Saturday, February 04, 2006

Environmental Hysteria: When Scientists Attack

I don't think there's anything quite as exciting as when weather geeks start slap-fighting each other. OK, I exaggerate the situation a bit here.

It turns out that the American Meterological Society had its annual meeting last weekend and had a panel discussion about global warming's effect on hurricanes. Two hurricane scientists, Colorado State University professor Dr. William Gray of the Tropical Meteorology Project and Dr. Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research were disinvited to the panel after the organizers determined that the discussion would be too hot for the civilized weather scientists in attendance. Gray, who disputes that global warming has any effect on hurricanes said, "To hell with it, I'm not going." This is one way the scientific community stifles debate, apparently.

As with just about anything you read in the newspaper these days, the headline, "Hurricane debate shatters civility of weather science," is misleading. The debate is not about hurricanes, but about whether global warming affects them or not. Heck, in order to even start that discussion you have to accept as a given that global warming exists and is probably caused by humans - postulations that have not been proven. Not that they might not be, but no one's bothered due to the politicization of science. You either believe or you don't. Sounds like religion to me.

Nonetheless, experts say global warming is causing stronger hurricanes
Peter J. Webster of the Georgia Institute of Technology said it's the warm water vapor from the oceans that drives tropical storms, and as the water gets warmer the amount of evaporation increases, providing more fuel for the tempests. Between 1970 and 2004 the average sea surface temperature in the tropics rose nearly 1°F.
So let me do the math, here... that's one (1) degree Fahrenheit in 34 years. Is that statisically significant? Hard to tell by the information provided. I'd love to do like Michael Crichton did and spend three years researching this stuff, but I'll have to settle for what's immediately available for the time being. There's no reference provided, so you can't check, but we know all the really good scientists use Celcius. In Celcius, were talking about an increase of 0.471 degrees. I wonder what the margin of error was? Note the use of Fahrenheit to inflate the data?
Co-author Judith Curry of Georgia Tech said the team is confident that the measured increase in sea surface temperatures is associated with global warming, adding that the increase in category 4 and 5 storms "certainly has an element that global warming is contributing to."
Of course! Global warming is self-fulfilling. Global warming is causing the sea surface temperatures to rise, thereby proving that global warming exists. By the end of the article, all these scientists are agreeing with the one scientist buried at the end of the article who thinks they don't really know what they say they know.

Climate change studies are almost entirely dependent upon computer modelling, which produces variations in predictions of 400%, according to Michael Crichton in "State of Fear." I just finished it, by the way, the references are all provided in the biblography at the end and they are just as interesting as the rest of the book.

But I digress. All these folks end up coming back to one study released last year right at the peak of hurricane season (surprise!) by Kerry Emanuel of MIT who says
If the average wind speed near the surface of the tropical oceans does not change [but it DOES - Robo], theory predicts that the wind speeds in hurricane should increase about 5% for every 1oC increase in tropical ocean temperature (Emanuel, 1987). Computer models confirm this tendency, but assign a slightly smaller magnitude of the increase (Knutson and Tuleya, 2004).
Again, just theorizing here, can't really prove it, but we've got some nice computer models that interpret the information we extrapolate from what has happened over a short period of time.

He's guessing.

But let's just say he's correct for a minute. Let's do the math again: surface temp increase of 0.471 dgrees Celcius in 34 years.... equals a .2355% increase in hurricane wind speeds, based on his
"5% for every 1oC" claim. In 34 years. To put it another way, the highest sustained windspeed record I can find for Hurricane Katrina is 120 MPH. So, if she was .2355% stronger due to global warming, then without the effect of global warming, sustained wind speends would have been 119.72 MPH. You know, if the wind speed near the surface of the tropical oceans doesn't change, or any of a number of other unpredictable factors that could contribute to the overall effect of a hurricane.

This is why your kids need to learn math, folks. To make lies transparent.

More from Emanuel: Global warming may pump up hurricane power
Feeding peak sustained-wind data into his model, he calculated the total potential destructive power over the life of all storms each year since about 1950 in the world’s two best-monitored areas – the North Atlantic and the north-west Pacific. He found a striking correlation between their destructive potential and sea-surface temperatures.
Translated: He picked and chose local data in areas not frequently affected by hurricanes because the data was good, crunched the data into a computer, and extrapolated it into impending doom, an increase in wind speeds of just over a quarter of a mile an hour in 34 years, lest we forget. I wonder if it's a linear increase, or an exponential increase? Who funds Emanuel's research? He does some work for NOAA, at least, all the best sky-is-falling environmental scientist have at least partial government funding. Why doesn't anybody ask these hacks any good questions?

I think it's also interesting that my favorite liberal think tank stalkers, Pew Charitible Trusts (I have a hit counter, guys, welcome to the blog!), have a climate change arm. They've got a great litte FAQ on hurricanes and global warming
(emphasis, as always, mine):
Will global warming increase the frequency or intensity of hurricanes in the future?

Just about everyone is now aware of climate change
[It's hard not to be, what with your willing accomplices in the press shoving it down our throats - Robo], so when an extreme weather event occurs, it is not unusual for people to ask if it is the result of global warming. Because of the link between higher ocean temperatures and hurricanes, there is speculation that hurricanes will increase in frequency or intensity in a warmer world, with higher wind speeds and greater precipitation. As stated above, the frequency of hurricanes has not increased on average over the long term. However, scientists believe that global warming will result in more intense hurricanes, as increasing sea surface temperatures provide energy for storm intensification. An MIT study published recently in Nature provides the first data analysis indicating that tropical storms are indeed becoming more powerful over time.
Which MIT study would that be, I wonder?

