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Global warming? The cold summer of 2010 continues

81 comments

Last Friday’s San Francisco Chronicle had these two articles, both within one page of each other:

Cold summer not coldest

and

Scientists deem Earth’s warming ‘unmistakable’

How to account for such schizoid reports? According to the first article, although the summer of 2010 hasn’t set a record for cold, it’s been one of the chilliest and most persistently foggy in years, contrasting “sharply with record heat on the East Coast.”

According to the second article, “The past decade was the [world’s] warmest on record” and “Scientific evidence that the world is getting warmer is ‘unmistakable,’ according to…the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.” So, despite the numbskull Tea Party allegations of “Climategate” and know-nothing denialism, the evidence “all point[s] to the same conclusion: Our planet is warming.”

I have written about the cold weather along the California coast for years now on this blog, but even before I started doing so, I was noting, in the vintage diary I keep every year for my reports in Wine Enthusiast, how chilly things have gotten since the notoriously hot summer and fall of 2004. The years 2005-2009, inclusive, all seemed colder to me than any I’d experienced since arriving here in 1978; and now, here we go again. I’ve written here how cold and wet our 2010 “spring” was — a “spring” that never happened until things warmed up, slightly, in June. Now here we are with July over, and both the average temperature and the number of sunny days in San Francisco are down. Here in Oakland, the average July high temperature has been running 2.1 degrees below historic norms.

As it is in San Francisco and Oakland, so it is in wine country. Yesterday (as I write; actually, last Thursday), somebody at Vine Cliff Winery, in Napa Valley, called to tell me “We’re 2-3 weeks behind” in average ripeness due to the chill, which leads naturally to concerns about Fall rains. A Sonoma winemaker wrote on my Facebook page, on July 20, “We’ve had something like 6 days the whole year when it has been over 90°…Our grapes are just barely pea-sized still and I’m think[ing] we could be a month or more behind. Wild.” As July is Sonoma town’s hottest month, on average, the temperature for the rest of the summer is likely to be even more moderate than it has been — a trend that will probably continue, according to the Chronicle article.

Even in the normally baking Central Valley, “There have been few, if any readings of 100 degrees this summer within 100 miles of the coast.” You have to get to practically Las Vegas to experience true, western-style summer heat.

I can’t explain these cooler summers and falls. A weatherman I know once suggested that greater warming in the interior west / Four Corners is creating a gigantic thermal low that sucks in maritime air from the chilly eastern Pacific, where water temperatures struggle to get out of the 50s. It is from these cold waters, of course, that the coast gets its fogs and cool temperatures, driven by prevailing winds from the west/northwest. Maybe that’s the explanation. All I know are two things: People from San Francisco to Los Angeles are grouchy because the summer has been so damned cold, and the winegrapes seem to be loving it. All we can do now is hope that the fall rains hold off until, oh, sometime in November.

  1. James McCann says:

    Steve:

    With all due respect, you are the one who is (and has) taken this blog in the political direction. And yes, many conservatives line up against the climate change crowd because they recognize that there are many in that camp that have their own (anti-business, anti-capitalism) agenda.

    History shows us that groups such as Greenpeace start with what appears to be an innocuous “pro-earth” agenda, but eventually they make it clear that it is more “anti-corporation” than anything else. (Do you remember who started the “Green Cross”?)

    Perhaps if liberals hadn’t opposed every new nuclear plant in the United States, much of this debate would be retorical by now. And if they could just control sun spots and volcanoes, that would be good too…

  2. I love it when boys fight. (But do they drink wine at the same time?)
    Meanwhile, I’m glad you mentioned Galileo, Steve. If you want records that go back beyond the 200 year official stream, go to Castillo de Brolio. harvest records since 14th century. And yeah, this is one of the places Galileo stayed while the Church was figuring out the confluences of the sun and the earth and heresy. Some things never change.

