Two talks

I am giving two talks tomorrow. Both are big deals, by my humble standards. Either one alone would be enough to make me a little nervous. But excited.

In the morning, I’m speaking in TEDx Broadway 2015. I’m going to talk about climate change. Why talk about climate change in a conference about the future of Broadway, in which most of the other speakers are connected to the theater industry in some way? Well, Broadway is on planet earth too… beyond that, if you’re not going to the event, you’ll have to wait til the video shows up on the internet.

In the evening, I’m speaking at Columbia, in the Low Rotunda under the big dome, in an event that is part of the President’s World Leaders Forum series, to launch our new Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate. We have an outstanding panel of four speakers who will be talking about what we have learned in the two and a half (almost) years since Sandy – about how to make the City more resilient to extreme weather; about how science, government and industry can work together; about what lessons the rest of the world can learn from NYC’s experience and vice versa, and so on. I’m the moderator of the panel.

Before the panel discussion starts, I’ll speak for a few minutes about what the Initiative is and what its goals are. If you can’t make it (it’s open to the CU community, but registration is required and I believe there is a wait list by now), you can go to the web page which we will have up by the time of the event, at extremeweather.columbia.edu, to learn about the Initiative. You can also follow @CUextremewx on twitter.

For now, I’m polishing my talks. And I got a haircut.

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This harsh winter: the improbable occurs

It’s 10 degrees Fahrenheit in New York City as I write this, with an overnight low that will get close to zero (Fahrenheit). It has been cold in the northeast US for weeks, and is forecast to stay cold for weeks more. Boston is being choked by snow from multiple major storms – two of which have been in their all-time historical top ten for snow accumulation – and stands a good chance to break the all-time record for most snow in a season.

I wrote a post back in October about the coming winter. The main point of the post was that seasonal forecasts in general, and for the northeast in particular, have large uncertainty and not a huge amount of skill.

I concluded by saying that

“Without looking at any weather data or models, one can say pretty confidently that it is very unlikely that this winter will be as cold as last winter was in the eastern US. Last winter was very extreme by historical standards, so a winter that extreme is – basically by definition – improbable in *any* year. No information currently available (including the state of El Nino), or that will be available ahead of time, is strong enough to change that. Again this is a probabilistic statement: it’s not impossible that this winter will be as cold or colder than last, it’s just very unlikely.”

I haven’t seen the statistics to prove it yet, but I think it may well turn out that for the northeast at least, this winter in fact is going to turn out more severe than last. In terms of snow in much of New England, it certainly is already, and I think with the current cold snap – projected to last another two weeks in virtually the whole eastern US, as per NOAA’s latest 8-14 day forecast (shown below) – we are headed to beat last year in terms of cold as well.

814temp.new

I stand by my claim that this was improbable, as far as the scientific information available in October would have told us. But the improbable seems to be occurring.