Roger Pielke Sr. Attacks Messenger, Injures Self

UPDATE: Pielke pretends this argument is about science (Scroll to bottom of post for corrective.)

Hurricanes respond to their immediate environment, not a global average increase in heat!

- Roger A. Pielke Sr.

You can tell that science and good judgment are going out the window when writers start throwing exclamation points into their arguments. And Dr. Pielke certainly sacrifices science, objectivity and caution in a recent attack on AP Science writer Seth Borenstein.

Borenstein is one of those infuriatingly even-handed mainstream media reporters who are always guarding against accusations of bias. Borenstein clearly understands the science of climate change and he reports it accurately, but you can tell from this passage how carefully he couches his work:

“Global warming has probably made Hurricane Gustav a bit stronger and wetter, some top scientists said Sunday, but the specific connection between climate change and stronger hurricanes remains an issue of debate.”

“Measurements of the energy pumped into the air from the warm waters — essentially fuel for hurricanes — has increased dramatically since the mid 1990s, mostly in the strongest of hurricanes, according to a soon-to-be published paper in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems by Kevin Trenberth, climate analysis chief at National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.”

“Warmer water makes the surface air warmer, which means it could contain more moisture. That means more hot moist air rises up the hurricane, serving as both fuel for the storm and extra rainfall coming back down, said Peter Webster, professor of atmospheric sciences at Georgia Tech.”

This, however, is not careful enough for Pielke, who without even seeing the Trenberth paper quoted above, states flatly that global average temperature as NO effect on hurricanes.

Really? None? What if global average temperatures went up 10 degrees? What if net global average increases had gross consequences in specific regions (as we know they do)? How can Pielke, who argues so frequently for an “open debate” on science, be so certain of his rectitude that he sprinkles his prose with signs of his insistence!?!? Hmmm!?

Already on uneven ground, Pielke finally embarrasses himself with this statement:

The focusing on global warming as the reason for any hurricane (or making it more likely to occur or become more intense) ignores that natural variations are not only more important than indicated by the AP news story, but also that the human influence involves a diverse range of first-order climate forcings, including, but not limited global warming [which, of course, has not occurred since at least mid-2004!].

This last exclamation-pointed aside is unworthy a scientist of Pielke's background. Real scientists don't worry about the possibilities of warming becausea single year was warmer than another year. They worry because nine of the 10 hottest years in recorded history have occurred in the last decade. They worry because humankind has increased the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere by one-third and they worry because CO2 has an undeniable warming effect, easily proved by any first-year physics student.

Yet Pielke and his ilk cling to a three-year variation in a highly variable weather pattern as proof! that global warming has stopped!

He should be embarrassed! And when he gets over himself, he should phone Borenstein and apologize. That would provide the only hope that the good Dr. Pielke! has to be taken seriously in the future.


In a hasty response to this post, Roger Pielke complains that the foregoing commentary is ad hominem, saying: “If the Desmogblog were interested in the science, it would present counter arguments to the statements they quote from (Pielke's own blog) Climate Science.”

Let me say this about that:

1. The DeSmogBlog has only a passing interest in science and (as previously demonstrated, sometimes painfully) no avowed scientific expertise. Our interest AND our expertise is in public relations - particularly in the manipulation of the public climate change argument by people who have abandoned science in favour of advocacy, but who consistently fail to admit this shift. Careful (or even casual) reading of the above post will demonstrate that I didn't take issue with Dr. Pielke's science links. I took issue with his characterization of what those links might demonstrate, and particularly with the implied hysteria! of his repeated use of exclamation points - a piece of punctuation that I have never seen employed in actual scientific writing.

2. If Dr. Pielke is feeling put-upon by my critique, I apologize. According to the biographical link that I provided above, Dr. Pielke has had an honorable academic career and remains, even in what appears to be semi-retirement - a researcher in good standing at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at UC-Boulder. Given his academic record and current performance, Dr. Pielke compares extremely well against scoundrels and layabouts like Dr. S. Fred Singer or Dr. Tim Ball. But I come back to my point: Pielke's highly punctuated outburst does a disservice to his own record. His argument that three years of temperature records constitutes a reliable trend is, again, unworthy a scientist of his accomplishment. And his criticism of Borenstein - indeed, his implication that Borenstein is spinning the news - is unwarranted, unfair, unprofessional and, if we must resort to Latin, by implication ad hominem.

3. At the risk of talking science, Dr. Pielke takes specific exception to my reporting of the average global temperature over the past 10 years. I hate to get into duelling graphics, in part because it would encourage people to think that Pielke's choice of graphs is relevant, but here is the UK MET office Hadley Centre's most recent record of global average temperature. To the degree that this might be considered a discussion about science, I stand my ground.


