2011-01-16 21:16:37Urgent, need feedback on this article for ABC Environment
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.100.112

UPDATE: ignore this version - I decided to go with a more casual lead-in, it's hard breaking out of the science blogger mode! Also took on board feedback from the first 3 responses. UPDATED VERSION BELOW

I spoke to http://www.abc.net.au/environment/ on Thursday who asked if I could submit an article on the Brisbane floods. I figured, good way to reach more eyeballs (the ABC site gets big traffic albeit Australian), perhaps drive some traffic to SkS also and it can never hurt building relationships with mainstream media. So I've slapped together this article building on the last few paragraphs of my blog post on the Qld floods. I have to submit it Monday morning - just over 12 hours from now. I'm still not that happy with the draft - Wendy read it, said the language is stilted and too formal, the headline sucks, too many sentences start with "the" (she doesn't mince her words, she's an awesome editor). Me personally, I'm stumped for how to finish it off - the final paragraph is weak as dishwater. So I'll keep tweaking it but in the meantime, would welcome feedback from everyone (sooner than later please as it gets submitted by 9am tomorrow morning - just under 13 hours from now).


Training the weather to throw harder punches
*** IGNORE, UPDATED VERSION BELOW ***

When we experience devastating events like the Brisbane floods, an inevitable question is "did climate change cause these floods?" This is not the right question. A more appropriate question is "does climate change have any effect on events like heavy rainfall?" The answer is yes.

It helps to think of weather as a boxer throwing punches at us. Occasionally nature's swipes break through our defences and briefly knock us off our feet. In 1893, the Black February Flood ran through the Brisbane CBD, causing eleven deaths. To mitigate against future floods, the Somerset Dam was built.

However, the 1974 floods once again broke through our defences. The Brisbane River broke its banks and 14 people lost their lives. The immediate response was to erect further defences, constructing the Wivenhoe Dam. If it weren't for those actions, the 2011 flooding would've been considerably more severe.

We Queenslanders are not the only one suffering from extreme rainfall in 2011. As the bad weather headed south, we saw New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania also experience flooding. A catchphrase recently quoted in the media is that the area of flooded Queensland is equivalent to France and Germany combined. With southern states also afflicted, perhaps we need to add a few more European countries to the comparison.

While eastern Australia suffers, the current news from overseas is sobering. In Rio de Janeiro, flash flooding and mudslides have caused the deaths of over 500. In Sri Lanka, widespread floods have displaced more than 300,000 with a death toll of at least 32 people.

But floods have always happened, right? Nature has always thrown its punches at us. Every couple of years, the Pacific Ocean cycles between El Nino and La Nino conditions. During La Nina, strong trade winds blow across the Pacific, pushing warm waters to the west and blowing moist air across east Australia. For this reason, whenever La Nina happens, we usually get more rainfall on our east coast.

On top of this natural cycle, the world is getting warmer. As we burn fossil fuels like coal or oil, greenhouse gases are building up in the atmosphere. This is causing warming, most of which is going into the oceans. Since 1970, the amount of heat building up in the ocean is equivalent to the energy from two and a half Hiroshima bombs going off every second.

In 2010, sea surface temperatures around Australia reached a record high. When it gets warmer, more water evaporates and the air gets more humid. Globally, the amount of water vapour in the air has increased by 4% over the last 40 years. All this extra water vapour is like fuel for the weather, increasing the chances of heavy downpours.

Consequently, over the last 50 years, the frequency of extreme rainfall events is increasing. We're experiencing more and more heavy downpours.

So returning to our boxing metaphor, what we're doing is training weather to throw faster, harder punches at us. In the past, nature managed to slip in a few lucky punches. But now, from a boxing point of view, our climate is getting stronger and faster. Fuelled by more water vapour, the chance of extreme rainfall is increasing. As a result, we're seeing more extreme rainfall and the flooding that goes with it.

Climate change isn't some theoretical prediction for the distant future. Global warming is happening now. We've been observing extreme rainfall increasing for the past 40 years. As the world continues to warm, we will continue to experience more frequent extreme rainfall and flooding. This highlights the need for climate action.=

2011-01-16 21:51:24comment
Robert Way

robert_way19@hotmail...
142.162.207.106
a few thoughts:

When considering climate change it helps to think of weather as a boxer throwing punches as us.

In Rio de Janeiro,  flash flooding and mudslides have caused over 500 deaths, while in Sri Lank widespread flooding has killed 32 people and displaced over 300,000.

Consequently, over the last 50 years, the frequency of extreme rainfall events has also increased.


2011-01-16 22:20:17
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.92.76.234

I get what Wendy is driving at, it doesn't flow that well (says me!) compared to a typical news piece (but at least the science isn't arse about face!). With all the typos I assume you're on a phone writing this?. 

Although I like it (being an amateur boxer when I was young), the boxer analogy doesn't appear that intuitive. You're going to have to pad that out a bit. How do we train it to throw harder and faster punches?. You have to make it more obvious how the weather and boxer compare.

