July 21, 2022

The European Heat Wave and Global Warming

There is a lot of talk about the short-term European heatwave with some suggesting that the record-breaking warmth is the result of climate change/global warming.    

Some of the media and climate advocates have been over the top in their claims (see below), stating that this event was the result of human-caused global warming.

The truth and overwhelming scientific evidence provide a different story:  the recent European heatwave is mainly the result of natural processes but was enhanced modestly by human-caused global warming.     

The situation is very much like the Northwest heatwave of last summer;  with many of the same elements.  

A Short But Dramatic Heat Event

As noted in the media, a number of locations broke all-time temperatures records, with some locations in England reaching 40°C  (104°F).   The map below shows the locations breaking records on July 18th, with the x's showing locations exceeding all-time record highs.

At some locations, the previous all-time record highs were smashed by several degrees, something illustrated by this plot of the central English temperatures (shown below).   The blue line is this year's temperature, the black line is the average value, and the pink line shows previous daily records.  

The high this week for central England  was absolutely unparalleled, particularly regarding the deviation from the previous record high.  Also note that the heat wave was very short.

 In many ways, this event was like last year's heatwave in the Northwest, with previous records being absolutely smashed.

Ironically, such an extraordinarily extreme event is a sign that global warming played a very small role in this event.  This reflects the

Golden Rule of Climate Extremes:

The more extreme a climate or weather record is, the greater the contribution of natural variability and the smaller the contribution of human-caused global warming.

Let me demonstrate how the "Golden Rule" applies in this event.

The Background Warming

Europe and England have been warming during the past decades and some of that warming is probably caused by increasing greenhouse gases such as CO2.    To illustrate, below are the long-term changes in maximum summer temperatures over England from the UK Met Office.

Mean maximum temperatures had little overall trend from  1890 to around 1970 and then warmed around 1 C (about 2 F) during the last 50 years.

I can show you similar plots of other European locations, all of which suggest about 1-1.5C of warming.  

Let us assume ALL of this warming is due to increasing CO2 and other greenhouse gases.  Let us further assume that none of it was due to urbanization or changes in instrumentation (which can also produce warming temperatures).

That background warming of around 1°C  is absolutely dwarfed by the magnitude of the heatwave, in which maximum temperatures were as much as 20C above normal (as shown by the figure above).

So why were the temperatures so extreme this week? 

The reason is the development of a large ridge of high pressure, something called a ridge, which produces warming by sinking and moving air northwards on its western flanks.

Here is the upper level (500-hPa pressure level, about 18,000 ft) at 5 PM PDT July 17th.  The ridging (high heights or pressure) are indicated by the red-orange colors.   Note there was a trough (blue colors) of lower pressure on its southwest side.  This feature increases southerly flow that brings up warmer air.

Now a shocker.  Below is the same kind of chart for the great Northwest heatwave.

OMG!   Very similar, including the low  to the southwest!

Such a low center, by enhancing southerly flow moving into the ridge of high pressure, acts as a supercharger for the warmth.

High amplitude, wave patterns can be produced by natural variability and there is no evidence that the ridge in question resulted from global warming.

Ironically such a pattern also produces enhanced cooling to the east and west, something shown by the temperature anomalies (difference from normal) six hours later (red/brown above normal, blue below normal).

One should note that major heatwaves periodically hit Europe, such as in 2003 and 1976.

The bottom line is that the recent European heat wave was caused by an amplification of the northern hemisphere wave pattern, with global warming contributing perhaps 5-10% of the warmth.  Natural variability of the atmosphere was the proximate cause of the warmth and does not represent an existential threat to the population of Europe.


  1. "The more extreme a climate or weather record is, the greater the contribution of natural variability and the smaller the contribution of human-caused global warming."

    Is this documented somewhere? It would seem to conflict with the message that as we increase emissions, we increase the frequency of extreme weather events (ie shift the "extreme" to become the new "normal").

    1. Branden.... it is quite consistent. If you define a heat wave event as being above a certain temperature, even a small amount of warming can greatly increase the frequency of such an event, particularly if the distribution is bell-shaped (Gaussian). But that does not say anything about what percent of the warmth is natural. Truth is that all heat waves are mostly natural, with a little addition by human caused warming...

    2. Right, and that significant increase in frequency -- including making what were previously nigh-impossible events possible, is what people are concerned and upset about. And it's why I've long been so frustrated with your insistence in downplaying climate change's role in all these events.

      The whole point is that these really damaging black-swan events are more possible now, and what were the previous black-swan events will now become comparatively commonplace.

      "Global warming played a very small role in this event" is just misinformation. From a strict temperature-degree point-of-view, sure, of course. But it played a large role in making it _possible_.

    3. If the temperatures are normally distributed and the SD is, say, 4C, then what was a 4 SD event occurs ~40x as often with 1C of warming. Alternatively, what was a once in a century event becomes a once in every 2 or three year event. And that's what people care about, not what percent of warmth is "natural" - whatever that means.

    4. Fred...I don't think you are correct. People DON'T care that the the heat wave reached 4.1C above normal when the previous heat wave was 3.9C. Frequencies above some arbitrary line in the sand means nothing. That is my point.

