Friday, September 14, 2018

A Little Hurricane Talk for my Carolina Bros

Before I start, just a note to my readers in North or South Carolina bearing the brunt of this storm.  I hope you're doing OK - if you've got the power on to read this, you are.  Glad it didn't turn out to be as big a problem as was forecast in terms of wind and storm surge, but the biggest problem may well be yet to come in the form of the massive predicted rainfall.  Aside from the winds of a strong Cat 4 or stonger storm, moving water is the main killer in these storms.  Whether storm surge or floods coming down mountain slopes, moving water is the most dangerous problem.

Here's a little pop quiz.  This is the National Hurricane Center overall situation map from yesterday morning.  

There are two hurricanes (solid red), two tropical storms (red with open center), a large area with low chance of development (yellow) and one with a higher chance of development (orange), but less time to develop before going ashore.

Now the quiz: does this tell you:  (A) - Al gore was right, hurricanes are getting more numerous and mankind has to do something to fix the climate? Or (B) - September 13th is virtually the peak of the season, looks pretty normal to me?

If you said (B), you and I are in agreement.  I long for the days when weather was just weather and not a political cause.  On 9/11, the Washington Post said, "another hurricane is going to batter our shores and Trump is complicit" (paywall or nagware wall - I couldn't read it).  Using the quote that Watts Up With That used:
President Trump issued several warnings on his Twitter feed Monday, counseling those in Florence’s projected path to prepare and listen to local officials. That was good advice.

Yet when it comes to extreme weather, Mr. Trump is complicit. He plays down humans’ role in increasing the risks, and he continues to dismantle efforts to address those risks. It is hard to attribute any single weather event to climate change. But there is no reasonable doubt that humans are priming the Earth’s systems to produce disasters.
There's two main things wrong in that paragraph.  First, they did what they themselves said not to do: they blamed "any single weather event on climate change".  They're mixing climate with weather.  Any given day of any given year could produce just about any kind of weather and it wouldn't reflect climate.  It could snow here tomorrow, and if I didn't die from the novelty of it, I sure wouldn't expect it every year.  Second, the statement "there is no reasonable doubt that humans are priming the Earth’s systems to produce disasters" is just plain wrong.  There's far more dispute about what's going on than this 'droid seems to think.

In the '90s and early 2000s, I read some papers by scientists at the National Hurricane Center.  I could find no support for the Al Gore version of hurricane predictions.  It was far from the unanimous opinion among scientists that study hurricanes to think that they're getting worse.  WeatherBELL's Joe Bastardi says that hurricanes in the last 50 years hitting the US are down by a third from the 50 years before that.   This source is a bit dated (published 2012) but brings some numbers based on NOAA's archives:
During the past 5 decades [1960-2010], an average of 5.6 major hurricanes struck the United States. During the preceding 5 decades[1910-1960], an average of 8.4 major hurricanes struck the United States.  [Note - dates in brackets by me, SiG]
The century long average was 7 major hurricanes per year.  We all recall that last year broke an almost-12 year interval in which not one major hurricane hit the mainland US, right?  That's well below the average. 

If global CO2 has been growing steadily all during the 20th century, why would the number and intensity of storms go down and not up?  If there is warming, it appears to be acting backwards from their predictions.

In our hyper-politicized, outrage-driven society, it seems everything has to be politically contentious.  Because only about a third of Americans can name the three branches of government and another third can't name even one of them, it puts an aura on the president as being "in charge of everything", instead of being the leader of one branch of the three.  The nation polarizes into two camps that blame the weather on the president or not.  So we get news reporters or editorial writers who probably never took an actual science class in college disparaging scientists and engineers who took far more and far more relevant classes as being stupid deplorables. 

It's dysfunctional and there's no difference between blaming the weather on the president and blaming it on the witches, like in Salem.  The Salem witch trials were probably a result of conditions from the Little Ice Age, which was an actual global cooling.  Caused by the Sun and not CO2. 

(Found this on some web-wander this week.  Don't recall where, or who did it.  I'll gladly credit you if it's yours.)

Look; it's summer in the northern hemisphere.  Hurricanes happen.  As far back as records go, hurricanes happen.  It isn't a particularly active season, but even if it was, long term trends are never defined by one year or one storm.  The area is known for strong storms.  The Outer Banks of North Carolina are known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic.  There's a type of rapidly strengthening low pressure storm system named after this area (a Hatteras Low).  Storms aren't unusual here. 

It's just freakin' weather.  With no intent to diminish the real suffering going on there, it's just weather.  It's not a political headline.


  1. They want you to pay a weather tax to avoid hurricanes in the future. If there are hurricanes, it is because the tax is too low. Once you're paying enough, I'm sure that all storms will be gentle rain and heavy dew.

    I also have a bridge

  2. We don't even get hurricanes but stupidity abounds in the local building trade. One is 17 units (all built with cheap materials), half on fill put in shortly before. Settling foundation surprise, Anyone? Anyone?
    The other two are being built in a historical floodway. One up on fill with a moat that should be sized for the displacement (which it isn't). If they don't fence the moat, they're going to have a drowning.
    The other is 8 units on an acre, with garage as the ground floor. High enough flood, any vehicle therein will be inundated. And as the previous build is upstream, it will force even more water onto this property.
    Our floods normally come in November, should be a show to watch....

    1. That's kind of amazing. I'd think that any professional builder would understand the conditions where they live and how to build properly for them.

      So much for my naive idealism.

    2. BUILDERS do know about runoff and floods, but they are hired and paid by *Developers,* whose primary concern is selling houses, and whose primary defence against accusations of malfeasance and stupidity is "It's done per code!" More scrupulous contractors won't build in such locations, recognizing the damage they'll do to their reputations, but those are becoming rare.

  3. Here they built an old folks home, assisted living, on a floodplain clearly in sight of a creek that often fills to overflowing during heavy rain. The creek is less than 100 meters from the home. They built up the area they built the home on by about five feet. So, it's about five feet above and less than 300ft from the creek. The local fire dept. practically lives at the home, being called to restart some ones heart at least once a day. Accident waiting to happen.