2010 – 2011: Earth’s most extreme weather since 1816?

That’s the title of Jeff Masters’ piece today on the Weather Underground. He’s put together an impressive list of recent extreme weather events:

Every year extraordinary weather events rock the Earth. Records that have stood centuries are broken. Great floods, droughts, and storms affect millions of people, and truly exceptional weather events unprecedented in human history may occur. But the wild roller-coaster ride of incredible weather events during 2010, in my mind, makes that year the planet’s most extraordinary year for extreme weather since reliable global upper-air data began in the late 1940s. Never in my 30 years as a meteorologist have I witnessed a year like 2010–the astonishing number of weather disasters and unprecedented wild swings in Earth’s atmospheric circulation were like nothing I’ve seen. The pace of incredible extreme weather events in the U.S. over the past few months have kept me so busy that I’ve been unable to write-up a retrospective look at the weather events of 2010. But I’ve finally managed to finish, so fasten your seat belts for a tour through the top twenty most remarkable weather events of 2010. At the end, I’ll reflect on what the wild weather events of 2010 and 2011 imply for our future.

The list is rather long, which is the point, of course. Makes for unhappy reading too.

What could it mean?  Hmmm, I couldn’t possibly comment.

25 Comments Posted

  1. Despite recent attempts to revive the discredited “hockey stick” temperature graph, invented by Michael Mann and promulgated by the IPCC, new research on tropical glaciers has once again shown that supposed temperature history to be bogus. While the role of the tropics in climate change remains an open debate in climatology circles, new data suggests linkages between the tropics and the North Atlantic region. In particular, prominent glacial events and associated climatic shifts in the outer tropics during the early Holocene and late in the “Little Ice Age” period indicate that the LIA was indeed a global event.

    Tropical mountain glaciers are highly sensitive to relatively small climate changes, which makes them particularly useful as indicators of past climatic fluctuations. This is one of the reasons that climate alarmists make such a big deal out of the rapid retreat of existing mountain glaciers. Because past variations for these glaciers have not occurred at precisely the same times as the historical fluctuations in Europe those fluctuations have been depreciated by some. Well documented climate events such as the Holocene Climate Maximum and the Little Ice Age have been dismissed as being local variations and not representative of Earth’s climate as a whole.

    Peru possesses 71% of present-day tropical glaciers, the greatest concentration in the world. In the September 25, 2009, edition of Science Joseph M. Licciardi, Joerg M. Schaefer, Jean R. Taggart, and David C. Lund have presented a new, in-depth study of moraine ages from the Cordillera Vilcabamba (13°20’S) of southern Peru that date prominent glacial events and associated climatic shifts in the outer tropics.

  2. I guess the extreme weather occurance more or less has something to do with the approaching “doomsday” that people have been talking about for the last decade.
    If you noticed there are a lot of phenomenon incidents going on throughout the world that you might not cross over people’s mind a century ago. And these phenomenons are just getting more and more.
    I hope that people are more concerned about what’s going on in this planet if they want to live a long age.

  3. Well, let’s just hope we’re not leading up to the “end of the world” that so many doomsdayers like to preach about. I think it’s gonna be pretty cool after we float right through 2012 without incident. Then what will they talk about? Let’s just hope these aren’t self-fulfilling prophecies… Having spent a good portion of early 2011 in the southern part of the US, I can confirm that it was indeed wild: Shockingly cold temperatures for long bouts of time in southern states, tornadoes, floods, and incredible amounts of rain.

  4. But I m sure the forest fires in Indonesia sure helps! Govt has been spending millions to curb open burning but to no avail. Need neighbor’s help to douse fire by helicopters.

  5. There are two images that help capture the problem for the less scientific observer.

    First is the view of the atmosphere at the earth limb. In this context the limb is :


    The blue bit – that is your atmosphere thickness.


    …here is another…


    The atmosphere thickness is rather like the thickness of a heavy coat of lacquer on a basketball.


    So here is our nightly output of energy, just our random lighting of our (over)population centers… it gives us some visual feedback about the energy we’re burning – scale of our impact vs that thin layer of atmosphere… these correlations are not exact, they are visual… the point is that we are indeed quite capable of affecting and afflicting the planet.


    The real science behind what we’ve done and are doing is not simple – the CO2 effect is often confused with the actual heat generated or wasted in the process of making power, but is in fact several orders of magnitude greater.

    The atmosphere (that thin layer) is able to affect the energy balance of the input solar radiation and the outgoing thermal radiation, which actually DO have to balance or the planet changes temperature until they do. Altering the chemistry of that thin layer is distressingly easy for us as we burn our way through carbon that has been naturally sequestered for a hundred million years.. all released again in the last hundred years.

    Another analogy I use is a bucket of water with some small holes in the bottom.and a faucet pouring water in at the top.

    If you adjust the size of the holes just right you can get an equilibrium height of the water in the bucket. That’s your “temperature”. The incoming water is the solar energy flow. The outgoing water is the “black-body” radiation term which is the only way anything in a vacuum can cool off.

    So – now put some stuff in some of the holes in the bucket, plugging them up. Doesn’t have to be much stuff at all. Watch the level of the water in the bucket rise. As it rises it creates additional pressure (the water is deeper) on the flow through the holes and if you are lucky it will find an equilibrium before it overflows. Not easy to do because the effect of that very small change in the holes is affecting the entire flow of the water. I am betting that if you try this you will wind up with an overflowing bucket more often than not 🙂

    Politicians and populations cannot agree to any restriction that might damage their wealth relative to anyone else’s. Humans don’t ever do something like that until faced with utter catastrophe. That’s in the nature of humans and politics, and that is the basic failure of Copenhagen and Climate legislation to date. It has nothing to do with whether it is real and it has nothing to do with whether it will happen and it has nothing to do with “left” or “right”.

