Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Hurricanes and hot air: the sequel.

I suspect we shall hear more about this from the anthropogenic warming alarmists. Colorado State University forecasters are saying that they believe the upcoming hurricane season in the US may be worse than average. Just a couple of weeks ago Al Gore was predicting global catastrophe of apocalyptic proportions including, but not limited to, massive hurricanes. In fact he claimed that hurricanes are already “getting stronger.” Could St. Al be correct?

But we shouldn’t forget that last year was supposed to be a bumper year for hurricanes as well. It wasn’t. As CNN reported: “Defying prediction the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season ended with a whimper rather than a bang on Thursday, without a single hurricane hitting U.S. shores.”

Not a one. In spite of predictions to the contrary by Rev. Pat Robertson and the warming alarmists things turned out very differently than was anticipated. Now the reasons for the missed forecast is understandable. The el Nino current was stronger than anticipated and that limited hurricanes. And when they got it wrong, due to that change in the current, they noted that “hurricane activity moves in cycles and the Atlantic basin remains in a very active area that could last another years.” Hmm, no talk about warming increasing hurricanes ala Al Gore. Just natural cycles.

Gore did more than predict a problem, he was saying that global warming had already increased hurricane intensity. And hurricane experts say that isn’t true.

The people who make these hurricane predictions say quite clearly that there is no significant evidence that warming is increasing either the frequency, or the intensity, of hurricanes. The Hurricane Research Division of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, at the University of Colorado is one of the most prominent centers for hurricane research in the world. So it is useful to see what they say about the link between hurricanes and warming.

They note that while some scientists have proposed that there “could be” a link between warming and greenhouse gases “the current state of climate science does not support so close a linkage.”

The 1990s were the second lowest period of hurricane activity next to the 1970s so it is no surprise that activity has increased since then. But, “the changes of the past decade in these metrics are not so large as to clearly indicate that anything is going on other than the multidecadal variability that has been well documented since at least 1900.”

Because of the “absence of large or unprecedented trends, any effect of greenhouse gases on the frequency of storms or major hurricanes is necessarily very difficult to detect in the context of this documented variability.” There were “relatively few major hurricanes observed in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, compared with considerable activity during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.”

That is interesting in itself because CO2 levels were higher in the 70s, 80s and 90s than they were in the 40s, 50s and 60s. So hurricanes were more plentiful when C02 levels were lower and less plentiful when CO2 levels increased.

But what about globally as opposed to just the US? The center reports: “Globally there has been no increase in tropical cyclone frequency over at least the past several decades.” And they say the much vaunted climate “modeling results are contradictory.” They write that “storm frequency has not tracked recent tropical climate trends” and that projections for the future show “a lack of consistency in projecting an increase or decrease in the total global number of storms.” What we should expect is for “hurricane frequencies in the future to have a great deal of year-to-year and decade-to-decade variation, as has been observed over the past decades and longer.”

So they are saying they don’t expect any real changes in the future over the past. Some decades will have higher storm frequencies and others lower frequencies. From that I would like to make a prediction. When storms are more frequent we will hear a lot about how the increase is the result of human activity. In years where they are less frequent you won’t hear this claim. It takes no prophetic ability to say this. Increased hot air may not cause hurricanes but there is plenty of evidence that hurricanes cause a lot of hot air especially from the alarmists.

Remember Katrina in 2005? The media was filled with reports how Katrina was the result of global warming. Der Spiegel shouted in a headline: “Katrina Should Be a Lesson to the US on Global Warming.” Time magazine: “Is Global Warming Fuelling Katrina?” Ross Belbspan, in the Boston Globe got particularly absurd: “The hurricane that struck Louisiana yesterday was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service. Its real name is global warming.” The UK’s scientific adviser, David King, has always been one of the most arm-waving alarmists and, according to the Independent, he “warned that global warming may be responsible for the devastation reaped by Hurricane Katrina.” Just one year later not a single hurricane hit the US and the anthropogenic alarmists were unusually quiet about hurricanes and warming. To predict their future actions based on their past actions doesn’t take a genius.

During the Katrina disaster alarmist Kevin Trenberth told Science magazine that trends in hurricanes were already apparent. But already apparent didn’t mean apparent in real life but apparent in the climate models he used. “Computer models also suggest a shift in hurricane intensities toward extreme hurricanes.” Still sounds bad. But he further clarified by saying that the “intensity of, and rainfalls from hurricanes, are probably increasing, even if this increase cannot yet be proven with a formal statistical test.” A formal statistical test would be something like actual storms as opposed to models. So the real world didn’t verify the theory but Trenberth prefers the theory to actual storm levels. It is no surprise then that Trenberth is sufficiently fanatical and alarmists about hurricanes that the IPCC puts him in charge of writing their section on hurricanes and warming.

When that happened numerous scientists protested, some resigned, saying that Trenberth’s appointment was the result of a preconceived agenda. Dr. Christopher Landsea said: “Given Dr. Trenberth’s role as the IPCC’s Lead Author responsible for preparing the text on hurricanes, his public statements so far outside of current scientific understanding led me to concern that it would be difficult for the IPCC process to proceed objectively with regards to the assessment of hurricane activity.” Trenberth is a true believer. When Prof. Roger Pielke, Jr, from the University of Colorado wrote a paper for The American Meteorological Society Bulletin, which argued that there is no evidence that warming is creating any apparent trend in hurricanes, Trenberth responded just like a cultist demanding that the article be withdrawn.

Hurricane expert Dr. William Gray, also from the University of Colorado said there is “absolutely no empirical evidence” that warming is causing increased hurricanes: “the people who have a bias in favor of the argument that humans are making the globe warmer will push any data that suggests that humans are making hurricanes worse, but it just isn’t so.”

One thing we do know is that hurricane damage is increasing but not because the storms are more frequent or more intense. The report from the Hurricane Research Division noted:

There is overwhelming evidence that the most significant factor underlying trends and projections associated with hurricane impacts on society is societal vulnerability to those impacts, and not the trends or variation in the storms themselves. Growing population and wealth in exposed coastal locations guarantee increased economic damage in coming years, regardless of the details of future patterns of intensity or frequency.

It’s quite easy to see the reason this is true. Total destruction of property worth $2 million is obviously going to do $2 million in damage. A less severe storm that does 10% of the damage, but in community where property value totals $50 million with do $5 million in damage even though significantly less severe. This is the reason the report argues that the “primary factors that govern the magnitude and patterns of future damages and casualties are how society develops and prepares for storms rather than any presently conceivable future changes in the frequency and intensity of the storms. In the end they conclude that “the significance of any connection of human-caused climate change to hurricane impacts necessarily has been and will continue to be exceedingly small.”

That sort of news is bad news to the alarmists.

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