Monday, October 29, 2012

Did Climate Change Load the Dice for Sandy?

Well, this is Rabett Run, so why ask?  Still, as we say, making the rubble bounce has an instructive effect, so let us bunnies add to the throw weight  In the comments about Eli's post on Testing, whose theme was that damage from extreme events is a question of reinforcement of several things rather than one single driver, Aslak Grinsted pointed to his recent PNAS paper (open access) which analyzed tidal gauge data

Detection and attribution of past changes in cyclone activity are hampered by biased cyclone records due to changes in observational capabilities. Here we construct an independent record of Atlantic tropical cyclone activity on the basis of storm surge statistics from tide gauges. We demonstrate that the major events in our surge index record can be attributed to landfalling tropical cyclones; these events also correspond with the most economically damaging Atlantic cyclones. We find that warm years in general were more active in all cyclone size ranges than cold years. The largest cyclones are most affected by warmer conditions and we detect a statistically significant trend in the frequency of large surge events (roughly corresponding to tropical storm size) since 1923. In particular, we estimate that Katrina-magnitude events have been twice as frequent in warm years compared with cold years (P < 0.02).
Tamino is busy analyzing the data, Eli knows his limits, but consider, Grinsted et al, has shown a correlation between warmer oceans and higher surge and activity.  Since higher sea surface temperatures are a consequence of global warming, well yes, there does appear to be a causal relationship.  There, easy enough.

Still there was something else in that paper which caught the Bunny's eye (he has been looking for a few days) but first some alphabet soup.  The surge index is Grinsted, Moore, and Jevrejevathe's measure of storm surge.  NTC is net tropical cyclone activity, ACE is accumulated cyclone energy and PDI is power dissipation index.  NHD, is net hurricane damage, Ethon's favorite snack food, some thing that Roger keeps pushing as a measure that shows there has been no increase in hurricane activity, and Andy Revkin (you there Andy?) keeps swallowing.  GMJ conclude that
The surge index is positively correlated with all of the comparison measures. The best correlations are found with measures that emphasize intensity (e.g., NTC, ACE, and PDI) and measures that are restricted to US land-falling storms only. Table 1 also shows that low-frequency correlation tends to be at a higher level than the year-to-year correlation. This is to be expected given that there are low-frequency driving agents related to various climate forcings (4, 8). One notable exception is NHD, which shows poor low-frequency correlations. However, NHD has been subjected to extensive corrections for inflation and changes in societal conditions over time (21). These corrections affect primarily low-frequency signals and trends and we interpret the poor low-frequency correlation with surge index to be due to a substantial remaining bias in NHD. We therefore consider the low-frequency variability (i.e., trend) of NHD suspect. We note, however, that the surge index does capture the high-frequency variability in NHD, thus supporting the interpretation that it is truly a proxy for cyclone threat. It is conceivable that the surge index could be used to correct for the remaining bias in NHD.   
Eli and a few others have been pointing out that NHD does not account for systematic improvements in forecasting and early warning, building and structure construction and many other such things.  As elegantly put by the EPA
For example, it is not easy to quantify the extent to which increases in coastal building damage is due to increasing wealth and population growth in vulnerable locations versus an increase in storm intensity. Some authors (e.g., Pielke et al., 2008) divide damage costs by a wealth factor in order to ‘normalize’ the damage costs. However, other factors such as changes in building codes, emergency response, warning systems, etc. also need to be taken into account.
Eli has been known to be a bit blunter, speaking for himself and Nils Simon
First, it is obvious even to a stuffed animal that the costs of flood control and surge barriers to limit damage from storms has increased substantially over the last fifty years. If such expenditures have NOT been included in the storm cost estimates, and the trend without them is flat, the trend WITH such costs MUST increase substantially. Any estimate that neglects these costs must be stated as a LOWER LIMIT. Neither Eli or Nils can find any such statement, not just from Roger Pielke. Therefore in true "Honest Broker" form, Rabett Run concludes that (OK, draw your own conclusions from what Roger calls others who mis-state something)