My 2 cents:

Sticking with the boxing metaphor:

- Last paragraph needs to emphasize that we aren't really dealing with the same boxer anymore, weather was a welterweight, is now a Heavyweight and will become a Super heavyweight as more and more Hiroshima Bombs worth of energy are added to the oceans. We are going to see extreme weather never experienced in the whole of human existence, simply because of the atmosphere's ability to hold more moisture, and power greater storms. When this Superheavyweight might enter the ring is debatable, but we're starting to get glimpses.  

- You need to spell out that this isn't a monotonic trend with rainfall. Drought will still be Australia's major headache, interspersed with heavier more damaging downpours. Maybe liken this to "the boxer" taking it easy on us for a few rounds?, then pummelling the shit out of us again?. Or maybe...... we can't anticipate what combination of punches are going to be thrown, only that they're going to be a lot more painful and damaging. 

- This paragraph

In 2010, sea surface temperatures around Australia reached a record high. When it gets warmer, more water evaporates and the air gets more humid. Globally, the amount of water vapour in the air has increased by 4% over the last 40 years. All this extra water vapour is like fuel for the weather, increasing the chances of heavy downpours.

Be a lot easier to follow if you replace the last sentence and just explain that there is more water now suspended above our heads, so when it does condense and fall, there's often more of it.

 

 

 

2011-01-16 22:53:27Here are my thoughts
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
112.213.154.212
  • In the first sentence, the question “Did climate change cause this event?” would make more sense given that you refer to “devastating events like the Brisbane floods” rather than the Brisbane floods exclusively.
  • There is a double space after “Rio de Janeiro,”
  • “El Nino and La Nino conditions” should be “El Nino and La Nina”. Well, technically they should have a fancy ñ instead of n.
  • “the frequency of extreme rainfall events is increasing” should read “the frequency of extreme rainfall events has increased

The last paragraph does sound rather clunky. I suggest replacing it with something like:

“Climate change isn’t some theoretical prediction for the distant future. Global warming is happening now. We’ve seen increasing downpours for the past 40 years. Extreme weather events are set to get worse as the climate continues to respond to the greenhouse gases we’ve already emitted. But we can still prevent these tragedies from becoming the norm if we act rapidly to decarbonise our energy sources and stabilise the climate.

In the past we’ve built dams to mitigate further floods in Queensland. This time it will take more than a bigger dam. This time we must take action on climate change.”

Isn’t that a much stronger ending?

2011-01-16 23:06:28Updated article (taken on board some comments plus went with more casual, personal intro)
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.100.112

Okay, global warming, this time it's personal!

I've been blogging about climate for four years. Tapping away from my blogging dungeon in Brisbane, I've examined flooding in Pakistan, snow storms in Europe and sea level rise in future decades. Then last week, flooding hit my home town. Low lying parts of the next suburb were evacuated. I heeded the Premier's advice to not go rubber necking (my inner voice tempted me with "do it for the blog"). It turns out I didn't need to step out my front door. YouTube revealed the full extent of the flooding in all nearby suburbs. As I watched disaster engulf my neighbourhood, I thought, "okay, global warming, this time it's personal!"

I confess, it was rather an emotional response. Any climate blogger worth his salt will jump down your throat if you dare to blame a particular weather event on climate change. Once I sat down and thought about it, I knew that asking "did climate change cause this event?" was not the right question. A more appropriate question is "does climate change have any effect on events like heavy rainfall?" The answer is yes.

The most helpful lesson I've had in understanding how climate change affects extreme weather came from a single sentence by climate scientist Deke Arndt who said "Climate trains the boxer but weather throws the punches". When considering climate change, I think of weather as a boxer throwing punches at us. Occasionally nature's swipes break through our defences and knock us off our feet. In 1893, the Black February Flood ran through the Brisbane CBD, causing eleven deaths. To mitigate against future floods, the Somerset Dam was built.

In 1974, floods once again broke through our defences. The Brisbane River broke its banks and 14 people lost their lives. The immediate response was to erect further defences, constructing the Wivenhoe Dam. If it weren't for those actions, the devastating 2011 floods would've been even worse. Weather dealt us a fearful blow but the Queensland community spirit in getting us back on our feet has been a glorious thing.

Queensland is not the only place suffering from extreme rainfall at the moment. Our skies are now clear but the bad weather has headed south. New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania are all experiencing flooding. A catchphrase recently repeated ad nauseam by the media is that the area of flooded Queensland is equivalent to France and Germany combined. With southern states also afflicted, perhaps we need to add a few more European countries to the comparison.

While eastern Australia suffers, the current news from overseas is sobering. In Rio de Janeiro,  flash flooding and mudslides have caused over 500 deaths, while in Sri Lanka widespread flooding has killed 32 people and displaced over 300,000. The impact that extreme weather has on humanity is staggering.

But floods are nothing new, right? Nature has always thrown its punches at us. Every couple of years, the Pacific Ocean cycles between El Niño and La Niña conditions. During La Niña, strong trade winds blow across the Pacific, pushing warm waters to the west and blowing moist air across east Australia. For this reason, whenever La Niña happens, we usually get more rainfall on our east coast.

