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2012 SkS News Bulletin #1: Hurricane Sandy & Climate Change

Posted on 31 October 2012 by John Hartz

This is a round-up of selected news articles and blog posts about Hurricane Sandy, its impacts on North America, and its relationship to climate change. This bulletin supplements the regular SkS weekly News Round-Up which is posted on Saturday of each week.


Sunday, Oct 28

Monday, Oct 29

Tuesday, Oct 30

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Comments 51 to 100 out of 118:

  1. Climate scientists warn that global warming is likely to increase the incidence of serious events like Hurricane Sandy. Warming water and rising sea levels may be contributing to what New York politicians are calling their 'new reality.' For details see: Did global warming cause superstorm Sandy? (+video) by Seth Borenstein, Associated Press (AP), The Christian Science Monitor, Oct 30, 2012
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  2. Vrooomie -- Accumulated Cyclone Energy
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  3. There you go again, bostrom, with FACTS and DATA.... [;-/
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  4. DSL@40, you state: "ACE is simplistic and doesn't directly account for a storm's energy or destructive power via precipitation/movement of mass." Given that I'm completely clueless about this ACE stuff, could you elaborate upon your assertion? Asking as a skeptical..scientist, natch! If (when) the denialati are going to come after "us" with the alleged nonsense, I'd like to be schooled in why it *is* nonsense.
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  5. Yeah Vroomie. The effect of being wrong on something so easy to discover is terribly corrosive to credibility and naturally leads us to wonder what else is incorrect or wildly exaggerated.
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  6. Dale - But I don't apologise for sounding "sceptical" of the climate change claims affecting Sandy While it's impossible to say for certain, there is the distinct possibility that global warming-caused decline in sea ice contributed the course Sandy took. Taken from a presentation from Dr. Jennifer Francis: Arctic sea ice loss may significantly affect the upper-level atmospheric circulation, slowing its winds and increasing its tendency to make contorted high-amplitude loops. High-amplitude loops in the upper level wind pattern (and associated jet stream) increases the probability of persistent weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere, potentially leading to extreme weather [Source] This wavy, blocking pattern is exactly what we expect from decreased sea ice, so it’s very possible that this block may have been boosted in intensity and/or duration by the record-breaking ice loss this summer. Further, as Master's pointed out, the waters off the Northeast coast are a full 5°F above average, adding to the amount of energy and water vapour available. You also brought up the devestation caused by Katrina; yet look at the factors that contributed to the real extent: Failing levies, in some cases due to a lack of upkeep Sections of New Orleans are below sea level, a result of the Mississippi not being able to replenish sediment for a few hundred years, needed to counteract subsidence. Mangroves and natural buffers to storm surge have been severely depleated surrounded New Orleans
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  7. Dale wrote: And finally don't forget Dr Ryan Maue's graphs, showing no increasing trend in global tropical storms or hurricanes/cyclones since 1970. Wrong metric, Dale, try looking at the Accumulated Cyclone Energy index time series. Why you can even find it graphed on Maue's own site: http://policlimate.com/tropical/north_atlantic_ace.png Oh look, it's not the total number of storms that is increasing, but rather the number of intense storms and therefore average storm intensity that are increasing. Did you think no one here would call you on such a transparently straw man argument?
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  8. BTW, Dale has still not replied to Dikran Marsupial's significant earlier question asking for Dale's opinion of the IPCC's remarks on hurricanes.
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  9. Albatross, @49, I think we should also add the influence of changes to the NAO caused by the unprecedented melting of the Arctic during the summer months. "Here’s where climate change comes in. The atmospheric pattern that sent the Jet Stream south is colloquially known as a “blocking high”—a big pressure center stuck over the very northern Atlantic Ocean and southern Arctic Ocean. And what led to that? A climate phenomenon called the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)—essentially, the state of atmospheric pressure in that region. This state can be positive or negative, and it had changed from positive to negative two weeks before Sandy arrived. The climate kicker? Recent research by Charles Greene at Cornell University and other climate scientists has shown that as more Arctic sea ice melts in the summer—because of global warming—the NAO is more likely to be negative during the autumn and winter. A negative NAO makes the Jet Stream more likely to move in a big, wavy pattern across the U.S., Canada and the Atlantic, causing the kind of big southward dip that occurred during Sandy." "The arctic climate system is changing so dynamically that the rules of the game are changing," Greene says. "This is not the same Arctic Ocean we've known. The Arctic and North Atlantic oscillations are changing in ways we hadn't anticipated." The interplay, which has always been fairly consistent, he says, has now become "a wild card" affecting our weather." (from a couple of articles on the Scientific American web site) Favorite denialist tactics: downplay every extreme weather event and the relentless summer Arctic melting.
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  10. Can't help but compare Dale's speculative fiction with what the real, non-fiction NYC mayor is confronting. Bloomberg:
