Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Global Warming Hurricane Myths

Over the last two days I've been sickened by some I have seen on the cable news outlets attempting to use the tragedy in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama to further this or that environmental cause. Mostly they claim that global warming caused or contributed to this storm. Unfortunately, for them, the facts do not back them up, although you are hardly likely to hear that on CNN these days. Using the latest research from NOAA (which even they admit probably still UNDER-estimates 19th century hurricane frequency and intensity) I will show how the claims that global warming is changing hurricane patterns in the Atlantic basin is simply wrong.

Myth One: "We have more hurricanes today than in years past."

In many ways this is the easiest to demolish. From the 1850's to the 1940's we had four different decades (1880's, 1890's, 1910's & 1940's) when 20 or more hurricanes hit the United States. Since 1950's no more than 18 storms have hit the U.S. coastline in any decade. From 1851 to 1939 an average of 1.87 hurricanes hit the U.S. every year. Since 1940 the average is down to 1.66 per year.

Average of Hurricanes Per Year, Per Decade:

1850's 1.8
1860's 1.5
1870's 1.9
1880's 2.6
1890's 2.0
1900's 1.7
1910's 2.1
1920's 1.5
1930's 1.7
1940's 2.3
1950's 1.8
1960's 1.6
1970's 1.2
1980's 1.6
1990's 1.4
2000's 1.8

Myth Two: "More hurricanes are hitting closer together."

It is true that 2004 was a very active years for hurricanes with 6 hitting the U.S. coast. However it is far from unprecedented. In 1893, 1909 & 1933 five storms hit; in 1916 & 1985 six storms struck; and in 1886 seven hurricanes walloped the United States. It is hard to see that 2004's 6 storms make it anything all that unusual statistically speaking.

Myth Three: "We are getting more early hurricanes because of global warming."

This is also easy to demolish because we are not in fact getting more hurricanes early in the storm season. Since 1851 we average 2.62 storms per decade that strike the U.S. before August. From the 1850's to the 1920's we averaged 3.12 early hurricanes a decade, and from the 1930's to 2000's we averaged 2.30 early hurricanes a decade. So, there are in reality fewer early hurricanes now, although I find it difficult to believe the decrease would be considered statistically significant.

It is interesting to note that if global warming was producing a noticeable effect on hurricane formation we might expect that the hurricane season would extend longer into the calendar year. This has not been the case. From 1851 to 1939 a grand total of four (4) late hurricanes (after Oct. 31st) struck the U.S. shore. Since 1940 only one (1) has ("Kate" in 1985.)

Myth Four: "More large hurricanes are striking the U.S. than in the past."

On average 6.2 large hurricanes (i.e. category 3 or higher) hit the U.S. every decade. Only five decades have seen more than six major hurricanes, the 1890's, 1910's, 1930's, 1940's and 1950's. From 1960 to 1999 we averaged only 5.25 per decade. With half the decade gone (2000-2004) we are on pace to have 8 major hurricanes this decade, a lot but not a record or that unusual. It certainly doesn't look like an outlier (as does the 1860's with only two (2) major hurricanes.)

Major hurricanes as a percentage of all hurricanes looks like the following:

1850's 31.25%
1860's 13.33%
1870's 31.57%
1880's 23.08%
1890's 35.00%
1900's 29.41%
1910's 33.33%
1920's 33.33%
1930's 47.06%
1940's 34.78%
1950's 50.00%
1960's 37.50%
1970's 33.33%
1980's 37.50%
1990's 35.71%
2000's 44.44%

The overall average of major hurricanes to all hurricanes is 33.94%. Since the 1940's 7 out of 8 decades are above that average. Before 1940 only 2 decades are above the average. This is the only measure that supports the idea that stronger happen more frequently, not in an absolute sense, but as a ratio of all hurricanes. However, this is not unambiguous. Chances are the strength of pre-1930's hurricanes are under-estimated. There was very little equipment that could measure wind-speeds over 100+ miles an hour. Estimated wind speed (based upon barometric pressure readings) are dependent upon actual readings that may have been quite far from the lowest point of pressure for the storms involved. It isn't until the 1890's that an attempt at scientific monitoring of weather conditions nationwide is made. While researchers have an easier time identifying cyclonic storms from historical material, accurate portrayal of storm intensity is another matter.