    It is for this reason that I advise people to prepare for catastrophe in the longer view, as we are as a species, incapable of working together to avert one. Trust is missing from our civilization, it is one of the things the “money people” sold out of, in their effort to gather as much power and money as possible.

    It is the one thing that could help us now and we have none left, as the people who currently control the planet are some of the most dishonest and unmitigated scoundrels ever to walk on it (and I am not talking about politicians here, they are merely pawns in the great game).

    So my view is that we prepare ourselves. Campaign as we must because there is no retreat from this issue, but the realization has to set in that human societies are simply socially too poorly equipped to deal with this.

    The only possible chance I can see is a wholesale removal of “the money people” from power. The end of fractional-reserve banking offers a way to manage that and is the only way I can imagine to effect that sort of change. With a very unusual amount of luck we might do that, but we’d have to TRY to do it first. That’s “We” as in “The Green Party” because no other party has the courage or nous to even contemplate such a measure.

    As long as we cannot trust our leaders (pawns) or the people who control them (the money people), and as long as the punishment remains to be visited on FUTURE generations, we will never take any actions that require trust and sacrifice.


    Glad to have this opportunity to explain stuff 🙂


  6. You’re not making sense, Shunda. The politics you don’t like don’t change the facts on the ground. Trust the science. Despite the distortions of the media, it is plain to see what’s going on. Do this and then argue the politics of it. Doing it the other way around is muddled at best, particularly for someone who wants to be seen as environmentally concerned and credible.

  7. Says what Valis? that the planet has had a hugely variable climate for it’s entire history?

    I would rather believe that AGW was proven quite frankly, but all the tacked on crap from the pseudo environmentalists has the bullsh!t meter going off the scale.

    As Copenhagen revealed oh so horribly.

    Care for the environment: 0
    Exploiting the environment as a political resource: 1

    No friggin different to coal miners, gold miners, and people that fill the rivers full of shit.

  8. That’s some nice speculation, John. What weight do you think we should give to the vast majority of scientific opinion that says otherwise?

  9. I don’t want to seem ignorant to the destruction inflicted to the Earth by us humans in the past century or so, but from the little I know about it, the weather system is quite delicate.

    It makes sense that periods of highs and lows are reached (just think of the glacial periods). We should take care of planet, but maybe we’re not that big as we think we are.

  10. @Amy

    No I didn’t mean there are 4 million cars on the road at anyone time, but the point is that we are almost exclusively addicted to the car & fossil fuels. Kia-ora

  11. Shunda’s a denier and thinks he’ll be effective by coming at it from a “green” perspective, despite the fact that climate change will destroy every aspiration he holds for the environment – unless his asipration is actually to rid the planet of humanity, in which case he’s on to something.

  12. “We hardly ever hear any bloddy thing else anymore, but rest assured, wetlands are still being drained, forests being cleared and oceans being strained of fish.”

    Don’t know what you’re reading, listening to or watching Shunda, but I’m hearing about those things all the time.

    Heard some gardener guy on RadioLive at the weekend, challenging John Key’s plans to open cast the lignite in Southland. That gave me hope 🙂
    The little guys can be a powerhouse. Attending to the mess at our own back door is vital but we have to keep our eye on the big picture at the same time.
    You’ll notice the ‘minor’ coal developments are all racing ahead just now.
    Nibble nibble.

  13. Shunda – I was discussing “our” headlong rush towards species extinction. In that sentence, not concerning myself with all the others (though that does also concern me). At +4 our survival as a civilized society is no better than 50-50 and many people would put it longer than that. How much of our ability to survive is predicated on the “benefits” of our civilization?

    At +4 we are likely discussing a human population that is on the order of half to a tenth of what we currently have. If you want to blame someone for “politicizing” the issue, I suggest you knock on the doors of the Koch brothers and the Scaife family and the various interests behind the Wall Street Urinal.

    Science has been telling truth here. Greens regard the danger because greens take a far longer view than any other party. It requires global and concerted action. Science has been saying this exact thing since 1991, and we have no progress. Consider where the progress has been stopped and tell me how Greens should do this differently?

    We should shut up because our support automatically attracts the resistance of incompetent idiots of National and ACT or the ridicule of irresponsible republicans? (People who regard Sarah Palin as a serious candidate for President surely deserve worse description)

    No Shunda. Just because there are idiots running the planet, doesn’t mean we should go quietly where they would lead us. That is not our function.

    Just as it is not “their” planet.


  14. Species extinction on the level described is due to human destruction of the environment.

    This is what happens when environmentalism becomes politicised to the point that AGW has.

    We hardly ever hear any bloddy thing else anymore, but rest assured, wetlands are still being drained, forests being cleared and oceans being strained of fish.

    But don’t worry the Greens have got is sussed with all eggs in one basket.


  15. I don’t think there can be 4 million cars on our roads at the same time – otherwise even the babies would have to be driving 🙂 I can believe we own 4 million vehicles but…

  16. 390 parts/million of CO2 could be something to do with it.. & rising. Over 4 million cars on NZ roads, belching out more CO2 (not to mention all the other cars around the world.. & rising)
    just a thought ! Kia-ora

  17. Reading the article is usually helpful.

    I can’t find any years that had more exceptional global extremes in weather than 2010, until I reach 1816. That was the year of the devastating “Year Without a Summer”–caused by the massive climate-altering 1815 eruption of Indonesia’s Mt. Tambora, the largest volcanic eruption since at least 536 A.D. It is quite possible that 2010 was the most extreme weather year globally since 1816.


  18. Photonz: Maybe 1816 was when reliable records began? (I don’t know if this is the case, just pointing out there is another way to interpret the statement).

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