In climate it is becoming Less probable to not have a High probability. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD)
The question: Do you think climate change is caused by man or nature?
I have been here before… and the postures in the debate have started to swing around probabilities. In such a way that it has become Less probable to not have a High probability of “something” as the answer for everything.
I am a deep believer in the value of building questions, sometimes even more than of that for answers, because “questions “shape” the answers”.
So when facing the question: Do you think climate change is caused by man or nature? I prefer to break the question into other related questions:
- Do you think nature can change the climate?
- Do you think man can change nature?
So, inevitably there is a key question here:
- Is climate driven solely by thermodynamic variations or are biological processes involved? For any given answer,
- Can man alter those factors, either thermodynamic feedbacks (like albedo) or biochemical (like plant’s type and distribution)?
It is like asking if the personality of someone is formed solely based on his character or by its education? Genes or environment?
One example about “questions “shaping” answers”.
Could El Nino season mean help is on the way to resolve the drought in Texas?…
When was the last time that we have seen an article exploring what it represents the “anomaly” in SST in the Pacific so called “El Niño”? It is easy to forget that we are calling names to statistical values because we just do not know what it is that originates them. We only know that they are “somehow” related with probabilistic outputs in atmospheric behaviour, and even at this point, not only El Niño events are followed by the same patterns.
The atmospheric situation triggering flash floods in Texas are the result of a current of warm and wet masses of air moving North from the Mexican Gulf.
Much attention has been dragged in the media into linking these floods to the recent declaration for El Niño conditions.
However, how much different is the actual situation with previous two years? The anomalies in SST in the Pacific for the previous 2013 and 2014 were not an indication of El Niño phenomena.
Furthermore, the patterns of atmospheric events triggering flash floods in Texas at this time of the year is something that has happen in 2013 and 2014 without the declaration of El Niño conditions. Here some examples from news covering flooding events in the media for the years 2015, 2014 and 2013:
May 29, 2015
Wettest Month Ever in Texas – 23 Dead, 9 Missing, River Levels Dangerously High Historic flooding in Texas and Oklahoma has killed at least 23 people since Saturday 23 May 2015 when huge amounts of rain fell in the 2 states. As of Thursday… Read Full Article
May 25, 2015
Floods in Texas and Oklahoma – 3 Dead, 100s of Homes Destroyed More record rainfall has resulted in overflowing rivers and flooding in several southern US states, with Texas and Oklahoma the worst hit. Thousands have been forced from their homes by… Read Full Article
May 14, 2015
1 Dead in Houston Floods after 10 Inches (254 mm) of Rain in 24 Hours Floods have left 1 man dead and prompted over 20 emergency rescues after staggering amounts of rainfall across south east Texas. The state has seemingly been bombarded non stop with… Read Full Article
May 12, 2015
Texas Floods – Man Killed in Corsicana after 10 Inches of Rain Falls in 3 Hours Huge amounts of rain fell in Corsicana, Texas during the late hours of Sunday 10 May into the early hours of Monday 11 May 2015. Corsicana Fire department say they…Read Full Article
May 11, 2015
Floods in Texas Leave 1 Dead and Prompt Dramatic Rescues Parts of central and southern USA, including Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, South Dakota and Colorado, endured storms, tornadoes, torrential rainfall and flooding in a weekend which also a tropical storm hit… Read Full Article
May 5, 2015
Record Rainfall Causes Flash Floods in Kansas and Texas Manhattan, Kansas, and Lubbock, Texas, both suffered flash floods after record levels of rainfall fell between 04 and 05 May 2015. Manhattan, Kansas Flash floods raced through the streets of… Read Full Article
April 14, 2015
Storm Brings Floods to Fort Worth and North Texas Rainstorms during the morning and afternoon of Monday 13 April 2015 resulted in flash floods in Fort Worth and other areas of north Texas. The National Weather Service issued a…Read Full Article
March 10, 2015
UCS Report – Oil Refineries at Risk of Floods and Storms In a recent report, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) say that coastal energy facilities are at increased risk of floods from sea levels rises and storm surges. The report,…Read Full Article
June 26, 2014
Storms Bring Flash Floods Across Texas Further flooding has struck in Texas, especially around the Fort Worth area and northern Texas earlier this week. Yesterday however was the turn of southern areas of the state, with… Read Full Article
June 23, 2014
Floods Hit Oklahoma and Texas The severe weather system that has been affecting much of the Upper Midwest in USA appears to have moved south. Storms and heavy rainfall hit parts of Texas and Oklahoma.…Read Full Article
June 13, 2014
Waller Creek Flood Tunnel, Austin, Texas, USA Underground flood tunnels are expensive mitigation options that divert river flows around important communities, re-releasing the flow downstream. Costs of flood tunnels vary depending on size and materials used. Following…Read Full Article
May 27, 2014
Thunderstorm and Flash Floods in Houston, Texas Flash floods struck in the Houston, Texas, area yesterday, Monday 26 May 2014. The flooding came after thunderstorms in the area dumped around 3 to 5 inches (7.5 cm to…Read Full Article
November 1, 2013
Flash Floods in Central Texas Strong storms and heavy rainfall left huge areas of central and south east Texas suffering from severe floods. At least two people have been reported as killed. Flood warnings have…Read Full Article
October 14, 2013
Austin, Texas Flash Floods Areas of Austin saw as much as 30cm of rain in just 12 hours on Sunday 13th October, 2013. Barton Springs, north of the city, received 12.1 inches of rain…Read Full Article
May 26, 2013
Flash Floods in Texas, May 2013 Torrential rain has caused severe flooding in Texas, claiming the lives of at least two people. Rescue services have spent the day rescuing residents who are trapped by the floods…Read Full Article
April 29, 2013
Flash Floods in Texas, 2013 It seems the flooding in the USA has moved further south over the weekend. Houston, Texas, was the latest area to be hit, after suffering torrential downpours and storms on…Read Full Article
Even with sporadic rain, the situation in Texas facing profound droughts might get complicated due to soil weathering alterations. The structure of the soil changes with persistent droughts, affecting the availability of Nutrients and water retention due to compaction, which limits its movement in depth. The humidity of the soil requires to be distributed in depth in order to help absorbing thermal contrasts due to albedo processes, as well as helping evaporation inducing atmospheric conditions to form rain and evapotranspiration from plants which release compounds affecting cloud seeds via formation of low-volatility vapours. Water moving over the soil surface does not release the pressure over the environment.
