Monday, November 30, 2009

Hurricanes Sure Are Unpredictable

I got interested in the predictability of hurricanes after the 2005 season. Remember 2005 - 28 named storms and 15 hurricanes including Katrina? The forecast was for 12 - 15 named storms and 7 - 9 hurricanes.

I've followed the predictions and the results every year since and the predictions seem invariably wrong. In 2009 the forecasters took the safe road. They said that there was a 50 percent chance of a normal season, a 25 percent chance of a below normal season and a 25 percent chance of an above normal season.

The hurricane season begins on June 1 and runs through November 30. Normal is 11 named storms including 6 hurricanes.

On August 10, 2009, Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow told the Detroit News "Climate change is very real. Global warming creates volatility. I feel it when I’m flying. The storms are more volatile. We are paying the price in more hurricanes and tornadoes."

This was really a remarkable statement, particularly considering its timing. As mentioned above, the hurricane season begins on June 1 and ends on November 30. In the 11 years for which season advisory archives are available online from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) the latest date for the first named storm, Hurricane Alberto, was August 4, 2000, but in 2009 the first named storm, Tropical Storm Ana, didn't happen until August 15.

The 2009 Atlantic Hurricane season was, (how can I put it gently?) a wimp. There were only 9 named storms and 3 hurricanes. You almost get the impression that the folks at the NHC went out of their way, dare I say "fudged a bit," to get any kind of respectable numbers at all. Hurricane Fred was extremely short lived and then Tropical Storm Grace appeared almost out of nowhere in the "far northeast Atlantic." Excuse me! Isn't there a better name for a storm in the far northeast Atlantic than a "tropical storm?"

The folks at the NHC say that with all the new technology their ability to detect storms has improved. It's not so much the size of the storm but the length. They are getting better at spotting the tropical storms that don't last long. That may go a long way toward accounting for why some of the global warming enthusiasts are telling us that the number of storms has increased.

It probably won't surprise you that I'm a global warming skeptic. In fact, it was the 2005 hurricane season that got me interested in this. If I recall correctly several prominent spokespersons for global warming said that the increased number of hurricanes was attributable to global warming. It's not that I don't believe that average global temperatures increased between about 1979 to 1998. I'm just not convinced that CO2 emissions are such a big part of the cause of the increase and that if they are that it is a bad thing.

I also like to think of myself as an environmentalist, but I read a book called "Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Years" by S. Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery. Their idea is that earth has been going through warming and cooling cycles for millions of years. They back it up with quite a few references to scientific studies. It made a lot of sense.

The idea that earth goes through periodic cycles of warming and cooling is a great deal like what Rachel Carson discussed in "The Sea Around Us."

At around the same time a friend gave me a copy of Michael Crichton's "State of Fear." That's when I caught on to the shift from "global warming" to "climate change."

Back to the hurricanes, during the 2005 season many of the global warming/climate change enthusiasts said that it was evidence of the destructive nature of GW/CC and proof that something must be done immediately to reduce greenhouse gases, particularly CO2.

Well, I haven't heard from them about the 2009 season. Let's see if they can figure out some way that it is just another reason to cap and trade.

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