Hillary’s foot-in-mouth moment as a climate scientist

Anthony Watts Meteorologist and Climate Blogger
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In August, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters that the floods that were ravaging Pakistan at the time were linked to global warming.

“You can’t point to any particular disaster and say, ‘it was caused by [global warming],’ but we are changing the climate of the world,” Clinton told Pakistan’s Dawn TV, adding, “I think the predictions of more natural disasters are unfortunately being played out.”

Well, guess what, kids? There’s a peer-reviewed paper about to be published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, and in the press release about the paper, they don’t even mention the word “climate.” Simply put, a rogue storm system, part of the normal chaotic nature of weather on this planet, was the cause of last summer’s devastating floods. Nothing else. Anyone who claims that the storm was part of “climate change” is simply flat wrong, and that includes Hillary.

This paper was presented on Tuesday at the annual American Meteorological Society meeting in Seattle.

From Eurekalert:

Last summer’s disastrous Pakistan floods that killed more than 2,000 people and left more than 20 million injured or homeless were caused by a rogue weather system that wandered hundreds of miles farther west than is normal for such systems, new research shows.

Storm systems that bring widespread, long-lasting rain over eastern India and Bangladesh form over the Bay of Bengal, at the east edge of India, said Robert Houze, a University of Washington atmospheric sciences professor. But Pakistan, on the Arabian Sea west of India, is substantially more arid and its storms typically produce only locally heavy rainfall.

The flooding began in July and at one point it was estimated that 20 percent of Pakistan’s total land area was under water. Structural damage was estimated at more than $4 billion, and the World Health Organization estimated that as many as 10 million people had to drink unsafe water.

Houze and colleagues examined radar data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite and were able to see that the rainfall that caused the Indus River in Pakistan to overflow was triggered over the Himalayas, within a storm system that had formed over the Bay of Bengal in late July and moved unusually far to the west. Because the rain clouds were within the moisture-laden storm from the east, they were able to pour abnormal amounts of rain on the barren mountainsides, which then ran into the Indus.

The progress of the storm system stood out in the satellite radar data, Houze said.

“We looked through 10 years of data from the satellite and we just never saw anything like this,” he said. “The satellite only passes over the area a couple of times a day, but it just happened to see these systems at a time when they were well developed.”

Houze is the lead author of a paper detailing the findings to be published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Co-authors are Kristen Rasmussen, Socorro Medina and Stacy Brodzik of the UW and Ulrike Romatschke of the University of Vienna in Austria.

Houze also will discuss the findings during a session Tuesday (Jan. 25) at the American Meteorological Society’s annual meeting in Seattle

The storms were associated with a wind pattern that could be traced in the satellite data back to its origin over the Bay of Bengal, Houze said. Finding the storm system’s signature in the satellite data makes it possible to incorporate that information into weather forecast models. That could make it possible for meteorologists to forecast when conditions are favorable for such an event to occur again and provide a warning.

“I think this was a rare event, but it is one you want to be thinking about,” Houze said. “Understanding what happened could lead to better predictions of such disasters in the future.”

This comes on the heels of the debunking of other claim about climate change-caused weather. The debunker this time? None other than the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a.k.a. NOAA.

A number of people, including Secretary Clinton, have suggested that last summer’s Russian heat wave and forest/peat fires around Moscow were a direct result of “climate change,” a.k.a. global warming. It turns out to be, surprise, just weather.

NOAA says:

The extreme surface warmth over western Russia during July and early August is mostly a product of the strong and persistent blocking high.

The indications are that the current blocking event is intrinsic to the natural variability of summer climate in this region…

Recently, we saw the same thing happen in Australia with the floods there. Global warming proponents were quick to claim that it was caused by the boogeyman of “climate change.” Except it wasn’t. It was cause by a natural process, an ocean condition known as La Nina, that pushed the weather patterns west into Australia. This happens every few years.

The debunker this time? The UK Met Office, which says:

For the Australian state of Queensland, there is strong evidence to suggest that La Niña is the main reason for the ongoing widespread flooding. The current floods are also the worst since 1974 — which coincided with the strongest La Niña on record.

They offer this chart showing what happened:

And this Q&A discussion, which is a transcript of a video interview (PDF) on the subject.

Here’s yet another expert with a similar opinion, from CNN, where they quote a Columbia (where NASA GISS, the global warming science group, is located) lead forecaster:

The catastrophic weather events taking place across the globe — from Brazil’s and Australia’s flooding to the eastern US’s heavy snowfall — have two likely explanations.

Tony Barnston, lead forecaster at Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society, said two phenomena — La Niña and the North Atlantic Oscillation — are likely responsible for the patterns we’re seeing.

What’s even funnier is that there were also media and government claims that the drought in Australia (which ended last year) was a product of “global warming.” Wrong again.

The debunker in this case? Australia’s CSIRO (another global warming research group), which says:

The recent South-East Queensland (SEQ) drought was likely caused by shifts associated with climate variability over decades rather than climate change, according to the findings of a team of CSIRO researchers led by Dr Wenju Cai.

And yet, our politicians continue to want to immediately blame every major weather event on “global warming,” only to find a few months later when the research comes in, that it’s just weather, not climate.

Tell your representatives that unless they truly know what they are talking about when it comes to complex weather and climate patterns on Earth, they should “zip it.”

Anthony Watts operates the most visited blog on climate science in the world, www.wattsupwiththat.com, which has now received more than 57 million visits.