From Henderson-Sellers et. al. (1998). Tropical Cyclones and
Global Climate Change:A Post-IPCC Assessment. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Soc. 79(1): 19-38.

“there is no evidence to suggest any major changes
in the area or global location of tropical cyclone
genesis in greenhouse conditions;
• thermodynamic “upscaling” models seem to have
some skill in predicting maximum potential intensity
(MPI); and
• these thermodynamic schemes predict an increase
in MPI of 10%–20% for a doubled CO2 climate but
the known omissions (ocean spray, momentum restriction,
and possibly also surface to 300 hPa lapse
rate changes) all act to reduce these increases.”

Also from Shapiro and Goldenberg (2007) see:

“Although SSTs are of secondary importance to vertical shear in modulating hurricane formation, explaining only ∼ 10% of the interannual variability in hurricane frequency over the ∼50% explained by vertical shear, the results support the conclusion that warmer SSTs directly enhance development. The lack of correlation with major hurricanes implies that the underlying SSTs are not a significant factor in the development of these stronger systems.”

Average global temperature is irrelevant to cyclone formation and intensity.

Thanks for the links. However, three things:

1) Mean global temp does not directly cause tropical cyclone formation & intensity. It is a metric/indicator. But, since increasing mean global temps are most certainly due to increasing GHGs, which are correlated to increasing SSTs, then there is definite relevance between mean global temps and cyclones. You can check (with Google scholar) the Santer (2006) PNAS paper that I listed above (which Derek seems to think was from “some unknown committee” *chuckle*). They conclude that warmer SSTs can only be explained by increasing GHGs.

2) Both papers you cite were published in 1998 - yes, the Shapiro & Goldenberg was published in Journal of Climate, vol 11 (1998):578-590. I think you got confused with the website copyright (which was 2007).

3) And research does progress (and has progressed) over the past decade. The IPCC 4AR WG1 ( has a good summary of recent hurricane research in Chapter 3.8 that is worth reading - and it does have a very good reference list worth perusing. Although natural variability can mask changes in cyclogenesis, there is a strong correlation between warmer SSTs with increased cyclone intensity:

“…Globally, estimates of the potential destructiveness of hurricanes show a substantial upward trend since the mid-1970s, with a trend towards longer storm duration and greater storm intensity, and the activity is strongly correlated with tropical sea surface temperature. These relationships have been reinforced by findings of a large increase in numbers and proportion of strong hurricanes globally since 1970 even as total numbers of cyclones and cyclone days decreased slightly in most basins. Specifically, the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes increased by about 75% since 1970. The largest increases were in the North Pacific, Indian and Southwest Pacific Oceans. However, numbers of hurricanes in the North Atlantic have also been above normal in 9 of the last 11 years, culminating in the record-breaking 2005 season.” (IPCC AR4 WG1, pg.308)

I see that Pielke’s comments are closed for that post. Were they always closed? And why don’t the denialist trolls make a big fuss about how Pielke is censoring them?

They have been closed (with only some exceptions) since he re-opened his blog in 11/2007. It was down for a period of time - not sure of the exact reasons - but back then comments were allowed. If you read some of his past posts and scan the comments, you can probably guess why he had to shut it down. :) Having met RPSr. personally, I have to say that he does have a thick skin against other folks who disagree with his version of truth :)

Do people complain about it? Not really. IMO RPSr. is shouting for attention but is getting relatively little of it - I find his prose grating and possessing of logical fallacies at times - and Rabett once gave him the ultimate putdown in his own blog when describing RPSr. (“de mortuis nil nisi bonum”). I’d rather go to Climate Audit and examine how civilized “skepticism” is practiced.

He allows for “guest weblogs (sic)” by commentators whom “will be invited when there is value in providing this source of information (i.e. the presentation of climate science).” Considering that he allowed someone who can’t discern the proper application of Stefan-Boltzmann to guest post recently, I think RPSr’s idea of “value” is grossly misplaced.