On top of this natural cycle, the world is getting warmer. As we burn fossil fuels like coal or oil, greenhouse gases are building up in the atmosphere. These trap heat, most of which is going into the oceans. Since 1970, the amount of heat building up in the oceans is equivalent to the energy from two and a half Hiroshima bombs going off every second.

In 2010, sea surface temperatures around Australia reached a record high. Warmer water means more evaporation and the air gets more humid. Globally, the amount of water vapour in the air has increased by 4% over the last 40 years. All this extra water vapour is like fuel for the weather, increasing the chances of heavy downpours. Consequently, over the last 50 years, the frequency of extreme rainfall events has increased. We're experiencing more and more heavy downpours.

So returning to our boxing metaphor, what we're doing is training weather to throw faster, harder punches at us. In the past, nature was like a welterweight that managed to slip in a few lucky punches. But now, the world is warmer and the atmosphere can hold more moisture. We've trained it into a heavyweight. If we don't reduce our fossil fuel burning, we risk turning it into a super heavyweight. In the past, we’ve built dams to mitigate further floods in Queensland. This time it will take more than a bigger dam. This time, we must take action on climate change.

2011-01-16 23:09:59John, before you submit...
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
112.213.154.212
Did you read my suggested ending?
2011-01-16 23:12:00Just read it now
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.100.112
Ooh, nice one. Also good welterweight/heavyweight stuff from Rob. Honestly, how did I get by for 3 and a half years without this forum and you guys!?!
2011-01-16 23:19:22Extended boxer analogy
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
112.213.154.212
The extended boxer analogy doesn't really work because what we're really risking is turning it into a super super super heavyweight. I mean, we've had 0.7C warming so far and there's maybe 0.6 in the pipeline, but under business as usual we risk up to 7C by the end of the century.
2011-01-16 23:22:23Elaboration
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
112.213.154.212
My other suggested addition ("Extreme weather events are set to get worse as the climate continues to respond to the greenhouse gases we’ve already emitted. But we can still prevent these tragedies from becoming the norm if we act rapidly to decarbonise our energy sources and stabilise the climate.") was an attempt to convey that we're already committed to some warming and some more increasing extreme weather, but we can still prevent the worst.
2011-01-16 23:33:30ALTERNATIVE VERSION
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.115.143

John et al.,

In the interests of time, I have written a modified version of your original, with what i believe is a faster pace; rather than making incremental changes. There are also a few changes in emphasis, and perhaps a punchier ending.

Please take a look and see if there's anything you can use. I won't be offended if you ignore the whole thing.

=====================================================================================

Training the weather to throw harder punches

 

When we’re hit by devastating events like the Brisbane floods, a question inevitably comes to mind: “Did climate change cause these floods?” This is not quite the right question: No one specific event can ever be pinned on a change in climate, any more than one specific roll of snake eyes can be blamed on loaded dice: The loading influences the outcome, but it doesn’t determine it.

 

A better question is, “Does climate change take us toward the expectation of heavy rainfall?” The answer to this question is, “Yes, it loads the dice in that direction.”

 

For a moment, think of the weather as a boxer, throwing punches at us. Occasionally, nature’s swipes break through our defenses and knock us off our feet – and we get back up:

-        In 1893, the Black February flood ran through the Brisbane CBD, causing eleven deaths.  To protect against future floods, the Somerset Dam was built.

-        In 1974, the Brisbane River again broke its banks, and 14 lost their lives. In responses to that, the Wivenhoe Dam was constructed. If not for that, the 2011 flooding would have been even worse than it was.

 

But we in Queensland are not the only ones suffering from rainfall extremes this year:

-        As the bad weather headed south, we saw that New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania also got hit with floods. It’s been pointed out that the flooded area of Queensland is equivalent to France and Germany together; with the addition of the southern states, we probably need to add a few more European countries to the scale.

-        In Rio de Janeiro, flash flooding and mudslides have killed over 500.

-        In Sri Lanka, widespread floods have displaced more than 300,000; at least 32 have died.

 

Now, flooding has always been happening, from time to time. Nature has always thrown its punches. Every couple of years, the Pacific Ocean cycles between the El Niño and the La Niña conditions: During the La Niña phase, strong trade winds blow across the Pacific, pushing warm waters to the west and bringing moist air across east Australia. So during La Niña, we usually get more rainfall on our eastern coast.

 

But on top of this natural cycle, the world is getting warmer. As we burn fossil fuels, like coal and oil, greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere. This causes warming (much more than was ever produced in the actual combustion); and most of the heat goes into the oceans. How much? Since 1970, the heat building up in the ocean is like two and a half Hiroshima bombs – every second.

 

In 2010, the sea surface temperatures around Australia reached a record high. Now, when the waters get warmer, more evaporation makes the sea air more humid. (Globally, the total water vapour in the air has increased by 4% over the last 40 years.) All this extra water vapour is like a fuel for strong weather, increasing the chances of heavy downpours.

 

Consequently, over the last 50 years, the frequency of extreme rainfall events is going up. We’re setting ourselves up for more, and heavier, downpours.