  3. To David Graves,

    I forgot to ask you a question. Do you recall weather conditions across Europe (and even here) as 2009 Coppenhagen Global Climate pow-wow was taking place? Please post your findings here, they should be quite educational to you and others in the thread.

    If the Nature itself didn’t convince the attendees they are dead wrong, then I am not sure how else they will ever get the message. Watching daily news from the conference intermixed with weather reports made for some really hilarious and comedic viewing. Too bad the delicious irony and sarcasm of the events didn’t register with so many…

  4. Tone Kelly says:

    I say we should wait 50 years to decide. If we don’t have global melt down by then, the skeptics have every right to dance and celebrate. However, if we do have global temps 3-4 degrees C above where we are, then it will be too late. We will be able to look forward to a much smaller human population that will eventually lead to a cooler world.

    The size of any risk proposition is the probability times the impact.

  5. Kathy, The Church apologized to Galileo 500 years after they persecuted him. Maybe in the year 2500 the Church will apologize to gay people.

  6. Greg Brumley says:

    It’s pretty clear that Morrow and O’Connor won’t answer the question. Seems pretty obvious why.

    I focused on “weapons of mass destruction” because the objective evidence (GregP’s mysterious Russians aside) now proves the claim was, not only untrue, it was an intentional lie perpetrated to justify a war which has been a total failure and has needlessly killed, maimed, or rendered homeless several million people. A dangerous myth, to say the least.

    The corollary which binds the WMD acolytes to the Anti-Global Warmers to the Obama-isn’t-an-American crowd and all the others who waste our time over their delusions is this: “Everybody but me is wrong”. Everyone who disagrees with them is, not only uninformed, but the stooge of a vast international plot of unknowable people bent on conquering the world.

    The Anti-Global Warmers are perfect examples. Almost every reputable scientific authority on the planet agrees that man-induced climate change is a fact. So, the AWGers ignore the preponderance of evidence because, “since it doesn’t agree with what I want to believe, it’s obviously a conspiracy”.

    What makes this so dangerous is that the “only I am right” mentality inevitably breeds this view of the world and neighbors: “People who don’t look like me, talk like me, screw like me, and believe like me should not have rights in the first place.” That endangers me and you, and it has gotten millions killed.

    Yes, I know wonderful people, who happen to share in the myths. The point is not that, as a group, rightists are bad individuals (except the politicians and commentators who feed on them). Politics aside, they’re no better or worse that anyone else. The problem is that politics isn’t aside to them; it’s become a lifestyle. One which threatens our country and the world around it.

    Let’s talk wine. At least there’s some form of rationality in that discussion.

  7. GregP–there is a very good reason for cold records to have been broken in lower latitudes this winter–a phenomenon called the Arctic Oscillation. The high Arctic was warmer than usual, while lower latitudes were colder than normal. And once again–it ain’t hard to look it up.
    For Morton–don’t take my word for it–look it up at the National Snow and Ice Data Center website. They say in the FAQ right on the home page of their website:
    “The rate of decline [of the area of the summer minimum area] increased to minus 11.2% per decade [from 1979, when satellite measurement began, until 2009].” Seems like a trend to me. And the ice is thinner and younger (more ice of the previous winter, less multi-year ice) i.e. there is less volume than before. Also explained on their website.
    Sheesh, you can look this stuff up in about 30 seconds.

  8. Greg Brumley, I will try to return the conversation to wine. But my readers are very smart, and they have strong opinions, and I hope they’ll continue to weigh in when they feel passionately about things, even if it’s not directly connected to wine.

  9. To Greg Brumley,

    RE: The Anti-Global Warmers are perfect examples. Almost every reputable scientific authority on the planet agrees that man-induced climate change is a fact. So, the AWGers ignore the preponderance of evidence because, “since it doesn’t agree with what I want to believe, it’s obviously a conspiracy”.

    The huge problem that you and others refuse to understand is that ALL so called pro-Global Warming “studies” are nothing but PAID for “results”. Like I said, why don’t you read up on Russian Academy of Sciences studies/results, they have NOT been paid by interested parties and also, as I already pointed out, have nothing to sell to you. The 120 or so “scientists” bought by the Ponzy Scheme Cabal are just that, PAID FOR STUDIES and in reality represent a very small group in the grand scheme of things.