    5. Chris...what you say has no rational support...and your accusations of misinformation are without basis. People DO NOT care that a previous heat wave of 5.9F is now 6.3F. And keep in mind that record temperature happen without GW.

    6. But as you said, people DO care that +20F heatwaves happen _more often_ because you've pushed the bell curve 2F (and counting) to the side, and what was previously a once-in-100-years heat event is now a once-in-10-years heat event.

      It's exactly what you said: "even a small amount of warming can greatly increase the frequency of such an event". Yes! That's what people are upset and scared about! That's the result of global warming! It's why it _doesn't_ play a small role in this event!

    7. Cliff - look at this way. If 1C of warming makes it ~3x more likely than a 4SD event will occur (the correct value by the way, not the 40x value I mistakenly mentioned earlier) then the expectation is that 2/3 of the 4SD events in a given time interval can be attributed to climate change.

    8. Fred...the problem with your approach is that you should not "attribute" an event to climate change when a small warming causes a temperature event to exceed some subjective threshold. Say your threshold is 4F. Natural variability creates an event of 3.95 F. Global warming is .10F and you exceed 4 F. Do you attribute the event to global warming when 98% of it is natural?

    9. This is frustrating. Fred was not attributing "an event to climate change". He was attributing a certain number of events to climate change, not specific ones.

      I suspect that most of us are intelligent enough to see this within an analytical framework of changing parameters of a distribution (mean, SD). I don't see anything in these comments to suggest that any of us are trying to attribute any particular event to climate change.

      So why are we even talking about attribution of individual events? It seems like the appropriate answer to questions about individual events is "that's not the right question to ask, you should be asking about the frequency of events."

      You said: "even a small amount of warming can greatly increase the frequency of such an event, particularly if the distribution is bell-shaped (Gaussian). But that does not say anything about what percent of the warmth is natural. Truth is that all heat waves are mostly natural, with a little addition by human caused warming..."

      That last sentence seems like a poorly-worded way of expressing "the magnitude of recent heat waves is well-within historical variations". Ok, cool. I think that's useful and interesting. But as someone else mentioned, the frequency of these events is as important, if not more so, than their magnitude (within reason).

      But your comments I quoted also raise another question. I should know this, but I'm not a regular follower, so I'm going to ask you a direct question:

      Do you think that either 1) global warming is not occurring, or 2) global warming is occurring but not caused by human activity?


    10. global warming IS occurring. Human beings are contributing to it. The point is that such warming is relatively small at this point.

    11. Cliff... climate attribution is a *probabilistic* problem, not a deterministic problem. If you assume a gaussian(normal) max temperature distribution then a relatively small increase in base temperature can at least double or triple the *probability* of an extreme event. The exact number will change depending on what you define as an extreme event( 3SD, 4SD...) but a small ∆T *will* result in a large increase in the probability of an extreme event. The real scientific question is: "will the *frequency* of extreme events increase substantially for small changes in base temperatures" not "was this one event caused by climate change".

      It's impossible to tell if a pair of dice are loaded if you roll one 12. If you roll 50 out of 100 12s after 100 rolls then the likelihood of unfair dice is significantly higher. But even in the latter case you can't say whether any single roll was due to "natural variability" or "cheating".

    12. Fred...I agree entirely we should be thinking about probabilities...but you have the wrong ones. We should be calculating the probabilities of warming between 0-1F, 1-2 F, 3-4F, etc., not frequencies above certain subjective thresholds that have no real meaning...cliff

    13. Given that the real dangerous things are ~4SD events, I don't think it's very useful to talk about whether the temperature on an average day has gone up 2F -- most people won't care or notice that. But they will care if hundreds more people are dying of heatwaves because we're hitting the threshold where heat becomes fatally dangerous to people 3x as often. That's not a "subjective" threshold, it's a very meaningful one!

      Fred is totally right about this and has articulated it well. I'm not sure why you won't acknowledge his point.

    14. I just want to say I appreciate this exchange. While I appreciate Cliff's expertise in the field and his ability to communicate the science around it. I'm often left wanting for his analysis on GW events. I understand his desire to push back against the hyperbole of media on GW but I feel like he pushes the pendulum too far in response.
      Chris' and Fred's comments above capture my thoughts better than I could express. I guess my question to Cliff is how many extreme events does it take in how many years before we can call it GW? Even if there isn't a direct correlation?

    15. Brad...the answer is simple. GW would cause a progressive increase in extreme events. So are record events happening more often in a location? That is what you have to look at. Here in the NW, there is no trend for record temps. Very important point.

    16. "GW would cause a progressive increase in extreme events ... Here in the NW, there is no trend for record temps."

      Your math is wrong, Cliff. As there are more years of recorded history, we should expect a decrease in record events because there are more years to beat. For example, if we started recording temperatures in 1900, then in 1901 we would expect to see record highs on 50% of the days, but in 1999, only on 1% of the days, if there were no GW. So even a constant rate of record highs would be evidence of GW.