    You did not have ocean water, salt water, breaching the banks the way you’ve had it in Manhattan, you know, in my lifetime….. When you start to fill the subway tunnels with salt water—much of the Con Ed equipment is in the tunnels, is underground—when hot electrical equipment hits cold salt water, that is a bad combination. And that is a design flaw, I believe, for our system now, if you anticipate these extreme weather conditions. Obviously we didn’t when we designed this system. We did not anticipate water coming over the Hudson River, coming over the banks, being five feet deep on the West Side Highway, and filling subway grates and every opening and filling that massive infrastructure we have below ground. Going forward, I think we do have to anticipate these extreme types of weather patterns. And we have to start to think about how do we redesign the system so this doesn’t happen again. After what happened, what has been happening in the last few years, I don’t think anyone can sit back anymore and say “Well, I’m shocked at that weather pattern.” There is no weather pattern that can shock me at this point. And I think that has to be our attitude. And how do we redesign our system and our infrastructure assuming that?”
    The Mayor of New York City understands the concept of longitudinal change, a good thing because what Bloomberg sees and understands today will shape the lives of future New Yorkers for better or worse. Bloomberg's job is in part to create a better New York in days to come. If he chose to pretend nothing unusual happened in the past few days he would miss the opportunity to have a positive benefit on the New York of tomorrow. Why people like Dale are so invested in throwing sand in the wheels of progress is deeply mysterious.
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  11. “The terrifying truth is that America faces a future full of Frankenstorms,” said Shaye Wolf, Ph.D., the Center’s climate science director. “Climate change raises sea levels and supersizes storms. The threat of killer winds and crushing storm surges will grow by the year unless we get serious about tackling greenhouse gas pollution.” Here’s how scientists say climate change feeds the superstorm triple whammy: 1. Global warming loads storms with more energy and more rainfall. 2. Storm surge rides on higher sea levels, so more coastline floods during storms. 3. Melting sea ice and accelerating Arctic warming are causing changes in the jet stream that are bringing more extreme weather to the United States. Source: Climate Change Feeds Superstorm Triple Whammy , Press Release, Center for Biological Diversity, Oct 30, 2012
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  12. ACE uses storm velocity--essentially a measure of max sustained wind. It does not incorporate storm size/structure. The ACE for Sandy will show it to be a hurricane of weak to average strength--with most of the strength coming from its duration. ACE will not account for strength across volume. There have been other measures proposed, of course, and better instrumentation will allow even more measures to be developed. See Powell & Reinhold (2007) on the subject.
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  13. Let's not forget that the City Officials of NY knew about the risks. See for example: New York Is Lagging as Seas and Risks Rise, Critics Warn NYT, September 10, 2012 Some of the comments look quite bizarre - now.
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  14. My "Frankenstorm(s) moment arrived in the 'noughties,' notably in 2006/07 when Denver had ~7~, count'em, *seven* blizzards in a row (one/week, all on weekends!!). Born and raised here, I had NEVER seen so much snow. I was snowed in for days, diggin' like a mad man to get out (..to get to work: I said I was mad!!). There were drifts around town exceeding 8 feet in depth, and in areas where the snow had lain down flat, some exceeded 4 feet deep. We had an April blizzard this year--not terribly unusual for here, save for the fact of its intensity and depth of accumulation--and with the focus on the *intensity* of these winter storms and fire events, I've prepared accordingly. I'm sure are all aware of our not-quite-past yet fire season which was terrible, here and all over the West: Along with that, and a number of other weather extremes, all since 2001, have made me aware of the patterns changing, and in my mind, it's beginning to approach what I can see as serious climate change.
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  15. Thanks, DSL: I'll read up on it. Tangentially, you must be within 15K feetof me; otherwise, I could not receive DSL...;) (sorry, mods, I *had* to say it...you can snip me, if you want!)
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  16. Dale - "Sandy wasn't even a category 1 when it made landfall. ...Katrina and Yasi sized cyclones/hurricanes eat Sandy size storms for breakfast and don't even flinch. Sandy wasn't even a small hurricane. It was a big storm, that is all." It has been noted elsewhere, however, that:
    In terms of sheer kinetic energy -- a measure of the windspeed integrated over how wide an area the winds are blowing -- the super-storm also shattered records going back to at least 1969, said [Jeff] Masters, a former "hurricane hunter" with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in a phone call with The Huffington Post Tuesday morning. "That includes Katrina, Andrew, Wilma -- all the Category 5 storms -- Sandy had them beat," Masters said. "If you take the size of it -- it was so vast and it had winds blowing over such a wide area of ocean -- it put a tremendous volume of ocean water in motion and carried it with it as it moved northwards. And guess what? When that water hit land, it had nowhere to go but on the land and generate a record storm surge."
    (Emphasis added) Dale, this "wasn't even a category 1" storm may have done somewhat less damage than the category 5 Katrina - we'll have to see what the costs add up to. It wouldn't have been anywhere nearly as powerful or damaging without the anomalously warm offshore waters feeding it energy, or the off-track jet stream. Both of which are factors known to be affected by global warming, I'll point out. Details matter, Dale. Your dismissal of storm Sandy seems to miss a few.
