By Anne H. Oman
April 25, 2019 1:00 a.m.

Florida State Climatologist David F. Zierden

Florida State Climatologist David F. Zierden opened his talk to the Democratic Club of Amelia Island Tuesday night by denying that he had a political agenda.

“I’m not going to tell you my political affiliation,” he said. “Climate doesn’t follow any political bounds.”

Instead, Mr. Zierden, who grew up on the Panhandle and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in meteorology from Florida State University, took a “just the facts” approach. Here are some of the facts he stated:

  • Since pre-industrial times, average global temperatures have increased steadily about 1 degree Celsius.*
  • The last five years have been the warmest on record, and 2018 was the fourth warmest year on record, and the second wettest.
  • Extreme rainfalls are becoming more frequent.
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have seen a steady exponential rise since 1954. The United States leads the world in per capita CO2 emissions.
  • Sea levels are rising at a rate of 2 millimeters per year, but that rate may be accelerating to 3 millimeters per year by 2100—amounting to 1 to 4 feet by the end of the century.

Here in Florida:

  • 46 of the last 49 months have been warmer than average, with night time temperatures most affected.
  • In North Florida, summer temperatures have risen 2 degrees Fahrenheit in the last twenty years. Winter temperatures were less affected.
  • A tide gauge on Amelia Island shows a steady rise in sea levels of 2 millimeters per year.

“Climate change is broader than global warming,” said Mr. Zierden. It can also bring about drought and severe freezes. And the practical effects of climate change are many. On agriculture, for example.

Citrus growing used to be centered around the St. John’s River, according to Mr. Zierden. But extreme freezes have pushed it south. On health. An audience member pointed out that warmer, more humid weather brings an increase in mosquito-borne diseases. And, top of everyone’s mind, on hurricanes.

“Warmer sea surfaces and higher humidity won’t necessarily increase the number and severity of hurricanes,” said the climatologist. “But it will change them. Coastal flooding from storm surge will be worse due to sea level rise.”

So, what should we do about climate change?

The Paris Agreement – which the United States pulled back from – set a tangible goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

“There was discussion of setting the goal even lower,” said Mr. Zierden. “But if we set goals unrealistically low, there’s a danger of developing a ‘cliff mentality’.” (i.e., if we don’t meet the ideal, we’re doomed.)

“The US needs to be a leader,” the climatologist said. “China – which leads the world in total CO2 emissions — is doing much more than we are.”

Although the US pulled out of the Paris Agreement, “industry is getting on board” to address climate change, as are several states, “despite the lack on leadership on the national level,” according to Mr. Zierden.

Florida, alas, is not among these states insofar as there is no statewide plan on climate change. But Mr. Zierden pointed to several regional efforts in Florida, including the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact, the Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition, and the Northeast Florida Regional Council.

Another positive development: due to the availability of relatively inexpensive natural gas, converting from coal to natural gas is reducing our CO2 emissions.

Despite his earlier disavowal of politics, Mr. Zierden said that “there needs to be a change in our political thinking…. Science is not a belief system. In the upcoming 2020 presidential debates, don’t ask candidates whether they believe in climate change – ask ‘what is your plan to address it?’”

What can we laypeople do to address climate change?

“Numbers 1, 2, and 3 are vote, vote, vote,” he answered.

Mr. Zierden, an avid fisherman and surfer, is an Associate in Research at Florida State University’s Center for Ocean Atmospheric Prediction Studies. He was named State Climatologist in 2006, and part of his role is to inform and educate Floridians about climate issues.

Asked by the Fernandina Observer whether the administration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was on board with climate change, Mr. Zierden replied that “he’s certainly on board with the environment.” He added that he was “cautiously optimistic” that the administration would address climate change.

According to, Gov. DeSantis “came out swinging for the environment” creating an Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency and calling for $2.5 billion over the next four years for Everglades restoration and protection of water resources. To date, however, he has declined to discuss climate change and the causes thereof.

*A statement was made in error that “Average global temperatures have been increasing steadily at 1 degrees Celsius each year.”  We have corrected the error to read “Since pre-industrial times, average global temperatures have increased steadily about 1 degree Celsius.”

Editor’s Note: Anne H. Oman relocated to Fernandina Beach from Washington, D.C. Her articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Washington Star, The Washington Times, Family Circle and other publications.