      (The above math excludes rounding effects -- we generally round to the nearest degree F and talk about beating or tying records -- but the point stands.)

    17. bruce...my math is fine...you simply don't understand how this is done. Consider a 50 y year period. Determine the top, say 10, temperatures. See what years they occur in. You will find they are pretty equally distributed over time. If GW was dominant, then more of them would be in recent years...cliff

    18. "Consider a 50 y year period. Determine the top, say 10, temperatures. See what years they occur in. You will find they are pretty equally distributed over time. " That's false. https://www.history.co.uk/articles/the-10-hottest-recorded-temperatures-in-uk-history

  2. So basically the mechanics of this heatwave are following what normally occurs based upon peer reviewed science. However, the clincher is the 5-10 percent. If a 100 degree day was 10 percent cooler, well....that is a significant difference. Sure, we are not talking about end of days here but that 10 percent has a huge impact on the power grid, sleep, structures (thermal expansion) and survivability of vulnerable populations of people as well as wildlife. Perhaps if you have any colleagues in the UK, bounce your findings off them and see if they shrug this off as readily.

    1. Keep in mind you'd need to use an absolute temperature scale to know what "10% cooler" means. The absolute temp scale that uses the same scale as Fahrenheit is Rankine. 100 degrees F is 560 Rankine, so 10% cooler is 504 Rankine, or 44 degrees F. In other words the 5-10 percent Cliff is talking about is not 5-10 percent in absolute temperature.

  3. Cliff, I notice a large proportion of your articles focus on events which you claim *are not* likely due to global warming. I have no reason to dispute your analyses, but on the other hand, I also see the world changing around me. It would be just as interesting (and perhaps provide a better balance in the situations you choose to analyze) to discuss current events that *are* indeed likely due to (or strongly influenced by) global warming. I'm sure the reality is that some events are, and some are not; outlining the reasons why specific events are or are-not strongly influenced by generally-agreed-upon warming trends would be valuable for all your readers who like to keep their eyes on the skies.

    1. The truth is that most extreme events are mainly natural, with a small enhancement by global warming. It is not like an event is entirely natural or manmade....it is a mixture of the two. Does that make sense?

  4. I think what Cliff is saying is that the more extreme a climate event is (meaning a larger departure from the average), the more it's attributed to to natural phenomenon because of the sheer magnitude of the deviation. It's my understanding that climate change represents more of a background signal that is constant year around, although increasing, not nearly at the rate that would trigger an extreme heat wave as such. As for the frequency of such events....I'm no climate expert, but I would look at past events that compare in magnitude and see if you can correlate them with a higher frequency. It doesn't seem to be the case based on Cliff's argument, but I would be curious if there's some hidden signal in the data, or some second order pertubation of some kind that might suggest otherwise. Cliff...if you need a research assistant...I'm a MS at UW and would be interested in assisting in any research!

  5. At least it wasn't as bad as the 1911 heat wave in the British Isles that lasted from July to September.

  6. Thanks Cliff.
    Last year in Kittitas County -- 100 miles east of Seattle -- it got so hot the plastic plants wilted. This year the night-time temperature (just over 2,000 ft. elev.) has not gotten high enough for tomatoes to set fruit. The cold wet windy spring kept pollination of fruit trees to a minimum -- except for Italian plums. I've been promised a box or two. Those trees must flower later -- something I have to investigate.

    The local paper says the central WA drought is over, just as we get a warm dry spell, and everything is drying out and turning brown.

  7. "Let us further assume that none of it was due to urbanization or changes in instrumentation (which can also produce warming temperatures)."

    A couple of factors that I think are too often overlooked as possible explanations. The mainstream-media can't make sensational news reports from those possible inconvenient truths.

    People want to scream "CLIMATE CHANGE!" but who is actually doing anything positive and constructive about the very real possibility that human activity is ruining (eventually) this beautiful planet.

    If more people would demand the government causes them to stop being polluters (because of alternatives) then maybe you all wouldn't have to pollute the atmosphere with your automobiles, if that applies to you.

  8. Change happens in the margins and that 5-10% are the margins. Ultimately it doesn't take much to drastically alter the event outcome even with a modest 5-10% either direction. Plus every year it gets warmer moves the goal posts. It is an exponential problem that works like compound interest.

  9. Is it not somewhat unusual for two nearly identical "black swan" events to occur in consecutive years? Cliff, if memory serves you described last year's PNW heat dome as a black swan event (and I thought you more recently estimated it to be something like a 1 in 1000 year event but can't dig up that blog post, so maybe I'm misremembering that)

    Yet here are we are again with an extraordinary heat dome during the northern hemisphere summer. Anthropogenic climate change seems to be making these extreme events occur more frequently.

    I am fine with casting a wary eye toward sensational press headlines, but the trends are not favorable and I feel like you overcorrect for overwrought headlines.

    Also, it seems like 2022 has been marked by numerous heat waves - beginning with recording breaking heat in Australia and South American in January and earlier anomalous heat in the US. Data seem consistent with the idea that periods of intense heat are increasingly common (e.g., these data from NOAA. Note that looking at data for other regions in the US shows nearly identical patterns).