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  17. To clarify my comment: 1) I was talking about current food prices that are up and are going to continue to rise, given the bad wheat crop after the bad corn crop, and then the inevitable rise in meat prices that is going to follow this winter (and hasn't hit yet). 2) I was also talking about food prices going up and staying up, above and beyond what the recent drought has brought (given that such droughts will be more frequent and just as bad, and will pile onto the previous droughts). 3) I was also, mostly, talking about the geopolitical ramifications that such changes would have in the developing world, again something we are not actually seeing at the moment (except for the possible causative influence on the Arab Spring), but we will... and that may be one of the scariest implications of all. Imagine riots, rebellions, wars and chaos, rivaling Somalia of the 1990s, but striking across the globe in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and even perhaps weaker developed countries (Greece comes to mind, and maybe Italy, given their position, similar to Texas and Oklahoma, at the edge of the northern Hadley Cell, subjecting them to both their own droughts combined with their own debt crisis).
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  18. Further to KR's point and distilling to the essential: it's all about energy. Global warming is about retained energy and energy can't be hidden. Expecting atmospheric phenomena to behave identically as they did before despite now being driven by more energy is just silly. Teasing out the precise differences in behavior of given weather phenomena as available energy changes is not easy but the absence of perfect description doesn't mean energy has disappeared or somehow can't manifest itself until it's been reduced to equations.
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  19. Dale wrote "if this system had've hit a much less populated area, and much less financially and politically important area, would the same media hype have been seen?" That's an interesting statement, really. It could be analyzed at many levels, but let's just consider the physical one. The storm's diameter was about a thousand miles. Where in the US could such a storm hit and not affect any major financial and political center? Forget the West coast. At that kind of dimension it could affect all of California, or everything From Seattle on South. In the South? All of the Golf's oil production, shipping and refinery, everything on the Texas coast, all the way to Florida. Let's hypothesize a storm centered smack on the four corners: it still would have affected Denver, Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City, Dallas/Fort-Worth, Phoenix, etc, etc. It's becoming awefully hard for populated areas to hide away from storms these days... Of course, one could argue that, when such storm piles heaps of bodies somewhere in Central America, the US media barely budges. Just goes to show that the message has to be hammered home to the reality impervious types. Yet, even at that, they still try to wiggle out of the obvious.
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  20. The media speculation about how long it will take for subway service to resume in the flooded tunnel sections are laughable. Salt water and electrical equipment are incompatible. The entire train detection system, signal system, Automatic Train Stop system, switch motor control system and all switch motors in the flooded tunnels will need to be completely replaced, not to mention any substations and main bus junctions for the power third rail. In short, we're talking months before through service can resume in the tunnels that were flooded. When was the last time that happened again, Dale?
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  21. Sorry: this was the link I messed up, in 53. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOjfxEejS2Y
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  22. doug @ 58: Not sure if you're aware, but due to the spherical nature of our planet, and my location in relation to yours, that whilst you are awake, I am asleep. So I apologise for finding it difficult to address the IPCC question whilst I was in sleep mode.
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  23. Dale - no problem, I look forward to your answer.
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  24. Jim @ 57: Yes, Atlantic hurricane intensity has risen, offset by a reduction in Pacific cyclone intensity. Which results in a global trend of nothing. I thought only deniers cherry-picked? @Dikran: I've learnt over the last few years to take the IPCC reports with a pinch of salt. It's been years since AR4 and a lot of research has shown the IPCC not correct on a number of things. Recent research into cyclones shows no trend change in major storm activity. Individual basins change, but globally there's none. Yet you want me to take the word of a single paper over the many. (-snip-) (-snip-). Have you wondered why meteorologists were able to call this storm a week out, say its path, its force and what impact it would have? Yet (-snip-).
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Note that you have previously been given a final warning for sloganeering (snipped above) and other things. Reverting to type will assure corrective action. FYI.
  25. Dale, You are being deliberatly offensive. You said: "Have you wondered why meteorologists were able to call this storm a week out, say its path, its force and what impact it would have? Yet climate scientists were caught surprised with their pants down? " Climate scientists do not attempt to predict individual hurricanes. You statement is deliberately offensive and hopefully your post will be deleted by the moderators. You deserve to be banned if you continue with such trash talk. You contribute nothing to the discussion. You provide no data to support your wild claims. At least you provide an clear example of what absurd claims deniers are willing to say.
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  26. Dale I am not asking you to accept what the IPCC says, I am asking whether you know what it actually says on this matter. So please, rather than further evasion, please can you summarise what you believe the IPCC has to say on the subject of historical and projected trends in tropical and mid-latitude storms.
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  27. Dale: I'd recommend you have a look at Jeff Maser's Wunderblog regarding Sandy. Jeff has a very detailed history there and determined very early that Sandy had no escape route and could be extremely damaging. Jeff also has an excellent discussion of the Greenland blocking ridge and its effect and potential relationship to the loss of Arctic sea ice. As for your initial comment downplaying the severity of Sandy...this is probably the wrong site for that sort of comment as you've figured out by now...
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  28. Climate Central has had some excellent coverage of the build up, the arrival and the linkages of the storm to Global Warming. Also the Jeff Masters wunderground blog. It's really none of my business, as I am not a US citizen, but I think that those of you who do not wholly support Governor Romney's programme should be thanking Dale and his ilk, and encouraging him to continue posting these comments as much as possible and as widely as possible for the coming 5 days.
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  29. Alpinist@77: Even Dale's home turf, WUWT, isn't exactly safe for a rational person to point out what you've pointed out, in your last sentence. Even there, it's considered in pretty bad taste to minimize a storm that has, to date, killed over 50 people, and looks like it will easily top the damage from a "real" hurricane, Isaac. They're eating their own.
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  30. Quite so, Dikran. I'm all ears.
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  31. It seems that we can all see what we want as the truth when we don't want to see the actual truth. If somone doesn't want to see the truth then nothing anyone else says will make them see it, for the only way to see the truth is to look, and firstly to want to look, without any self orientated motivations or preconceptions. However giving the false truths credence in agruement lets them spread to a wider audience and thus challenging every denial claim (when most are clearly irrational now) just gives them unwanted air time, unwarranted credence, creates unecessary doubt and is distracting away from the real issues as is the intent of those in denial. At present there is already a real and very alarming change in the weather arround the world, (everywhere extremes are already the norms) and this is just the start, just the start! Therefore maybe instead of trying to convince someone in denial of their denial state of mind, to get them out of it somehow (which is an impossible task), we should be discussing more urgent things? Like how on earth is NYC going to adapt its infra-strcutre for future norms and extremes, sea level rise and water security whilst also not having the luxury of any fossil fuels? For the truth of the current situation is that burning any more fossil fuels than essential for adaptation and transformation is really just too dangerous.
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  32. vrooomie @ 79: I find it funny how you believe WUWT to be my "home turf". I'm Australian, my "home turf" (if you want to call it that) is Jo Nova. ;) WUWT, like SkS, is a minor interest site to me, not a daily visit. michael @ 75: I was not being deliberately offensive. I was calling climate science out. All we hear is "this may happen in this range". It's all probabilities on assumptions on how things may work in a hypothetical world. Science is fact, not mumbo-jumbo. Sorry if that offends you, probably the Australian way of calling a spade a spade coming out in me.
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  33. Dale, if you want to "call climate science out", then it is incumbent on you to at least demonstrate that you actually know what climate science actually says. So how about answering the question?
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  34. Dale, I am an Australian too and I have been fighting global warming ignorance amongst my countrymen for years – with some success. We may call a spade a spade but our character has nothing to do with scientific reality. Your character is misplaced in this case.
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  35. Eric, the significance of Grinsted, is that other measures of whether storm-intensity correlated with warmer temperatures are plagued by observational bias. Grinsted's tidal gauge method would indicate the temperature does indeed load the dice.
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  36. Dikran: I don't see the point of answering the question, but in the interest of humoring the point: "Results from embedded high-resolution models and global models, ranging in grid spacing from 100 km to 9 km, project a likely increase of peak wind intensities and notably, where analysed, increased near-storm precipitation in future tropical cyclones. Most recent published modelling studies investigating tropical storm frequency simulate a decrease in the overall number of storms, though there is less confidence in these projections and in the projected decrease of relatively weak storms in most basins, with an increase in the numbers of the most intense tropical cyclones."
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  37. Some people are correctly attributing sea level and some Gulf Stream warming to global warming and from those factors to a stronger hurricane Sandy. However, Arctic heat release (presumably from refreezing) causing jet stream wobbling does not fit into that same clear cut category. I am not ready to accept causation because there are too many other factors. I did however find some support for it. I plotted NAO for April and October for the period of Arctic ice decline (79-present) although October 2012 is missing from the plot, it is negative, probably about -1.25. April seemed like a good pick due to close to maximum ice with the start of melting causing cooling:

    Whereas the month of October with heat release from refreezing shows a downward trend in NAO

    Data came from CPC at NOAA
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  38. Dale wrote: All we hear is "this may happen in this range". It's all probabilities on assumptions on how things may work in a hypothetical world. Science is fact, not mumbo-jumbo. With that you demonstrate that you don't even understand what science is.
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  39. Dale O.K. you found a paragraph about future projectsions, so what do the IPCC say about the observed historical trend? To make it easier for you, do they claim there has been a clear trend in the number of tropical or mid-lattitlude storms?
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  40. Eric (skeptic) are the trends in either of your plots statistically significant? BTW are we now in agreement about the "loading of the die" analogy?
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  41. Dikran: Where are you going with this? Seems pointless. 3.8.3 - "definitive results are not available." Yes some basins trended upwards and some trended downwards. But as noted the trends were opposing in the Pacific and Atlantic and correlated strongly to the ENSO index (when one went up, the other went down). Since ENSO was generally positive from the 1970's till about 2000, rising trend in the Pacific and dropping trend in Atlantic. Since ENSO switched early 2000's to negative, we've seen those trends swap. But overall, no statistically relevant trend either way globally.
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  42. Dale, I'm surprised you can't see the point, as it was you that pointed out that there is no trend in the number of storms, even though this is just what mainstream science says, as embodied by the IPCC reports. So exactly what point did you think you were making by blustering on about trends in the number of storms, rather than in their intensity?
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  43. Just noticed the mod has commented on my post @36, and changed it recently. Stupid how it doesn't notify you when that happens, specially when you're on another page. Mod: "Add in the warmest 17 years in the instrumental record are all the most recent 17 years" And the last 17 years have also been my tallest. I also haven't grown in those last 17 years either.
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    Moderator Response: (Rob P) 93% of global warming has gone into the oceans over the last 5 decades. See Levitus (2012) & Nuccitelli (2012). And note this graph from Nuccitelli (2012):

