Flawed, Washington Submit – Historical past and information contradict claims of worsening “atmospheric fluxes”

On January 12, 2023, The Washington Post (WaPo) published a story by writer Kasha Patel with the headline: How climate change will make atmospheric fluxes even worse. In the story, Patel claimed, “As temperatures rise, atmospheric fluxes are projected to become wetter, larger, and more noxious.” Headline wise, nothing could be further from the truth. Historical and current real-world data do not provide evidence that climate change has made atmospheric fluxes more frequent or severe, nor do they provide a causal link to indicate why this should be the case.

This first claim is supposedly stronger precipitation. WaPo says:

Perhaps one of the best understood aspects of climate change is its impact on rainfall. In a warmer atmosphere, evaporation rates increase, turning more liquid water molecules into an airborne vapor state. In fact, the atmosphere can hold about 7 percent more water for every 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) rise. This moisture-laden air can allow larger amounts of rain to fall at once, increasing the intensity of rain events.

Earth’s atmosphere has warmed by about 1.3 degrees Celsius (2.3 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times, and researchers have already observed heavier rain in storms, hurricanes, daily precipitation — and now atmospheric fluxes.

While it’s true that warmer air holds more moisture, WaPo’s claims that storms, hurricanes and daily precipitation are worse are completely false.

chapter 11, Weather and climate extreme events in a changing climateof the AR6 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), concludes that no changes in the frequency and intensity of most severe weather events have been identified, nor can changes be attributed to human-caused climate change.

Regarding storms that depend on the global atmospheric water cycle, real data shows that there has been no increase in flooding; no increase in tropical cyclones and hurricanes; no increase in winter storms; and no increase in thunderstorms or tornadoes or associated hail, lightning and extreme winds from thunderstorms.

Additionally, a peer-reviewed paper published in 2020 used satellite and sounding data and found that there is no trend affecting tropical lower stratosphere water vapor in the region where these West Coast atmospheric fluxes originate.

More tellingly, a data analysis of global land and ocean relative humidity data (where atmospheric fluxes originate) and publicly available from the UK Met Office shows that relative humidity is indeed decreasing.

Having swung badly and missed in its claims that the storm is getting worse, WaPo then absurdly claims there will be less snow while falsely claiming that atmospheric flows will be worse:

Atmospheric fluxes play a critical role in nourishing the mountain snowpack, which serves as an important source of freshwater as it melts in spring and summer. Some research shows that the weather systems account for about a quarter of the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. However, as temperatures rise, snowfall decreases.

Studies have already shown that atmospheric flows in the northern Sierra Nevada provide less snow, instead falling as rain due to the Earth’s excessive heat.

That’s wrong. The recent series of atmospheric flows from December 2022 to January 2023 provided massive amounts of snow to California.

According to the California Department of Water Resources, snow cover in the Central and Southern Sierra regions is currently more than 200 percent above the average for that date and 76 percent of the April 1 average when it normally peaks.

The UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab shared a map (see Figure 2 below) showing that snow cover in California on April 12 was our April 1 average according to @CA_DWR!”

Nor does Patel mention California’s history of flooding from atmospheric rivers, but paleoclimate history refutes her claims even more than contemporary data.

California has always been prone to river-related atmospheric severe weather events. From late 1861 to January 1862, the largest atmospheric flow event of all time struck the west coast.

Known as the Great Flood of 1862, it was the largest in recorded California history. Weeks of uninterrupted rain and snow at high elevations began in November 1861 and lasted through January 1862. This was followed by a record rainfall on January 9–12. The atmospheric flow event dumped the equivalent of 10 feet of water on California, combining rain and snow, over 43 days.

In the end, a warm, intense storm melted the heavy snow load and caused flooding throughout the Sacramento Valley, including Sacramento itself, see lithograph in Figure 3. The capital was moved to San Francisco, the state was bankrupt, and government employees received nearly a year no salary. Much of California’s Central Valley became a lake – 300 miles long; up to 40 miles wide.

US Geological Survey (USGS) geologists have been drilling to collect core samples in the San Francisco Bay and lake and marsh sediments throughout California. They positively identified the river gravels deposited by the Great Flood of 1862. They also discovered that similar and even more devastating floods occurred in AD 212, 440, 603, 1029, 1418, and 1605—roughly every 200 years.

In that release, the USGS said that research into past atmospheric flow events found: “The geological record shows 6 megastorms more violent than 1861-1862 in California over the past 1800 years, and there is no reason to believe similar ones events will not occur again.”

The question WaPo won’t answer is: How did all these stronger storms occur before what is called modern day human-caused climate change?

The answer is that WaPo and much of climate science today rely too heavily on projections from computer models, rather than looking at trends in historical and real data.

As temperature forecasts from computer models show, climate models are too unreliable to make predictions based on them. Unfortunately, writers like Patel and mainstream media like WaPo continue to support the thoroughly disproved but widely held narrative that climate change is making weather worse, rather than doing independent research and fact-checking and putting the “investigation” into investigative journalism. Shame on them for stubbornly clinging to false narrative to foment fear.

Anthony Watts

Anthony Watts is a Senior Fellow in Environment and Climate at the Heartland Institute. Watts has been in the weather business since 1978 both on and off camera as an on-air television meteorologist and currently makes daily radio forecasts. He has created weather graphics presentation systems for television, specialized weather tools, and co-authored peer-reviewed articles on climate issues. He runs the world’s most visited climate website, the award-winning website wattsupwiththat.com.


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