Second, and this is Nils' insight, NOT to include such costs or deal with their effect when you are aware of them, is either dishonest or a statement that such adaptation has no effect. Since we have been adapting to increased storm damage like crazy. Pielke is in Zugzwang.
but here, for the first time, GMJ have produced a metric which can be used to qualitativefy, or with some more work to quantitatify the benefits of progress.   What they have found makes great sense, if one realizes that the type of improvements the EPA, Nils and Eli were talking about take a long time to appear over the entire country, including the coasts.

That means that the LONG TERM correlations of NHD with physical measures of hurricane damage will be lousy, but short term correlations will be high (or as high as anything else).  NHD in that sense is a measure of the value and density of structures at the time that a hurricane hits, but it is lousy at capturing long term improvements.


bluegrue said...

I have noticed, that Pielke's numbers for normalized hurricane losses changed substantially and - to my eye - unsystematically in different incarnations. I have tried to post a comment about this at Pielke's blog to an earlier post on hurricane losses and tried to do so again to the current post "Top 10 Damaging Hurricanes Within 50 Miles of Sandy's Landfall". In both cases my comments did not show up. The first time I followed up with a comment asking for a spam bucket rescue. I have no idea why (blogspot acting up?), but I did not get any reaction.

Anyways, here's a copy of the comment in question (with links to papers added).

Anonymous said...


A category 1 storm during hurricane season?



EliRabett said...

Hitting NJ? At the end of October? What you been smoking?

This thing is a monster combo hurricane northeaster.

Anonymous said...

Eunice wondered:


A category 1 storm during hurricane season?


which, as Eli pointed out, misses the point.

I said as much over at Deltoid:

"As a corollary to the butterfly effect it’s quite plausible to conclude that this confluence of storms is very much a result of human interference with the climate. Such a conclusion is much easier when one is considering qualitative anomalies as well as or instead of quantitative anomalies."

and I suspect that there'd be a tricksy Baysian way of putting numbers to it, but I am sadly a recalcitrant frequentist so it's beyond my humble ability to put a number to the suspicion.

Bernard J. Hyphen-Anonymous XVII, Esq.

David B. Benson said...

Bernard J. Hyphen-Anonymous XVII, Esq. --- The number is 42.

Anonymous said...


A cat 1 hurricane, during hurricane season?


They happen.

At least conjure up a major storm
like the long island express which by its precedent, would still be normal, before even thinking about the end of the world.

These things happen.


tonylearns said...

Could someone go over to Goddard's blog for me ( I have been banned three times most recently for having the gall to suggest he was wrong in ridiculing the posibility of a new record minimum SIE this year. ) and ask for his apology to Hansen for ridiculing the possibility of the West Side Highway being underwater. I just saw a video showing the West Side Highway underwater.

muoncounter said...

"These things happen."

Indeed. However, they seem to be happening during a longer season.
See Kossin 2008
"A consistent signal emerged that suggests the [North Atlantic hurricane] season has become longer as the earliest formation dates of the season have become earlier and the latest dates have become later. ... the trends were shown to be related to local SST variability with warmer SST consistently associated with a longer hurricane season."

Your 1938 LIE storm formed in early September (see wikipedia). Why not go further back? 1893 formed in August. 1821 in early September. Yet here we are at the end of October.

Anonymous said...


I don't think that you're comprehending.

However, if you can point to a storm caused by a high sea surface temperature anomaly (largely attributable to human carbon emissions), enhanced by a wobbly jet stream (again, likely to be significantly affected by human carbon emissions) at this late stage of the season and at a latitude not overly associated with tropical hurricanes, please list those events.

J Bowers said...

Pielke Jr fed the deniasphere fast as lightning. Apparently this storm's no big deal according to every denier out there citing him.

Anonymous said...

