Global Warming Ate My House

This has already made the rounds but I can't resist mocking an HBS professors whose classes I assiduously avoided when I was there.  Her house was hit by lightning.  Apparently, this was not the fault of poor lightning protection for her house, but was due to your SUV:

I am not a climate change scientist, but I have come to understand that I am a climate change victim. Our daughter took the lead investigating destructive lightning in Maine. She found that the NASA Goddard Institute estimates a 5-6% change in global lightning frequencies for every 1 degree Celsius global warming. The Earth has already warmed .8 degrees Celsius since 1802 and isexpected to warm another 1.1-6.4 degrees by the end of the century. Maine's temperatures rose 1.9 degrees Celsius in the last century and another 2.24 degree rise is projected by 2104. I learned from our insurance company that while the typical thunderstorm produces around 100 lightning strikes, there were 217 strikes around our house that night. I was shocked to discover that when it comes to increased lightning frequency and destructiveness, a NASA study concluded that eastern areas of North America like Maine are especially vulnerable. Scientists confirm a 10% increase in the incidence of extreme weather events in our region since 1949.

This is one of those paragraphs that is so bad, I put off writing about it because I could write a book about all the errors.

  • The 5-6% lightning strike estimate comes from one single study that I have never seen replicated, but more importantly comes from running a computer model.  Though it may exist, I have found no empirical evidence that lightning activity has net increased with increases in temperature
  • The world has warmed about 0.8C over the last century or two. Congrats.  Infinite monkeys and Shakespeare and all that.
  • We could argue the forecasts, but they are irrelevant to this discussion as we are talking about current weather which cannot be influenced by future warming.
  • Her claim that Maine's temperature rose 1.9C in the last Century is simply absurd.  Apparently she got the data from some authoritative place called, but its impossible to know since in the few days since she published this article that site has taken down the page.  So we will just have to rely on a lesser source like the NOAA for Maine temperatures.  Here story is from 2009 so I used data through 2009

Annual Averages in Maine:

Oops, not a lot of warming here, and certainly not 1.9C.  In fact, there has not even been a single year that has been 1.9C above the average for the century since the early 1900s.  And 2009 was a below average year.
Well, she said it was in summer.  That's when we get the majority of thunderstorms.  Maybe it is just summer warming?  The NOAA does not have a way to get just summer, but I can run average temperatures for July-September of each year, which matches summer within about 8 days.

Whoa!  What's this?  A 0.3-0.4C drop in the last 100 years.   And summer of 2009 (the last data point) was well below average. Wow, I guess cooling causes lightning.  We better do something about that cooling, and fast!  Or else buy this professor some lightning rods.
And you have to love evidence like this

I learned from our insurance company that while the typical thunderstorm produces around 100 lightning strikes, there were 217 strikes around our house that night

What is this, the climate version of the Lake Wobegone Effect?  If all our storms are not below average, then that is proof of climate change.  Is this really how a Harvard professor does statistical analysis?  She can just look at a sample and the mean and determine from that one sample that the mean is shifting?

Finally, she goes on to say that extreme weather in her area is up 10% from some source called the Gulf of Maine Council on Marine Environment.  Well, of course, you can't find that fact anywhere on the source she links.  And besides, even if Maine extreme weather is up, it can't be because of warming because Maine seems to be cooling.

This is just a classic example of the observer bias that is driving the whole "extreme weather" meme.  I will show you what is going on by analogy.  This is from the Wikipedia page on "Summer of the Shark":

The media's fixation with shark attacks began on July 6, when 8-year-old Mississippi boy Jessie Arbogast was bitten by a bull shark while standing in shallow water at Santa Rosa Island's Langdon Beach. ...

Immediately after the near-fatal attack on Arbogast, another attack severed the leg of a New Yorker vacationing in The Bahamas, while a third attack on a surfer occurred about a week later on July 15, six miles from the spot where Arbogast was bitten.[6] In the following weeks, Abrogast's spectacular rescue and survival received extensive coverage in the 24-hour news cycle, which was renewed (and then redoubled) with each subsequent report of a shark incident. The media fixation continued story with a cover story in the July 30th issue of Time magazine.

In mid-August, many networks were showing footage captured by helicopters of hundreds of sharks coalescing off the southwest coast of Florida. Beach-goers were warned of the dangers of swimming,[7] despite the fact that the swarm was likely part of an annual shark migration.[8] The repeated broadcasts of the shark group has been criticized as blatant fear mongering, leading to the unwarranted belief of a so-called shark "epidemic".[8]...

In terms of absolute minutes of television coverage on the three major broadcast networks—ABCCBS, and NBCshark attacks were 2001's third "most important" news story prior toSeptember 11, behind the western United States forest fires, and the political scandal resulting from the Chandra Levy missing persons case.[11] However, the comparatively higher shock value of shark attacks left a lasting impression on the public. According to the International Shark Attack File, there were 76 shark attacks that occurred in 2001, lower than the 85 attacks documented in 2000; furthermore, although 5 people were killed in attacks in 2001, this was less than the 12 deaths caused by shark attacks the previous year.[12]

A trend in news coverage <> a trend in the underlying frequency. If these were correlated, gas prices would only go up and would never come down.