 

Returning to our boxing metaphor, what we’ve been doing is training the weather to throw faster, harder punches at us. In the past, nature has gotten in a few lucky punches. But now our climate is getting stronger and faster, packing more of a wallop. Fuelled by more water vapor, it’s looking like what we used to call 100-year events are becoming 10-year events. [JOHN: MAKE SURE THIS IS REASONABLE, OR MODIFY IT.] And that means that we’re going to see more and more extreme rainfall and flooding.

 

Climate change isn’t just some theoretical prediction for the distant future. Global warming is happening now. We’ve been seeing extreme rainfall increasing over the last 40 years. As the world continues to warm, we’re going to be seeing more.

 

It’s time to stop training that boxer.

 

2011-01-17 00:07:01
MarkR
Mark Richardson
m.t.richardson2@gmail...
134.225.187.80

I like neal's ending and some of his paragraphs flow better too.

 

Some words are still technical; how good are the general public with understanding the exact definition of 'frequency' for example? 'Rate' might be better?

2011-01-17 00:18:47
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.115.143

MarkR,

- "frequency" => "rate" would certainly be fine by me

- If John likes this version, it could follow after his new lead-in paragraph. There would have to be some integration work on the 2nd & 3rd paragraphs, but otherwise it is a proposed alternative to the rest of the article.

2011-01-17 00:23:15Another boxer-related idea
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
112.213.154.212
Climate trains the boxer, and by changing the climate we're feeding the boxer steroids?
2011-01-17 00:36:14Hmmm
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
112.213.154.212
On second thoughts, steroids are reversible; take them away and the boxer is back to being ordinary once the steroids are out of his system. In this case it will take millennia for the boxer to completely get the CO2 out of his system.
2011-01-17 01:12:30
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.115.143

James,

Too complicated. 

I would lean towards short & punchy.

2011-01-17 02:16:28Analogy time (the lay public needs them)
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
68.188.192.170

As of about 1970, the water vapor in the atmosphere totaled about 1.27 x 10 to the 16 kg.  To give an equivalent to that, the volume of water in Lake Superior is about 1.21 x 10 to the 16 kg.  Thus, at that time, there existed a full Lake Superior in the atmosphere - a lot of capacity to precipitate out.

Since then, per Trenberth, the warming atmosphere has drawn about 4% more moisture into it.  To get an idea of what the equivalent would be, consider that Lake Erie is about 4% of the volume of Lake Superior (119 cubic miles vs that of Lake Superior at 2,900 cubic miles).  Thus we've added an extra Great Lake to the atmosphere's storm "fuel tanks".

Not that anyone would want to think that Lake Erie water might be raining down on them...

2011-01-17 03:03:18
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.115.143

John,

Are you driving the text?

2011-01-17 03:53:52
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.115.143

Dan,

as a USAn, I wouldn't have any idea of the relative volumes of Lake Superior and Lake Erie. 

Plus, we're writing for a bunch of people who have just been through a flood. I somehow do not think they will be entertained by the image of a lot of lakes suspended in the sky. I think the 4% explanation is good enough.

2011-01-17 04:12:19OK, I'll do my own integration: FULL VERSION 3
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.115.143

Since John is probably sleeping, I will take the bull by the horns and do the integration of his 2nd version with my own, taking into account a couple of comments above. 

 

I make a blanket statement here ("it’s looking like what we used to call 100-year events are becoming 10-year events."): This is my impression, but can somebody fact-check this? Or suggest something equivalent in concept (storms are coming more often; fairly colorful) if this is not quite right?

 

Neal

 P.S. Some funny things happening with font sizes. Oh, what the heck.

 

===========================================================================

 

Training the weather to throw harder punches

 

 

 

I've been blogging about climate for four years. Tapping away from my blogging dungeon in Brisbane, I've examined flooding in Pakistan, snowstorms in Europe, and sea-level rise in future decades. Then last week, flooding hit my hometown. Low-lying parts of the next suburb were evacuated. I heeded the Premier's advice to not go rubber-necking (although my inner voice tempted me with "do it for the blog"). It turns out I didn't need to step out my front door. YouTube revealed the full extent of the flooding in all nearby suburbs. As I watched disaster engulf my neighbourhood, I thought, "Okay, global warming, this time it's personal!"

 

I confess, it was rather an emotional response. Any climate blogger worth his salt will jump down your throat if you dare to blame a particular weather event on climate change. Once I sat down and thought about it, I knew that asking, "Did climate change cause this event?" was not the right question. A more appropriate question is, "Does climate change have any effect on events like heavy rainfall?" The answer is yes.

The most helpful lesson I've had in understanding how climate change affects extreme weather came from a single sentence by climate scientist Deke Arndt who said, "Climate trains the boxer but weather throws the punches." When considering climate change, I think of weather as a boxer, throwing punches at us. Occasionally, nature’s swipes break through our defenses and knock us off our feet – and we get back up:

-        In 1893, the Black February flood ran through the Brisbane CBD, causing eleven deaths.  To protect against future floods, the Somerset Dam was built.

