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The Fantasy of Extreme Weather

This week there were three stories describing new research proving that global warming is going to cause an increase in the number and violence of extreme weather events. Each was published in one of the world’s three most important scientific journals.

Sounds gloomy, doesn’t it? Not only will extreme heatwaves, cold waves, and droughts tear apart the very fabric of society, you will not be able to drink your soda in peace on your next airplane ride!

However, one little detail, buried in one of these stories as a single sentence, literally makes hogwash out of everything else said in these three articles.

But before I tell you that little detail, I want to discuss each story itself, for even without that detail these stories have feet of clay.

The first proposes that atmospheric turbulence will increase drastically once the amount of carbon dioxide has risen to be twice what it was prior to the beginning of the industrial revolution. At the present rate of increase, this moment is expected to occur in about 2050.

During winter months, when clear-air turbulence is at its worst in that area, 16 of the 21 often-used ways in which scientists measure turbulence suggest that the average intensity of the plane-rattling phenomenon … will be between 10% and 40% stronger when CO2 concentrations are double their preindustrial value. … Accordingly, the frequency of moderate-or-greater turbulence—intensities at which passengers will experience accelerations of 0.5 g or more, which are strong enough to toss items about the cabin—will rise by between 40% and 170%.

Oh no! We’re all gonna die!

Not really. This report is not based on actual data, but on a computer simulations using the same computer models that have also been predicting for the past twenty years that the increase in the global temperature will rise in lockstep with the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, all those computer models have turned out to be wrong. While the amount of CO2 has continued to go up, the global temperature stopped rising around 1998.

Thus, worrying about this predicted increased turbulence, based merely on shaky computer simulations, is hardly something to be taken very seriously. As the computer programmers like to say, “Garbage in, garbage out.”

The second story posits that human-caused global warming has led to wider swings of extreme temperatures in China.

The researchers estimate that human emissions likely increased the warmest annual extreme temperatures—the daily maximum and daily minimum for the hottest day and night of the year—by 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit (0.92 degrees Celsius) and 3°F (1.7°C), respectively. They also found that human emissions likely raised the coolest annual extreme temperatures—the daily maximum and daily minimum for the coldest day and night of the year—by 5.1°F (2.83°C) and 8.0°F (4.44°C), respectively.

Oh no! We’re all gonna die!

The problem here is that once again, these scientists are using those same climate computer models that have failed to predict the lack of temperature rise for the climate during the past two decades. They claim that the temperature swings in China would have been less without CO2 emissions, but how do they know that?

They don’t. The computer models they are using to make these temperature estimates are mere guesses, guesses that have so far been proven wrong. You might as well throw a pair of dice.

Finally, the third story, from Nature, claims that the advent of extreme weather events caused by global warming will do great harm to plant life, which in turn will act to accelerate the rate of global warming.

Land plants create a huge carbon ‘sink’ as they suck CO2 out of the air to build leaves, wood and roots. The sink varies from year to year, but on average it soaks up one-quarter of the annual CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. And events such as droughts, wildfires and storms are likely to “cause a pronounced decline” in the sink, says Markus Reichstein, a carbon-cycle scientist at the Max Planck Institute of Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany, who coordinates CARBO-Extreme.

Satellite observations and data from CO2 measurement towers suggest that extreme events reduce plant productivity by an average of 4% in southern Europe and 1% in northern Europe, says Reichstein. That lowers annual carbon uptake by 150 million tonnes — equivalent to more than 15% of Europe’s annual man-made CO2 emissions. The most extreme events can turn forests and grasslands from carbon sinks to sources.

Oh no! We’re all gonna die!

Once again, there is no reason to panic. Like the previous two articles, this story is based computer simulations. It also bases its conclusions not on actual climate data but on field simulations that show this stunning fact: Plants suffer from extreme weather events such as heatwaves, cold waves, and drought! Well, blow me down! Who woulda thought!

Now for the punchline. Buried in the third article about the coming tidal wave of extreme weather events — caused by evil humans driving their cars and heating their homes and running their computers — is this single sentence that makes everything in it an utter joke:

So far, scientists have detected no increase in extreme weather events.

