August 30, 2005


Storms Vary With Cycles, Experts Say (Kenneth Chang, NY Times, 8/30/05)

Because hurricanes form over warm ocean water, it is easy to assume that the recent rise in their number and ferocity is because of global warming.

But that is not the case, scientists say. Instead, the severity of hurricane seasons changes with cycles of temperatures of several decades in the Atlantic Ocean. The recent onslaught "is very much natural," said William M. Gray, a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University who issues forecasts for the hurricane season.

From 1970 to 1994, the Atlantic was relatively quiet, with no more than three major hurricanes in any year and none at all in three of those years. Cooler water in the North Atlantic strengthened wind shear, which tends to tear storms apart before they turn into hurricanes.

In 1995, hurricane patterns reverted to the active mode of the 1950's and 60's. From 1995 to 2003, 32 major hurricanes, with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater, stormed across the Atlantic. It was chance, Dr. Gray said, that only three of them struck the United States at full strength.

The cold winter and spring of 2005-2005 was obviously problematic for global warming enthusiasts. The answer the crafted was that global warming causes cooling, too. So, if it's hot: global warming. If it's cold: global warming. The left has truly become the reactionary party: any change is bad. Of course, static weather over the long-term could only result from human interference in the environment, but that would be good interference.

I have to admit, though, that my weather-cynicism, finely honed by years of the local news spending days covering blizzards that never happen, let me down this time. New Orleans and Mississippi seem to have suffered a tragedy as bad as the worst projections of the tv weather ghouls. This Wiki page, found via Michelle Malkin, offers links to aid agencies and fundraising events.

Posted by David Cohen at August 30, 2005 5:01 PM

As Iowahawk wrote late last December, when the tsunami was Monday morning quarterbacked by the global warm ghouls, "Top Scientists Warn: Fire Make Sea Gods Angry!"

Posted by: Ed Driscoll at August 30, 2005 5:17 PM

warm=warming. Fire make typing gods angry, too!

Posted by: Ed Driscoll at August 30, 2005 5:18 PM

David: The global warming aficianado answer to your complaint is that we have perturbed the natural systems enough so that the atmosphere is out of balance and therefore extreme climate and weather phenomena of all sorts are to be expected. To be sensible (and scientifically reasonable) their tactic always should have been to argue that we don't know what might result from human activity, therefore we should be prudent and minimize our disruption. Instead they have argued that we KNOW what will happen, which is nonsense and trivially disproved through observation.

The sobering thought to my mind is that the "down period" for hurricanes started in 1970, the year after Camille. Camille makes Katrina and every other recorded hurricane look like a summer what super-hurricanes can we expect in the coming decades?

Posted by: b at August 30, 2005 5:42 PM

Katrina also seems to have faded quickly, not to mention that a lot of the damage, particularly to New Orleans, could have been prevented. I've seen numerous articles over the last few years outlining a scenario quite close to how this played out. While still a tragedy, the fact that we knew what could happen and how to prevent it makes the long term outlook somewhat less than gloomy.

I'm also in favor of weather cynicism. I've been reading articles about how the 60s-70s were somewhat of a global optimum in terms of stable, benign weather and that future decades would see a return to a much more variable weather pattern. I think I saw the first of those back in the 80s. The argument wasn't about global warming but just observation of the normal cycles of weather (pretty much as the cited articles lays out).

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at August 30, 2005 6:14 PM

Then they shouldn't have named it "global warming." Wouldn't it be funny if the world was destroyed because the left is bad at framing the issues?

Posted by: David Cohen at August 30, 2005 6:14 PM

This should not be news to anybody. The WSJ ran an article about 5 years ago about a climate expert who had tracked incidence of hurricanes back to the 1500's. He found that hurricane frequency cycled every 140 years with a 7 decade uptick where hurricanes increased each decade and a 7 decade downtick where hurricanes hit sucessively less often. His concern was that the 1990's were the bottom of one of his historical cycles and that the amount of building that had been done on the coastlines was at risk when the cycle began to turn up again, as it has in the 2000's. Hard to make a global warming explanation stick when someone can predict the increased frequency of storms based on 500 years of data.