And of course, there's always the sound, but less well-publicized counter argument, Scientists Debunk 'Global Warming' Effect on Hurricanes; well, actually, they wrote a letter to the Honorable Senator John S. McCain:
According to the United Nations Environment Programme of the World Meteorological Organization, "Reliable data ... since the 1940s indicate that the peak strength of the strongest hurricanes has not changed, and the mean maximum intensity of all hurricanes has decreased."
"Computer simulations suggest that in a warmer world most of the warming would occur in the Polar Regions. Atmospheric circulation, which crucially affects storms, is driven primarily by the temperature difference, or gradient, between the tropics and the poles," the experts wrote.

"Warmer polar regions would reduce this gradient and thus lessen the overall intensity or frequency or both of storms - not just tropical storms but mid-latitude winter storms as well (such as blizzards and northeasters)," the climatologists added.
Well, there's those pesky computer simulations again. Just goes to show that Crichton is on to something. Complex systems, man.

Patrick J. Michaels is a Cato Institute senior fellow for environmental studies who, among acknowledgement of the rough and tumble world of environmental science, something the WSJ seems to think is new, says of Emanuel's article:
Consider the recent Nature article. If hurricanes had doubled in power in the last few decades as Emanuel claims, the change would be obvious; you wouldn't need a weatherman to know which way this wind was blowing. All of these feuding scientists would have agreed on the facts long ago.

Damages caused by doubling the strength of hurricanes would be massive and increasing dramatically. Figures on this are pretty easy to come by, at least in the United States. The insured value of property from Brownsville, Texas to Eastport, Maine -- our hurricane prone Atlantic Coast -- is greater than a year of our Gross Domestic Product. If hurricanes had actually doubled in power, the losses in the insurance industry would be catastrophic.
I think our memories are short, but I fully accept that the world didn't begin in 1976. If it's hot right now, we think there's something out of the ordinary. If we're caught in the middle of a hurricane, maybe we want someone to blame. Well there's George Bush, Industry, or you could cover all your bases and just blame everybody, since everybody is causing global warming, aren't they? The Pew Center for Global Climate Change's slogan is "Working together because climate change is serious business". I'll say. Michaels writes:
The federal outlay on climate research is now $4.2 billion per year, roughly the same amount given to the National Cancer Institute. The climate research community sees a grave threat when research shows there's no threat from the climate. So papers that hawk climate disaster get superficial reviews and uncritical headlines, while those that argue otherwise are "shameful."
It's Not Easy Being Green
Unnatural Selection
This Is All Your Fault
And I Still Can't Get My Feet Warm
Jumping GOP On A Pogo Stick!!
Unquestioning Belief In Works Of Fiction

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Blogger Little Miss Chatterbox bloody well said...

I always love your titles :-).

Thanks for the info about South Park.

05 February, 2006 00:47  
Blogger Crazy Politico bloody well said...

RoboSquirrel, that was an awesome post. I find it disturbing how often the "scientific" community has been chosing to exclude anyone who isn't lockstep with "the theory of the week"

A few years back a number of scientific journals refused to print an article that shows the "hocky stick theory" of global warming is probably wrong.

Science is supposed to be about honest discussions with sound conclusions, not masking debate for "PC reasons"

05 February, 2006 06:46  
Blogger NEO, SOC bloody well said...

Hello??? Didn't any of you see "The Day After Tomorrow"? It has all the answers to what global warming is doing and predicts what to expect if Bush and his cronies don't fix it. Hello??? McFly! LOL!

I loved that movie, I think I enjoyed seeing California (Hollywood more or less) being torn apart. But, there are so many other questions and answers out there, but because of the politicizing of science; we may be delayed until the children can get along.

05 February, 2006 08:09  
Blogger Robosquirrel bloody well said...

LMC: Thanks, I love thinking them up. Is that weird? I hope so.

After finishing "State of Fear" I realized it was even worse than I knew. I've got "The Skeptical Environmentalist" sitting by the bed, but I think I might give the topic a rest for a bit.

Although I do like to work up a good rant about it from time to time.

05 February, 2006 11:35  
Blogger prying1 bloody well said...

So how long has planet earth been here and how long have they had ACCURATE 'average global temperatures'? Not long enough even if the numbers they feed us is ACCURATE!

So I sez, "Lets empty all our pockets into theirs and let 'em fix what might or might not be a problem and we will go live in caves and not use electricity or propane or natural gas and we'll cook over campfires and walk everywhere cause burning fozzill fules in cars is gonna destroy the wurld.

I got two dollars and eighty seven cents to send to 'em. How much you got?

05 February, 2006 19:31  
Blogger Blenster bloody well said...

I've been irritated about this entire issue ever since my natural skepticism started me asking questions of atmospheric scientists and coming up with questions they could not answer. Basic stuff like "How warm SHOULD the planet be?" The evidence is extremely limited and the arguments for global warming seem neigh religious. When I came out as being against the Kyoto protocol I had liberal aquiantences who would not talk to me anymore, denouncing me as a brainwashed victim of Karl Rove. Others did stop and listen, however, and I reached a couple of them with my arguments and questions.

Chricton is a very intelligent man and his speeches are highly worth reading. I've linked to them in my own ranting about the fallacy of the GW movement.

And lastly, I think you will really like this one:

Especially learning about Julian L. Simon, a man after my own heart and a recent addition to my "personal heroes" list.

09 February, 2006 15:14  

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