What! You mean the data itself, not the computer models, shows no trends, no increase in big storms or prolonged droughts or huge hurricanes even as CO2 has been rising? You mean that everything else that was written in this story as well as the other two stories is a fantasy?

Yes. While many global warming scientists are certain they know what’s going to happen, none of the data is as yet proving them right. They simply don’t know.

These same global warming scientists have spent the past two decades telling us that we were all gonna die from increasing temperatures caused by the increase in CO2. Now that this prediction has proved false, they apparently are shifting gears. Instead, it is extreme events — big storms, long droughts, intense heatwaves — that are going to kill us.

But not only have they no evidence that the increase in CO2 will cause these extreme events, there is no evidence that more of these extreme events are even occurring.

In other words, these stories are mere political advocacy. They have nothing to do with science, but with propaganda, based on fantasy with the goal of trying to convince everyone that we are all gonna die if we don’t do exactly what these scientists say.

Well, I for one am not ready to obey their commands. For me to agree, they will have to finally produce some real data, something I have found to be too often lacking since I began studying the climate field about ten years ago.

Note: I have made a correction in the fourth paragraph, beginning with the words “The first proposes…” I had misstated the baseline for the calculation in the rise of CO2. It is now correct, that is, the percentage at the beginning of the industrial revolution, not the present percentage.

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  • JGL

    70% of all “news” headlines are purposefully misleading in my experience, and they are skewed in order to instill a degree of fear in the public. And the public has a tendency to read those headlines and believe that they are informed. However, it is typical that when you read the article in question you find out that it is an opinion being put forward as a fact and this is done with promoting an agenda in mind.

  • In the case of these three articles, however, the headlines matched the bulk of the articles, which were still hogwash if one read them closely and exercised just a little bit of skepticism.

    I would say that all three articles did not deserve to be published, as they were based on such flimsy evidence. But they were, and that is where the politics and propaganda comes in.

  • Pzatchok

    The real problem is now these misleading articles will be used as fact and evidence by the low information environmentalists.

    Just like 10 years of articles using the hockey stick and one tree growth ring data as evidence of global warming.

    Then all those articles were used as references for the next articles. All stemming from a very small pool of bad and misused data.

  • Phil Berardelli

    Nicely done, Bob. A good, clear, concise analysis. I shudder at the amount of work it will take to undue this damage to climate science as a discipline and to science and education as a whole. I wonder if Carl Sagan, back in 1995, when he wrote “The Demon-Haunted World,” about the proliferation of pseudo-science, could have imagined that such carelessness, thoughtlessness and shallowness in pursuit of a political agendy would have overtaken the community. I would like to think that had he lived he would have fought this development, as any honest scientist must do now.

  • jwing

    The scientific inquisition is fully underway. We are living in the post-modern Age of Feeling where one’s intentions and emotions trump reality and common sense. The only thinking allowed is group think.

  • JGL

    But its “the right thing to do”.

    Emotionalism over reality, the calling card of the Marxist / socialist, its for you own good.

  • jwing

    It started on TV with the Phil Donohue Show and culminated with Oprah and Dr. Phil. Pure emotional PC indocrination for the masses of low information voters at home in the afternoon. They are taught to feel not think and to panic in a crisis instead of plan for the future.

    It resulted in the the election and re-election of a made-to-order community organizing President.

  • Thomas

    Great reporting as usual Robert, and so informative. Its good news to find out we can continue pumping 35 Billion metric tons of Carbon Dioxide, a known greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere every year, and that known laws of physics just don’t apply here.
    I always get a kick out of you claiming all the computer models are wrong- it shows such a profound ignorance of computer modeling one hardly knows where to begin. So I will simply point out that climate modeling is alot like storm modeling. You know when they showed the path of Sandy, and where it would strike, and its done as a RANGE OF POSSIBILITIES? Where the ‘strike’ path is cone shaped, and starts from where the hurricane is, and spreads out from there? Climate modeling is like that. Different models are input with different data, to get a RANGE of possible outcomes. Then tthe models are compared with the data from the real world, and the one that is closest to the real world is the one that is then built upon. This same technique used in every field of science there is. Its ubiquitous in science research. Why? Cause it works. Its only climate ‘skeptics’ that seem to remain clueless about this.
    BTW, You may notice that hurricane predictions have gotten much more accurate as computer power has increased. With Sandy, they predicted it would take a left hook, and hit the NYC area, when it was still days away. Very impressive, and something that was unheard of just a few years ago. So while you can laugh off climate models, keep in mind the data going into them is doubling every few years. Enjoy your laughter while you can.

