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Joe Bastardi: The Why behind the What

on October 18, 2011 8:48 AM

JBOct18.1One of my favorite people -- and because of that, one of my favorite professors -- is John Cahir.

Cahir is retired, but I will call him from time to time to chit-chat about the weather,and other issues, as he is one of the wiser people I have ever run into. The fact that he has a strong physical demeanor always impressed me, also.

While I respected all my professors at PSU, Cahir was one of the professors I always used to think would have been one heck of a tough opponent on the wrestling mat. He was, to me, the weather equal of Bill Koll, and I can safely say one of the top five tough-guy figures -- my father, of course, being No. 1 -- to whom I looked up when I was younger.

In any case, we were chit-chatting a couple of days ago, and he said something to me about the weather-forecasting field today being more concerned with the "what" of the forecast, rather than the "why."

As a point of fact, I take great pains to try to give the "why" to anyone who listens, so much so that a lot of times, if appearing on TV or any other media where I do not have control, the why is chopped out and it relegates me to having to compete on the same field as people much more polished than me as far as communication and presentation.

I came to grips a long time ago with the idea that I have more of a caveman look, rather than the cavalier, and I better be able to explain why as well as what. My lengthy blogs always try to offer the reader a look at what I am looking at, the why behind the what, partly because if readers can see that, they will understand why I take the stands I do.

One of the more frustrating things in the climate war I am in is the fact that people simply do not know or understand what I look at. First of all, I want to know the why behind my opponents' what, so I study everything they say and do, and see why they believe what they do.

I have found, though, in talking to people who don't see my side, they do not look at what I do. I know their why; they don't seem to know mine, or have not dug into it the way I do.

So I am going to give you an example of a why behind a what in a practical sense. Back in May, I had this out for a December forecast this year:


The reason was that I felt strongly the La Nina, which was declared dead in May, would not be dead, because when the tropical Pacific is in its cooling mode -- as it is now and like it was back in the '50s through the '70s -- the La Nina lasts an average of 21 months. The Pacific went into that mode in 2007, after 30 years of being warm. That 30 years correlated with the the start of the satellite era, and the warming of the tropical Pacific led to longer and stronger El Ninos and can be tied to the warming of the past 30 years.

Notice that in spite of my belief that CO2 is not driving the warming, I am saying this in a way not to insult those who do, and leaving it open for debate. OK. So I am not dictating the answer on from on high, just showing you the WHY behind the what.

In any case, the candidate years for that part of the forecast -- a La Nina with the Pacific in what we call the cold PDO, while the Atlantic is warm -- were 1950, 1954, 1955, 2008 and 2010. So through the research, and the belief from May that this La Nina was NOT over (At that time, there was talk from NASA expert and global-warming advocate James Hansen that a Super El Nino was coming on, and NOAA declared the La Nina over), I lined up the months. The blend of them looked like this, which became the base for what you see above:


Now there are other factors involved, but the point is that you have to work to isolate those years and understand the basic drivers in the big picture. You have to know why to come up with the what. And so I explain to people this while I am setting this all up.

But now look at this: the computer modeling from July for December:


You can see that it has a lot of warmth in the south, and no big deal in the east, as we go to the August look from the model:


Then September:


And finally, the most recent (as of Saturday night):


Which looks a heck of a lot like this:


Which is what I used to form the basis for this:


Someone who just sees this, though, and does not look at all I did to come up with this, would just get the what and not the why.

But in showing you this example (By the way, it's not etched in stone that I, and now the computer, are correct. If it turns out that way, it means I beat the computer by several months; if it doesn't, it means I was wrong the longest.), I'm illustrating why I am the way I am in the climate fight. Why when you look at all the data and you come up with something, and then see the climate model go to something that you saw before it, right or wrong, would you simply say the climate model is right on any longer-term event?

Up until the flip in the Pacific cycle, they had been touting the warming of the Earth, but even now you are hearing people saying there is a pause in the warming. GUYS LIKE ME NOT ONLY KNEW THAT WAS COMING YEARS AGO BECAUSE OF OUR BELIEFS IN THE CYCLICAL NATURE OF THE CLIMATE, BUT ALSO UNDERSTAND WHY THERE IS A THREAT THAT IT'S GOING THE OPPOSITE WAY -- because the Atlantic is going to start cooling, too.

The reduction of tropical water temperatures has a major impact on the energy budget of the earth, and it's like turning the thermostat down, hence the why behind the what.

The Earth's temperatures measured by satellites in an objective fashion since 1978 looks like this (image courtesy of Roy Spencer):


Undeniable is the rise since the late 1970s and the overall flattening the past 10 years or so. The last three months have averaged .33 above normal, and the global look of all that is below. Notice the lack of blue (cold).


However, look at the U.S.-based climate models for temperatures against the normals six months from now, and see the result of the cooling Pacific; then ask yourself: What do you think that global temperature against the normals up there is about to do:


In addition, when one considers the energy implications of it cooling so much where it's warm and humid (warm, humid air has much more energy than cold, dry air, and there is a greater longer term response in the atmosphere) one understands not only is a big temperature drop about to occur globally, according to the climate model, but the feedback by the reduction of energy may lead to further cooling even beyond!

But that is much different from what caused the last three months of plus .33. It almost looks like it's saying it could be as cold as minus .33, though I think that is a bit far-fetched.

But one can see, by using the tie that binds why to the what -- which is research and lining up the ideas -- why the climate models over the coming year are FORECASTING COOLING and in a rather dramatic sense. It will be interesting to see if the longer-term ones, which are now looking cooler out to 10 years, continue to see this and how this affects the debate on this issue in the coming years.

But right or wrong, I think you can see that there is more than meets the eye in any forecast that is made, that one has to do the hours of preparation work involving the past to have a shot at the future. I tell the guys I help out with in the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club that what I do in the weather is very much like readying yourself to compete, and there is a risk you may not be right (win) That being said, who would go into a match ignoring his opponent? And if you want to come up with what, you better darn well be willing to do the work to have the why.

There is that wrestling-weather link, yet again. No wonder John Cahir would have made a great wrestler.


(Editor's note: Most maps posted here are provided via NOAA.)

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