Is Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming Really, Really the Cause of the Great Pacific Northwest Heat Wave?

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, file)

Oh, I guess I misspoke, as the latest iteration of CAGW is “climate change” since the previous labels used by climate alarmists didn’t seem to have panned out for the climate alarmists in the public’s consciousness. Never mind, as the names are all of a piece in the Left’s never-ending quest to pervert science in order to control the US (and ultimately the world’s) economy. And you can bet your bippy that everything the alarmists breathlessly bleat is all aimed at convincing (scaring) people that the only way to “save the planet” is through government-mandated economic controls.

The alarmists’ latest claim is that “climate change” is what underlies the heat wave from which the Pacific Northwest has been suffering for the past several weeks. The usual alarmist cheerleaders in the legacy media have weighed in on the subject with boring predictability (and blarney): The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, etc. A taste from The Guardian:

The days-long heatwave was a taste of the future as climate change reshapes global weather patterns, said Kristie Ebi, a professor at the University of Washington who studies global warming and its effects on public health.

And the Democrats are already exploiting the heat wave to pass Green New Deal-related legislation in Oregon and other states. As previously discussed here, Oregon wants to convert the electric grid completely to green energy and hydroelectric sources by 2040. Sane Oregonians are shaking their heads at the non-science that drives Oregon Democrats and other GND advocates in their infrastructure planning dreams. And make no mistake, The Hologram’s $6 trillion infrastructure agenda contains a heavy dose of GND boondoggles. If that legislation is thwarted, The Hologram is prepared to back-door GND items via executive order, as revealed here.

One of those Oregonians who is publicly questioning the green machinations of Oregon Democrats is the inimitable meteorologist, Chuck Wiese. He exposes their chicanery in the below email explaining the heat wave and heat domes in scientific terms, and then challenges their legislative prescriptions with a series of insightful questions. He has consented to passing it to a wider audience in order to help cut through the fog being manufactured constantly by the climate alarmists.

Here is what he said:

With the continued and terrible politicization of atmospheric science and climate, I thought I would take a look at the true cause of this historic Pacific Northwest heat wave we just experienced that is now being terminated west of the cascades by a strong push of marine air from off the ocean.

For starters, the synoptic weather pattern that set itself up over our region was handled quite well by the short-term numerical weather forecast models. Before the onset, we saw nearly identical pressure patterns forecast to generate as we typically see with our severest high temperatures. In the climate records, those for Portland were found to occur on July 30, 1965, and both August 8th and August 10th of 1981 at 107 degrees Fahrenheit (degF). These records occurred at the Portland National Weather Service Office located then at the Marine Drive location at the Portland International Airport. The complete records in Portland go back to 1940 for the airport location and downtown Portland back to 1890, but these records at the airport exceeded or equaled any of the records in the downtown location. So they were considered all-time records back to 1890.

At the peak of this heat wave in Portland which was on June 28, the maximum temperature reached 116 degF, a new all-time high temperature record going back to 1890. Several other all-time records were established as well in Oregon and Washington. This is astonishing if you are caught off guard into believing the old records could not be broken by an obscure factor most meteorologists don’t think about on a day-to-day basis. It’s summer, and so pressure patterns that generate the heat were thought of as a comparative to old records with identical synoptic set-ups. This is at least how I looked at things initially along with others who saw the “suspiciously high temperature forecasts” given by the numerical model prediction output that actually forecasted the extreme temperatures accurately. These only became believable as the model output became repetitious in several runs as we got within 2 days of the expected extreme temperatures. This is common practice in operational meteorology to become suspicious of model output extremes especially since we have seen many occasions where extremes in temperature or precipitation given by models back off from those predictions and self-correct within a couple of days of an extreme event. But it turns out the numerical model output in this situation was correct several days in advance.

Why was this? What caused the extremes? Was it really “climate change” related to atmospheric CO2 as some are claiming, or was it something else? When I looked into the specifics, it turns out that “climate change” or atmospheric CO2 had nothing to do with this heat wave.

