Print 69 comment(s) - last by vortmax.. on Aug 3 at 11:08 AM

Another milder-than-normal season takes shape

During the active 2005 hurricane season, the usual doom-and-gloom prophets blamed the storms on global warming. "Nature's wrath," we were told, "hath been unleashed". Aided by a complaisant media, we were told this was our wakeup call, come to punish us for our SUV-driving ways.

Then disaster struck.  The 2006 season not only didn't live up to predictions, it wound up being one of the quietest seasons of the past century. No matter. We were told to ignore this year-long blip, told that 2007 would come roaring back with a vengeance.

And yet, here we are, two full months into the season, and not a single hurricane has formed. Not one. Just two mild tropical storms, one of which didn't even strike land, and a third storm which never went above subtropical status. Hurricane forecasters are busily downgrading their predictions for the rest of the season.

And so it goes. The sky isn't falling yet. But what about the future? Will global warming wreck all our beach-going vacations?

There are two schools of thought regarding the effects of climate change on hurricane science. The first begins with the fact that hurricanes require warm water to form. Global warming means warmer water, leading to the naive conclusion is that more hurricanes will form. The second school realizes that hurricanes are heat engines -- driven not by raw temperature, but by temperature differentials between regions. Global warming warms the arctic and temperate belts, but not the tropics. This reduces the total energy available for major storm formation. It also increases upper-level wind shear, which tends to tear apart storms before they grow too strong. This school believes the long term effects of global warming will be fewer, milder storms.

Climate change aside, hurricanes come and go in cycles. Professor William Gray, one of the nation's most respected hurricane forecasters, believes storm activity will remain high for the next several years, due simply to a long-term cycle of changing Atlantic currents. A team of researchers led by Dr. Chris Landsea of the National Hurricane Center goes further. In a paper published last year, they claim storm rates have not risen over the past 100 years, but only that improved monitoring technology results in registering storms which would have previously been missed. And professors Vecchi and Soden's research on wind shear suggests no long-term storm activity increase should be expected.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm not selling my ocean-front condo just yet.

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RE: Here's the reference...
By Rovemelt on 7/31/2007 10:17:47 PM , Rating: 2
I presented the research I linked simply to show that there is data that supports the link between hurricanes and rising global temperatures, which is what the blog author should have added to the article for completeness. However, my personal bias aside, this link between global temperature rise and hurricanes is not yet scientifically settled and will require more data collection and analysis. We don't have a good understanding of ancient hurricanes/storms and there is the issue of incomplete historical data, so it's going to be difficult to come to a true consensus.

I actually agree with Masher that there is uncertainty in the link between hurricanes and global temperature rise. I probably differ in that I believe the study I offered presents a reasonable hypothesis and shouldn't be dismissed.

RE: Here's the reference...
By Yossarian22 on 7/31/2007 10:41:07 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. We are still collecting data, and people have to stop acting as if we know everything. We can't determine if global warming causes storms. Hell we can't even predict if global warming will cause more clouds.

This also does assume global warming is even occuring, and there is PLENTY of evidence to suggest that its not. (Glaciers growing in Iceland just to cite one example)

RE: Here's the reference...
By roryleds on 8/1/2007 2:36:33 PM , Rating: 2
which is what the blog author should have added to the article for completeness
I've read about the supposed global warming - hurricane link in a dozen different mainstream news sources, including the New York Times. None ever included any of the research which disputed the link, or interviewed any of the scientists which believed it was all bogus.

So why are you trying to hold a blog author to a standard higher than the NYT?

RE: Here's the reference...
By Keeir on 8/1/2007 6:56:23 PM , Rating: 2
A few reasons

#1. The research at the start of this article was published July 29th, 2007. The blog publish date is July 31st, 2007. Given the coverage of the research by most major news organizations, the blog appears to be a reaction to the publishment of the research... (Whereas the NYT articles are not based on a reaction to research disproving global warming)

#2. If all your friends jump off a bridge, should you too? Sloppy journalism is sloppy journalism regardless of the source and shouldn't be passed because "the other guys do it too"

I, however, am willing to extend M. Asher some doubt here... a quality blog post with numerous sources can take a while to compose and it maybe entirely possible he was unaware of the research at the time of writing the blog. I do agree that a blog should not be held in the same criteria as the NYT on the surface, but M. Asher is clearly attempting to write a through fact based

RE: Here's the reference...
By masher2 on 8/1/2007 8:29:35 PM , Rating: 2
So your argument is I had an obligation to reference a paper that appeared only two days earlier...but that a mainstream reporter is under no obligation to report dissenting views that appear weeks, months or even years before their stories?

I believe this blog displays less bias than those reporters ever do -- I clearly represented there are two schools of thought in hurricane science. That's more objectivity than you'll ever get from CNN or the NYT, which persistently pretends there is a "consensus" as to the effects of climate change on tropical storms.

As for the Holland paper, it's junk science, plain and simple. It fails utterly to explain observed facts such as the decrease in hurricanes making landfall, and major cyclic variations, and it ignores the tremendous difference in storm observation rates over the past 100 years.

RE: Here's the reference...
By Keeir on 8/1/2007 9:52:22 PM , Rating: 2
I think you protest too much.

I posted that comment by mistake. I had originally intended to edit it for clarity and ran out of time... hitting the "post comment" button rather than cancel.

The expectation, not obligation, you would include a reference to the Holland study indicates that I have a higher standard for you that that of mainstream reporter. My personal expectations for mainstream reporters is about a 7th grade level ability at math and writing, due to the large number of idiotic stories that routinely get significant press butchering at even the pinnacles of the press (BBC, CNN, NYT, WSJ). Although I do admit this is slightly unfair.

Again, my expectation was formed on;
1. Pretty much every news outlet has carried the story about the Holland Study (although the Study is from a quick reading deeply flawed) starting with CNN International (the first one I read anyway) on 7/29. It does seem slightly disingenuous that you were totally unaware of the study.

2. Again, calling the other people more biased is not really a great reason to be biased

RE: Here's the reference...
By masher2 on 8/2/2007 10:29:20 AM , Rating: 2
> "The expectation...indicates that I have a higher standard for you that that of mainstream reporter"

While I appreciate the kind words, I have to point out standard journalistic ethics, which requires news reports to be unbiased and objective, but op-ed commentary (a category to which blogs belong) is not. Commentary is intended to display a biased opinion. The only journalistic standard is that op-ed pieces be clearly labelled as such, rather than straight news reporting.

Anyone reading the above blog clearly knows my position on the debate. That makes it biased. I proudly stand behind that. However-- in sharp contrast to supposedly "unbiased" mainstream news -- that opinion is not only backed up by scientific fact and hard reasoning, but the dissenting opinion is also reported. I have enough faith in my readers intellects to allow them to choose which side they believe in; I don't need to force them down a path by offering them only a single option.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)

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