 

-        In 1974, the Brisbane River again broke its banks, and 14 lost their lives. In responses to that, the Wivenhoe Dam was constructed. If not for that, the 2011 flooding would have been even worse than it was.

 

 

But we in Queensland are not the only ones suffering from rainfall extremes this year:

 

-        As the bad weather headed south, we saw that New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania also got hit with floods. It’s been pointed out that the flooded area of Queensland is equivalent to France and Germany together; with the addition of the southern states, we probably need to add a few more European countries to the scale.

-        In Rio de Janeiro, flash flooding and mudslides have killed over 500.

-        In Sri Lanka, widespread floods have displaced more than 300,000; at least 32 have died.

 

Now, flooding has always been happening, from time to time. Nature has always thrown its punches. Every couple of years, the Pacific Ocean cycles between the El Niño and the La Niña conditions: During the La Niña phase, strong trade winds blow across the Pacific, pushing warm waters to the west and bringing moist air across east Australia. So during La Niña, we usually get more rainfall on our eastern coast.

 

But on top of this natural cycle, the world is getting warmer. As we burn fossil fuels, like coal and oil, greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere. This causes warming (much more than was ever produced in the actual combustion); and most of the heat goes into the oceans. How much? Since 1970, the heat building up in the ocean is like two and a half Hiroshima bombs – every second.

 

In 2010, the sea surface temperatures around Australia reached a record high. Now, when the waters get warmer, more evaporation makes the sea air more humid. (Globally, the total water vapour in the air has increased by 4% over the last 40 years.) All this extra water vapour is like a fuel for strong weather, increasing the chances of heavy downpours.

 

Consequently, over the last 50 years, the rate of extreme rainfall events has been going up. We’re setting ourselves up for more, and heavier, downpours.

 

Returning to our boxing metaphor, what we’ve been doing is training the weather to throw faster, harder punches at us. In the past, nature has gotten in a few lucky punches. But now our climate is getting stronger and faster, packing more of a wallop. Fuelled by more water vapor, it’s looking like what we used to call 100-year events are becoming 10-year events. And that means that we’re going to see more and more extreme rainfall and flooding.

 

Climate change isn’t just some theoretical prediction for the distant future. Global warming is happening now. We’ve been seeing extreme rainfall increasing over the last 40 years. As the world continues to warm, we’re going to be seeing more.

 

It’s time to stop training that boxer.

2011-01-17 05:55:39
Riccardo

riccardoreitano@tiscali...
93.147.82.121
You might want to add a sentence on droughts to highlight the general behaviour of extreme events. Just to not let people say/think that floods are the opposite of droughts and that only one of them may be an indicator of global warming.
2011-01-17 05:55:47
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.223.233

That's good Neal, but this needs to go I reckon (much more than was ever produced in the actual combustion);. Seems clunky and unnecessary.

 

Still it appears to give the impression, to the average Aussie reader, to expect more rain in general. That's not right, when La Nina is over the big dry will likely continue. I know La Nina is mentioned, but it's not explicit enough.

 

and just a slight amendment: 

 

Returning to our boxing metaphor, what we’ve been doing is giving our boxer the fuel to grow bigger and stronger, and punch harder and faster. In the past, nature has gotten in a few lucky punches. But now our climate is packing more of a wallop. Fuelled by more water vapor, it’s looking like what we used to call 100-year events are becoming 10-year events. And that means that we’re going to see more and more extreme rainfall and flooding around the world.

2011-01-17 06:17:21
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.223.233

What about "Heavyweight Weather" as the title?. Just throwing stuff out there.

 

The extended boxer analogy doesn't really work because what we're really risking is turning it into a super super super heavyweight. I mean, we've had 0.7C warming so far and there's maybe 0.6 in the pipeline, but under business as usual we risk up to 7C by the end of the century.

 

James, that's exactly the point, we'll see boxing divisions that don't even exist now as the world continues to warm. Weather the Earth hasn't seen for tens of millions of years. Not suitable for John's piece perhaps, but maybe a metaphor worth developing, I was tentatively working on a lottery one. Regardless, this is an opportunity that should not be missed if we can drum in the link between climate change/global warming and extreme weather, then that's our best chance of convincing the public that we have a very, very serious problem.

2011-01-17 06:53:44
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.115.143

I don't want to go on too much about the boxer: Too much detail, robs the ending of punch.

Riccardo, Rob: Yes, this article is really heavy on "wet": We need to put something that innoculates it against drought as well. However, how can we do this? There doesn't seem to be a natural place to put it. But in another 6 months or so it's going to be as dry as a bone in Oz, right? We don't want people to point to this article and say we blew it!

In general, we get a lot of water vapor because it's baked up from the land or vaporized from the oceans. So the wetness of the air is partially a dryness of the land (elsewhere), but that's complicated footwork separating those issues out. Can someone suggest a place where we can stick it in without throwing the momentum of the article out?

 We got to wrap this up PDQ.

 

 

2011-01-17 07:05:05OK, how about this for the close?
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.115.143

......

 

Consequently, over the last 50 years, the rate of extreme rainfall events has been going up. We’re setting ourselves up for more, and heavier, downpours.