    1. The European heat wave is in ANOTHER location. The world is a big place. Each location has a chance of a rare event. A rare event is ALWAYS happening somewhere. It is like having hundreds or thousands of dies. If you have enough of them, some pair will come up sixes! The world is warming...no doubt about it. But the really extreme events are controlled by natural variability and they are NOT increasing in frequency.

  10. The logic of climate alarmists is depressing. Seemingly well educated individuals who lose all sense of scientific reason in their belief in the fairytale of man made global warming. Heat waves themselves prove that heat waves have nothing to do with increased atmospheric CO2. by their very temporary nature.. The atmosphere has seen a slow but steady rise in atmospheric levels of CO2 over the last 100 yrs. The CO2 isnt going away but heatwaves do what they always do. They come and go. If any temperatures in the UK set any records this week it was certainly due to the UHI effect which can be as much as 8C.

  11. As you noted heatwaves do periodically hit Europe and reference the Wikipedia article on the the British Isles 1976 heatwave. The main issue with that heat wave was that it was really most of the summer. The highest temperature recorded in 1976 in the Isles was 35.9 C. That mark has been exceeded 7 different years since 1976 including 3 out of the last 4 years.
    While your math of climate change making a small additive impact makes sense, I am less sure about the assumption that natural variability of atmospheric circulation would still be the same - a much harder problem to assess and may not be readily solvable.
    This event may also be of interest to you regarding heat mortality - over 1,000 deaths attributed to heat in Spain and Portugal from this event.

  12. Interesting. I seem to remember you saying last year's event was a ~1/1000 chance type event. Quite a coincidence that another would happen so soon.

    1. I don't think I said that (1/1000), but that is not the point. The European heat wave is in ANOTHER location. The world is a big place. Each location has a chance of a rare event. A rare event is ALWAYS happening somewhere. It is like having hundreds or thousands of dies. If you have enough of them, some pair will come up sixes!

  13. What most people don't realize is that the effect of CO2 in the atmosphere is logarithmic. Climate scientists disagree on the values in the model. Here's a graph where you can adjust your own value for radiative forcing: https://www.desmos.com/calculator/cvx4sxw0tf

    More CO2 does not correlate to a linear amount of heating in the atmosphere. Eventually, that effect levels off. The question is how much does it take.

    Essentially, this is a political issue. The utopian socialist technocrats want control of the planet (and you), so they are using fear porn to bash their agenda through. The litmus test for truth is: does the information cause you anxiety? If it does, someone is manipulating you for their own purposes. They want to manage you like a rancher does a herd of cattle or a resource manager manages a forest.

    1. This is why when faced with a real problem our species is faced with just having to allow it to happen in spite of having the free will to do otherwise. Everything ends up politics and some form of battle. Well, unfortunately this will come down to an outcome of when someone wins, the fighting will end. Probably by that time, the damage from the real threat will have long since been done.

    2. Define "Utopian Socialist Technocrat". Is that, like for instance, someone living in Las Vegas and watching Lake Mead drying up and wondering where their water and power will come from soon, when the lake level gets too low for the intake pipes?

    3. Throughout history, there are people who believe they can produce utopias. They place a 'spell' upon the people. It goes very badly. Think Hitler, Mao, Stalin, um...K. Schwab, etc. A technocracy is a form of government where science and technology rule. Of course, the problem is that science changes constantly based on new data, but authoritarians don't want to lose their control. Socialism, well you know what that is: flat-lined equity, not a natural reality. Those who bow completely get the benefits. Others with moral standards are marginalized or eliminated. Hmm, haven't we seen that recently in WA? Think v. mandates.

      That's what is being pushed presently at a global scale. It will end. Hopefully, the people will see the elite's power-grab for what it is sooner than later. Pure authoritarianism in a pyramid scheme. Thankfully, things which do not conform to nature will fail. The question is how much damage has to occur. I'm betting on a quick wake-up and we're seeing that right now all across the globe. Thank goodness!

      Climate Change is one of the methods to their madness. It's perfect, because it can't be proved, models can be manipulated, and nothing can really be done about CO2 at a level that matters, unless of course...you create a global technocratic socialist system...hmm. And that's the plan...which will fail.

    4. Dave Z, can you imagine any circumstance in which you would favor any action, based on science, to prevent any type of future harm? After all, no prediction can be proved, all models can be manipulated, and any proposal to improve anything can be viewed as a step toward utopia, in the conspiratorial world that you inhabit.

      If your answer is "yes", then how does climate not qualify? We may disagree on what should be done, but at least we could have an evidence-based discussion.

      If your answer is "no", then clearly there is no point in discussing climate science with you.

  14. They world is getting warmer. The probability of episodes of record breaking heat events is increasing, at a historically brisk pace.

    1. Yet another calm and rational argument put forth. Do you have a newsletter, because I'd like to subscribe.

  15. When you speak of Natural Variability you have to include when and event starts and when it is naturally finished? Weather systems around the globe are stuck in place for much longer times now, leading to much more extreme weather. There is nothing "natural" about this behavior.

