Let’s End the Week on an Up Note

This is the European 10-day rainfall forecast from AccuWeather’s Professional web site. I have run through all of the applicable models’ (U.S., Canadian, Japan, etc.) extended U.S. forecasts and all indicate significant rainfall from Kansas, south, starting about this time next week and lasting through the weekend.

Let’s hope they are correct.

Enjoy your weekend!!

More on the South Central Rain Chances

Here are two computer runs (U.S. and European) and the amount of rain they are forecasting late next week in the drought-striken areas of the central U.S. These models are from AccuWeather.com’s Professional site: 

This is fairly encouraging given that the models typically under forecast rainfall this far out.  While these amounts are not large, it would be good just to get the dry pattern to break.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Signs of Hope?

For much of 2011, the upper atmospheric weather pattern has looked like this:

A high pressure center covering the central and western United States.

Since yesterday both the European (shown here) and U.S. extended range computer models shows a low coming into the central United States:

ten day ECMWF model valid Friday, October 7

The low, centered near Reno, is what will cause the early start of the rainy season in California and will bring rain to much of the West. There is a chance — just a chance — that some desperately needed rain may occur from Texas to Kansas.

However, the U.S. extended-range model (from 10 to 15 days) shows the western system rapidly weakening and moving farther north.

Given 2012 winter wheat planting that is occurring now, these model forecasts have the potential to move markets, so I decided to comment on them even though, at this point, it is only educated speculation as to whether significant rain may fall in the winter wheat belt.

How Good Were the Winter Forecasts?

Answer: Not very. Details here.

The three month forecasts by NOAA and others are short-term climate (i.e., “average” weather such as “warmer than average” or “wetter than average”) forecasts.

Some seasons, the forecasts work out quite well. Meteorologists know that the atmosphere is more “forecastable” at sometimes than others, but we still do not know why. We have made tremendous progress over the last ten years in forecasting out to three days and there is a fair amount of skill at five days. Three months is another matter entirely.

And, there is zero ability to forecast weather or climate three or thirty years into the future.

Hurricane Threat Tanking

This is a graph of worldwide hurricane activity through September 30th. After a peak in 2005, the year of Katrina, and forecasts of an extremely active Atlantic hurricane season, activity is falling to the lowest since the index was created in 1979 (when adequate satellite coverage made the index possible).  Click to enlarge graph. More information is here.

While meteorology has made tremendous strides at storm warnings and short-term forecasts, we have a very long way to go with even seasonal forecasts such as those made for the 2010 hurricane season.

All the more reason that 30 year forecasts of ‘global warming’ should be taken with a large grain of salt.

More Predictable Than the Weather

Like clockwork, every heatwave seems to bring a new claim of global warming disaster. This past week saw record heat in parts of the Northeast United States. So, a university at the opposite end of the nation took the opportunity to get some publicity.

This press release from Stanford University purports to tell us how many hot seasons will occur two decades from now. 
There is only one problem: We can’t forecast the weather twenty days from now. If we can’t forecast the weather twenty days or twenty weeks from now, there is no way we can forecast the weather in twenty years. What nonsense!

Hat tip: Anthony Watts

"Earth Hour"

I was watching “Bones” earlier this evening and I saw a commercial (cast with cute little children, natch) that implores the viewer to “stand up for climate change solutions” (or something like that) and turn out your lights for an hour. So, I went to their web site and this caught my eye:

New economic modelling indicates the world has just five years to initiate a low carbon industrial revolution before runaway climate change becomes almost inevitable. But it can be done, and the long term benefits will be enormous.

I clicked on the link to learn about this economic (note, not “climate”) model. It took me to a WWF advocacy publication that restates the contention that the world has “just five years” but does not document how that conclusion was reached!  I guess they assumed no one would check. Regardless, consider this:  From the results of an economic model, how could you possibly determine whether “runaway climate change” will occur in five years!?

It appears this is yet another example of fear-mongering.  We have heard these global warming “deadlines” before, starting in 1989 in The Miami Herald. Here is a screen capture from their archive (click to enlarge):

“Wiped off the face of the earth!  Exodus of Eco-Refugees! Chaos!” all by year 2000. Do you remember any of that? I don’t.