    When you and others in support of this dreamed up cause can explain to us just why Greenland is called GREEN Land and not WHITE Land I may go along with at least some of what is being put out there. Until that time let’s agree that GW is “junk science”.

    Also, not sure how deep is your knowledge of history, and it is obvious it is not, at least based on what you so far proposed here, but are you aware that the entire North Pole was pretty recently (we’re talking roughly 10K years) a lush land bereft of ice? You know, those Mamonts they still dig out from the frozen tundra of Russian North are not that old and used to feed on GRASS, which is nowhere to be found. So, what were those ancients using to affect global warming then?

    BTW, and I hope we do not drag this too long, but care to remind us just what kind of weapons were being used on Kurds by Saddam’s army? To the tune of hundreds of thousands of dead… Talk about re-written history…

    And since you guys refuse to answer my question and face the reality, let’s recall just what the weather was like just a few months back, December of 2009. Many had huge difficulties making it to Coppenhagen due to extreme COLD WEATHER, colder than in decades past. Roads in Germany and other EU countries were CLOSED for days. Washington was closed for DAYS, which has not happened for almost a century. People DYING left and right, but for some reason mass media here did not report on that too much since it would interfere with the Ponzy Scheme Cabala. Now that there are fires across Russia (which HAVE happened in the past, no biggie) and it serves Ponzy Scheme Cabala’s agenda every news agency is on top of it. One big problem though: they keep forgetting to inform us the main reason Russia is incapable to fight the fires is lack of money and equipment. And even more important, lack of infrastructure out there with no central water supply (yep, they still dig for water) and build outhouses).

    Watch Russian TV, you’ll understand what’s going on. Lack of global warming included, which NO ONE in Russia claims even now with all the fires.

    But why report the obvious when it doesn’t fit your sales scheme?

    As I pointed out above, you guy simply repeat what you hear from mass media, I LIVED IT.

  10. David Graves says:

    GregP gets the Black Knight award. You remember, the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail? ” It’s just a flesh wound.”

  11. First, the use of the phrase “global warming” rather than “climate change” allows fatuous arguments about individual climactic events. “Hey, Maude,” the silly people say, “it’s snowing on the third Tuesday of December this year, and it didn’t snow until the third Wednesday of December last year. Al Gore is a liar.”

    That’s not science.

    As for the fantasy “But why report the obvious when it doesn’t fit your sales scheme?,” it is belied by a very simple and obvious fact. The people with the most to sell, and spending the most to sell it, are those on the fossil fuels side of the equation, and even with unlimited budgets, they have only been able to buy the tiniest minority of “research,” and even that is mostly propaganda published by Regenery rather than science published by peer reviewed journals.

    If you really want the argument to come down to “who has the most to lose or to spend,” rather than science, the answer is still “Big Oil,” and the conclusion is still the same.

    There is no conspiracy to create climate change science. There might have been once, but it left town in the UN’s black helicopters.

  12. Mr. Brumley,
    “What makes this so dangerous is that the “only I am right” mentality inevitably breeds this view of the world and neighbors: “People who don’t look like me, talk like me, screw like me, and believe like me should not have rights in the first place.” That endangers me and you, and it has gotten millions killed”.
    1) You got it wrong, here. You’re the one who’s not respecting other people’s standpoint.
    2) If you look back at 20th Century History you will notice that it was not the Skeptics who have “gotten millions killed”: legally constituted governments, supported by “consensus views”, are the ones responsible for the genocides. (Right-wing and left-wing governments included there; with the exception of Libertarians, Objectivists and Anarcho-capitalists, who (thank god) believe in the non-aggression axiom)
    3) With all due respect, the paragraph above is the worst piece of proselytism I’ve seen in decades.