WMO International Workshop on
Tropical Cyclones, IWTC-6, San Jose, Costa Rica, November 2006:

14. Through the work of many researchers (Emanuel 1999, Emanuel et al. 2004, Free et
al. 2004, Holland 1987, Holland 1997, Tonkin et al. 2000, Persing and Montgomery
2003, Montgomery et al. 2006) there is a developing theory governing maximum
tropical cyclone intensity. The key concept is that for a given ocean temperature and
atmospheric thermodynamic environment there is an upper bound on the intensity a
tropical cyclone may achieve. This upper bound is referred to as the Maximum
Potential Intensity (or MPI). As discussed in the papers by Emanuel, Holland and
collaborators, few tropical cyclones actually achieve their MPI, as before such a state
can be achieved they make landfall, recurve, undergo an unfavourable atmospheric
environment (such as vertical wind shear) or experience an unfavourable thermal
structure of the upper ocean. Emanuel (1987) and Tonkin et al (1997) presented
evidence that CO2 induced climate change would bring about a substantial increase in
the MPI of tropical cyclones around the globe. Knutson and Tuleya’s (2004)
idealized hurricane model experiments support the theoretical predictions of the MPI
theory in the context of CO2-induced climate warming. Given, however, that only a
small percentage of tropical cyclones attain their MPI and that the sensitivity of
hurricane intensity to CO2-induced warming is 3-5% per degree Celsius in these
simulations and theories, Knutson and Tuleya (2004) have speculated that CO2
induced tropical cyclone intensity changes are unlikely to be detectable in historic
observations and will probably not be detectable for decades to come.

17. Concerning future changes in tropical cyclone intensity, there is substantial
disagreement among recent global and regional climate modelling studies, although
the highest resolution models available show evidence for some increase in intensity
(Oouchi et al, 2006; Walsh et al., 2004), in support of both potential intensity theory
and idealized hurricane model simulations. A limitation of the climate models used
thus far is that the simulated tropical cyclones are substantially weaker than
observed—and dramatically so for the lower resolution models—and the models have
not demonstrated that they can reproduce the observed increase of attainable tropical
cyclone intensities with increasing SST. In cases where this relationship has been
examined (e.g., Yoshimura et al. 2006) the dependence is much weaker than observed.

Interesting document. But, what’s your point, exactly?

BTW, you missed out on point 18:

18. Given the consistency between high resolution global models, regional hurricane models and MPI theories, it is likely that some increase in tropical cyclone intensity will occur if the climate continues to warm.

PS: For interested parties, the link for this document is (

Now “Global Cooling” is caused by CO2.
You had to know this was comming!

You just can’t make this stuff up.

More accurate context from Gary’s link:

…Australia had its driest May on record, Perth had its wettest April on record, and Tasmania recorded its hottest ever temperature, according to Mr Toni.

He said climate extremes were affecting southern Australia in particular.

“This is consistent with climate modelling…

I’m glad Gary has finally admitted that climate modelling is proving to be quite accurate here.


Climate modelling is no more accurate here in Australia than anywhere else. When will people understand that there actually was variability in weather prior to industrialisation. Every vagary of weather these days is blamed on AGW. Sure, get enough weather variability and the models will be right (maybe 2 times out of 10?).

It is nonsense to even think that the weather today is somehow more extreme than 100 years ago. There is no empirical evidence of it and model outcomes are not empirical evidence.

But there is a difference between weather (your day-to-day variation in temp, precip etc.) and climate (the long term average of temp. precip i.e. ~30 year time series), yes?

AFAIK, the climate models (I’m referring to GCMs in this case) do not account for day-to-day stuff because they are not designed to do so. Are you referring to those?

Former Skeptic,

I mean both weather and climate models. Especially climate models. Given that we cannot model weather more than seven days ahead, how the hell can we even contemplate that climate models that try to predict up to a century ahead are going to be more accurate? The number and interaction of variables that affect climate are far more complex than weather systems. No climate model is accurate and is increasingly being shown to be inaccurate as the cooling climate was not predicted by those climate models. And yet there is a wide view in the scientific community that the earth is about to enter a cooling phase for between 12 and 40 years depending on the research. No climate model has predicted this and the High Priest of modelling (Dr. James Hansen) still insists on dismissing the coming cooling of the climate system.

Do say. Is that Bob Carter, Tim Ball and Tim Patterson you’re talking about?

I can’t quite reconcile this slavish devotion to the notions of a few scientific outliers as a reasonable alternative to the work of the most accomplished people in the field. A few astrophysicist types are saying that the sun is entering a period of inactivity which may give us all a pause from global warming - a period in which we might want to get our act together.

But, aside from the largely unattributed rantings of people like Christopher Walter (the lurid Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, Dip. Journalism), I don’t know of anybody who is claiming that cooling is in the forecast.

Perhaps you can enlighten us.

I have found it interesting that even during years that one would reasonably expect to have been cooler than normal (due to all of that el nino/la Nina stuff), the last decade has included most of the hottest years ever recorded. If we were really in a cooling trend, should it have gotten much cooler, and not merely flattened out?