  • Garry

    The trouble with your explanation is that none of the data have fallen with the ranges; therefore, the models are all wrong,

    I can’t speak for Bob, but I don’t see him as laughing off anything; I admire his balance in saying not that climate change is not happening, but that the data don’t indicate that it is happening.

  • JGL

    The nature of the climate is to change, it seems that “climate change” as it is referred to in the media is a re purposed term that has been created to instill fear in a populous. That is the logical conclusion you can reasonably come to given the revealed facts surrounding the blatant misleading “facts” that have been reported by some of the main climate scientists, by their own admission. And it seems these “facts” have been crafted to fit expected models projected by these same “scientists”.

    In addition your (Thomas) insistence that 35 billion metric tons is a known green house gas seems to be a frustrated additional attempt to make it so, just like the scientists that also insist on it. You can write and insist on it all day long but from what I have heard the temperature of the earths atmosphere has not increased appreciably in the last 17 years.

    Which is not to say that we should not be aware of the pollution that we create and do what we can to minimize and eventually eliminate. And which is not to say that there are powerful interests in the world that have a very strong interest in the oil based, status quo energy production model remaining as it is and would be happy to spread disinformation on the subject.

    As for Mr. Zimmerman, he seems to represent scientific facts as he finds them, although I do detect a distinct political bias in his writings.

  • Thomas

    I’m always reading on ‘skeptic’ blogs two things:

    1. Scientists manipulate data to get the numbers they want to fit their bogus theories

    2. The climate models are all wrong.

    Perhas, you, as a ‘skeptic’ can explain to me how BOTH of these can be correct. If scientists are changing the numbers to fit the models, how can the models be wrong? You can’t say the numbers are wrong from the real data, because according to ‘skeptics’ scientists are changing those too. It truly makes no sense.

  • Garry

    There you go, painting me (and presumably Bob) with a broad brush. Read Bob’s posts on climate change, and you’ll see real graphs from real papers, along with data that doesn’t fit the predictions. Take any climate model, use the starting conditions from, say, 1920, plug in the increase in CO2 since then, and compare it to the temperature data, even the manipulated data that’s been used all too often, and the model just doesn’t work, despite the manipulations.

    It’s easy to make some generalizations and apply them all to “the enemy.” I don’t see this as a binary us vs. them scenario; there are different people with different views, and I prefer to look objectively at the science. Having partially made my living editing science papers since 1995, I’ve learned a lot about science and have developed some critical thinking skills. Í’m careful to not fall for the appeals to emotions, and look at data instead. What I read from you is a lot of name-calling, ridiculing, and other forms of emotionalism that has come to dominate politics in general, and dicsussions of climate change in particular.

    I wear my label (given by you) of skeptic proudly; skepticism is the foundation of scientific advancement. ‘True skeptics don’t claim to have all the answers, they see questions where others see absolutes.

  • Garry

    Well said, but you imply that CO2 is a pollutant, and I think you’ll agree that the jury is still out on whether it’s a pollutant. This is but one example of manipulation of language by those with a political agenda.

  • joe

    So what is the real data, the climate scientists keep changing the data to the point that no one really knows what it was, they go back in time and try to hide temp spikes as if they didnt happen and then say that the more recent weather was much hotter than we have experienced before, how can anyone who is paying attention believe the climate science guru’s!

