HOWLER HISTORY: History's greatest weather forecast!

SUNDAY, JULY 8, 2012

Jim Hansen calls his shot: For one brief shining minute, it was the hottest it’s ever been in DC. Or at least, the hottest we know of.

At the top of today’s front page, the Post explains what happened:
WILBER AND SVRLUGA (7/8/12): A heat wave that barreled into the Washington region more than a week ago finally crested Saturday, shattering records as residents took extraordinary measures to cope with a scorching sun.

The day started off hot...and grew only more torrid, flirting with the District’s all-time record of 106 degrees. Indeed, the mercury touched 106 for one minute before slipping back to 105, failing to sustain the three-minute span required to establish a record, according to the National Weather Service.
The mercury couldn’t sustain it! Still, the current stretch of hot weather made us recall a news report in the very same Washington Post—a report from 1986.

Twenty-six years ago last month, history’s greatest weather forecaster amazed the elders in the Senate. In June of 1986, Cass Peterson reported the gloomy things forecaster Hansen had said:
PETERSON (6/11/86): By the middle of the next century, [Washington, DC] area residents can expect three months of daily temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, 12 days of temperatures above 100 degrees and 19 nights when the temperature does not fall below 80 degrees, according to NASA research on the "greenhouse effect" created by pollutants.

In testimony yesterday before a Senate panel, Goddard Space Flight Center official James E. Hansen said that less drastic temperature increases will be evident much sooner and that within 15 years, global temperatures will rise "to a level which has not existed on Earth in the past 100,000 years."

The warning came as a Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee opened two days of hearings on the impact of manmade pollutants on the atmosphere.
James Hansen amazed the elders with his gloomy weather predictions. Three months of temperatures above 90 degrees! 12 days of temperatures above 100! 19 nights when the temperature doesn’t fall below 80 degrees!

Yesterday morning, we thought of that yellowing new report—a report which appeared 26 years ago. In yesterday’s hard-copy Post, Michael Samenow reported what has happened in the past two weeks:
SAMENOW (7/7/12): On Friday, for the ninth consecutive day, the temperature in the District met or exceeded 95 degrees—it was official at 11:25 a.m. Then, the mercury kept rising, to a high of 100.

In 141 years of local record-keeping, the streak is a first. And it is likely to stretch to 11 days this weekend.

It was just one of a steady wave of extraordinary heat records established over the past three summers. We've seen the hottest two summers on record (in 2010 and 2011), the hottest month (July 2011), the hottest days so early (102 on June 9, 2011) and late (99 on Sept. 24, 2010) in the year, the longest uninterrupted stretch of time with temperatures above 80 degrees (July 21-24, 2011) and a host of other superlatives.
Eleven straight days over 95! Four straight nights when the temperature hadn’t dropped below 80! Last night, the streak went to five.

(We can’t find a link to Samenow’s piece, which appeared on page A7 of Saturday’s hard-copy Post.)

Back in 1986, forecaster Hansen called his shot! Just to complete the record, here’s a bit more of the news report which appeared 26 years ago:
PETERSON (6/11/86): "I believe global warming is inevitable. It's only a question of magnitude and time," said Robert Watson, director of the upper atmospheric program at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. "We can expect significant changes in climate in the next few decades.”


Scientists said climatic changes in the United States may be particularly acute in northern areas, because temperature increases are more pronounced toward the Earth's poles. Annual average temperatures over much of the United States have risen 1 or 2 degrees since 1958, Hansen said, and NASA's calculations suggest that much of the nation can expect another 2- to 3-degree increase by the 2010s.

Applying its predictions to Washington, NASA calculated that by 2050, the city would average 11.6 days above 100 degrees Fahrenheit each year instead of fewer than one as it does now. Instead of 35.5 days of 90 degree-plus temperatures, there would be 86.9 such days—virtually an entire summer.
In some ways, NASA may have under-predicted. In some ways, the future is now!