  13. Anecdotal, to be sure, but it makes me a believer in climate change.

    In the 1960s I lived for one year in Thule Greenland, as a guest of the US Air Force. The ice cap that we used to look at every day, the one that loomed over our horizon and our base, the one that never receded or seemed to melt, the one that scared the shit out of us, is gone today.

    In the 1980s I moved to the Finger Lakes wine region, where, as you wine people must know, we call this a cool climate. In 1984 you couldn’t give away a local red wine, because we hardly got summers long enough or hot enough to mature the grapes. Today, we still don’t get every summer that is long enough or hot enough for red grapes to mature properly, but we get enough of them within a decade, and in a continuous tightening of schedule, to show that our local climate has changed drastically in 26 years. Each year, new species of bugs and animals seem to find us, and each year other plants in the vicinity blossom sooner and flourish or perish based on a climate that they never had or seek. I watch birds that didn’t now do come to the region, and they come earlier and earlier each year.

    For the second time within half a decade, our summer is hotter than Napa, and this year the vines are weeks ahead of schedule.

    Perhaps this is all natural; perhaps this is man made; but you can’t won’t persuade me that it isn’t substantial change.

    And Greg, the story is that the Vikings called it Greenland so as to lure settlers to it and away from their beloved Iceland, which is far greener than Greenland ever was. Sometimes, even history is full of shit, especially when written and interpreted by the winners!

  14. Thomas, it doesn’t take much these days for Finger Lakes to be hotter than Napa! We are downright chilly this year.

  15. Steve,

    This year, we have experienced more extended heat days than I can remember in any summer since 1984, and at temperatures unheard of around these parts. Plus, it began in May!

    In addition, rainfall is not just rain–it’s massive, often quick torrents and then right back to hot days. Makes me think that all these years later the Greenland ice cap is dumping on me again…

  16. Morton asked for a comment on the Soon and Baliunas paper he thinks is so important, and the accompanying “there is no hockey stick” claim. His claim about the “hockey stick” has been trashed eight ways till Thursday, but since he asked for specifics of “hoo-haw”, here it is: the journal of the American Geophysical Union called “Eos”. If you look at vol. 84, # 27 (8 July, 2003) pages 256-258, you will see just by looking at graphs that Soon and Baliunas are shall we say incorrect in their conclusions. Morton?

  17. One thing I forgot to mention about the Arctic ice situation. You always see the extent of sea ice as the proof of warming. Temperatures are rarely discussed. That is because temperatures in the region have not warmed beyond what they were many decades ago. The sea ice is disappearing because of a change in prevailing winds which is driving the ice in the summer time to warmer waters where it melts. This has been confirmed by both NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and the Federal Three Oceans Project in Canada. As both studies showed, “Unusual atmospheric conditions set up wind patterns that compress the sea ice, loaded it into the Transpolar Drift Stream and then sped its flow out of the Arctic”

    The alarmist sites never get into the details because the details are less scary. Sure, you can opine that the change in prevailing winds or weather is due to manmade global warming, but then you have to explain why this particular instance of polar ice melt due to wind change is different from the previous times it happened.

    So go to your National Resources Defense Council site and see if they explain why the ice is melting. You will see they very cleverly word everything to focus on the change in area of ice and what they think the impact of that will be, not word on why it is happening except that they blame it on mankind.

  18. Mr. Graves,
    Does your reference/source/article/academic-paper (?) have a name/title? An author(s)? Is it free-content/accessible?
    Otherwise you’re joking…

  19. Here is the one with the pretty pictures–via Penn State–. Or you can go to Google Scholar and enter as search terms: [Amman Briffa Mann]. The title is “On Past Temperatures and Late-20th century Warmth”.
    So, no I am not joking.

