30 August 2011

Not Anti-Science, Just Utterly Uninformed

Yesterday, Governor Pete Shumlin of Vermont made these remarks:
I find it extraordinary that so many political leaders won’t actually talk about the relationship between climate change, fossil fuels, our continuing irrational exuberance about burning fossil fuels, in light of these storm patterns that we’ve been experiencing. Listen, since I’ve been sworn in as governor just seven months ago, I have dealt with—this is the second major disaster as a result of storms. We had storms this spring that flooded our downtowns and put us through many of the same exercises that we’re going through right now. We didn’t used to get weather patterns like this in Vermont. We didn’t get tropical storms. We didn’t get flash flooding. It wasn’t—you know, our storm patterns weren’t like Costa Rica; they were like Vermont.
A quick look at  the following paper from 2002 -- "Climate Variability and Socioeconomic Consequences of Vermont's Natural Hazards: A Historical Perspective" (here in PDF) by Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux (Vermont's state climatologist), reveals this information:
One of the most pervasive hazards that impinges upon and marks the Vermont landscape is flooding. Flooding can be categorized as one of two types: flash flooding, which has a rapid onset of six hours or less from the time of the initiating event; and flooding that has a more gradual onset. Rarely does a year elapse without a flooding event of a significant magnitude being reported in at least one of Vermont’s fourteen counties or perhaps statewide, making this the number-one hazard across the state. Between 1955 and 1999, floods accounted for $16.97 million in damage annually.
And also:
[T]ropical remnants have produced widespread, and at times, catastrophic flooding. For example, the Great Flood of 1927 resulted from record rainfall totals produced by tropical storm remnants on November 3, following October precipitation totals that were already 50 percent above normal. As this decaying storm tracked directly along the spine of the Green Mountains, streams rose so rapidly that there was little time for warning. The Winooski River rose 40–45 feet above its normal level, causing land and settlement along the river to bear the brunt of the estimated $30 million in economic losses. The 1927 flood was greater than the 100-year flood on many rivers and remains today as the flood of record at many gauging stations. Eighty-four of the eighty-five fatalities during this New England-wide flood occurred in Vermont. In addition, thousands of dairy cows and other farm animals drowned. Rich topsoil on farmland either washed away or got buried under infertile silt, such that no crops could be produced for many years. Montpelier remained isolated for days and Waterbury for weeks. The flood disrupted communications across the state and with the outside world, producing a “black triangle.”
 And here is Table 1 from that paper:
Table 1: Tropical Remnants that Made Landfall In/Proximate to Vermont

Name Year Month, Day
[unnamed] 1927 November 3
Great New England 1938 September 21
#2 1949 August 29–30
Hurricane Baker 1952 September 1–2
Hurricane Carol 1954 August 31
Tropical Storm Brenda 1960 July 30
Hurricane Donna 1960 September 12
Tropical Storm Doria 1971 August 28
Hurricane Belle 1976 August 9–10
Hurricane David 1979 September 6–7
Hurricane Frederic 1979 September 14
Hurricane Gloria 1985 September 27
Tropical Storm Chris 1988 August 29
Hurricane Hugo 1989 September 22–23
Hurricane Bob 1991 August 19
Hurricane Opal 1995 October 5–6
Hurricane Bertha 1996 July 13
Hurricane Fran 1996 September 8–9
Is Governor Shumlin "anti-science" (whatever that might mean)?  No, just poorly informed.

[Thanks AS]


  1. Landfall in Vermont would be a trick. Are these Lake Champlain tropical storms?

  2. A headline you won't see, either: "Is Pete Shumlin stupid?"

    BTW, Shumlin opposes nuclear power, and is trying to close the Vermont Yankee plant. I'm not sure what is going to be an acceptable source of heat on those long Vermont winter nights. Incidentally, his family business arranges student travel to foreign countries. I do hope they're using sailboats to get there.

  3. Here is a related post: http://meteorologicalmusings.blogspot.com/2011/08/global-warming-is-there-anything-it_26.html

  4. Verbose and prolific (and cleverly snarky), most of the views expressed by this blog author are on the wrong side of history, climate science, and climate policy. I understood from multiple posts not so long ago that Dr. Pielke was going to transition to discourse on the subject of technology policy on this blog rather than climate policy. Like a moth to a flame, the content authored here remains mostly climate-based, a testament to the seduction of the defense of past positions. While the influence of environmental factors does not alone explain the causality of any individual event, most scientists agree that smoking causes cancer. You just can't pin it down to the individual cigarette. Similarly, this blog's on-going attempt to disprove linkages between GHG accumulation in the atmosphere and weather events misses the forest for the trees. The industries that require free dumping grounds in the earth's atmosphere for their profit margins must be grateful for Dr. Pielke's support, much as the tobacco companies tobacco companies loved their captured academic champions in the 1980's.

  5. -4- Sam,

    Already writing the history, eh? The anthropogenic climate change to storms link isn't even as good as the shabby statistics about third hand smoke risks (let alone second hand or actual smoking!).

  6. Question of clarification - which of the following positions do you hold?

    (a) We DON'T KNOW whether or not hurricanes/flash flooding are in the process of increasing in Vermont; or

    (b) We KNOW that, in fact, hurricanes/flash are not NOT in the process of increasing in Vermont.


  7. Perhaps Al Gore was extolling the benefits of tobacco in the 80s, but I do not recall ever hearing that tobacco was NOT bad for you.

    We had warnings on packs in the 70s, and I was trying to quit, because I knew it would kill me.

    If someone was trying to sell another message about tobacco, I do not recall it.

  8. Sam:
    From such silly arguments, Prohibition came. From whence such anger and hostility?

  9. Sam, "Verbose and prolific" is not a charge you might best want to start with in composing the longest comment yet, you know. The analogy to cigarettes is just that, an analogy. Flawed as all analogies are, science dropped the use of them long ago.