In our view, James Hansen pretty much called his shot. That may have been the best weather forecast in (recorded) history.

On the down side, Hansen failed to offer a few key predictions.

He failed to predict the way the droogs would churn decades of climate disinformation. He failed to predict the press corps’ overall failure to rise to this challenge.

He failed to predict the way Al Gore would wear too many earth-toned polo shirts, thus helping us see how foolish his work on climate change actually was. He failed to predict the way Frank Rich would clown and name-call Gore for years, even after Gore’s film on climate change appeared in 2006. (That last part was truly astounding.)

Hansen failed to predict the way the liberal world would let Rich, a made man, behave in these ridiculous ways from 1999 on. But then, who could have predicted the nonsense which would define this era?

To this day, we liberals won’t even discuss it! Can we really blame Jim Hansen because he failed to predict it?

Amazing the elders in the Senate, forecaster Hansen called his shot! But even the world’s greatest weatherman couldn’t see the stupidity lying ahead—some of which came from the greatest stars of our pitiful alleged “liberal world.”

Our own incomparable forecast: In 1986, we reacted to Hansen’s testimony with some flawless investment advice:

Buy land in Newfoundland, we incomparably said. It will be “the new Nantucket.”

We stand by every word, although it’s still long-term advice.


  1. I remember reading about greenhouse gases and global warming in the late 50's.
    Since then, most scientists took climate warming predictions for granted.

    Now, of course, Jim Inhofe builds an igloo on the DC Mall after a snowstorm and declares global cooling.

    This past July 4, the Phoenix high was 91 degrees instead of the average 107. Global cooling predictions were rampant.

  2. Gee, I had no idea 100 degree heat is all Frank Rich's fault.

    Where, one might ask, was Al Gore on the matter of global warming when he was actually in office? Did he sell the idea with the same passion and urgency he had for NAFTA, bombing civilian power plants in Serbia or deregulating the financial markets?

    And given his many, many accommodations to business interests, is there any reason to suppose he would have been any better on the issue than GWB, or (for that matter) Obama, who like Gore, undoubtedly knows the facts but has more urgent priorities -- like warrantless wiretapping, torturing teen-agers at Guantanamo, cutting social security, keeping insurance companies in the pink and bailing out and then indemnifying the banking and torturing classes from prosecution?

    Hell, what's a little hot weather compared to those achievements?

    1. Where, one might ask, was Al Gore on the matter of global warming when he was actually in office? Did he sell the idea with the same passion and urgency he had for NAFTA, bombing civilian power plants in Serbia or deregulating the financial markets?

      If Woodward's The Agenda is to be believed, yeah, he was. His chief concern within the Administration's policy was getting his carbon tax through. Long story short, he was over-ruled. But if Woodward's account is anything close to the truth, Gore was borderline obsessed with getting that carbon tax.

  3. Sorry, Bob. Jim Hansen totally blew it. In the 1980's and 1990's he and other warmists predicted continuing rapid rise in global temperature, at a rate as fast as it had been rising. What actually happened is that, starting around 1998, global temperature more-or-less leveled out.

    You criticize those who look at Gore's earth tones and other trivia. I agree. But, I would criticize you for not looking at the actual numbers. Note that global temperature increased rapidly from 1978 to 1998. However, from that point forward, temperature has hardly increased at all.

    Note also that this summer isn't hot all over the world. E.g., Britain is experiencing cool rains. It's not valid to take a local weather pattern that lasts a few weeks as proof of long term trend in global climate.

    Just to be clear: the lull in warming doesn't mean that long-term warming won't resume. And, it doesn't mean that man isn't contributing to the warming. It simply means that the predictions of 15 to 25 years ago have so far proved to be too pessimistic.

    1. I think I posted this before, but most of your arguments about the seriousness of man-made climate change are addressed at the following website:


    2. Global warming doesn't mean every spot on Earth will increase temperature at the same rate. Some will heat up fast, some will even cool for a while.