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John Moore
John Moore (@guest_54911)
3 years ago

Either Mr. Zierden has his numbers very very wrong or he has been misquoted on Global Temperature change. Just “Google this subject” and you will see his 1 degree C each year is off by a very large factor. Some people use this type data to make their point but lose my confidence that they are reporting rather than campaigning.

MS ANNE OMAN (@guest_54914)
3 years ago

You are correct. I checked with Mr. Zierden and he said: Since pre-industrial times, average global temperatures have increased about 1 degree Celsius. I regret the error, which was mine, not his.

Rich Long
Rich Long (@guest_54927)
3 years ago
Reply to  MS ANNE OMAN

Similarly, check the wording regarding the Paris Agreement. I believe “per year” is erroneous; the goal is limit the total increase to less than 2 degrees C (~3.6 degrees F).

George Jones
George Jones (@guest_54915)
3 years ago

I agree with Mr Moore. I’ve read many articles on global warming and have
never seen one article state 1 degree C change each year.

Dave Lott
Dave Lott (@guest_54916)
3 years ago

I suspect Mr. Zierden was comfortable “singing with the choir”. While the evidence is clear that global temperatures and sea levels are rising, the political question is what impact does humankind have on that change? The earth has been going through cooling and warming cycles for millions of years, certainly long before the industrial revolution. People and animals are responsible for creating 10 billion tons of CO2 each year and that isn’t going to change.

Bernard Martinage
Bernard Martinage (@guest_54917)
3 years ago

Zierden must be talking about another planet.

Climate change is natural and definitely not man-made. Example . . . up until the middle-age Poland was warm enough to be a wine-producing country. Then global cooling made it impossible for them to produce anything more than grain alcohol, which led Baltic countries to get together to charter boats to sail down to France and Spain to bring wine back.

As the globe warms again (as it has been warming and cooling long before man started to think of himself great enough to impact temperature, and stupid enough to think there is no God) Poland is able to produce wine again.

This can also be seen through the decreasing percentage of vines that has to be replaced yearly in NY and other northern State wineries because they freeze.

The liberals need to let that topic go because it makes them look stupid and that doesn’t foster good ground for debate and growth.


Ps . . . wondering if this will be filtered out.

Richard Kurpiers
Richard Kurpiers (@guest_54920)
3 years ago

The natural global warming and cooling has happened at very predictable 100,000 year intervals. The warmest point of the last cycle occurred about 10,000 years ago. Since then, the earth had been in a steady rate of cooling up until 1750 when CO2 in the atmosphere began rising instead of declining as it always has during the natural cooling cycle. In other words, the earth still has another 87,000 years of cooling before it begins a new cycle of warming. But here we are, in a state of warming when we should be cooling.

Explain that.

Barnes Moore
Barnes Moore (@guest_54937)
3 years ago

There has been no time in geologic history where there has been a straight, linear cooling, or a straight linear warming. The fact is, the earth is still in a cooling cycle with a modest warming blip we can call the modern warm period. In the past 10,000 years, the earth has experienced the Minoan Warm Period, followed by a cooling, the Roman Warm Period, followed by a cooling, the Medieval Warm Period, followed by the Little Ice Age, and we are now in what some call the Modern Warm Period. What’s most interesting about the Minoan and Roman Warm periods is the the cooling periods that followed were actually warmer than the current warm period.

Bernard Martinage
Bernard Martinage (@guest_54922)
3 years ago

And we should take your word for it? Really? You can pinpoint a few degrees variation across 10,000 years but you can tell me which came first, the chicken or the egg?

What I can’t explain is the blind faith people show to a group if studies sourced in data that was documented as being manufactured to start with.

Believe what you will, enjoy the shrimp festival and stay out of the sun.

Richard Kurpiers
Richard Kurpiers (@guest_54923)
3 years ago

Google is my friend, and he is yours as well. You’d have to delve quite deep to find contrarian evidence against unnatural global warming and even then, the source(s) would be highly suspect.

Perhaps you can answer the question as to why there is an enormous coalition of scientists from every part of the world who state unequivocally that the current warming trend is the result of man-induced causes? (Hence we circle back to the article posted within.) Based on your first post I suspect you think it’s a liberal conspiracy – never mind that the scientists run the gamut of political affiliations. To what end do these conspirators seek?

And for what it’s worth, the rooster came first.