These ten year deadlines have been coming more or less regularly since then. Remember, the “tipping point” theme in the media a few years ago? Take NASA’s Dr. Hansen for example,

msnbc.com news services
updated 5:17 p.m. CT, Thurs., Sept . 14, 2006
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A leading U.S. climate researcher says the world has a 10-year window of opportunity to take decisive action on global warming and avert catastrophe.
NASA scientist James Hansen, widely considered the doyen of American climate researchers, said governments must adopt an alternative scenario to keep carbon dioxide emission growth in check and limit the increase in global temperatures to 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit).
“I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change … no longer than a decade, at the most,” Hansen said Wednesday at the Climate Change Research Conference in California’s state capital.
A year later (2007), NASA gave us another ten year deadline.

The same in 2008. Death Spiral! proclaimed the headline.

How many of these deadlines have to pass before people in general and the media in particular realize this is nonsense? As the previous posting explains, we can’t forecast the climate 90 days into the future, let alone 5 years (or more) into the future.

Winter 2009-2010 Forecast versus Reality

At left is the actual departure from normal temperatures (by climatological district) versus NOAA’s forecast (right) for the winter.  The forecast did not work out well.  Click to enlarge.

The British Met Office’s forecast for the winter was so bad it has disappeared from its web site and they appear to be discontinuing their seasonal forecasts. Those forecasts have been spectacularly bad in the last few years.

Exit question: If we cannot forecast the average weather (climate) for 90 days with consistent accuracy, why do we believe we an forecast the weather 90 years into the future? I believe the answer is self-evident.

Long Range Forecasting

Keep in mind, the people who forecast a warm winter in Great Britain when the actual winter was the coldest in more than 30 years are the same people who say the “science is settled” 50 and 100 years into the future.

Question:  If you can’t make an accurate forecast at 100 days, why do you think you can make an accurate forecast at 100 years?

An Awful Forecast and Its Relation to Climate Prediction

At left is NOAA’s 30-day temperature forecast for December, 2009, and, at right, are the actual temperatures for December (click to enlarge).  You’ll note the location of the warmest forecast temperatures (burnt orange colors) was where the coldest temperatures actually occurred (purples). This forecast was made in mid-November.
The British Met Office, which uses a different technique than NOAA, also missed badly. Their miss comes as part of a string of terrible forecasts that has caused some to question whether the Met Office should get out of the long range forecasting business.
My experience with the NOAA and Met Office forecasts seems to indicate little, if any, skill and I can see the point of some critics to take these back into experimental mode until consistent skill can be demonstrated, which might be years in the future.
That said, if we can’t get the 15 to 45 day forecast correct what makes us think we can forecast the climate 50 months or 50 years into the future?!

I’ll have more on the topic of confidence in long range climate projections later today or tomorrow.

If Only the U.S. Media Would Conduct an Interview Like This

John Hirst is the head of the British Met Office, UK’s equivalent to the U.S.’s National Weather Service.  Mr. Hirst firmly believes in human-caused global warming.

Prior to Climategate he proclaimed,

“But actually there’s massive certainty about global warming. The evidence is overwhelming, irrefutable.”

In response to Climategate, he said,
Met Office chief executive John Hirst and chief scientist Professor Julia Slingo organised the petition. They said: “This tremendous response affirms our confidence in the science, and reinforces the immediacy of the challenge and the critical nature of the discussions at Copenhagen.”
The petition said: “We, members of the UK science community, have the utmost confidence in the observational evidence for global warming and the scientific basis for concluding that it is due primarily to human activities.”
Here is an amazing interview from the BBC about the Met Office’s failure (like the U.S.’s Climate Prediction Center’s) to predict the cold wave the month before it occurred.  The interviewer was well-prepared, knew the facts, and did a great job.  
The takeaway from this is not to attack Hirst.  I’m sure he is sincere in his beliefs.  The two things I would like you to consider are, “How can the Met Office be ‘certain’ about man-caused global warming 30 years in the future when the organization cannot forecast a cold wave 30 days in advance?” The second is how refreshing it was to see an interview that did not follow the coached template I wrote about Thursday. 

UPDATE:  What was the interviewer referring to when he said “Bar-B-Que Summer”?  Answer: the British Met Office used that phrase in late-spring 2009 when it forecast a record hot summer for the UK, as in “we’ll all be roasting” (my words).  Instead, it was one of the coldest summers in UK history.  

UPDATE II, January 13th:  I wasn’t the only one struck by this interview. Roger Pielke, Sr. blogged on it today.  His bottom line?  ”To claim that the UK Met Office can provide skillful forecasts of the likelihood of such extreme events decades from now based just on the knowledge of a subset of human climate forcings (i.e. primarily added atmospheric carbon dioxide) is a very significant misrepresentation of the science.”