      As bodies of water warm up, they evaporate faster, forming more clouds.
      More clouds in one place can migrate, causing more rain elsewhere.

      More cloud cover over polar regions can result in more ice and snow.

      More clouds over mountain ranges can increase the size of glaciers.

      A cloud cover over most of the planet could trigger another Ice Age, by reflecting sunlight (albedo). When all the clouds freeze and precipitate, the snow and ice covering the planet can reflect away solar heat for millennia.

      It has happened before, it can happen again.

      All this is old, old material.

      Weather in climate a system doesn't progress in a a straight line, it changes dramatically, then reaches a point of equilibrium where conditions are relatively stable for a while, then progress to a new tipping point.

      As I said, this is not new science. All this is well understood by anyone wishing to research the facts.

      Hansen's predictions are brilliant. He could't predict the periods of equilibrium any more than the periods of rapid change. Nor did he attempt to do so.

    3. Once again, trollboy fails a fact check:


      Trollboy took a graph for one feature of climate (fluctuations in the cycle of El Nino, which is whan ENSO measures) and tried to make it good for the whole planet. But when you're a stupid troll, you assume everyone else is as stupid as you are, and so you'll be able to get away with your stupid trollery.

      Has anything trollboy ever said on any subject held up to even mild scrutiny? Ever? Nope. But he keeps at it anyway. In addition to being plain stupid, he's also, oh, we'll call it dignity challenged.

    4. hardlindr, your cite supports exactly the point I made. I wasn't claiming that GW had stopped or that man wasn't responsible. I was pointing out the objective fact that predictions of surface temperature made in the 1980's and 1990's have so far failed to come true. It's a lot cooler than was predicted back then.

      BTW the idea that the earth is warming in ways not reflected in surface temperature or in satellite measurements is an unproved theory AFAIK. I don't believe science has yet found a way to actually measure the heat content of the deep ocean.

      TIL, you are correct that the graph I cited focuses on fluctuations of El Nino. However, it does show the overall global temperature anomalies. The graph you cited seems to end at 2008. The missing years -- 2009, 2010, and 2011 continued the same fairly flat pattern.

      Nevertheless TIL's graph through 2008 shows just what I said: temperatures leveled out since 1998. Note that the red line, the 5-year running mean, is flat for the last 3 or 4 years. That confirms the leveling of global temperature in recent years.

      gravymeister wisely pointed out that:

      Global warming doesn't mean every spot on Earth will increase temperature at the same rate. Some will heat up fast, some will even cool for a while.

      That's why I looked at the overall global temperature for a period of years. That's why Bob Somerby's focus on a particular area in a particular year for a few weeks tells us nothing about global warming.

      AnonymousJuly 8, 2012 2:39 PM -- the proposed "solutions" to global warming are too minor to save us, if the pessimistic projections are correct. W
      They're talking about steps that would reduce the temperature in year 2100 by only a small fraction of a degree. Given that China, India, and other developing countries are unwilling to forego the luxuries we have in the west, atmospheric CO2 is bound to keep increasing for a long, long time, regardless of what the US does.

      IMHO we should be exploring some sort of geo-engineering approach. That could have the advantage of being practical and effective. Also, if the earth is warming, but the cause isn't primarily CO2, then geo-engineering might work, while CO2 schemes would be bound to fail.

    5. The graph I linked to shows that global temperature has NOT leveled off since the 90s, which is your claim. You posted the ENSO graph because it's the only one that would allow you to make such an absurd claim, which is something global warming deniers have been doing for some time. In fact, 2005 and 2010 (well after the 90s, I'll point out) are the hottest years on record, while 2011 is the 9th hottest, and 2012 is, as of April, going to be the hottest in history.

      As for "correct," you wouldn't know correct if it shoved itself up your ass and sprouted roots the size of a redwood tree's.

    6. TIL, what I claimed was that temperature had leveled off since 1998. Your ocean temperature graph shows the leveling. Your meteorological stations graph shows a slight rise since 1998. However, this trend could be distorted by the Urban Heat Island Effect.