Barnes Moore
Barnes Moore (@guest_54938)
3 years ago

The coalition you refer to is more manufactured “data” used to bludgeon anyone who challenges the dogma. The first study that came out alleging a 97% consensus was based on a poorly worded survey with over 3000 responses, wittled down to where 97% of 79 scientists agreed that the earth has warmed over the past century and that humans have some impact. The survey did not mention co2, burning of fossil fuels or any other possible reasons – like land use – that may influence climate, yet he media and alarmists latched onto the survey and promoted it as proof that humans are causing global climate warming change – or whatever you want call it now. Other papers have been written to promote the 97% consensus as well, and all have been fully debunked as little more than propaganda.

Lawrence Tipton
Lawrence Tipton(@latipton)
3 years ago

Gore and Google are man made, Don’t trust either!

Gerald Decker
Gerald Decker (@guest_54930)
3 years ago

The climate is changing…a fact….what is causing the change….speculation…..

And if one believes some “action” needs doing, go to India and China and get them acting. We don’t need no Green New Deal, we are not the problem.

The Paris Accord is being routinely ignored by most signees…a piece of “Feel Good” paper.

Bernard Martinage
Bernard Martinage (@guest_54931)
3 years ago

Thank you Gerald, I thought I was alone. This guy thinks the rooster came first anyway! Ha!

Mark Harrison
Mark Harrison (@guest_54936)
3 years ago

I appreciate the views here. I have only spent a few hours on Google to determine the truth of the issue. Average temperatures involve math done on data points. I can always find plenty of averages saying the average temperature of this year is different from the average temperature of another year. I can’t find the specific temperature data. Where the measurements were taken and what day/time were the measurements taken and how many measurements were taken have a big impact on the average. Are the averages based on the temperature of the same 100 places taken at 2PM every Tuesday? Are they the average of the highest one someone saw in a given month at 40 different places? Are the averages calculated in 2018 taken from the same places and at the same time as the average calculated in 1901? I’m certainly in no position to say the numbers being reported aren’t accurate, but I also can’t say the numbers are correct. Pretty much no one can attest to the accuracy of the info. from 1901. I expect that most people holding a strongly held position on either side of global climate change have not seen the data.

As to what do the scientists have to gain by creating a crisis, I would offer the age-old answer – money. If there is a climate crisis, there will be plenty of money to study the issue. If there’s not a crisis, there will be little money to study. If you make your living studying climate, crisis pays better than non-crisis. I’m not saying that scientists aren’t people of integrity, just that they are people. Like it or not, people have been motivated by money for about as long as there’s been money.

Barnes Moore
Barnes Moore (@guest_54939)
3 years ago

So many things wrong with the entire climate change dogma. The speaker is correct that science is not about belief, but is also not about activists with PHDs who use models to manipulate data to achieve a desired outcome. All predictions of doom are based on model output that has failed to predict anything accurately in the last 30 years – virtually all models run hot. When looking at actual data re: extreme storms, droughts, floods, temperature extremes, there is no trend. Yes, the earth has warmed over the last 150 years or so, and sea level in general has been rising – but the temperature increase is well within natural variability, as is sea level rise.

As to the warmest year ever claims, what you will typically find in the actual data is that the estimated warming is on the order of a couple of hundredths of a degree, depending on which data set is used in the claim. For example, the NY Times wrote an article stating that 2016 was the hottest year on record using such scientific terms as “trounced” and “blown past” all previous records, but did not bother to provide any actual numbers. So, when we look at 2016, what do we find? That the estimate for temperature increase according to one data set was .01 degree C with a margin of error of .1 degree C, or 10 times the estimate. Another data set had the estimate a .04 degrees C with a margin of error of .1 degree, or 2.5 times the estimate. So, for you golfers out there, what that means is if Tiger asks his caddie for yardage to the stick, his reply would be 100 yards, give or take 250. In other words, the answer is, we don’t know.

Co2 is plant food – if you want a greener planet, you want more co2, not less. It makes green things grow faster, larger, produce more of what we need and want, while using less water. The current level of atmospheric Co2 is about 400 parts per million, or .04%. Of that .04%, human contribution is between 3-4%, or 12-20 ppm.

Our climate system is extraordinarily complex – made up of 5 separate subsystems – with an unknown number of variables affecting it. To believe that we can control climate by controlling co2 is to believe that climate is essentially a one dimensional system controlled by a single variable.

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