The creation of water reservoirs throughout dams and channels release the pressure over the agricultural sector and social demands, however, the anthropogenization of the soil due to droughts and constant manipulation, accelerates its weathering process creating a dependence from constant human support as it becomes domesticated. That means more resources are required to maintain the productivity of the soil.
The white elephant in the room.
When data becomes the centre of attention we are at risk of forgetting its limitations and what this “data” represents.
In environmental science, sometimes we might not understand something but identify that it plays a role or that it is part of a connection between patterns. So in order to make it comprehensible for us and our systems of research, we standardise its behaviour building “anomalies” based on statistics. But since statistics can be too blank and hollow to manage, we apply names to them so they become familiar, and somehow, less empty of meaning. That comes with a risk. The risk of taking familiarity as the answer which makes us forget that we do not really know what those statistical standardised numbers really represent. We make up anomalies, design patterns of behaviour and look for “the probability of an anomaly to occur” (should an anomaly act normally?). So the environment has begun to be described as a conglomeration of probabilistic propositions around “anomalies”. In other words, we call names like the ENSO, NAO, AO, PNA, to numbers which we don´t know how they are originated. In today’s time there is a demand for skills, knowledge and data. But when skills, knowledge and data are not enough what we need is to keep making questions.
Could the NAO be the answer?…
The NOA combines parts of the East-Atlantic and West Atlantic patterns originally identified by Wallace and Gutzler (1981) for the winter season. The NAO consists of a north-south dipole of anomalies, with one center located over Greenland and the other center of opposite sign spanning the central latitudes of the North Atlantic between 35N and 40N. The positive phase of the NAO reflects below-normal heights and pressure across the high latitudes of the North Atlantic and above-normal heights and pressure over the central North Atlantic, the eastern United States and western Europe. The negative phase reflects an opposite pattern of height and pressure anomalies over these regions.
Fluctuations in the strength of these features significantly alters the alignment of the jet stream, especially over the eastern U.S., and ultimately affects temperature and precipitation distributions in this area. Both phases of the NAO are associated with large-scale modulations of the normal patterns of zonal and meridional heat and moisture transport, which in turn results in changes in temperature and precipitation patterns often extending from eastern North America to western and central Europe.
During a positive NAO, above average geopotential heights are observed over the eastern U.S., which correlates to above average temperatures. The eastern U.S. often sees a wetter pattern with stronger storms during the winter season in this phase due to increased upper level winds.
During a negative NAO, below average geopotential heights are often observed over the eastern U.S., which correlates to below average temperatures. The eastern U.S. typically receives colder, drier air masses during the winter season in this phase.
Last Winter 2015 (December 2014, January and February 2015) was categorised as a Positive NAO phase. However, the atmospheric patterns associated were a combination of a Positive phase where above average geopotential heights are observed over the eastern U.S., and a Negative phase with below average temperatures.
Perspective is everything in environmental science. When we look at the numbers indicating El Nino or the NAO, anomalies over a mean of Sea Surface Temperature or Geopotential Heights, those are images which represent a more complex reality. When we are looking at data is like looking at the moon. When you look at the moon, do you see the space behind it or only “the moon”?
Investing in knowledge
Cancer has been described as an “anomaly” in the growth of cells. And one similar question has been made as when discussing climatic transformation, Is it caused by man or by nature?
However, in comparison with the debate on the possible anthropogenic impact over climatic events, the approach doing research on cancer has been completely different. Once the anomalies have been identified, they didn´t become answers. Nobody dropped the attention from the main issues, to understand how it works and why it develops. Even considering relevant to use “probabilities” to study the chances of developing cancer (based on analysing interconnections statistically), the main focus of attention keeps pointed on understanding how it is originated, how does it work, what mechanisms are involved, how does it use resources to develop and why.