  • Thomas

    That carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas is not disputed, even by ‘skeptics’. 1998 is one of the hottest years on record, 2005 tied it. Globally, the hottest 12-month period ever recorded was from June 2009 to May 2010.
    Here is a graph showing how it is ‘skeptics’ can claim the temp. has not risen, and another showing the same set of facts in another context:

    ‘Which is not to say that we should not be aware of the pollution that we create and do what we can to minimize and eventually eliminate. And which is not to say that there are powerful interests in the world that have a very strong interest in the oil based, status quo energy production model remaining as it is and would be happy to spread disinformation on the subject.’

    I completely agree.

  • Thomas

    I did not paint you with any brush, I asked you a simple question about what I see as a logical contradiction. Rather then attack me, why not put your ‘critical thinking skills’ to some use and answer my question?

  • My own personal experience with research science is its often easier to make a model based on a set of data, then it is to create an experiment. In the case of our environment our ability to make even small scale experiments that reflect the nature of our environment is hugely limited.

    Even the best modeling has to make assumptions the more data you have the better you can make the model but with a few decades of direct observational climate data what we can model is limited. Even if you take into account ice cores, tree rings the data we can get from those sources(and that assuming you can find people that agree with what that data says) is still limited.

    Honestly I don’t think most Climate scientist are evil or fudging the numbers but when you get into very specialized fields its not uncommon for group think to developed everyone works so closely with everyone else it becomes harder and harder to be critical of those around you. I have seen the peer review system first hand and my wife worked as an editor for a major journal for many years. If you are considered a leader in your field the articles are passed out and read for grammar and basic method but no one ever trys to recreate other peoples work. They have there own research. Nothing is really checked because how to do you check years of modeling and research over a few days?

    There are a lot of good people with good intentions in the Climate science community. But if everyone is used the IPCC data for their models is it any wonder they have all shown to be wrong.

    The safe and logical view point I feels is we should be concerned about CO2 but we also have to admit this is complete problem and any solution might make the problem worse rather than better. And if our modeling has been wrong so far we may need to start over. I should be also noted that US is one of the countries in the world that who’s CO2 emissions are drop largely because of change from Coal to Natural Gas power stations.

    My concern is we currently have a generation of scientists that very invested in this idea of climate change they have spent there whole life working on it, and right or wrong they aren’t going to change there minds now. Its much like the issue with tectonic plates. Tectonic plates we not accepted by many scientist as late as the 1950’s. Why? Because the generations of geological scientists were invested in other theories. It wasn’t until that generation had largely died off was the theory of tectonic plates allowed to gain wide acceptance. If you think that this can’t happen again. It was in the 1980’s it was discovered bacteria can cause stomach ulcers before that time everyone thought there as no way Bacteria could survive the acid.

    I have no doubt much of what we consider common scientific knowledge today we be laughed at 100 years from now. That is the way of things. The science is never “settled”

  • D. K. Williams

    Increased CO2 levels thus far appear to be a boon to green things. It is helping to save the rain forests from human activity. It is great for algae, which form the basis of the ecological system. If global temps do happen to increase as a result, loss of habitat in some areas due to desertification is a small price to pay for the “greening” of new lands. My Viking ancestors named it “Greenland” for a reason. Canada, Siberia, etc.; these are areas that will be available for human, animal, and plant habitation. Exhale people! Contribute to CO2!!

  • Thomas

    I think you bring an interesting perspective to this, with some good insight into human nature, espescially about the problem of ‘groupthink’ which certainly does exist. I think you would have to admit that ‘groupthink’ need not be limited to established science, it can also extend itself into climate ‘skeptics’. I see this often on the web, where if someone makes a claim, such as ‘Michael Manns hockey stick has been totally discredited’ or ‘Climategate proves scientists fake the data’, no one in the ‘skeptical’ community ever questions it, or reads up on it, they just pass it on as gospel.