Fern Mackenzie


The two la nina events since 1998 have been dramatically cooler even cooler than the so called mean temperature we are always comparing to. (Which for some reason is based on 1940 to 1970 which we know to have been a period of cooling.)

Four scientists: Global Warming Out, Global Cooling In

The Cooling Earth

By Stephen Murgatroyd, Innovation, Change and Development

12 Factors Affect Earth’s Temperature; Global Cooling Could be Greater Concern

Climate Similar to the 1800s Within the Next 15 Years: First Stage of Global Cooling During 2008/09
By David Dilley, Meteorologist

Shifting of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation from its warm mode to cool mode assures global cooling for the next three decades.
Don J. Easterbrook, Dept. of Geology, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA

The ad hominem attacks on scientists who do not share your bias is not really very impressive. The issue that was being mentioned, solar activity, is being widely discussed in the astronomy literature. Since it fits historic and paleo temperature records far better than carbon dioxide concentration ever has, it can not be brushed aside just because it doesn’t fit your established hypothesis.

A large number of prominent astronomers from Russia to Denmark to Israel have suggested that the sun is perhaps entering a cool down because of a large variety of observational data. If you don’t know of anyone who suggests a cooling is in the forcast, that just means you aren’t paying attention. Even the head of the IPCC is now suggesting exactly that.

Look up the heat capacity of the worlds oceans.
They warmed up for 20 years, then the heat source droped away.
It would take years for the to begin to show measurable cooling.
With the PDO now shifting to the cool phase in the northern hemisphere, the cooling will simply continue.
BTW. The cooling of 2008 alone wiped out nearly all of the warming of the last century.
That is pretty signifigant. Even AGW believers have to admit that.

Sorry, Gary. That’s not what I am seeing. I am still tracking the melt season in the arctic that has a few weeks to go, and I will not be at all surprised if the minimum beats the record for 2007. I am not going to predict the year’s stats, but will wait for them to be duly recorded.

I really don’t know what has inspired this conviction on your part that the world has entered a “cooling phase”. One decade of more-or-less level temperatures that still manage to top the records while all of the natural forcings would suggest that the temperatures should be dropping off of the bottom of the charts is not convincing in my view.

Fern Mackenzie

Ok minimum is past and it wasn’t remotely close to 2007 which had current changes as a cause. Meanwhile the Antarctic shows 50 years of cooling. How are permafrost depths in the Arctic doing do they show warming? cooling? or diddly?

Is there a limit to how many things can go wrong with a simple theory before you can admit that it may need some revision?

A theory whose predictions fail experimental test must be revised or discarded. I don’t think we are at discarded yet but it is about time you realized we have a lot we don’t understand here.

Man-made global warming? Worry about the sun

Future historians will laugh about how climate science went crazy, but meanwhile life is not so funny for my friend Henrik. For 12 years, I’ve watched scientists who take the official line bad-mouthing him, starving him of funds and making it hard for him to publish his reports. Other physicists who think that the Sun rules the climate, or merely criticise the man-made warming theory, report similar experiences. They’ve certainly not had the open discussion of the evidence that scientists are accustomed to expect.


Climate case built on thin foundation,25197,24315169-7583,00.html

The IPCC has misled us into believing the primary claims were widely endorsed by authors and reviewers but in fact they received little support and came from a narrow self-interested coterie of climate modellers.

I particularly wonder about the premise here. If CO2 is the climate driver than increases in CO2 should cause warming first in cold dry places like the arctic. Since the gradient in temperature and humidity between the arctic and the tropics are supposed to be a significant part or the driving force of cyclones, wouldn’t global warming be likely to decrease frequency and intensity of these storms? I know this was a part of the theory while we dragged through the turn of the millenia with several years of low cyclone activity. Now some are acting as if GW should increase hurricane intensity? The underlying understanding had some huge change?

If we in fact had a large increase in Hurricane frequency or intensity that would in fact falsify the theory of Greenhouse warming by CO2. So don’t jump on the bandwagon too fast. However, there appears to be no evidence for such an increase.

Hurricanes respond to their immediate environment, not a global average increase in heat!” says the great man.

Well, yes, exactly. But in his highly influential papers, Pielke compares tropical cyclone numbers to global sea surface temperatures and finds little or no relation. He does not look at the relation of global accumlated cyclone energy to PDO, nor the relation of Atlantic hurricanes to the AMO, where the patterns, although by no means perfect, is definitely consistent with a causal relationship. 

More here: