Right Opinion

The Attribution of Cold to Climate Change Is on Thin Ice

Joe Bastardi · Jan. 8, 2018

The recent claim by some people that the current extreme period is a sign of man-made global warming was met with widespread doubt across the board from both sides of the climate debate. In essence, here is the problem: We are being asked to believe that an event which has precedent, and in fact was forecasted in early December by me to my clients using the 1983-1984 and 2000-2001 analogs (it was shown countless times to clients, subscribers and publicly), is a sign of “climate change,” yet it has happened countless times before without such attribution. Why now? And where was this forecast before the fact? Surely, if the cause is climate change they should have been loudly proclaiming it beforehand.

What’s interesting is that while recent temperatures are bitter and have broke some individual records, overall it is not as extreme as the ‘83-'84 example. Here’s this year:

Compare this to '83-84:

The point is, research into similar past patterns where there was no attribution to climate change led us to put out well in advance the idea extreme cold was going to occur. That is what I do, and that is how I use the past to forecast the future. Denying the past or ignoring it can lead to erroneous comments. Think about it. If it’s climate change that caused the Arctic outbreak, is it climate change that also prevented it from being as cold? My point is the attribution to climate change makes no sense to the current pattern.

Look at some quotes from people who are not known for agreeing with me on the issue of man-made global warming. (Again, I question whether CO2 is now the climate control knob, not deny that there is climate or climate change or that we are in a warm period.)

“Such claims make no sense and are inconsistent with observations and the best science. The frequency of cold waves have decreased during the past fifty years, not increased. That alone shows that such claims are baseless. And on a personal note, it is very disappointing that members of my profession are making such obviously bogus claims. It hurts the science, it hurts the credibility of climate scientists, and weakens our ability to be taken seriously by society.” —University of Washington climatologist Cliff Mass

“This is simply a classic nor'easter. Such storms are common along the East Coast in winter. Nor'easters do this sometimes. This is certainly a strong nor'easter, but they have always been part of the picture and always will be. Maybe a warmer ocean is fostering more moisture in the air to help fuel such storms? Perhaps. But on the face of it, this is just a strong storm, and there is no need to invoke climate change.” —National Snow & Ice Data Center director Mark Serreze

Here is a big problem among skeptics like me. I used and showed beforehand methodology based on knowledge of the past and the current physical conditions. For instance, I watch the Indian Ocean like a hawk. I know that when heavy thunderstorms fire up in the eastern Indian Ocean, the release of heat into the atmosphere will force a major change to the pattern because of the physical reactions. The result will mean dramatically warmer temperatures in the U.S. a few weeks later.

This winter, this phenomenon — known as the MJO — is particularly enhanced by low solar and an easterly QBO (a reversal of the winds in the stratosphere). So we know going in to look for that. I have a major January thaw coming, and in fact this looks like a classic old-fashioned winter to me that made January thaws a part of American weather lore. But remember this also: The old adage I was taught when I was younger — “what happens in December the winter will remember” — will play out this year.

Cold is likely to return in February. When will that happen? We will get a one- to two-week notice when the areas where thunderstorms are occurring now and are the precursor to warmth in a couple weeks move eastward and are centered east of Australia. I know this is a big deal because it has set off two Southern Hemisphere tropical cyclones in what has been a very quiet year. Here is one of them (the other just hit Madagascar).

I also watch closely the antics of the Southern Oscillation Index against the previous 30-day running base state (sudden changes are big). In a La Niña, it’s usually strongly positive and telegraphs a warmer eastern U.S. It started crashing in early December, so we knew something was up.

In the longer term for the winter, analogs to similar seasons foretold of a quick start.

I wonder if the people making outlandish statements regarding climate change are looking at any of this. You can be sure that we are, so when we see attributions to climate change we know that past history and the current physical drivers that set up these patterns refute them.

There is no link to climate change in any of these methods. They are tools for people if they wish to line up the knowns to take a shot at future unknowns, That is a major part of my methodology. When I make a forecast and show the reasons, and then someone comes out after the fact who did not make this forecast, I take it as a challenge to what has been taught to me over the years. If I see something, I say something. I guess the fighter in me sometimes gets provoked, but in truth, reasoned thought and the questioning of what we see is something that is needed in all aspects, yet alone climate. In this case, the evidence is clearly on the side of nature being nature, and attributing mankind’s input into events that can’t be controlled is questionable at best.


Joe Bastardi, an institution in extreme weather and long-range forecasting, is a contributor to The Patriot Post on environmental issues.

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