    You make good points also about certain sciences such as plate tectonics not being accepted because scientists of the time were invested in other theories. But the same thing happened with AGW. AGW was first proposed in the late 19th century, was ridiculed, then slowly established itself to being the accepted theory. That fits in quite closely with plate tectonics. Thats because in learning about the world, we go from a position of ignorance to one of knowledge, not the other way around. ‘Skeptics’ in my view delude themselves with thinking the earlier knowledge was the correct view and everything we have learned is wrong. But human knowledge does not go in a backward direction, which is what ‘skeptics’ wish. That is why I compare it to creationism- creationists think one day we will return to a pre-evolution viewpoint. Its a fantasy. While no doubt there is alot more to learn about our climate, I have no doubt AGW as a theory will remain the established theory.

  • mike

    “…once the amount of carbon dioxide has risen to twice its present percentage. At the present rate of increase, this moment is expected to occur in about 2050.”—RZ

    At PRESENT rates the co2 will not double from PRESENT values
    until 2200..200 years..please check my calculations, but the difference is extreme, and important to illustrate the extreme inanity.

  • Pzatchok

    Your graph is also wrong.

    Yes its correct for the miniscule time period it represents but its wrong in that it represents a temperature increase over the long term.

    Start your graph out 100 years ago then 1000 years ago then 10000 and so on.

    The farther you go back the less that miniscule amount of increase looks like anything in the long run.

    Your graph also doesn’t show a complete degree of temperature change yet. If you take in statistical variances it doesn’t show an increase either.

    It also doesn’t tell us what might be causing the change it shows. For all we know it is anything from the tilt of the earth, it own magnetic field, the sun, meteors, an increase in algae, a decrease in algae, a changed ocean current from a big underwater earthquake causing and upwelling of food and thus an increase in algae, or man its man made.

    And if its man made which men?

    Plus all the data that went into making that graph could have been weighed to suit the graph makers assertions. it could have used oceanic data to a higher extent than is normally used or should be used. He could personally think that ocean temps have more influence than other scientists thing they do. He could also think that his own personal field has more influence than it actually does. He could also be leaning it a 10th of a degree in his favor just to keep his job.

    You do realize that NASA has changed its data on its temperature readings every year it has put them out. It normally takes them an extra year or two to make their preliminary changes to, as they say, more accurately represent the incoming data. They have gone back years and changed data to fit some idea they have of accuracy.
    Which means their original data is wrong. Does this graph use all original data? It obviously can’t use the updated data since its using data from 2012 and NASA is not done updating it yet.

    Overall saying that these temperature changes are caused by man and or thus changeable by man is taking an extremely self centered view of the universe. I don’t want to hurt your ego but we are not that important in the long term scheme of things. The earth will survive. Life will go on. Evolution will continue and species will die off. Its natures way finding the best fit for the environment we have.

    And how about this question.
    Whats causing the very same temperature increase on Mars?

  • JGL

    One anomalous year does not climate warming as represented by the likes of Al Gore make.

    The general trend for the past 10,000 years or so has been to the warming of the planet. Where I sit right now used to be covered by 5000 feet of ice. I think that fact generally indicates a warming trend.

  • Rene Borbon

    More climate stupidity: carbon dioxide is a pollutant? Carbon dioxide is exhaled by man and most mammals on the earth. There is a religious focus on carbon dioxide because the left wants to shut down the oil majors.

    Real climate science should focus on the influence of the giant burning ball of fire in the sky: Sol.

    It’s a fact that a similar shift in climate has occured on Mars. What is the likely common denominator: the Sun.

    What is the uncommon denominator: the oil majors and petroeconomy does not exist on Mars (as far as we know).

    Time to move on and focus on the issue of economic development and growth for all mankind, and the exploration of space.

  • jwing

    Oil and natural gas are “organic” energy sources being made by Mother Gia.

    Coal is solar energy stored millions of years ago by plants.

    Carbon dioxide is plant food for Mother Gia’s garden.

    Fecal material is fertilizer.

    Humanity is not a virus to Mother Gia but is its greatest acheivment.

    Ahh….doesn’t that FEEL good!

  • Thomas

    How do you know theres a temperature increase on Mars? According to you, NASA changes data all the time. Since NASA is one of the global warming hoaxers, according to ‘skeptics’, why would they want to discredit THEMSELVES?
    It also strikes me as hilarious when skeptics claim theres Global warming on mars, but ‘not enough evidence’ for it on earth. How many weather stations are on Mars, compared to Earth? How far back to our records for Mars temperature go?