 

Returning to our boxing metaphor, what we’ve been doing is giving our boxer the fuel to grow bigger and stronger, and punch harder and faster. In the past, nature has gotten in a few lucky punches. But now our climate is packing more of a wallop. Fuelled by more water vapor, it’s looking like what we used to call 100-year events are becoming 10-year events. And that means that we’re going to see more and more extreme rainfall and flooding.

 

Climate change isn’t just some theoretical prediction for the distant future. Global warming is happening now. We’ve been seeing extreme rainfall increasing over the last 40 years. As the world continues to warm, we’re going to be seeing more.

 

Ironically, we will see the flip-side of this as well: Part of the reason that the air is so moist is that the water has been baked out of lands elsewhere. When the season changes, Oz will be part of the land being baked, so it will be excessively dry.

 

It’s time to stop training that boxer.

2011-01-17 07:16:43
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.223.233
Neal, I like it. But what the heck did you do to the text on this page?. Just kidding.
2011-01-17 07:20:36
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.115.143

Riccardo, James, Danial, MarkR ?

in 15 minutes, I'm gonna send a final version to John and go out for dinner.

 

2011-01-17 07:39:54OK: I declare (rough) consensus on this input to John
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.115.143

Training the weather to throw harder punches

 

 

I've been blogging about climate for four years. Tapping away from my blogging dungeon in Brisbane, I've examined flooding in Pakistan, snowstorms in Europe, and sea-level rise in future decades. Then last week, flooding hit my hometown. Low-lying parts of the next suburb were evacuated. I heeded the Premier's advice to not go rubber-necking (although my inner voice tempted me with "do it for the blog"). It turns out I didn't need to step out my front door. YouTube revealed the full extent of the flooding in all nearby suburbs. As I watched disaster engulf my neighbourhood, I thought, "Okay, global warming, this time it's personal!"

 

I confess, it was rather an emotional response. Any climate blogger worth his salt will jump down your throat if you dare to blame a particular weather event on climate change. Once I sat down and thought about it, I knew that asking, "Did climate change cause this event?" was not the right question. A more appropriate question is, "Does climate change have any effect on events like heavy rainfall?" The answer is yes.

The most helpful lesson I've had in understanding how climate change affects extreme weather came from a single sentence by climate scientist Deke Arndt who said, "Climate trains the boxer but weather throws the punches." When considering climate change, I think of weather as a boxer, throwing punches at us. Occasionally, nature’s swipes break through our defenses and knock us off our feet – and we get back up:

-       In 1893, the Black February flood ran through the Brisbane CBD, causing eleven deaths.  To protect against future floods, the Somerset Dam was built.

-       In 1974, the Brisbane River again broke its banks, and 14 lost their lives. In responses to that, the Wivenhoe Dam was constructed. If not for that, the 2011 flooding would have been even worse than it was.

 

But we in Queensland are not the only ones suffering from rainfall extremes this year:

-       As the bad weather headed south, we saw that New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania also got hit with floods. It’s been pointed out that the flooded area of Queensland is equivalent to France and Germany together; with the addition of the southern states, we probably need to add a few more European countries to the scale.

-       In Rio de Janeiro, flash flooding and mudslides have killed over 500.

-       In Sri Lanka, widespread floods have displaced more than 300,000; at least 32 have died.

 

Now, flooding has always been happening, from time to time. Nature has always thrown its punches. Every couple of years, the Pacific Ocean cycles between the El Niño and the La Niña conditions: During the La Niña phase, strong trade winds blow across the Pacific, pushing warm waters to the west and bringing moist air across east Australia. So during La Niña, we usually get more rainfall on our eastern coast.

 

But on top of this natural cycle, the world is getting warmer. As we burn fossil fuels, like coal and oil, greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere. This causes warming, and most of the heat goes into the oceans. How much? Since 1970, the heat building up in the ocean is like two and a half Hiroshima bombs – every second.

 

In 2010, the sea surface temperatures around Australia reached a record high. Now, when the waters get warmer, more evaporation makes the sea air more humid. (Globally, the total water vapour in the air has increased by 4% over the last 40 years.) All this extra water vapour is like a fuel for strong weather, increasing the chances of heavy downpours.

 

Consequently, over the last 50 years, the rate of extreme rainfall events has been going up. We’re setting ourselves up for more, and heavier, downpours.

 

Returning to our boxing metaphor, what we’ve been doing is giving our boxer the fuel to grow bigger and stronger, and punch harder and faster. In the past, nature has gotten in a few lucky punches. But now our climate is packing more of a wallop. Fuelled by more water vapor, it’s looking like what we used to call 100-year events are becoming 10-year events. And that means that we’re going to see more and more extreme rainfall and flooding.

 

Climate change isn’t just some theoretical prediction for the distant future. Global warming is happening now. We’ve been seeing extreme rainfall increasing over the last 40 years. As the world continues to warm, we’re going to be seeing more.

 

Ironically, we will see the flip-side of this as well: Part of the reason that the air is so moist is that the water has been baked out of lands elsewhere. When the season changes, Oz will be part of the land being baked, so it will be excessively dry.

