Tag Archives: Real Climate

El Niño Forecast up to 65-70%

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has issued their monthly El Niño diagnostic discussion for May 2014 (permalink). The summary has increased the probability of an event from “exceeding 50%” to “exceeding 65%”. The CPC and International Research Institute (IRI) provides a quick look at the longer term forecasts, which peak at 78% to 79% for Nov or Dec of 2014. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology also issued their bi-weekly update on Tuesday, which cites the likelihood of an El Niño at least at 70%. As the more detailed discussion at Real Climate notes, even with an 80% prediction, there still is a 20% chance that an El Niño will not form.

At this point, however, the more interesting discussion is the forecast intensity. Currently, the average of all the models have the event peak at around 1°C (with the highest model at 1.5°C). This is significantly less than the record-breaking El Niño events in 1983 and 1997-8 of nearly 3°C. The expert discussions are careful to note that strength forecasts at this point are highly unreliable, so there is no guarantee that this will either be an especially mild or strong event.

Mitigation of Climate Change

Well, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on mitigation is out. I’ve got lots of reading to do. Joe Romm at Think Progress and Brigitte Knopf at Real Climate have done a better job of summarizing this than I. The shortest of the short summary is that the worst effects of climate change can be avoided at very minimal costs.

Paul Krugman has a related blog post about the falling cost of solar. Paul’s readership is probably orders of magnitude larger than any climate-change site, so it’s good to have the publicity.

Plummeting Cost of Solar Modules

It’s also worth noting that onshore wind and hydroelectric power are already competitive with coal and natural gas. These are the pieces of information that make me hopeful for the future.

Is X Caused by Climate Change?

Real Climate has a good post regarding the probability of climate change affecting extreme events. This is (at least in part) a response to Roger Pielke’s post at the 538 blog claiming that climate change is not increasing the cost of extreme events. Most of the statistics is above my head, but I think some of the contention is missing the forest for the trees.

As discussed by Real Climate, extreme events are by definition rare so determining a clear “cause” is difficult. The physics behind all this — higher temps, more moisture in the air, higher sea levels, etc. — is loading the dice in favor of heat waves, droughts, hurricanes, and more. But, can you really say climate change is the “cause?” Few, if any, scientists can give a definitive Yes or No. But, if the question is whether climate change is making matters worse, then the answer is more clearly, Yes.

The analogy I think of is whether speeding causes a car accident. Screaming down a country dirt road at 120 mph may cause an accident simply because you don’t have the reaction time to avoid that herd of wandering cows. But, even here you have both explicit and implicit extenuating circumstances: frakking cows on the road(!), poor traction on gravel, limited sight distance, time of day, weather, type of vehicle, and more. While speed may be the dominant factor, it is not the only one. Conversely, think about the damage to the car (much less those poor, innocent cows) at 55 mph? Or 25 mph? Maybe the accident would still happen, but the aftermath would be much less apocalyptic.

Which gets back to Pielke’s contention that costs are not increasing due to climate change. This thesis is more along the lines of my question than a cause-and-effect question. I concur with the rebuttals (see more below) that Pielke omitted a lot from his analysis. Another overlooked point is what is included in the cost calculation. Harking back to the car accident analogy, the 120-mph accident is an outlier and likely to make the news. People will mock the driver on Facebook; PETA will protest; Twitter will go aflutter. But, how often do you hear or think about the 90 or so people (pdf) that die in traffic accidents every day. Or mountain pine beetles migrating farther north and east. Or the gradual extinction of plants and animals. Or oysters that can’t form their shells.

Continue reading Is X Caused by Climate Change?