    1. Thomas...the duration of events is part of natural variability. Do you have ANY evidence that weather systems are "stuck" more? Any research papers you care to quote? I don't think there is any evidence for your claim.


    2. [PDF] from iop.org
      Evidence for a wavier jet stream in response to rapid Arctic warming
      Jennifer A Francis, Stephen J Vavrus
      Publication date
      Environmental Research Letters
      IOP Publishing
      New metrics and evidence are presented that support a linkage between rapid Arctic warming, relative to Northern hemisphere mid-latitudes, and more frequent high-amplitude (wavy) jet-stream configurations that favor persistent weather patterns. We find robust relationships among seasonal and regional patterns of weaker poleward thickness gradients, weaker zonal upper-level winds, and a more meridional flow direction. These results suggest that as the Arctic continues to warm faster than elsewhere in response to rising greenhouse-gas concentrations, the frequency of extreme weather events caused by persistent jet-stream patterns will increase.

    3. Thomas...this paper is very weak and has been thoroughly debunked in the literatures...cliff

    4. I was curious about this, and found this, from Nature (2018): https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-01808-z. Seems the authors created just such an index, called the WPI (Weather Persistence Index). They find that persistent weather patterns have increased in number and intensity. I understand this is just one paper, but I would think it counts at least as evidence that weather systems are "stuck" more.

    5. John B....thanks for bringing up that report. I read it....only 8.9% of the world has an trend in persistence by their measure (10-day averages). NONE of north America. None of England. They lacked proper significance testing. And there is no indication that their findings have anything to do with GW...cliff

  16. Back in mid-May, my wife and I traveled away from the glorious sunshine and warm weather of eastern Washington State and drove to Seattle so that I could have joint replacement surgery at the UW Medicine surgical pavilion across from the UW campus.

    The type of surgery needed was more complex than what can be done locally.

    Now, it has to be said that a person hasn't lived a full life unless you've been through one of these joint replacement surgeries. It gives special meaning to the phrase, 'No pain, no gain.'

    Anyway, we had to spend several days in the University District doing pre-op examinations and tests of various kinds, during the course of which we were subjected to Seattle's famously cool and rainy spring weather. To make a long story short, we froze our eastern Washington butts.

    There was time before surgery day to wander around the UW campus proper. As we perceived it, the campus proper east of 15th Avenue NE and south of NE 45th was suffused with an 'Atmosphere of Ivory Tower University Academia' (AoITUA). Or so it seemed to us.

    In contrast, when we walked back across 15th Avenue NE and into the shops and businesses to the west of 15th, we were back in the real world again -- real people doing real work for whatever they can earn making a living in Seattle.

    And when you walk further to the west and go through the doors of UW Medicine's Roosevelt Street clinic, then the world around you becomes completely, absolutely, totally real. Painfully so, in fact.

    One facet of the Seattle lifestyle that I observed on this visit was the extreme reliance on gasoline powered vehicles by a large segment of the city's residents. Cars, cars, and more cars were everywhere, even in the University District.

    When the surgery was done and I was released from the UW Medicine hospital the next day to go back home, we drove east on 520 with the intention of going south on I-405 to the I-90 interchange.

    No dice. There was a massive traffic jam on I-405 South and traffic was moving at a crawl. So we went further east on 520 and then went south on 148th Street in Bellevue to the I-90 onramp at 150th.

    This is what I said to my wife as we were going east on I-90 headed back to eastern Washington: Anyone who thinks they can pry Seattle's drivers out of their gasoline powered cars and trucks in order to fight climate change had better be thinking something else.

    1. But they would. They absolutely COULD BE "pried out of their gasoline powered cars" in order to fight climate change

      Think creatively.

      They just need better options.

      Those options are not being realistically and constructively strived for

      It's not Tesla or any sort of overpriced fad

      No one's motivated to find solutions that will get them out of their polluter-mobiles

    2. Kerry, I will admit that those who want the federal and state governments to do more to reduce America's carbon emissions do in fact have a simple solution available to them for prying Seattle's drivers out of their cars -- and everyone else who drives a car in our state as well.

      That simple solution has two components. In the absence of Congressional funding for the Green New Deal, the Biden administration can launch a massive regulatory assault against the carbon fuels industry with the goal of systematically reducing the supply of all forms of fossil fuel energy. The second component is for the state legislature to pass a $5 tax on gasoline and diesel and for Governor Inslee to sign the new tax into law.

      The first component of this 'simple solution' is now well underway. The Biden administration has launched a massive regulatory assault on the carbon fuels industry and has said publicly in their response to West Virginia vs EPA they will ignore any rulings handed down in the courts adverse to their climate action plans.

      However, we have seen no corresponding near-term action at the state level for using taxes as an expedient and highly effective means of quickly discouraging the use of gasoline and diesel fueled cars and trucks in our state. If Governor Inslee and the climate activists who control the state legislature were truly sincere in believing that carbon emissions are dangerous, then we should expect them to act consistently with their professed beliefs. Something they've shown no inclination to do so far.

    3. Punish diesel, you say. Good. Let's start with the diesel pumps that move Seattle's water and sewage. Then ban the diesel trucks that deliver food to Seattle's grocery stores. Ban the diesel ships that bring things to Seattle. Ban the diesel buses in Seattle. Ban the diesel powered state ferries. Ban all trains -- freight and passenger -- from entering Seattle, because they're all diesel powered. Close Sea-Tac. And no more intercity buses. Have fun.

  17. Cliff, I'm afraid you are missing the burning forest for the burning trees.

    Of course you're right that, since humans have raised worldwide temperatures by about 1-1.5C on average, we should (in the absence of other information) attribute only that much of any specific heat event to humans. It's a good point.


    That's still a big problem. Every little bit matters; average days are now warm days, warm days are now hot days, hot days are now very hot days, etc. The impact is not limited to any one event, even if the media coverage is. And it's clearly getting worse. And while natural variability is inevitable, we CAN do something about man-made carbon emissions. But that won't happen if we keep minimizing the problem.

    1. You have to convince folks that a small warming is a problem. Cold weather kills far more people than heatwaves. So the warming is saving lives. And there are COSTS to reducing emissions...you need to keep those in mind as well.

    2. Thanks for your comment. You make 3 points here:

      1) "You have to convince folks that a small warming is a problem." That's precisely what I tried to do here, to convince folks like you. If you agreed and you tried to convince folks too, that would help a lot.

      2) "Cold weather kills far more people than heatwaves. So the warming is saving lives." I can believe that cold weather DIRECTLY kills more people than hot weather, but how about all the other consequences of climate change? Do you have data to support this claim? I don't have data to support or refute it, but there is a case to be made on principle: Nature -- including humans -- adapt slowly to change, so any relatively sudden change in world climate -- warmer, cooler, wetter, drier, etc. -- is more likely to have a negative impact on humans than a positive one.

      3) "there are COSTS to reducing emissions...you need to keep those in mind as well." Of course. The serious proposals that I've seen do consider costs. But now you are moving to an area that is beyond the scope of your original post or my comment, which were about science and math.

    3. Bruce...the problem is that you have provided no evidence that a small amount of warming is a problem.. And we should also consider in more depth the costs of efforts to deal with the "problem"---costs that can easily exceed the problem itself..cliff

    4. "you have provided no evidence that a small amount of warming is a problem"

      Shall I just link to the latest IPCC report? Or point out that extreme events are problems, and they are more extreme due to warming, so warming is a problem?

      "we should also consider in more depth the costs of efforts to deal with the 'problem'"-

      More depth than what? More than our country has considered the minimal measures we've taken so far to combat climate change? More than the most extreme proposals? We will never have perfect analysis on anything, especially when politics is involved, but overall, are you saying that our country is being too aggressive about combating climate change?

    5. Bruce...I have read the IPCC report... from you note I suspect you haven't. They suggest that even the worst assumed scenarios would only reduce growth by a few percent. Costs of trying to deal with global warming to rapidly and without thinking things through? Blackouts in Texas and CA. Lack of energy when Putin goes on a rampage. There are real costs to simplicistically dealing with global warming.

    6. I guess the costs - in lives, cultures, and dollars - of submerging coastlines and islands throughout the world is too ephemeral to consider here.

    7. Cliff, as I have commented on previous posts regarding deaths from climate change, you are not doing a sufficiently detailed analysis when you make your claim that global warming will decrease deaths from temperature extremes. Though it is true that more people die from cold extremes than from hot extremes, the rate of deaths increases far more when you add a couple degrees at the high end then when you subtract a couple of degrees at the low end. This means that increasing temperatures could increase total global deaths by increasing the number of high temperature deaths more than it decreases the number of cold related deaths. See this Nature paper for one such analysis:

      Bressler, R.D., Moore, F.C., Rennert, K. et al. Estimates of country level temperature-related mortality damage functions. Sci Rep 11, 20282 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-99156-5

      I appreciate your efforts to keep conversations grounded in science, so it is discouraging when you make such misleading statements.

    8. Alex.... I was not being misleading...did you even read that paper? They are talking about the end of the century when the warming is much greater. Furthermore, the problem was mainly in Africa and India. Exactly what I am saying was true in North American and Europe where temperatures can get cold. Please refrain from name-calling until you carefully review your claims...cm

    9. Tad..what you are saying is not true. Turns out islands in the Pacific are rising with sea level...so no problem. And sea level rise is not accelerating and we can take steps to protect the coastal zone...like in the Netherlands...cliff

  18. I get the sense that some folks (dare I say, "youngsters") haven't experienced enough of weather's ups-and-downs to appreciate what "range of normal" amounts to.

    Personal account here: One of my uncles died in VietNam (yes, the war) on 10 Aug 1968. I will never forget what it was like attending his funeral in mid-state Pennsylvania - temperature at MIDNIGHT above 100 F.

    Now, I have no idea how many (let's get European) tonnes of CO2 have been 'added' to the atmosphere since August 1968 - the last 54 years - but "heat waves" do and have always occurred. I find Professor Mass's urging folks to get a rational grip on the proportionality of natural variation quite reasonable. His patience impresses me.