      It's my understanding that the most scientists think the most unbiased measurement of temperature change is the satellite measurement. It's available back to 1979. It clearly shows some global cooling from 1979 to 1984, rapid global warming from 1984 to 1998, and then a series of ups and downs, which show little or no trend, depending on the exact trending method used. BTW, note that unlike the graphs you referenced, this one is fully up to day, going right up to June, 2012.

  4. The question is, David, are you willing to take any portfolio losses to forestall the catastrophe you won't quite come out say isn't coming, whatever the accuracy, or your selective assessment of the accuracy, of a 30 year-old model?

    You've already informed the blog that the highest priority and moral imperative of the U.S. government is ensuring the continued value of your retirement assets and taxing your income at low rates, and that poor children are happier and healthier when they don't government assistance for food and healthcare (no evidence provided, of course), and have insisted that what's good for you is good for everyone else, so how exactly do these priorities sort themselves out?

    What threshold has to be met (other than irreversible catastrophe), before you're prepared to acknowledge that government regulatory action is necessary?


    Trollboy, as you call him, is probably a "plant" -- not, in fact, a real person, but someone paid to spew disinformation on the 'net. Ordinary citizens, however right-wing, are rarely this practiced in the talking points. Anyway, five dollars says he is or was a Repub operative.

    1. I used to suspect that, but why a Republican operative would waste time here, and make such stupid, easily penetrable "arguments" left me scratching my head. What he is is some late-middle aged guy who's unemployed or early retired (against his will), bored as hell, in desperate need of attention, and so he does this. Nothing he says here will influence anything anywhere. He's just a troll.

  5. Let's call it climate change. Not as a rhetorical ploy but to get at what the effects of global warming will mean (are already meaning). In the summer we concentrate on the excessive heat, but we should also be noting the other effects of global warming, and "climate change" better captures the whole panoply (from more severe storms, in every season, to rising sea levels).

    1. mch, it's not clear that storms are getting more severe. Look at the list of the most intense landfalling Atlantic hurricanes in the United States:

      Most intense landfalling Atlantic hurricanes in the United States
      based on size and intensity for total points on the Hurricane Severity Index Rank Hurricane Year Intensity Size Total

      1 Carla 1961 17 25 42
      2 Hugo 1989 16 24 40
      Betsy 1965 15 25 40
      4 Camille 1969 22 14 36
      Katrina 2005 13 23 36
      Opal 1995 11 25 36
      7 Miami 1926 15 19 34
      8 Audrey 1957 17 16 33
      Fran 1996 11 22 33
      Wilma 2005 12 21 33

      Of the four biggest, three were in the 1960's. None is more recent than 2005.

      Also, sea level hasn't been rising. Florida and low-lying islands haven't gotten smaller. I was in Bradenton Beach, Florida last month. Houses along the beach are still standing and are not water-logged. The beaches are as wide as ever.

    2. Be sure to let the Bangladeshi know your conclusions.
      I'm sure they will find them comforting.

    3. gravymeister, Bangladesh has been named the country most vulnerable to natural disasters. Tragically, disasters there are nothing new.

      E.g., in 1991, a devastating cyclone hits Bangladesh, killing more than 135,000 people. In 1970, nearly half a million people lost their lives to a powerful cyclone. Seven of the nine most deadly cyclones or hurricanes of the 20th century took place in Bangladesh. See

    4. David in Cal, what you've presented is not the way to calculate these things. You have to coordinate many types of data, not cherry-pick or rely on anecdotal evidence.