    450

    I'm sure you are aware of this given that you commented on this SkS thread when Nuccitelli (2012) was accepted for publication.

    These facts make clear that your comment was simply the repetition of a contrarian myth, and one you know well to be erroneous. As such, this constitutes sloganeering, your third such breach despite being warned.

    Revocation of posting rights is sure to follow.
  44. Today the 'not even a small hurricane' named Sandy continues to kill people here in New Jersey. More than 80% remain without electricity. Fires still burn in half a dozen cities around the area. Gasoline for automobiles and generators is nearly gone as the ports and pipelines are still recovering from the storm and many local stations that have gasoline have no electricity to pump it. Temperatures are set to plunge below freezing for the next week, which will cause pipes to burst and leave many without water. Thank goodness it wasn't a serious storm.
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  45. Sorry Dale, I remember reading that - pays to check. "Why don't YOU tell me what the IPCC claims then? Obviously me two dum two wrok it out, eh?" Stop trying to dodge Dikran’s question by being smart. You’re making it obvious by using the denier’s well-worn tactic of attacking the IPCC.
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  46. Dale, I haven't moved the goal posts. It was you that introduced papers on the lack of a trend in the frequency of storms. I am asking you in what way this contradicts mainstream scientific opinion on, given that the IPCC reports say that there is no clear trend. It seems to me that you are "calling out climate science" while not actually being aware of what climate science actually says, which frankly is not very reasonable behaviour on your part. So, tell me: (i) Exactly how does the lack of a trend in storm frequency contradict mainstream scientific opinion. (ii) Why are you avoiding discussing trends in storm intensity? So far you have provided no evidence that contradicts the mainstream view on that matter.
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  47. Dale, are you listening? "[...] Sandy being influenced by climate change, which I called out since there is no observational evidence to support such a claim. Hmmh, maybe you could tell your definition of "influenced" then, as there are several lines of evidence, summarized in the newest post, that describe said influence. Always good to broaden your mind. You don't have to aggree on how to interpret the evidence, but you should not deny it either. "[...] the amount of times AR4 has been proven incorrect since it was published makes anything they claim suspect" And if you want to be taken seriously, may I suggest that being conspiratorial about the IPCC this way is trolling, at best. Of course the IPCC AR4 was "wrong" about some things (e.g. Arctic sea ice decline) and will be shown wrong about other things in the future, such is the nature of science. In ten years, we may well have the understanding and scientific tools to show that Sandy was indeed "caused" by a warmer climate relative to 50 years earlier. This site lists and describes what we know now, for the benefit of those who care to listen. And it shows plainly that you are wrong.
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  48. Isn't it fascinating how Sandy not only wasn't a major storm... but even if it was then it had nothing to do with global warming? This kind of 'multiple denial' is usually an excellent predictor of a fact resistant personality.
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  49. "Thank goodness it wasn't a serious storm." The goodness might answer: "My pleasure. I'll do much better next time."
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  50. Click here for a larger version of the graphic shown below, which also gives a quantitative comparison of the size and force of Sandy, Yasi, Katrina and Irene. Yasi and Katrina were fierce in wind strength but small in diameter. Sandy is enormous. We do seem to have had more than our share in the past few years, haven't we.
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