  1. Matt:

    Even if she had all of her facts correct. That still doesnt' mean that her house would not have been struck by lightning but for climate change, which is what she would need to prove to show that she is a victim of climate change.

  2. a_random_guy:

    "Is this really how a Harvard professor does statistical analysis?"

    Hey, go easy on the poor woman. Her PhD is in social psychology. If social scientists could handle statistics, they wouldn't be social scientists.

    Seriously, she is falling into a typical human fallacy. When something random happens, we want to find a reason for it. If it was something bad, we want to find someone or something to blame. With her education, she *ought* to know better, but it is a perfectly human reaction...

  3. Dave Boz:

    Professors don't need knowledge of statistics. They don't need to know about the concepts of correlation and causation. They don't even need to know how to find and present useful (or true) information.

    That's for the little people.

  4. MNHawk:

    Wouldn't someone who commutes from Maine to Massachusetts be contributing more to perceived lightning strike problems then most of the rest of us who chose not to commute from two states away to our job?

  5. caseyboy:

    I wonder if she has American Indian ancestry like Little Running Mouth, aka, Liz Warren. I understand Harvard likes to get their minority staff statistics up with that ethnic group.

  6. Judge Fredd:

    Statistics? We don' need no steekin' statistics!

    It's how I FEEL is what's important!

    Back off, man. I'm a scientist!

  7. MostlyHarmless:

    After showing a zero trend in Maine since 1895 (NCDC) I finished a blog post yesterday with this:

    Aaaaah - sweet. "This peaceful place" where never-before-heard-of 217-strike storms incontrovertibly spawned by a 1.9 degrees Celsius in the last century warming, suddenly (did all the 1.9 degree warming occur in 2011?) burst out of nowhere (from the sky - Ed.) and destroy an idyllic farmstead. A farmstead with "windmills and solar panels" which are made of - plastic? Glass? Wood? Hershey bars? Obama campaign leaflets? No, metal, metal with wires attached. Wires leading into the idyllic farmstead through the walls and roof. Wires which conduct electricity. Lightning is electricity, big-time. They say lightning never strikes twice in the same place, but "they" didn't have a wooden farmhouse surrounded by tall metal windmills and with a roof covered in solar panels in mind. Even Ben Franklin knew enough not to surround his house with lightning conductors that were attached to it by wires.

  8. Speedmaster:

    That's really from a HBS professor?! Wow.

  9. Jim Collins:

    Now I feel bad. In 1991 I worked at an airport and was responsible for doing weather observations. We had this big ledger book with everything logged in. When we got an AWOS station we threw the ledger books out. They went back to 1920. I wish I would have kept them.

  10. JA:

    Every time planet earth has experienced a period of warming - regardless of whether CO2 levels were higher, lower or the same as today - and regardless if the previous periods of warm climate were warmer or as warm as today, they ALL ENDED IN AN ICE AGE !!!
    And you know what ?
    No one knows how that happened or why.
    Also no one knows what caused the ice ages to come to an end and a warmer climate to ensue.

    This whole notion that climate change or global warming is something different this time is total bulls^^t.

    Just follow the money to see why the AGW liars and crooks keep promoting this trash.
    These "Lysenkians" should literally be "excommunicated" from the scientific community because they are not scientists; they are crooks, liars, thieves and greedy, hypocritical money chasers.

  11. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master:

    >>>> Or else buy this professor some lightning rods.

    I recommend a high speed drill, so she can complete that self-trepanning exercise she's clearly been so effective with to this point. Maybe with a better drill with longer bits, she can reach the speech and writing centers of her brain, and spare us all from her brain-damaged drivel.

  12. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master:

    >>> leading to the unwarranted belief of a so-called shark “epidemic“

    Ummm... aren't sharks supposed to be kind of... endangered? As with most larger predators, they find themselves in altercations with humans (nets, for example, in this case) and lose pretty badly.

    So how/why would we find an "epidemic" when their numbers are in decline...?

  13. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States:

    >>>> With her education, she *ought* to know better

    You cannot educate common sense.

    As with Noam Chomsky, she is a (presumably) highly intelligent and (certainly) well-educated FOOL.

    As I often have noted -- if you created a test which measured "Wisdom" or "Common Sense" -- the ability to learn from experience, as opposed to books (intellect)... a "Wisdom Quotient", if you would, you would find that liberals consistently score exceptionally low on the WQ scale regardless of their IQ -- there is literally no connection between the two. Liberals are almost always "Widiots".

  14. michael:


    2 degree rise in temperature is the best news possible for Maine state.