First off, I looked at the “greenhouse gases”. The water vapor optical depths of the 1981 heat wave and today’s extremes were nearly identical as taken off the atmospheric soundings from Salem, OR. Therefore, that wasn’t the reason. What about atmospheric CO2? In 1981, the Mauna Loa CO2 level was given as 341 ppmv (parts per million volume) whereas today it is 416 ppmv. In calculating the change in radiative forcing from CO2 as a stand-alone constituent, the difference from 1981 to now is only 1.07 Wm-2. (Watts per square meter). Next, I took the mean temperature of the daily temperature delta or deviation, which was about 90 degF, and plugged that into the derivative of the Stefan Boltzmann equation, dF/dT which gives 6.45 Wm-2K-1 or 6.45 Watts per square meter per degree Kelvin. Using this relationship, if CO2 acts alone as permitted in this special case, we get .963 Wm-2 with a ground emissivity of .9 divided by the rate of change of flux with respect to temperature or the 6.45 Wm-2K-1 number which gives .15 degrees Centigrade (degC) or a possible contribution of +.27 degF to the heating total. Therefore, CO2’s contribution to this heat wave is far too small to even move the thermometer upwards from the 107 degF old records to a measurable whole degree F. And this is not even measurable with many of the degree of accuracy specifications on many thermometers.

But if you examine the solar radiation dynamics, you get an entirely different picture that explains how we achieved the new records, and these numbers were obviously incorporated into the numerical weather model outputs several days in advance. It is important to recognize that when we compare the old records to the new, the atmospheric dynamics in 1965, 1981 and today were nearly identical, meaning the subsiding air that sets the convective temperature cap or potential temperature of the surface started the same. This dynamic is what the TV guys were calling the “upper air heat dome” to simplify the concept to the lay person. But the timing of these heat waves was different. In 1981, they occurred in the first week of August and at the end of July in 1965. Today, we are at the end of June or just past the summer solstice or highest sun angle of the year. It turns out this difference of dates is a big deal and actually explains the severity of this heat wave and new maximum temperature all-time records when combined with the upper air dynamics.

The solar radiation reaching the earth’s surface can be calculated anywhere from the relation:

sin(beta) = cos(L) cos(delta) cos (H) + sin(L) sin (delta),

where beta is the solar angle above azimuth or the horizon being solved for, L is earth latitude, delta is the declination angle of the earth to the solar ecliptic plane, and H is the hour angle, taken as 15 degrees per hour from solar noon. By hours or minutes, the sum or integral of the solar radiation can be calculated with the initial condition that the un-depleted radiation approaching the surface is roughly 70% of the solar constant at the normal plane 90 degrees perpendicular to the earth’s atmosphere, where the sun is directly overhead an observer on the ground. The average of the solar “constant” is 1,366 Wm-2, but varies through the year by +/-3% due to the elliptical orbit of the earth around the sun, and reaching the highest value at the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. This change can be calculated directly from the inverse square law of radiation intensity vs. distance.

Using 46 degrees of latitude for Portland, the daily transmitted solar radiation to the surface on June 27th is 2.4894800 x 10^7 Jm-2 (Joules per square meter). Over a 15-hour solar day, the average solar radiation transmitted to the surface is 461 Wm-2. On August 8th, the total surface radiation is 2.0920000 x 10^7 Jm-2 and likewise, over a 14-hour solar day gives an average surface solar insolation of 415 Wm-2. The difference between these two numbers is substantial at a whopping 46 Wm-2! But this difference is mitigated some due to the elliptical orbit of the earth around the sun which between June 27th and August 8th adds an additional 8 Wm-2 of solar insolation to TOA or 6 Wm-2 to the surface at the perpendicular angle to the atmosphere. With the noon solar angle of the sun calculated at 60.49 degrees above azimuth on August 8th, that reduces those values further at Portland’s latitude to 5.2 Wm-2, with the final difference in solar radiation being 40.8 Wm-2 further reduced to 36.72 Wm-2 with a surface emissivity of .9. This is still quite substantial.