The conditions in our atmosphere have changed, in composition and structure. And we see it through satellite and on-site observations looking at the number, strength, location and out of seasonality of climatic events. So we have identified “anomalies” to use as tools in order to analyse inter and tele-connections. But they are not describing the mechanisms that originates them.
The lines of research followed in environmental science should be broader and not focus the majority of their resources on finding matching numbers, or increasing the amount of indexes. Those are tools with limitations. E.g In a 24 hours cycle there are some variable which have positive and negative variations from their mean, and they generate very familiar “anomalies”. There are positive and negative anomalies (variations from the 24 hours mean) in the amount of light, in temperature and in biological activity. Identifying the existence of those anomalies was easy, even describing their patterns and cycles. But what it made a difference was to understand that light was “generated from a near star” which “didn´t move around the Earth”. What it made a difference was to understand that the light arriving from the same star, not only illuminate our planet but also “contains” a form of energy which produce heat. What it made a difference was to understand the processes that explain why, differently from animals, plants could actually “feed” from light and die without it.
An anomaly is not an answer, it is symptom behind answering how and why.
How is changing the configuration of the currents in the Ocean and why?
How is changing the configuration of the atmosphere and why?
What we do know is how and why is changing the configuration of the land surface and the composition of the atmosphere.
My point with this post could be resumed in two ideas:
- Like with cancer, once the anomalies have been identified in our environment and atmospheric behaviour, the focus of attention should not be placed just upon matching numbers to answer the question of if it is caused by Nature or by man. The main effort should be placed on understanding how and why our environment behaves as it does. Only in such a way we not only will identify “how” can man confront, adapt or interfere with changes but also, it will enable us to identify thresholds which might force us to change previous assumptions.
- Nobody claims an inadequacy in the investment of resources following the argument that cancer has not been demonstrated to be caused by man. Therefore, it should not be a matter of debate the relevance of the research effort behind answering those questions trying to increase the understanding of our environment.
Our survival, our welfare, our health, the cost of our commodities, the resources to accommodate food supplies and medical attention, … our present and our future depends on understanding the limitations of our environment so if we do not invest now then when.
George S. Patto has been quoted saying “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” May be the difficulty lies for all of us on not following the same patterns of thinking and associated rules. So I admit any line of thinking differing from mine. Otherwise when addressing the challenges of understanding climate it is going to become Less probable to not have a High probability of “something” as the answer to everything.
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(This post is part of a more complex piece of independent research. I don´t have founding, political agenda or publishing revenues from visits. Any scientist working in disciplines related with the topics that I treat in my blog knows how to judge the contribution that my work could potentially add to the state of knowledge. Since I am in transition looking for a position in research, if you are one of those scientists, by just acknowledging any value you might see from my contribution, would not only make justice to my effort as independent researcher, but ultimately, it will help me to enhance my chances to find a position with resources to further develop my work.
I believe that the hypothesis that I have presented in previous posts in this blog (here,here and here) could help to understand present and possible future scenarios in atmospheric circulation. However, this is an assessment based on observation which needs to be validated throughout open discussion and data gathering. So please feel free to incorporate your thoughts and comments in a constructive manner.
If you feel like sharing this post I would appreciate to have a reference about the place or platform, by private or public message, in order for me to have the opportunity to join the debate and be aware of the repercussion which might generate d.fdezsevilla(at)gmail.com)
For anybody interested in the posts related with this discussion here I leave you those more relevant in chronological order (there are comments bellow some of them. Please check them out):
- New theory proposal to assess possible changes in Atmospheric Circulation (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) Posted on October 21, 2014. http://wp.me/p403AM-k3
- Why there is no need for the Polar Vortex to break in order to have a wobbling Jet Stream and polar weather? (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) Posted on November 14, 2014. http://wp.me/p403AM-mt
- Gathering data to make visible the invisible (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) Posted on December 22, 2014. http://wp.me/p403AM-pN
- State of the Polar Vortex. Broken? From 29 Nov 2014 to 5th Jan 2015 (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla). Posted on November 29, 2014. http://wp.me/p403AM-o7
- Probability in the atmospheric circulation dictating the Weather (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) Posted on January 15, 2015. http://wp.me/p403AM-rm
- Meteorological Outlook Feb 2015 (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) Posted on February 7, 2015. http://wp.me/p403AM-sU
- Revisiting the theory of “Facing a decrease in the differential gradients of energy in atmospheric circulation” by Diego Fdez-Sevilla. Posted on February 10, 2015. http://wp.me/p403AM-to
- Matching Features Between Land Surface and Atmospheric Circulation (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)April 23, 2015
- Drops of Weather. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)March 7, 2015
- Steering climate´s course (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)March 27, 2015
- Climate. Looking at the forest for the trees (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)April 9, 2015
- Matching Features Between Land Surface and Atmospheric Circulation (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)April 23, 2015
- Domesticating Nature. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)May 7, 2015