Tuesday, July 7, 2015

When is a stormy "claim" not a claim @wattsupwiththat?

Things must be a bit hectic for Anthony Watts at WUWT. Today he's copied and pasted something from who knows where and added his own headline, prefaced by his usual "claim" dogwhistle (archived here):

Claim: British Isles getting “stormier”

I found a press release at PhysOrg, which is the same as the one Anthony filched from somewhere or other, and it states (my emphasis):

By studying climate data in the British-Irish Isles over a 142-year period, researchers have confirmed the important role of cyclones. Seasonal precipitation totals were strongly related to cyclone frequency, especially during summer.

The researchers found that relative to the 1961-1990 period, summers have become much wetter and more cyclonic. The move towards wetter summers in recent years is more of a re-establishment of conditions typical of the earlier half of the 20th Century rather than being unusual in the long term.

Recent years have seen three of the stormiest seasons on record, however. The summer of 2012 was the "stormiest" since at least 1871.

"Given concern over increased British-Irish Isles storminess as the climate warms, there is a need to understand the extent to which these changes may already be underway," said Dr. Tom Matthews, lead author of the International Journal of Climatology study. "By providing a 142-year regional cyclone climatology, this study allows recent extreme seasonal storminess to be placed in context. Such a long-term perspective is needed to explore variability in the regional storm climate and to diagnose and understand emerging changes."

So, although recent years have included the stormiest seasons on record, the research is suggesting that that this is not evidence of a change compared to the longer term, which appears to contrast with Anthony's headline. The abstract states:
Cyclone frequency and storminess are characterized by pronounced interannual and multi-decadal variability which are strongly coupled to atmospheric blocking in the Euro-Atlantic region, but we detect no evidence of an increasing trend. We observe an upward trend in cyclone intensity for the BI region, which is strongest in winter and consistent with model projections, but promote caution interpreting this given the changing data quality in the 20CR over time. Nonetheless, we assert that long-term reconstruction is helpful for contextualizing recent storminess and for identifying emerging changes in regional hydroclimate linked to cyclones.

In other words, although there is no evidence of an increase in frequency, but there has been a recent increase in intensity of cyclones. And looking over the longer term (142 years) is helpful in placing recent events into context. I don't know why anyone would dispute that. Yet Anthony wrote dismissively (of the 142 year reconstruction):
From the “30 years are part of a cycle” department:

You'll also notice the contrast between Anthony Watts dismissive certainty and the scientists urging of caution.

From the WUWT comments

Below are the first four comments at WUWT, which probably aren't sufficient to indicate any change in the frequency or intensity of denialism (or scientific wisdom, or deep insight, or extent of vocabulary):

Alan Robertson  July 6, 2015 at 7:06 pm

Mark and two Cats  July 6, 2015 at 7:15 pm

earwig42  July 6, 2015 at 7:09 pm

Pat Frank  July 6, 2015 at 7:13 pm
blah, blah, blah, climate worry, doom, and gloom, 15 seconds of fame, grave pronouncements, peer-reviewed!, exit stage left, . . . Next up!


Matthews, T., Murphy, C., Wilby, R. L. and Harrigan, S. (2015), "A cyclone climatology of the British-Irish Isles 1871-2012." Int. J. Climatol. DOI: 10.1002/joc.4425


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