If we divide this difference into the rate of change of flux with respect to temperature of 6.45 Wm-2K-1 given above, we get a surplus temperature of 5.69 degC or 10.2 degF compared to the earlier heat waves of record on July 30, 1965 and on August 8th and 10th of 1981. Add this to these old records of 107 degF, and you get 117.2 degF. That comes within 1.2 degF of what the new all-time high temperature record is that was just set for Portland at 116 degF on June 28. Around the area, it’s obvious there could never be a perfect prediction using this alone, as the surface canopy around the Portland metropolitan area and surrounding cities has numerous variations that shade part of the canopy at all times while some surfaces have lower and higher specific heats than what is next to them creating small variations of microclimates that are mixed by wind currents to give a final deterministic temperature. But the point in all of this is clear. Solar radiation was the clear driver in causing these new all-time temperature records and little else.

Now a word about “heat domes”. We must remember these systems are NOT created by greenhouse gases! They are connected by the dynamic westerly wind belt surrounding the earth that has the jet stream winds contained within it. This means the creation of a “heat dome” is directly proportional to the strength of the low-pressure systems upstream or downstream or both and those are also referenced as the “cold” areas of low pressure aloft. Further, it is the low-pressure system generation that causes the strength of the high-pressure system, and its residing subsidence that creates the “heat dome” within the high pressure. Therefore, a stronger heat dome means a stronger low pressure and a stronger low-pressure system is fed by COLD air from high latitudes being accelerated southward by the decreasing Coriolis force associated with northerly winds. This comes about from the theory of planetary Rossby wave physics and the subsequent tie to the Sutcliffe development equation that describes the vertical accelerations of wind that advects atmospheric mass upward and downwind from the low-pressure centers to create the high-pressure systems and “heat domes”.

Thus, it should be clear from all of this that, if atmospheric CO2 was truly causing the climate to change, then the temperature extremes just experienced would not be possible because the gradient of temperature across the latitude lines would lessen, thus reducing the potential energy otherwise available to generate low- and high-pressure systems. The physics of this demands that the storms and high-pressure systems weaken, thus reducing the subsidence or strength of the “heat dome,” thus setting the potential temperature of the surface LOWER, not higher. The incorrect climate propaganda tries to assert the latter, and further, the mean position of the jet stream MUST migrate to higher latitudes causing the distribution of atmospheric mass and pressure to become more uniform across the earth decreasing wind speed on average world-wide.

This means extreme weather of every kind inclusive of temperatures would be lessened, but the mean earth temperature would be increased. World-wide drought would also become a symptom of this, not regional drought that we now experience and that is part of ocean cycles that drive the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO.) This does not fit anything we are seeing happening today. These strong high-pressure systems are an indication of a robust supply of cold air at higher latitude given the season which we see on the daily weather maps, and it is noteworthy again that global air temperatures are at only +.08 degC over the 30-year mean. The global air temperatures have cooled sharply since the beginning of this year due to the La Niña conditions of the tropical Pacific.

It is also worth noting that these pressure patterns are created through chaotic and random variation within the atmospheric system and are not predictable in general terms more than about a week ahead of time with any reliability. It is unlikely we will see any repeat pattern of this within the next week to 10 days and no assurance that this warm and hot weather pattern will even persist for the latter part of the summer. Sometimes the summers can end cooler and wetter and other times hot and dry like now. There is simply no predictability to this except in very general terms as related to the ocean cycles, and they are not even correct at all times. But from this data, a later summer heat wave will never reach the records we just set.

In spite of the truth of all of this, the climate hysteria and propaganda to meet strictly political causes continues. On June 28, Phil Mote appeared live on Mark Mason’s noon show on KEX radio (1190 AM) and told Mason’s audience that he had been warning us all about these extreme heat events and how they would transpire 10 years ago due to rising greenhouse gas concentrations. That’s stunning, Phil. Apparently you could inform the meteorological community in this state how it is possible to predict a naturally occurring historic heat wave 10 years in advance. I don’t know of any scientific method that would enable anyone to do this with. That is self-serving propaganda with no scientific data to back it up with at its very best.

Then Fox 12 (KPTV) quoted Washington State Governor Jay Inslee in stating that it is clear to him we are in a climate emergency from such rapidly changing conditions, and immediate action is needed on the climate, all of which this historic heatwave proves to be false. It is also noteworthy that Governor Jay Inslee is as scientifically ignorant as Senator Michael Dembrow (D) is in Oregon, who is leading the pack in the Oregon legislature to ruin Oregon’s electric grid in the name of “savin’ the planet.” Combining ignorance with political power is a very dangerous experiment with citizen’s lives and livelihoods.

