models, weather | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Climate Supercomputer is Super Emitter

The Yellowstone supercomputer, housed at the new NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center in Cheyenne. (Photo by Carlye Calvin of NCAR)

Climate scientists in Cheyenne, Wyoming, from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) have just brought online what they say is “the largest supercomputer in the world dedicated to geosciences.”

That is saying something, as NCAR already had an enormous supercomputer that it was using, and will continue to use, in Colorado. Other climate computers in use in the United States, at Stanford, Columbia, NASA, NOAA, and elsewhere, have vast computing power as well.

Somewhat ironically, the computational power comes at a price in moral standing, if one equates having a small carbon footprint with having a high moral ranking. That’s because supercomputers of this scale slurp up electricity at staggering rates. The climate scientists using them will tell you that the end justifies the means in their case, and they could be right. But there’s no getting away from the fact that these individuals are using more electricity than you could ever dream of doing.

You and a hundred friends could run around your town or city, let yourselves in unlocked doors every time you found one, and turn on all the lights, all the appliances, all the computers, all the televisions, and all the stereos, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, and you wouldn’t touch, you wouldn’t come close, to emitting what these scientists are now emitting, in the name of fighting climate change.

For those keeping track at home, NCAR’s new computer, requires 8 megawatts of power, on a continual basis to function properly, which is enough to power a town of 25,000 people, living three to a home.

Indeed, NCAR’s supercomputer was constructed in Wyoming specifically because the electricity in the state cost less than that in Colorado. Thus, dozens of scientists and their families moved across the state line because doing so would allow them to emit more carbon dioxide than even NCAR could afford in its original location.

Justifying such heavy carbon dioxide emission is hardly foreign to the major players in the climate change camp. United Nations scientists famously schedules the bulk of their meetings and conferences in faraway places where jet travel is not just an option, but a requirement. Being a top-tier climate scientists means that you’re going to fly, fly, and fly some more. Anyone fantasizing about telling Al Gore that such a system, whereby the ones most concerned about carbon footprints have some of the biggest footprints themselves, needs to stop right now. You’re not going to find the man anywhere that he might listen to your concerns face to face. Why? Because he’s airborne, encircling the globe again and again, as he enjoins you to change the light bulbs in your home, and do as he says and not as he does.

That said, even the former vice-president is a relative lightweight when it comes to massive fossil fuel use. For that kind of ongoing and ever-growing achievement, you need to look to the scientists at NCAR. If they’d bothered to read my book about climate change, they might have been able to shrink their carbon footprint dramatically, and in good conscience.

(Hat tip to Anthony Watts.)

Posted in Climate change, computer models, crying wolf, don't sell your coat, NCAR | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Does Accuweather Issue Corrections?

Evan Myers, above, and Brett Anderson, below, discuss climate in Accuweather’s frighteningly named weekly segment.

Yesterday, I watched Accuweather’s weekly segment “Climate Extremes,” and a couple of the statements made were so inaccurate that I wanted to respond here. The presenters, Evan Myers and Accuweather’s resident climate-change expert Brett Anderson, walked viewers through the year’s temperature and weather in the Lower 48, particularly, stating with an odd mix of mirth and gravitas that 2012 would be a top-five warm year for the bulk of U.S. states.

I have no huge problem with that fact, even if it is based on temperatures data that has been adjusted upward by NOAA before it is offered to the public for consumption. I will mention, though, that the 1930s were warmer in the United States, by any objective measure, with worse droughts than those we’re seeing today. That said, I accept the overall observation that 2012 has been a significantly warmer year than average in my homeland.

Myers asks Anderson in the video what the impact on human beings is of the warmer temperatures, and Anderson rightly places drought at the top of the list. Although it turns out that corn harvests this year are far better than the dire forecasts of mid-summer indicated they would be, the drought has been tough on farmers and tough on communities across a big swath of the country. But here’s where things get weird. Anderson’s number-two item on the list of most worrisome effects on people of the warm year: tornadoes.

The first several months of the year did indeed see more tornadoes than average, but the months since have been unusually quiet, and overall 2012 has been far below average in the United States in terms of tornados. I expect a professional meteorologist, one who is an avowed expert on extreme weather and climate change, one who is on a prominent weather network, to get his facts straight about such a serious matter. For, conveying to the members of one’s audience who are known to be especially concerned about climate change that they’re at bigger risk of getting taken out by a tornado is indeed that, a serious matter. It turns out, though, that if you wanted to communicate the reality of 2012 in the United States when it comes to tornadic activity, then you would likely want to mention that it has been a gentle year so far, not an extreme one. You might even be tempted to shout the good news from the rooftops: “Hallelujah! The number of most lethal and frightening storms is down!”