Roger Pielke Jr makes apple juice from oranges, but without any pith. The only roughage is that which he inflicts upon objectivity.

Bernard J. Hyphen-Anonymous XVII, Esq.

J Bowers said...

And at the same time:

* Tropical Storm Son-Tinh kills 30 in the Philippines
* Son-Tinh Strikes China, Vietnam

J Bowers said...

I knew Roger the Dodger had to be using sleight of hand somewhere. He lists hurricane landfalls within 50 miles of Sandy's, then, in anticipation of October being pointed out, he gives his pretty ones fodder with three October landfall cyclones to fly with.

What he fails to mention is they were landfalls in Texas, Florida and the South/North Carolinas border.

Apples and oranges indeed, Bernard.

Anonymous said...

"Roger Pielke Jr makes apple juice from oranges, but without any pith."

Ah! That would be a pith poor concoction, then, I thay!

Hat,... coat,...

Cymraeg llygoden

Anonymous said...

Cymraeg llygoden FTW!

Bernard J. Hyphen-Anonymous XVII, Esq.

Jeffrey Davis said...

Lowest barometric ever recorded in the Northeast. A storm front of around 1500 miles.

So, simply referring to Sandy as "a" hurricane is misleading. Just as Irene Adler is always "the woman", Sandy is now, for the Northeast, "the" hurricane. Until, with AGW, they get something bigger.

Of course, Eunice's comment is comic. Why didn't AGW predict that there'd be entirely novel forms of weather? Rippling sidewalks that look like cartoon piano arpeggios. Trees that balloon like Chinese lanterns. Downpours of actual cats and dogs.

-Abraham, let Lazarus return to warn my brothers.
-They have Moses and the Prophets. If they do not heed these, they will not believe even if a man were to rise from the dead.

Russell said...

In what may go down as the high water mark of climate denial dementia 'Watts Up With That?" has already begun denying that Sandy was a hurricane,

Anonymous said...


A category 1 hurricane, during hurricane season?



Anonymous said...

June too soon.
July stand by.
August look out you must.
September remember.
October all over.

“Weather Lore” by R. Inwards, 1898 in reference to hurricane season.


Anonymous said...

To be sure, there is a spatial component of tropical cyclone intensity wrt sea temperature. When a storm over average temperature water passes over an area of warmer waters, the storm does realize the potential energy and intensifies.

But that is not the underlying process of tropical cyclones. When one examines the CAPE ( Convective Available Potential Energy ) of tropical storms, one finds them low, at least compared to typical summer days over the US. The convection of TCs is driven, similar to that which occurs with cold front passages, by convergence. TCs are an exquisite expression of conservation of angular momentum - inflow near the surface, outflow aloft fostering the thunderstorms and tracing the spiral bands.

Beyond that, one may examine the GCM prediction of the tropical upper tropospheric hot spot. That, of course, predicts increasing STABILITY, not instability. It's not observed, but that's what the GCMs predict.

TCs are episodic events, and they, like snowstorms, are probably not good markers of any climate assessment because discrete episodes imply large variability.

But to the extent we look at tropical cyclones, we observe that the accumulated cyclone energy exhibits lower than average values recently within a wide range and that this particular storm is not abnormal in either intensity, time, or location.

Joe Mahma

J Bowers said...

NY Gov. Cuomo: “There have been a series of extreme weather events. That is not a political statement; that is a factual statement. Anyone who says there is not a change in weather patterns is denying reality.”

J Bowers said...

Mitt Romney Refuses To Talk About FEMA After Hurricane Sandy Event

Ed Darrell said...

Tonylearns, at least 23 times Goddard has tried to hammer James Hansen for saying the Westside Highway would be covered with water!

Of course, I can't post at Goddard's site, either, most of the time.

So I put together a post at my site, with one photo, and the links to Goddard's site.

Maybe someone could go to Goddard's site and copy those two dozen posts before he takes them down.