All of this begs us to remember that we only have about 50 years of top quality data for these storm systems. That is not a lot of information to work with. So to claim that you already see a radically divergent trend emerging from the data would require a very drastic change indeed. No such drastic change is evident from the evidence. So the next time someone tries to bolster their environmental cause by exploiting the death and destruction wrought by Katrina, tell them to stick it where the sun don't shine.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Minor Milestone

This post is coming to you from my home office. Yes, believe it or not, that is the "milestone" in question. After the last five or six weeks of being a semi-displaced person I am actually in a position to write regularly. This should be good timing. Nothing of real political import happenes during August. Good God, I saw a page 3 headline in my local paper informing us of Joan Baez joining Cindy Sheehan's protest. If that doesn't speak of a slow news month I don't know what does. (Maybe next week they will let me know what Leo Sayer's opinion is on gasoline prices. I can't hardly wait.)

And a quick word of thanks to everyone who has been checking up all through these weeks looking for new content. To paraphrase a favorite movie of mine, it makes me believe that it ain't all been in vain for nothing.

Mille grazie.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

New Family Member

I know I've missed Friday pet blogging, so you can consider this an early preview. This weekend we added little Lillie to the menagerie.

She is still getting acclimated and she is small enough to fit into the most unlikely places, so we are not seeing a lot of her yet. She should give our other cat fits though.

Friday, August 19, 2005

The New MTV (Not A Good Thing To Be)

ESPN seems to be in the process of becoming to "sports" what MTV is to "music", that is, only distant relations at best; a part of their past, not a part of their present or future. You can see it in their flagship program SportsCenter which looks less and less like a sports news program and more and more like (ironically enough) a music video.

And the process continues:

ESPN formally announces pickup of 'The Contender', second season to premiere in April 2006

Confirming the recent public statements of ESPN executives, Mark Burnett Productions, DreamWorks Television, and the cable sports giant announced today that the network will become the new broadcast home of The Contender, last winter's critically-acclaimed but low-rated reality boxing series that NBC canceled after only a single season.

"The Contender has all of the elements that make it the right fit for ESPN: compelling storylines, dynamic characters and suspense over the outcome," said Mark Shapiro, ESPN executive vice president, programming and production. "This series speaks to our viewers' love for competition and their appreciation for triumph over adversity, and it goes without saying that the track record of Mark Burnett is exemplary -- a perfect match for the critical and ratings successes EOE has delivered in both scripted and unscripted drama."

What is telling is that people like Mark Burnett don't seem to think there is a qualitative difference between sports and a reality based novelty program. Once upon a time ESPN recognized that the commitment sports fans exhibit towards their teams exceeds mere voyeurism or the quest to be "entertained." Now ESPN increasingly acts like they just don't get it, as if the rationale of sports fans is completely alien to them.

The result is we get third rate dramas about Poker, ESPN manufactured "competitions" like the "X Games" and "The Great Outdoor Games" (that basically are just even less interesting versions of those "World's Strongest Man" programs ESPN used to broadcast incessantly,) celebrity bowling (!), etc...

Meanwhile their sports programming gets thinner and thinner. They no longer even have a full fledged Baseball Tonight to show the days highlights. PTI and Around The Horn are actual programs about sports (mostly) but if you have a regular job you won't be seeing much of them. Only the NFL gets real and comprehensive coverage, and even that is so heavy handed that I feel myself starting to resent the NFL's monopoly.

However, maybe there is hope for the future...

Will Comcast use NHL to battle ESPN?

The NHL's shifting of its U.S. national cable television package from ESPN to OLN, which was announced Thursday, could have a major impact on the cable television industry because OLN's parent company might be gearing up to make a run at ESPN.

Comcast, which owns what formally was called the Outdoor Life Network, is the largest cable operator in the country. It has about 21.4 million subscribers and owns several cable networks, including The Golf Channel, E! and Style. And there is talk that it might make a run eventually at purchasing a package of Thursday night NFL games and growing from there.

Admittedly, the NHL is a pretty modest beginning for any network, but it exactly the same beginning used by ESPN in the early 1980's to gain legitimacy with fans. Now all Comcast has to do is sell themselves as the "Real Sport's Fans Network" and they should succeed.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

A Long Long Long Time

Things are not quite back to normal I'm afraid. The Midwest relocation has gone pretty smoothly, but it is taking forever to get our digital phone hook-up. My computer is acting up anyway so God only knows if I'd be able to post even if the house was web ready.

I've missed writing for the blog, I build up things to complain about and the girlfriend isn't always too interested in my blather.

I shall return....I better or my girlfriend might slug me.