 

It’s time to stop training that boxer.

2011-01-17 08:16:02
Riccardo

riccardoreitano@tiscali...
93.147.82.121
More than 15 minutes, sorry. It sounds good, you don't need many words. I think the australians know very well having experience on both lately.
2011-01-17 09:53:00Final version
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.100.112

Okay, I sent it off with a few minutes to spare before the deadline. My deepest thanks and gratitude to you all for the many excellent suggestions. Was really keen to use Rob's welterweight/heavyweight idea but sadly it didn't make the final cut. Also tried to get James' excellent closing line into the conclusion but I couldn't get it to gel with Neal's closing line. That's the problem - there were too many good ideas! :-) Special thanks to Neal who went above and beyond in taking the original content and giving it a good buff and polish to make it much more readable.

I've posted the final version below. I tweaked the penultimate paragraph about drought. Don't find any errors or point out how it can be improved now because it's now been shipped off - unless it's something so egregious, I need to urgently email the editor.

Note - if the text looks weird, it's because someone *coughneilcough* has posted a comment on this thread that includes some nasty Word coding in it. :-)

Thanks again!


Okay global warming, this time it's personal!

I've been blogging about climate for four years. Tapping away from my blogging dungeon in Brisbane, I've examined flooding in Pakistan, snowstorms in Europe, and sea-level rise in future decades. Then last week, flooding hit my hometown. Low-lying parts of the next suburb were evacuated. I heeded the Premier's advice to not go rubber-necking (although my inner voice tempted me with "do it for the blog"). It turns out I didn't need to step out my front door. YouTube revealed the full extent of the flooding in all nearby suburbs. As I watched disaster engulf my neighbourhood, I thought, "Okay global warming, this time it's personal!"

I confess, it was rather an emotional response. Any climate blogger worth his salt will jump down your throat if you dare to blame a particular weather event on climate change. Once I sat down and thought about it, I knew that asking, "Did climate change cause this event?" was not the right question. A more appropriate question is, "Does climate change have any effect on events like heavy rainfall?" The answer is yes.

The most helpful lesson I've had in understanding how climate change affects extreme weather came from a single sentence by climate scientist Deke Arndt who said, "Climate trains the boxer but weather throws the punches." When considering climate change, I think of weather as a boxer, throwing punches at us. Occasionally, nature breaks through our defences and knock us off our feet – and we get back up:

  • In 1893, the Black February flood ran through the Brisbane CBD, causing eleven deaths. To protect against future floods, the Somerset Dam was built.
  • In 1974, the Brisbane River again broke its banks, and 14 lost their lives. In responses to that, the Wivenhoe Dam was constructed. If not for that, the 2011 flooding would have been even worse than it was.

But we Queenslanders are not the only ones suffering from rainfall extremes this year:

  • As the bad weather headed south, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania are also hit with floods. It’s been pointed out that the flooded area of Queensland is equivalent to France and Germany together; with the addition of the southern states, we probably need to add a few more European countries to the scale.
  • In Rio de Janeiro, flash flooding and mudslides have killed over 500.
  • In Sri Lanka, widespread floods have displaced more than 300,000; at least 32 have died.

Now, flooding has always been happening, from time to time. Nature has always thrown its punches. Every couple of years, the Pacific Ocean cycles between the El Niño and the La Niña conditions: During the La Niña phase, strong trade winds blow across the Pacific, pushing warm waters to the west and bringing moist air across east Australia. So during La Niña, we usually get more rainfall on our eastern coast.

But on top of this natural cycle, the world is getting warmer. As we burn fossil fuels, like coal and oil, greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere. This causes warming, and most of the heat goes into the oceans. How much? Since 1970, the heat building up in the ocean is like two and a half Hiroshima bombs – every second.

In 2010, the sea surface temperatures around Australia reached a record high. When the waters get warmer, more evaporation makes the sea air more humid. (Globally, the total water vapour in the air has increased by 4% over the last 40 years.) All this extra water vapour is like a fuel for strong weather, increasing the chances of heavy downpours.

Consequently, over the last 50 years, the rate of extreme rainfall events has been going up. We’re setting ourselves up for more, and heavier, downpours.

Returning to our boxing metaphor, what we’ve been doing is giving our boxer the fuel to grow bigger and stronger, and punch harder and faster. In the past, nature has gotten in a few lucky punches. But now our climate is packing more of a wallop. Fuelled by more water vapor, it’s looking like what we used to call 100-year events will become 10-year events. And that means we’re going to see more and more extreme rainfall and flooding.

Climate change isn’t just some theoretical prediction for the distant future. Global warming is happening now. Extreme rainfall has been increasing over the last 40 years. As the world continues to warm, we’re going to be seeing more.

Ironically, we see the flip-side of this as well: Part of the reason that the air is so moist is that the water has been baked out of lands elsewhere. Global warming means more intense rainfall and more intense drought. Again, this isn’t theory – it’s happening now. While the rate of extreme rain events are increasing, we’re also observing an increase in drought severity.

