Heavy rains that drove the flooding across Louisiana were 40 percent more likely because of global warming, according to a new study by government climate scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
But already scientists are criticizing the agency for broadcasting the study.
Why? It hasn’t been peer-reviewed, and some experts are poking holes in the study’s claim global warming increased the odds of heavy downpours in the Gulf.
“It is impressive that the author team can put together this analysis and formal write-up in this relatively short amount of time,” Chip Knappenberger, a climate scientist at the libertarian Cato Institute, said in an email.
“That said, the paper is not peer-reviewed at this stage, it has only just been submitted,” Knappenberger said.
NOAA — in collaboration with Princeton University, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and the liberal news site Climate Central — used climate models to claim man-made global warming made August’s devastating floods more likely to occur.
“We are now actually able to objectively and quantifiably say ‘yes, climate change contributed to this event,'” Heidi Cullen, a climate scientist with Climate Central, told the Associated Press. “It’s unequivocal.”
The AP said it “contacted 11 outside experts and most of them praised the science and conclusions of the study,” which “concluded that climate change turned a once-every-50-year situation somewhere on the Gulf to a once-every-30-year-or-less situation, and the odds of such downpours increased anywhere from 30 percent to more than 240 percent.”
The study’s authors brazenly promoted their findings much to the chagrin of more skeptical scientists.
“The use of ‘unequivocal’ is risible,” Knappenberger quipped.
“What all of this means to me, is that the ‘attribution’ reported by the authors—that global warming has led to shorter return periods and more intense precipitation events like the one that gave rise to the southern Louisiana floods—is non-robust and thus non-instructive,” he said.
Cullen is part of World Weather Attribution, a group of climate scientists working to quickly broadcast ways global warming can be blamed for extreme weather events, like the Louisiana floods. Not every scientist, however, is convinced it’s “unequivocal” global warming increased heavy downpours risks.
Roger Pielke, Sr., a veteran climate scientist, said NOAA had exposed its own “bias” by promoting a study attributing global warming to the Louisiana floods before.
NOAA should be embarrassed doing this press release https://t.co/pT5CTc82Du It is only submitted for review! But PR shows NOAA bias.
— Roger A. Pielke Sr (@RogerAPielkeSr) September 7, 2016
Massive flooding across Louisiana in August killed 13 people and caused nearly $9 billion in damage, according to the AP. Louisiana was hit with 26 inches of rain in a week, which sparked massive floods across the state.
Environmentalists, like former Vice President Al Gore, were quick to blame global warming for the heavy rains, but others pointed out the other “man-made” reasons flooding may have gotten so bad. But there’s little evidence behind such claims.
A recent study by University of Iowa researchers found “the stronger storms are not getting stronger, but a larger number of heavy precipitation events have been observed.”
The researchers, however, couldn’t attribute such events to man-made warming, instead they wrote “the climate variability of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans can exert a large control on the precipitation frequency and magnitude over the contiguous USA.”
A recent NOAA study — rather ironically — concluded “no evidence was found for changes in extreme precipitation attributable to climate change in the available observed record.”
Knappenberger pointed out NOAA’s new attribution study only analyzed global warming’s impact on a narrow stretch of the Gulf Coast, and assumed a strong relationship between average global temperature and extreme rain events. That’s a big assumption.
“This is a major stretch,” Knappenberger said. “In fact, the authors readily admit that extreme precipitation events there result from a variety of factors—most of which are local or regional in origin.”
“Natural variability remains a huge and dominant player. The authors made an attempt to identify the influence of some aspects of natural variability and got mixed results,” Knappenberger said. “They didn’t try hard enough, in my opinion.”
“The biggest rain event in recorded history in the Gulf Coast region was 1979’s tropical storm Claudette which dropped more than 40 inches of rainfall in 24 hours in Alvin, Texas—just outside the geographical limits of this current study,” Knappenberger said, referring to the artificial geographic limits put on the study. “Including it may have altered the results to some degree.”
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