      Btw, I grew up going to the Jersey shore. Even then, the natural beach erosion was compensated for by replenishing the sands every year, though I didn't realize that at the time. To me, the shore and sea were eternal, and I could gaze across and imagine England -- or, as I became aware at some point, Portugal. Do you know for sure that such sand-replenishment doesn't account for Bradenton Beach's stability? Oh, I just checked. Brandenton Beach is on the Gulf, not the Atlantic coast of Florida. Details like that matter. Miami's Atlantic coast beaches, for instance, are massively replenished, annually. The human causes of this erosion include building habits and such, of course, but recently even Miamians are buying into climate-change as behind the recently increased rate of erosion.

      Even without the human-caused effects of climate change, the eastern coast of the US would be eroding (or trying to). Evidence that human-caused rising sea levels are accelerating this erosion has mounted enormously. Really, climate scientists are very aware of all this, the ins-and-outs, the possible variables, the difficulties of coordinating data you can count on. Their conclusions are not based on anecdotal or partial evidence, or on a political agenda. Doesn't make them automatically correct, but please don't be foolish in the ways you question their conclusions.

    5. mch, you make some good points. Nevertheless, AFAIK the predicted problems of low-lying islands haven't yet come about. E.g., the Australian reported that

      The latest research indicates that most of the Pacific's low-lying islands are growing, not shrinking.

  6. David in Cal, more cherry-picking. Do you think climate scientists aren't aware that in some places islands are growing, not shrinking? Really, they are. Indeed, they predicted that the effects of the melting Arctic ice cap would be felt most, in terms of rising sea levels, in the Atlantic regions of North America, Europe, and Africa (I'm not sure about South America).

    For over 30 years I have known numerous scientists --biologist, chemists, geologists -- whom it is fair to characterize as climate scientists, all of them cautious and serious-minded people (and most of them pretty a-political, by my standards -- none of them anything more than mildly liberal, some quite conservative). The older ones used to be wary of some of the more alarmist claims. No longer. Not a single one.

    The geologists were the ones to nail it. The earth's climate is always changing -- of course it is, as we all know from learning in elementary school about the most recent Ice Age, for instance, or later about longer-term changes (like the pre-Cambrian seas that left us sandstone in what is now deep inland territory). It's the scale and pace of climate change that is unprecedented in earth's history (short of when huge meteors hit us, or rather, hit creatures like the dinosaurs). The geologists confirmed the scale and pace issues.

  7. Yes, I've heard the theory of unprecedented pace. However, The actual numbers show that recent rate of warming isn't unprecedented. According to the catastrphic models, human activity only had a significant effect on temperature for the last 40 years or so. The actual figures show that recent warming was at a rate comparable to the first part of the century.

    Look at the last 100 years. Between 1905 and 1940 the temperature anomaly rose from -.5 to .02. From 1960 to 2011, it rose from -.35 to .4.

    The slope from 1905 to 1940 is roughly equal to the slope from 1950 to today. I calculated the former slope as .52/35 = .015 and the latter slope as .75/51 = .015.

    1. P.S. The slope really did look exteremely high up to 1998. So, I can understand why climate scientists at that time felt it was unprecedented and catastrophic. However, the leveling out since 1998, despite continuing rise in CO2, changed the picture.

  8. We have here a wonderful illustration of why Somerby's brand of press criticism is so very irrelevant and self-infatuated.

    Is Frank Rich really the enemy? Or would it be David in Cal, with his obfuscations, selective quotations and well-prepared talking points, characteristic of a determined plutocratic anti-science industry? Why is global warming a myth? Because:

    "The slope from 1905 to 1940 is roughly equal to the slope from 1950 to today. I calculated the former slope as .52/35 = .015 and the latter slope as .75/51 = .015."

    Get that, folks? David in Cal just disproved the 97% consensus among climate scientists, based some figures "I calculated". Nothing to worry about! Though you'll notice, he doesn't actually come out and say there's no such thing as global warming, or that it doesn't present a catastrophic scenario.

    And haven't Democrats like Al Gore proven to be heroic promoters of the truth only when there's no prospect their policy prescriptions could actually become law? Indeed, don't they prove to shills for the very same interests, when they actually have a chance to do something about it? Didn't Al?