What tragedies have these denialists set us up for?

Anonymous said...

Cymraeg llygoden: "Hat,... coat,..."

Have you been hanging out at El Reg, or did they get it from you?

Mal Adapted

Anonymous said...

Sorry Mal Adapted, but I don't know what El Reg is, and I get the feeling I probably don't want to know... So I likely miss your point.

Cymraeg llygoden

Anonymous said...

Roger Pielke Junior sure does like to lie with facts. Keep your eye on the pea folks, Roger is at the table trying to deny reality and feeding the deniers fodder for good measure.

Roger Junior was caught out lying and distorting facts to fit his agenda/narrative. Desperate actions by a desperate man.

He is shameless. He is long overdue for another take down-- tedious yes, but necessary. Playing whack-a-mole with these deluded characters is tiresome but necessary.

dhogaza said...

"Sorry Mal Adapted, but I don't know what El Reg"

The Register, once "Goddard"'s home, until even they couldn't stomach his dishonesty (took some time, though).

dhogaza said...

" this particular storm is not abnormal in either intensity, time, or location."

Sorry, Joey, I'll take the word of every friggin' expert over some random internet idiot every day of the week.

WUWT will, however, annoint you as the next Galileo. Get thee hence.

J Bowers said...

George Lakoff' excellent article at AlterNet on systemic causes.

Global Warming Systemically Caused Hurricane Sandy

Kutai said...

In the meantime, the deniers have been busy. On U.S. news, there is a poll asking the readers if Sandy was caused by Global warming.

So Willard has invited his followers to vote (and they have successfully changed the result of the poll).

J Bowers said...

Witnessing the overdrive of denial on the internet, I think I just figured out why we've never seen advanced alien species paying us a visit: they never got to the interstellar travel stage because they harnessed energy from fossil fuels, too, and are now extinct or living in caves again.

Anonymous said...

On U.S. news, there is a poll asking the readers if Sandy was caused by Global warming. "

I can see nails for another Lewandowsky hammer.

With the added hook that there are apparently people who think that the hurricane was generated by HAARP in order to win Obama the election - although in the next breath these same foil-hatters will swear that it's impossible for human activity to affect the climate in any way... it's amazing how thermodynamically-innumerate the denialati are.

"Witnessing the overdrive of denial on the internet, I think I just figured out why we've never seen advanced alien species paying us a visit: they never got to the interstellar travel stage because they harnessed energy from fossil fuels, too, and are now extinct or living in caves again. "

A notion to which I firmly subscribe. Perhaps another target for a Baysian analysis.

J Bowers said...

Would the village that lost its idiot kindly claim him back.

Anonymous said...

[" this particular storm is not abnormal in either intensity, time, or location."
Sorry, Joey, I'll take the word of every friggin' expert over some random internet idiot every day of the week.]


Here are just the October or later New England tropical storms:
( Not including the Gale of February 23, 1723- there wouldn't be enough Xanax to calm you down if that recurred ).

October 29, 1693-
October 18, 1703-
October 8, 1747-
November 1, 1778-
October 8–9, 1782-
October 18–19, 1782-
October 9,[3] 1804-
October 11, 1830 –
October 3, 1841 -
October 14, 1846 -
October 6, 1849 -
October 19, 1851 -
November 3, 1861-
October 30, 1866-
October 10, 1894-
October 6, 1898-
November 1, 1899-
1927 November —
1962 October - Hurricane Daisy
1963 October - Hurricane Ginny
1991 October - Hurricane Grace/Henri
October 8, 1996 – The remnants of Tropical Storm Josephine
Early October, 2003 – The interaction between Hurricane Kate and a high pressure area to its north produced 3 to 4 foot (1 m) waves along the coast.[16]
October 7, – October 12, 2005 – The remnants of Tropical Storm Tammy
November 3, 2007 – As an extratropical hurricane, Hurricane Noel hits coastal Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine with hurricane-force wind gusts of up to 89 mph
November 12, 2009 – Hurricane Ida after hitting the northeast gulf coast as a tropical storm, redeveloped off the Carolina coast as a strong nor'easter, bringing severe damage
October 29, 2012 - Storm surges, wind and rain from outer bands of Hurricane Sandy reached Southern New England before the storm's landfall in New Jersey.