Next in the video, Anderson fleshes out the issue of drought, observing that the preceding few months have been dry in the Pacific Northwest: “Well, we’ve had drought issues, we’ve had very low, water shortages showing up now, across the Northwest, which is unusual.” Presumably, Anderson is riffing off most people’s familiarity with the fact that the Pacific Northwest is famously wet. But he’s a meteorologist, one responsible for providing reliable and sound information to the public, and he appears bent in this instance, as he does frequently on Accuweather, on giving people the message: “It’s worse than you thought.”

Anderson has to know that drought is a standard feature in the Pacific Northwest’s climate. If he doesn’t, I’m telling him so now. Dozens, if not hundreds, of peer-reviewed scientific papers establish the fact that droughts, many of them serious, many of them sustained, have been occurring in the region for thousands of years. An excerpt from a single such paper is Knapp et al., 2003: “Historical climate data back to ca. A.D. 1895 and extended back several centuries using tree-ring records have shown that the interior Pacific Northwest (PNW) region commonly experiences persistent droughts.”

Now, these are two instances of inaccurate depictions of weather and climate on Accuweather, one regarding tornadoes (which Anderson suggested are up but are really down) and one regarding drought in the Pacific Northwest (which Anderson said is unusual but is anything but). Anderson is good enough to interact with commenters on Accuweather, defending his insistent dependence on alarmist climate news items politely and with good cheer. Will he now issue a correction of the errors in his discussion of climate? Or will the video simply be taken down? Or will Anderson and Myers and Accuweather itself simply allow the mistakes to stand? Only time will tell.

Posted in Accuweather, Brett Anderson, Climate change, drought, Evan Myers, media, tornados | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Of Crowbars and Perfect Fall Mornings

Blue sky through leaves, in a photo taken in Palo Alto, California, by yours truly in the fall of 2008.

On those days when your spot on the globe is favored by the whims of the atmosphere, it’s OK to enjoy the bright, beautiful morning outside your door. There is no moral requirement to taint it with the thought of manmade global warming. At my abode in coastal Rhode Island today, the sky is crystalline blue, there is the faintest of breezes, a few leaves are just starting to turn. The temperature: 55 degrees. Heaven!

It’s also OK to enjoy the next tremendous rainstorm that turns your street into a brook. There is no moral requirement to taint this temporary, exciting event with the thought of global warming, either.

Indeed, you are at perfect liberty to love – and marvel at – the atmosphere, as you did when you were an innocent child.

That’s what I’m doing this morning, and that’s what I plan to do for the rest of my life.

Perhaps it’s obvious that I and all others have the freedom to do just this? Not in the slightest!

For among the uncountable sins associated with global warming hysteria – making food needlessly expensive, making energy exorbitantly pricy, restricting the development of the Third World, squandering environmental cleanup funds on carbon dioxide abatement when there is actual environmental cleanup urgently needed – is that of putting a crowbar between billions of human beings and their sense of connectedness to nature.

This manufactured alienation may not seem to rank with the other listed problems, but it is because of it that all the others are possible. For once you convince the world’s citizens that they are living under a post-Nature atmosphere, convincing them to rewrite laws – no matter how misguided – to supposedly reestablish the natural order becomes a simple task.

That 95 percent of these people have essentially no knowledge of the atmosphere’s past characteristics and behavior makes the amount of leverage you need to apply to the crowbar minimal. Indeed, sufficient force for the task is as simple as this: Tell people that the 4.5-billion-year-old planet they’re living on has been warming, faintly, for 150 years. (Probably a good idea not to tell them about my book, or to allow their moment of climatological history to be put in perspective in any way  at all.)

Once again: you are at liberty to marvel at weather. And, honestly, I hope you will.





Posted in Climate change, crying wolf, global warming | Tagged | 1 Comment

UN: Hunger will be worsened by ethanol

You know you’re in trouble when even the United Nations says your “green” doings are morally unconscionable.

The practical problems with corn-derived ethanol being used as fuel for automobile motors, landscaping tool motors, and outboard motors are too numerous to mention. The short version of the story is that ethanol causes water to condense in fuel systems, leading to nightmares for users.

But the very idea that using crops to make the internal combustion engine “greener” and therefore more moral is simply wrong. As I elaborate upon in my book, it is particularly egregious when soy markets spike due to the conversion of soy to motor fuel, as tempeh and other soy products are the only affordable form of protein in much of the world. It turns out that the road to hell really is paved with good intentions.

Now, incredibly, even the United Nations agrees. The director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Jose Graziano da Silva, said suspension of the United States quota requiring 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop to be turned into fuel should be suspended immediately. Citing the drought in the American heartland, da Silva argued that the world food supply was in peril. Which U.S. congressman will be the first to stand up to the potent ethanol lobby and say that food is more important than sub-par motor fuel?

We should be finding out any minute now …

Posted in don't sell your coat, ethanol | Tagged , , ,