    And what happens at TDH? An endless mythology concerning Somerby's friend and irrelevant press criticism.

    1. Anonymous -- I have no doubt that there is global warming. The globe has been warming for hundreds of years, ever since the end of the little ice age. The BEST study went back to 1800 and showed warming for two centuries.

      My areas of doubt include:

      -- Is the warming catastrophic?
      -- If so, what practical steps can be taken?
      -- What are the causes of the warming?
      -- How reliable are the models?

      Note that climate scientists admit that "they must explain better how a freezing winter this year in parts of the northern hemisphere and a break in a rising trend in global temperatures since 1998 can happen when heat-trapping gases are pouring into the atmosphere."

    2. "Is Frank Rich really the enemy?" I don't know his history, but if he was one of the silly people who didn't accurately report on politics back in the 90's then he's a fair representative of what has been wrong with the mainstream press. The rightwing spin machine got as far it has in part because the mainstream press was/is either cowardly, dishonest, or plays by the rules of false centrism. In fairness to Frank Rich, he wasn't that bad in the 00's (though he may have slipped back into old habits in 2006). But anyway, Bob is using him as an example of a larger problem.


  9. What David and his ilk can't accept is that the overwhelming demand for cheap energy by the industrialized nations has put billions of their fellow human beings in real jeopardy.
    And that doesn't include billions of the yet unborn.

    "We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors: we borrow it from our children."

    Conservatives decry the entitlements expected by middle class Americans, but ignore the beam in their own eyes: That rich countries have a God-given right to cheap energy, regardless of the consequences.

    Conservatives whine about the public debt we will leave our grandchildren, but claim ownership of all cheap resources now, because we "can't afford" to develop expensive alternatives.

    The answer to "Am I my brother's keeper?" is supposed to be yes.

    Here's a number for you. 1/20th of the world's population consumes 1/5th of the world's petroleum annually. And yes, I know OPEC squanders even more, thank you.

    Of course, the answer to that is "India and China are doing it too!"

  10. BTW James Hansen has been wildly wrong in the past. In 1971, he and other NASA scientists were predicting a new ice age.\

    Hansen has received over a million dollars from various groups because of his climate warnings. For this Chicken Little, one catastrophic prediction is as good as another, for the purpose of his own prestige and wealth.

    1. Your article doesn't say what you say it does. A colleague predicted a global cooling event based on his application of Hansen's Venusian model.

      The amusing bit is, there has been an effect based on increased aerosols in the atmosphere: global dimming. And it probably would have resulted in global cooling, but the prediction failed to account for the carbon-based warming effect.

  11. I thought Bob was going to bring up the newspaper reports about conservative boneheads who one cold day during some recent winter mocked the notion of global warming. But this post was much better.

    Regarding the above links to 1971: the newsbuster article stated one S.I. Rasool was the author, not Hansen. And while I'm no David Brooks, I'd venture that the accuracy of computer models has improved quite a bit in the past forty years.

    And, does once wrong mean always wrong?

    Last, high speaking fees don't really mean a thing regarding Hansen's science.

  12. Write about the fact of climate change, anywhere, anytime, and guys like David in Cal show up peddling the same denialist half truths, along with bogus links, etc.

    Maybe they're paid; maybe it's just a hobby.

    The good news is that reality appears to be overcoming them among the public, although it's hard to be optimistic.

  13. I have the feeling that Bob Somerby's readers tend to be generous-minded contrarians. David in Cal plays into this well, whatever his motives -- plays well if we assume his game is to disrupt.

    Could we all agree to stop responding to David in Cal for a while? (I've made this commitment, to myself, before, though obviously I've wavered.) Would be interesting. Whatever his motives, he derails discussion in these comments. Meanwhile, Bob S's actual arguments get overlooked. And Bob is good but needs correcting/modifying -- not David in Cal style, but of another sort. Good enough to make the correcting and modifying worth an effort not derailed by David in Cal. This site does not belong to him.