Here's an interesting paper:

J Bowers said...

Anonymous, could you single out from your list the storms that were 1000 miles across, had a barometric pressure of 940 mb (normally associated with a Cat3), caused a 13+ foot storm surge, shut down the NYSE for two days, all after it had made landfall in New Jersey in late October? Thanks.

J Bowers said...

Or was Anonymous 31/10/12 10:21 just pulling a list out of their arse and throwing it in the hope that something might stick?

J Bowers said...

Bloomberg Businessweek: 'It's Global Warming Stupid'

"Yes, yes, it’s unsophisticated to blame any given storm on climate change. Men and women in white lab coats tell us—and they’re right—that many factors contribute to each severe weather episode. Climate deniers exploit scientific complexity to avoid any discussion at all.
Such numbers reflect the success of climate deniers in framing action on global warming as inimical to economic growth. This is both shortsighted and dangerous. The U.S. can’t afford regular Sandy-size disruptions in economic activity. To limit the costs of climate-related disasters, both politicians and the public need to accept how much they’re helping to cause them."

Jeffrey Davis said...

Skeptical Science:

Sandy "had the most kinetic energy of any tropical cyclone on record at 222 trillion Joules (the equivalent of 3.5 Little Boy Hiroshima atomic bombs) - more energy than Category 5 hurricanes like Katrina despite Sandy just being Category 1, because Sandy was spread over a much larger area."

Slow and vicious wins the race.

J Bowers said...

Statistics Show Hurricane Sandy’s Extraordinary Intensity

Emanuel and Oppenheimer's worst-case scenario storm model fell short of Sandy's intensity.

Anonymous said...

Anonymouse's argument FAIL:

"But to the extent we look at tropical cyclones, we observe that the accumulated cyclone energy exhibits lower than average values recently within a wide range and that this particular storm is not abnormal in either intensity, time, or location."

It would be like an saying an athlete running a 4.30, weigh 300 lbs, and run a marathon in just a bit over two hours is nothing unusual, since none of these are abnormal for an athlete.

Conspicuously absent: a quantitative number for Sandy, such as aforementioned accumulated cyclone energy, and an argument for why accumulated cyclone energy is an appropriate measure when concerned about hurricane threats or impact of global warming on hurricanes.

To be fair to anonymouse, s/he is good at cut-n-paste from wikipedia.

Rib Smokin' Bunny

Anonymous said...

So, George Lakoff chides scientists like Hansen for communication failure when they say things like

"we can state, with a high degree of confidence, that extreme anomalies such as those in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010 were a consequence of global warming because their likelihood in the absence of global warming was exceedingly small."

Lakoff claims that use of terminology like "high degree of confidence, anomalies, consequence, likelihood, absence, and exceedingly small" amounts to "Scientific weasel words!" and that "The power of the bald truth, namely causation, is lost."

Hansen et al made that assessment after detailed study of the specific extreme events in question.

The statement made by Hansen et al was both scientifically accurate and quite blunt.

For Lakoff to call their statement "weasel words" is simply silly. Dumb really. I wonder if Lakoff even knows what "weasel words" means.

He certainly doesn't understand how science works, that much is clear.

Personally, I'd much prefer to let the real scientists like Hansen analyze, draw conclusions about specific extreme events and describe the state of the science rather than have a "framer" like Lakoff get into the act (cunninglinguist though he may be).


J Bowers said...

Well, it's safe to say Sandy put climate change back on the political table, and restored "global warming" into the popular lexicon. The GOP should claim its money back from Frank Luntz.