    BTW, last year's brief heat wave here in the Pacific Northwest? I've seen temps of 103-104 in Glacier near Mt Baker more than once (1970's and 1980's). The panicky stories in the newspapers about the heat got lots of hits. When our temperature dipped to MINUS 3 over this last winter, that didn't get much ink (and I've seen sub-zero here in the PNW too).

    1. Exactly this. I'm in my 40s and have seen a lot and remember a lot of extreme weather, but there are constantly people freaking out about every bit of extreme weather. Further, might want to remember that there's only about 100 years of record keeping with good technology. That's not a long time in the scheme of things.

      What's very frustrating to me is watching a certain segment of people who cannot seem to make points without outright lying or at least exaggerating. It's pretty hard to get people (other than easily impressionable ones) to listen when you can't even tell the straight truth without hyperbole.

    2. Your post sums things up pretty much perfectly. I'm in my 60's - seen enough to know not to get overly worked up about ANYTHING!

      But I'm fascinated by the need young people these days have for drama and attention, which is what's behind all this hype. Where does that need they have come from? Frankly it's a bit worrying, because it's indicative of somehting that is wrong in their lives. It's a state of being that can ruin societies and even whole nations if left to fester.

  19. As per a chart at weather.gov, heat in 2021 was the most prolific killer in the USA, including territories. Winter technically had two data points with the assumption of one being direct cold and the other being accidents ( car wrecks, slips, falls, heart attacks shoveling snow etc). The two combined did not surpass heat. Floods were the biggest killer as far as a singular weather event, followed by rip currents. Now, this is just one year in the USA. No idea if there is even a global data set since accuracy varies from nation to nation as well as the motive of reporting or not reporting. It's doubtful that completely eliminating winter as some kind of silver lining will save those lives. They will move to other data sets. Floods could be a major transference. Saying a warming world will save lives is a weak argument at best that does not even take into account what happens to ecosystems, wildlife and so on. The heat dome last year supposedly killed billions of marine creatures. That has to make some kind of difference.

    1. There is a deep literature demonstrating that cold wave kill far more folks than heat waves. My blog discusses some of them:https://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2021/09/heat-wave-versus-cold-wave-deaths-in-us.html

  20. Regarding the climate change question, I think we're focusing on the wrong thing (at times). It doesn't matter what percent of the heat wave is due to climate change and what is natural variation. What matters is how much of an impact the new temperatures and weather patterns will have on the lives of humans and animals.

    Your comment reminds me of the climate skeptic argument, that since human created CO2 is a relatively small amount of the CO2 in the atmosphere, that it's not a big deal or it's not our problem to solve. This is a distraction. What's important is this: "What is the effect of the CO2 that we're putting in the atmosphere?" And that effect, built up over time, is substantial.

    So, focus on the effects these climate events are having. Not on what imagined percent of the event is due to climate change.

    1. Dave...I don't think you are right about this. The Seattle Times and climate activists are blaming heat waves on global warming...and then they call for doing all kinds of things to stop the warming. So the activist side is constantly making the case that heat waves are not natural. If they are wrong...if heat waves are mainly natural.... then there is less urgency to do what they want. So I think you should scold the ADVOCATES of immediate and draconian action for pushing the division.
      And you are wrong about the climate skeptic argument business. We need to deal with GW with the urgency it deserves...based on the best science. If it is slow and relatively minor for a while, we have time to develop alternative energy source (e.g., fusion) and to work on adaptation. So we agree..focus on the effect climate is having...and the answer is...not much as this time, but increasing later in the century.

    2. Cliff - surely the point is that we have to act now to avoid more severe consequences later. Greenhouse gasses (other than water vapour) take a very long time to be removed from the atmosphere and so they accumulate. If we wait until the consequences are (even more) severe it will be too late to do anything about it.

      I would also echo the point several others have made. The current 1C increase in average temperature has (at least) two consequences for extreme heat waves. It makes them even more extreme - presumably by about 1C although I am sure it is much more complicated than that - and for any given extreme temperature it makes that temperature more frequent. Assuming maximum temperatures for a given date/location are distributed vaguely normally then this second consequence can be quite dramatic for extremes - increasing the frequency many times.

    3. Mark Frank... The point is that we have time and that the impacts are modest or ones we can adapt to. So we need not panic, but deliberately work on energy technology and adaptation. We need to move to nuclear, fix the forests, increase AC in some areas, and work on renewables. But the end of the world is not nigh....

    4. Cliff - I disagree about the current impacts. But setting that aside, moderate impacts now doesn't mean we have time. It just doesn't follow. If you are approaching a bend in the road too fast it is a bad strategy to wait until there is a significant impact before acting! On the other hand the actions you suggest - move to nuclear, fix the forests, increase AC in some areas, and work on renewables - are just the action I would hope for. So maybe in practice it makes little difference.

    5. Mark Frank. This is not correct. The point is that there is no "bend" in the road. We will just see a progressive warming that will be larger by the end of the century. End of the world, apocalyptic talk is counterproductive....cliff

    6. Whether there is a bend is of course a matter of dispute - that is essentially what a tipping point is. My point is that you cannot conclude there is no bend (and therefore no need for urgent action) because you are currently on a relatively straight bit of road (not that I think it is that straight). You have to look ahead.