Then there was Kristi Ebi, an epidemiologist from the University of Washington who has no credentials in atmospheric science but inserted herself as an expert as such and was quoted in this story by the AP:   Temperature Records Fall as Heat Wave Builds in Northwest US | Voice of America – English (voanews.com)  And I quote her: “The scorching weather was caused by an extended “heat dome” over the Pacific Northwest. Kristie Ebi, a professor at the University of Washington who studies global warming and its effects on public health, says the dayslong heat wave was a taste of the future as climate change reshapes global weather patterns.” This is complete nonsense as well and backed up with nothing except from failed climate model predictions that are already projecting the global air temperatures to be 3 times warmer than they actually are.

Meteorologist Matt Zaffino from KGW-TV has also featured several guests as a moderator on their “Straight Talk” program hosted by KGW-TV anchor Laurel Porter on October 24, 2019. The most notable were professors Paul Loikith, Andrew Fountain and Kelly Gleason, all from Portland State University. Ms. Gleason told us on this program that we will lose our Northwest snowpack unless we act to curb “climate change.” Andrew Fountain told us that human CO2 emissions will cause the Northwest glaciers to vanish by the year 2070, and if he is wrong by this time, certainly by 2090. All three professors failed to prove or offer any proof that increasing atmospheric CO2 is the culprit for their suppositions, and further, the winter snowpack continues to show incredible resilience in stability with no discernable trend in the areas like Roaring River, where there is 100 years of record as well as measurements of snowpack from Timberline Lodge. You can always cherry-pick variations to assert there is a discernible trend in the data by picking a start date with a downward variation, but that is dishonest and not representative of a true scientific analysis.  The link to this program of climate hysteria is here.

I have several questions for those like ringleader Democrat Senator Michael Dembrow who are promoting this climate hysteria in light of the fact that serious actions are being undertaken by the radical Oregon legislature to ruin Oregon’s electric grid by replacing coal and natural gas sources with hydro and renewable energy. If Oregon’s energy grid is converted to just renewables of solar and wind plus hydro, the load on the electric grid will not meet demand from the increasing number of charging electric vehicles and growing population, particularly from peak load spikes that occur during hot and cold weather. [This was previously detailed here.] Oregon will be facing energy rationing, rolling blackouts and automobile driving rationing, similar but worse than what we are now seeing in California. Here are my questions:

  1. What is the payback to every Oregon and Northwest citizen for sacrificing this standard of living we now enjoy for this horrible mess being created? This means what will any of this accomplish with respect to our climate?
  2. Can anyone among the group that includes Phil Mote, Paul Loikith, Andrew Fountain, Kelly Gleason, Kristi Ebi, and anyone else promoting this climate hysteria assure us that these actions being taken in Oregon or on any other electric grid in the USA will stop sea level rise?
  3. What about extreme temperatures we just experienced? How many declining days of 90-degree or higher temperatures can we expect for this sacrifice?
  4. What about precipitation? How much will any droughts decrease and what will the yearly precipitation levels increase to?
  5. What about flooding? How much will this be reduced in future events and what could we expect the cresting levels to decline to?
  6. What about severe windstorms? Can you assure us that future storms like Columbus Day will be stopped?

Be specific and show your work to “prove” your arguments.

Chuck Wiese, Meteorologist

Conclusion. Yes, there is real science behind the Pacific Northwest heatwave, but not that put forth by the climate alarmists who are hell-bent on pulling the wool over Americans’ eyes and rushing to wreak the economic havoc associated with their Green New Deal. Chuck Wiese just took the alarmists to task and exposed their Al Gore-like deceitfulness. Will any of them provide counter-arguments on a par with Wiese’s scientific explanation for the heat wave? Will they deign to answer his six questions with scientific proof? One thing for sure: their usual alarmist hysterics, emotions, and hyperbole won’t help their case with thinking Americans.

The end.