  20. Morton:
    First you got the story wrong, now you are changing the story. What about evidence of thawing of permafrost, for example: Ford and Pearce
    Environmental Research letters, Vol. 5, #1, 2010–go to Google Scholar and look it up. Sure seems like there’s a different story on the ground…

  21. Mr. Graves,

    The article you cited is entirely based on the “same ole” Mann, Bradley and Hughes (MBH98) “Hockey Stick Graph”, which has masses of controversies that I list below. It also mentions very superficially the Soon & Baliunas paper, merely stating that “[t]wo (nearly identical recent papers [Soon and Baliunas, 2003 and Soon et al, 2003] challenge this view, and have been used to support the claim that recent hemispheric-scale warmth is not unprecedented in the context of the past millennium. Such claims are inconsistent with the preponderance of scientific evidence. We therefore review these claims within the context of the AGU position statement, especially since such claims have found their way into the media and have been read into the U.S. Senate record”.
    No bashing; no falsification, or even refutation. In fact, it was the Soon & Baliunas paper that threw a lot of crap on “the Hockey Stick Graph”.
    The long-standing issues with the MBH98 “Hockey Stick” graph are:

    1) Instrumental data for use in computing global mean surface temperatures are only available for about the past 150 years [Jones et al, 1999].
    2) Estimates of surface temperature changes further back in time must make use of historical documents and natural archives, or “proxy” indicators, such as tree rings, corals, ice cores and lake sediments, to reconstruct the patterns of past climate change. These records are harder to calibrate and often only available sparsely through time; they may be available only from developed regions, and are unlikely to come with good error estimates. These historical observations of the same time period show periods of both warming and cooling. Sallie Baliunas notes that these temperature variations have a high correlation with solar activity (i.e. the number of observed sunspots). Baliunas and others have also suggested that periods of decreased solar radiation are partially responsible for historically recorded periods of cooling such as the Maunder Minimum and the Little Ice Age. The same argument would imply that periods of increased solar radiation contributed to the Medieval Warm Period, when Greenland’s coastal areas thawed enough to permit farming and colonization.
    3) Due to the paucity of data in the Southern Hemisphere, MBH98 studies have emphasized (READ solely employed) the reconstruction of Northern Hemisphere, rather than GLOBAL mean temperatures over roughly the past 1000 years.
    4) Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick claimed various errors in the methodology of Mann et al. (1998). The paper claimed that the “Hockey Stick” shape was the result of an invalid principal component method. They claimed that using the same steps as Mann et al., they were able to obtain a hockey stick shape as the first PRINCIPAL COMPONENT in 99 PERCENT of the cases (counting both upwards and downwards-pointing “blades”), even if simulated red noise without any inherent trends was used as input. The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report says that McIntyre and McKitrick “may have some theoretical foundation, but Wahl and Ammann (2006) also show that the impact on the amplitude of the final reconstruction is very small (~0.05°C).”
    5) Hans von Storch and colleagues claimed that the method used by Mann et al. probably underestimates the temperature fluctuations in the past by a factor of two or more. However, this conclusion rests at least in part on the reasonableness of the global climate model (GCM) simulation used, which has been questioned; Von Storch’s claim implied that MBH98 was less accurate because if there was more variability than originally shown, then Mann’s “hockey stick” would look less like a hockey stick and therefore be weaker argument for recent dramatic climate change.
    6) The apparent differences between the quantitative and qualitative approaches are not fully reconciled. The reconstructions mentioned above rely on various assumptions to generate their results. If these assumptions do not hold, the reconstructions would be unreliable. For quantitative reconstructions, the most fundamental assumptions are that proxy records vary with temperature and that non-temperature factors do not confound the results. In the historical records temperature fluctuations may be REGIONAL rather than hemispheric in scale.

  22. Warning to readers:
    Your eyes may roll back in your head with the level of references to authors and papers in this exchange, so you may wish to refill your wineglasses before embarking on this journey..
    Mann et al.(1998) hereafter MBH98 were criticized by McIntyre and McKittrick (hereafter MM) for using invalid statistical methods involving a technique called Principal Component Analysis (hereafter PCA).
    MM want you to believe that the MBH98 analysis depends on a statistical trick, and if you take the “trick” away, the whole structure of the analysis collapses.
    It turns out that the MM analysis is incorrect, and their so-called standard methods are anything but. Even if you eliminate the two data sets MM most object to, you still get the hockey stick. The “red noise” hypothesis is false, and demonstrably so, by using data independent of any tree ring data at all. So, I am not quite sure Peter O’Connor wants to go with this, but invoking MM won’t suffice.

  23. Ike Solem says:

    The main component of the overall warming is the water vapor component, which is increased by the CO2 and methane components (due to increased evaporation).

    So: increased evaporation in some areas and some times is going to lead to increased water vapor in the atmosphere. Everything gets a little hotter – so you have the record heat waves across Russia and the United States, and the record flooding in Pakistan gets exacerbated by glacial meltwater.

    In the U.S. south, river water temperatures are currently getting so high right now that nuclear and other power plants are being shut off, right as electricity demand peaks (a problem that wind and solar doesn’t have, by the way).

  24. parasiticlord says:

    i think the chemicals in the chemtrail spraying, has produced & harvested clouds & fog in calilfornia. thats why were having a gloomy summer. climate change made by man. its like the earth is becoming more cloudy for a weird purpose .if california has a gloomy summer in 2O11somthing is going down!!!! “CLOUDYfornia”

  25. CLOUDYFORNIA…Good one, I like it!

    But now everybody please come down! This topic is much like religion or politics to ME… We are all, for sure, doing as much as we can to try to slow down GW, bla, bla bla, but this is a Wine blog.

    I think this is going to be a Vineyard manager year. The ones that make the right decisions will deliver excellent fruit to the wineries and the ones that do everything by recipe will give their winemakers a big nightmare.

    I think this weather is excellent for early ripening varieties and it could be a bad year for the Bordeaux. Now, who is your vineyard manager?

    PS: Last year I had veraison July 4th. This year August 1st…

  26. Mauricio, what you say echoes what I’m hearing from other winemakers. Good year for early ripeners. Could be a problem for lates. Also, people are thinning now to avoid potential mold problems.

  27. Steve, mold is an issue but not where I am at, in Paso Robles. The problem for us is going to be getting the late ripening varieties ready for harvest before the rain comes. That is the reason why we are thinning “last week”. Lightening the crop should help maturity.

    You want air flowing through those berries and good sun exposure but you got to be careful, specially in Paso, because if you get one heat spike like the ones we have here (4 -5 days at 110 degrees) and you are harvesting sun burned fruit.

    Again, this is going to be a great year for good viticulturists and vineyard managers…

    PS: I am excited about my Whites, Syrah and Grenache. Will see what happens with Cab and Mourvedre.

  28. Good luck Mauricio!

  29. Global Warming, Climate Change, Man Made, Not Man’s Creation… Frankly, I’m tired of the whole arguement. The whole GW-CC argument smacks of politics to me and one thing I’ve learned in my 50 years on this planet… politics ALWAYS involves money and corruption!

    Steve, you calling people numbskulls because they have a different belief than you was not cool. I have disagreements with many people and yes, I do think many of them are numbskulls, but I don’t put that opinion in print. It’s rude and inflammatory. If that was your intent then mission accomplished. If it was unintentional, then I believe an apology is in order.

    To the many others here who wish to discuss politics, there are forums for that. This is supposed to be a wine blog, or so I thought, so perhaps we can get back to discussing wine and stop picking at each other’s politcal beliefs?

    Mauricio, thank you for steering the conversation back to where it belongs. I live in the South San Francisco Bay area and have noticed a cooler than usual summer. Will it have an effect on grapes? Most likely, but how big of an effect will not be known until later in the season. By the way, I’ll be visiting Paso in a couple of weeks. If you let me know where your winery is, pehaps I can stop by for a visit and bring some friends. What do you think is your best vintage and why?

  30. Robert, I generally try to stay civil here on my blog. Where I get stuff out of my system is on my Facebook page. I invite you to friend me!

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