Posted by: Jeff at August 30, 2005 6:24 PM

David for years I've been saying the left are past masters of semantics and its ugly stepsister propaganda.

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 30, 2005 8:05 PM

The late 1920s and 1930s were also a bad time for severe hurricanes hitting the U.S., but since there are very few images of those disasters, and those that are usually are in grainy black and white, that period of increased activity (part of which coincided with the great Plains drought and dust bowl) is just flushed down the memory loo by people who want to believe we're living on the cusp of a new era of disaster, and only if we listen to them about global warming can we find salvation.

Posted by: John at August 30, 2005 9:25 PM

"Camille makes Katrina and every other recorded hurricane look like a summer breeze"

I think we should wait until the flood waters receed and the dead are buried before we say that. The pictures on the evening news were truly frightening.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 30, 2005 9:43 PM

Robert: I mean in terms of the strength of the storm, which isn't the same thing as the total amount of damage done. Camille had winds of 190 miles per hour! On the scale of 1-5, she was about a 7...

Posted by: b at August 30, 2005 9:53 PM

To both John's and Robert's points. In the 20's and 30's the storms were not as damaging because the population levels on the shoreline, especially in the south, was so much less than now. Even since Camille there has been a huge increase in construction along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. So while Camille was a stronger storm, Katrina will be much more devastating.

Posted by: Jeff at August 30, 2005 10:21 PM

Re: Katrina vs Camille

Camille was clearly a stronger storm. It caused extensive damage several hundreds of miles inland from where it hit. (For example, storm damage from Camille caused the Erie Lackawanna railroad to go bankrupt, and exacerbated the parallel Penn Central's financial woes.) All Katrina's doing to Ohio is a few days of rain and some minor local flooding.

That said, it's quite possible that Katrina will end up causing more damage because of where it hit.

Posted by: Mike Morley at August 31, 2005 10:13 AM

There are so many open questions about the extent and effect of man-made global climate change, it's impossible to blame any one specific event on it. What's needed is a lot more study, and in the meantime to take prudent -small cost - measures just in case.

There are plenty of serious skeptics; people who would accept that's it happening provided they see more data that answers their doubts. Unfortunately, I think the politicos opposed are opposed to accepting it regardless of any data compiled. They oppose it not because it couldn't be happening, but because their vested interests oppose the consequences of any such change. The extreme environmentalists are also to blame because too often they refuse to support small, prudent measures because they think it's a sell-out if they don't get all their demands.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at August 31, 2005 12:06 PM

Chris: I'm not aware of any politician, from the president on down, who denies anthropomorphic global warming. I mean, questioning Darwinism is easy but questioning global warming is politically impossible. There are political questions about what should be done, what can be done and whether the cure is worse than the illness.

Posted by: David Cohen at August 31, 2005 1:32 PM

Re Katrina vs. Camille:

Camille was a stronger hurricane in terms of winds, but Katrina's storm surge was signficantly higher, and it demolished many buildings and roads that had survived Camille. Additionally, Katrina was a hurricane much farther inland than Camille. I'm in Jackson, 150 miles north of the Coast, and we got hurricane-force winds here, and local property damage seems anecdotally more severe in terms of # of trees downed, power outages, and so forth than people say it was with Camille. The death toll on the Coast looks to be higher as well; Camille killed 143 here in Mississippi, and as of right now, more than 100 people are dead in Harrison County alone, and that number is expected to rise higher. Maybe it looks a little different in Ohio, but from the Mississippi perspective, Katrina seems to be worse.

Posted by: Atlee Breland at August 31, 2005 2:30 PM

Atlee: You know more than I do, so I defer to your reporting.

Posted by: Mike Morley at August 31, 2005 4:02 PM

Davide -

Davide Cohen of New Trier? WNTH 88.1? Now the news mogul of New Orleans.

Hello from Japan.

We get a lot of natural disasters here. Sounds like you guys are finally getting some of your own.

Send me a line.


Posted by: Gabriel Lee at August 31, 2005 11:12 PM


Posted by: Gabriel Lee at August 31, 2005 11:13 PM

Sorry, different David Cohen. There are a lot of us.

Posted by: David Cohen at August 31, 2005 11:31 PM