    7. Mark..this is not correct. We have a tool to look ahead for tipping points--climate models. We have dozens of them, plus high-resolution downscaled versions. Climate prediction is not based on extrapolation of trends..cliff

  21. Hot Summer NOT caused by climate change/the science


  22. For myself, as someone who has spent most of my career in the nuclear industry, my primary interest lies in the area of energy policy issues. And so I have a decidedly simplistic view of the science side of anthropogenic global warming (AGW).

    IMHO, the earth is likely to continue warming for another 100 years or more, reaching 2C above pre-industrial as the most likely outcome by the year 2100. As a practical matter, nothing anyone can do between now and the year 2100 can stop this steady increase in GMT. See this one page graphical analysis which many of you have seen before:

    Beta Blocker's Year 2100 GMT Prediction Envelope (April, 2020)

    For those of you who want a deeper dive into the science issues, the 'Watts Up With That' version of the Cliff Mass article, as posted on that blog, has now garnered more than 450 comments.

    'The European Heat Wave and Global Warming (WUWT version)'

    It is unusual for any WUWT article to get more than 150 comments, let alone 450 plus. In their combative enthusiasm, the AGW believers and the AGW skeptics on that blog are busily beating each other up in their debates over the science issues presented in the Cliff Mass article. And with gusto.

    Getting back to energy policy issues, it has been reported that President Biden will soon declare a National Climate Emergency and will use executive orders to continue and expand his regulatory assault on the carbon fuels industry.

    In the expectation that sooner or later Biden would be making such a declaration, I have previously written two long essays posted as comments to articles written by others on the WUWT blog. These two are:

    'West Virginia versus EPA is Not an Impenetrable Barrier Against Aggressive Carbon Regulation'


    'The Supply Side Carbon Emission Control Plan (SSCECP): a fast track approach for eliminating fossil fuels from America’s economy'

    The US Supreme Court's recent decision in West Virginia vs EPA sets a legal precedent for limiting the power of the Executive Branch for unilaterally enforcing a sweeping transformation of America's energy sector; and therefore, a sweeping transformation of the American economy as a whole.

    In response to the Supreme Court's decision, Biden's climate and economic advisors have said publicly they will ignore West Virginia vs EPA and will move forward with their climate action plans regardless of what rulings the Supreme Court might hand down in the future.

    The Biden administration has presented nothing in the way of a credible plan for deploying the numbers and types of renewable energy resources needed to reach his GHG reduction targets while still keeping America at our current level of energy consumption.

    Both of my two WUWT commentaries make the point that Biden’s policy goals for climate action cannot be met without imposing stringent and far-reaching energy conservation measures on the American people and on America’s entire economy as a whole.

    If Biden formally commits the United States to a 50% reduction in our carbon GHG emissions by 2030, as now seems probable, then America must be consuming roughly half as much energy in the year 2030 as we do today in the year 2022.

    What this means for those of us living in the US Northwest is that the coal-fired and gas-fired power generation resources currently serving our region must be retired at an accelerated pace, without full replacement by zero-carbon power resources.

    Thus leaving the region short of electricity at a time when demand for electricity must grow as electric vehicles replace gasoline and diesel-powered cars and trucks.

  23. Cliff, kudos to you for responding in detail. You're correct, and they aren't.

  24. Placeholder says this in response to my observation that placing a $5 per gallon state tax on gasoline and diesel would be a quick and effective means for prying Seattle's drivers out of their cars and trucks:

    "Punish diesel, you say. Good. Let's start with the diesel pumps that move Seattle's water and sewage. Then ban the diesel trucks that deliver food to Seattle's grocery stores. Ban the diesel ships that bring things to Seattle. Ban the diesel buses in Seattle. Ban the diesel powered state ferries. Ban all trains -- freight and passenger -- from entering Seattle, because they're all diesel powered. Close Sea-Tac. And no more intercity buses. Have fun."

    Mr. Placeholder raises an important point for consideration by Seattle-ites, the great majority of whom are (apparently) in favor of President Biden's Net Zero economic and energy policies.

    Those two policies are inextricably linked. Biden's energy policy is his economic policy, and his economic policy is his energy policy. These policies are One Thing.

    The Biden administration is now in the process of rolling out greatly more restrictive environmental and OSHA regulations on the American carbon fuels industry.

    The goal is to use the regulatory powers of the Executive Branch for significantly reducing the extraction, production, and distribution of gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and coal in this country.

    The refineries which produce our gasoline and diesel from crude oil are primary targets of these new regulations. The objective is force the early closure of many, if not most, of these refinery facilities.

    Where will our refined gasoline and diesel products come from if not from American refineries?

    It will come from refineries located in nations and regions which are not subject to Biden's anti-carbon regulations; e.g., Mexico, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, and China.

    The offshoring of America's energy resources and our energy production technology is a consciously chosen feature of Biden's energy-economic policy, not an unintended consequence.

    1. Is there a point buried in there? I couldn't find it.


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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