  • I don’t disagree Groupthink is problem on both sides. I think the degree you think it effects one side or another is largely based on how much your support one side or another. We are all intercedent, stubborn, and prone to not admitting when we are wrong. I don’t have any solid answers other than I’m to the point where I feel politics of this issue far out weight the science which is always a bad situation to be in.

  • Pzatchok

    I’m not saying global warming doesn’t happen.

    I’m saying people have nothing to do with it. Squat. Nada.

    At least one of the major NASA global warming guys quit amid allegations of fudging data.

  • Phil Berardelli

    It’s interesting, Thomas, that you continually use the word “skeptic” as a pejorative, as though expressing doubts about an incomplete picture proves ignorance. In truth, all scientists must be skeptics at all times — particularly about their own findings — in order to keep science a self-correcting discipline. The most harmful and dangerous positions in history have always been based on dogma, and this time is no exception. There is indeed a war on science, but it is coming exclusively from the left. They have imposed an agenda on climate science and will attempt to discredit or even destroy anyone who questions that agenda. Agenda? Yes, in the form of carbon taxes and CAFE standards and regulations intent on shutting down industries. If it is suggested that cooling, not warming, is the real danger, that suggestion must be discredited, because it means everything they are attempting to do will be devastating to civilization if an ice age is in prospect. Whereas, if AGW is real and if it could postpone or even prevent the next ice age, it should be regarded as beneficial — something to be encouraged, not fought.

    Regarding your question about the inconsistency of manipulating data to fit a preordained conclusion that is deemed wrong, you might want to reexamine your knee-jerk response. The models have indeed been shown to be faulty, because none has correctly predicted the suspension of warming over the past decade. But the data inputs have been manipulated because the supporters of the models agree with their projections — of runaway warming later in this century. That is what they’ve been attempting to create — runaway warming later — even though they have not been able to duplicate real temperature results. Not inconsistent at all — and entirely unscientific and dishonest. These people are harming science, Thomas, and it will take a generation or more to undo that harm. Our children and grandchildren will suffer meanwhile.

  • mike

    “…once the amount of carbon dioxide has risen to twice its present percentage. At the present rate of increase, this moment is expected to occur in about 2050.”—RZ

    At PRESENT rates the co2 will not double from PRESENT values
    until 2200..200 years..please check my calculations, but the difference is extreme, and important to illustrate the extreme inanity.

    R.Z….please make the correction? It is important, no?

  • I was paraphrasing the article itself, which stated

    In particular, the researchers assessed the intensity of turbulence at a point in the future when carbon dioxide concentrations are twice the levels they were before human industrial activity began boosting them substantially—which, according to a middle-of-the-road emissions scenario, will likely occur sometime in the 2050s.

    However, I realize now my paraphrase is incorrect. In 2050 the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere will be twice what it was before the industrial revolution, not the present percentage. I will correct the post.

    Thank you.

  • mike


    supporting your comments, my point is this:
    … there will only be a ~20% increase in co2 (in the next 40 years).
    Why would there be some new dramatic increase in turbulence or other “extreme” events, that did not happen in the last 20% increase (since about 1970 to the present 2013)?
    It doesn’t seem reasonable to me.

  • You are right on the money. None of this seems reasonable, which was the point I was trying to make in my essay. Not only is the theory that global warming will cause more extreme weather events unproven, there is as yet no evidence that there has been an increase in extreme weather events.

  • Douglas Holbert

    Dr. Paul D. Jose worked on this problem. Two papers are of great interest: “The Sun’s Orbital Motion”, Popular Astronomy, Vol. XLIV, NR. 10, December 1936 and “Sun’s Motion and Sunspots”, Astronomical Journal, 70, Nr. 3, 1965, April Nr. 1328.

    “Similar preliminary studies for the earth and moon indicate that weather conditions may be dependent on such forces.”

  • Adrian Hevron

    Hey! Someone in my Myspace group shared this site with us so I came to give it a look. I’m definitely enjoying the information.

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