It’s time to stop training that boxer.

2011-01-17 10:28:19
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.115.143

I'm glad we finished it off in time to get it in!

It will be interesting to hear of its ultimate disposition.

2011-01-17 13:11:11Feedback from ABC Environment
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.100.112

Got this email about an hour ago:

Lovely work! Great tone. Good pacing. It's all good.

Then requests for a few sources, including a source for the 100-year event => 10-year event. I replied back with all the sources but changing the wording of that sentence. With luck, will get posted today - will let everyone know when it does.

Thanks all, again. Not sure that the feedback would've been so glowing without all the hard work by everyone here.

2011-01-17 15:17:07Article just went live
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.100.112

http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2011/01/17/3114597.htm

Will post something on SkS linking to it - just finding out how much of the article I can reproduce.

2011-01-17 15:30:43
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.238.114
Well done!. 
2011-01-17 18:11:43
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.108.242

On the 100-year event issue: Yes, I was actually a little worried about that phrasing. It seems approximately true, but hard to pin down. I guess we would have to interpret the question in terms of a set of events, each having a Poisson probability distribution; and what happens to the observation rate when the parameters of these distributions change. Intuitively, I think you can draw some conclusion when a lot of 100-year events start happening so closely spaced; but my statistical training is not strong enough to provide good justification.  It's just as well that they flagged it.

Comments on the article have opened up at ABC. I have some work to get caught up on, so I'm not going to be able to engage closely.

2011-01-18 08:20:22Just one comment so far on the ABC-website?
BaerbelW

baerbel-for-350@email...
93.231.159.91

Just wondering why there is only one comment for the ABC-article and whether or not this is by design or an accident - especially as the comment is from an apparent "skeptic". When I click on the comment-link nothing happens. Has anybody else tried to post a comment?

Cheers
Baerbel

2011-01-18 08:35:40
Riccardo

riccardoreitano@tiscali...
93.147.82.96
I tried, no results.
2011-01-18 10:00:20Comment problems
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.100.112

I tried replying to that first skeptic comment, system didn't work.

Came back this morning, over 20 comments so it's back up again. Mostly lots of positive comments pointing out the ridiculousness of the skeptic comment.

2011-01-18 20:25:17On the comments
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.34.235

- Overwhelming majority are positive

- Only one or two names that I recognize from climate blogs (although I admit to not being engaged in the blog-front battling currently). Are we reaching a new audience with this article? If so, there's a much higher % of AGW-ers out there than I would have thought.

2011-01-18 22:37:40Neal, it's not exactly a random sample
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
112.213.154.212
It's only a sample of Environment section commenters. If you go and read the comments threads in the ABC's opinion section, Unleashed, the comments are overwhelmingly denialist.
2011-01-18 23:02:52Oh, well...
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.34.235
... another beautiful theory, mugged by ugly facts.
2011-01-18 23:02:55
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.34.235
2011-01-19 00:24:07Motl's "debunking"
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
112.213.154.212

One of the commenters at the ABC trumpeted that John Cook has been completely debunked by Lubos Motl! In reply I posted a comment going through Motl's top 5 "debunkings" and showing how wrong he was, then concluding "If this is how Motl does on the top 5 arguments, how well do you think he “debunks” the rest?".

It got me thinking - should SkS post a rebuttal to Motl exposing how ridiculous his arguments are? Or is this a bad idea? (We wouldn't want to get into a situation of "Motl debunking of SkS debunking of Motl debunking of SkS debunking...")

2011-01-19 00:32:33
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.34.235

The "dueling websites" scenario has been done before (RC vs WUWT), and generally seems to reduce the trust in both sites.

Let's see how far we get with the targeted debunking of selected deniers: Divide and conquer.

2011-01-19 00:40:26
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
112.213.154.212

I've just been rereading through Motl's arguments and they're even sillier than I remembered. Some of my favourites are:

  • #9 where Motl claims it would take a 256-fold increase of CO2 to prevent the next ice age!
  • #10 where Motl commits the same fallacy that our rebuttal debunks in its first paragraph - confusing land ice with sea ice.
  • #18 where Motl argues that despite the US being only 2% of the world’s surface area and despite his distrust of its temperature records, it matters because it’s an “advanced civilisation”. Seriously, that’s what he says!
  • #36: Glaciergate Glaciergate Glaciergate! Glacier melt is a lie!
  • #43: Climategate "has affected every single major source of evidence supporting the AGW line of reasoning"! No mention of all the evidence mentioned in our original Climategate rebuttal. I mean, he's just taken our rebuttal and turned it on its head.
2011-01-19 01:03:33
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.34.235

Motl is a maniac.

It is amazing that he was a good enough theorist to become Jr. Pf at Harvard, in string theory. Too bad he doesn't apply his critical thinking skills to other areas of physics: His approach seems to be "shoot first, aim later."

He got ejected early from his position at Harvard: It wasn't clear if it had more to do with his obstreperous anti-anti-AGW fulminations, or his equally unbalanced blog attacks on particle physicists who expressed some reservation about the self-evident truth of string theory.