Friday, September 23, 2005

Apocalypse when?

With hurricane Katrina behind us and hurricane Rita approaching, The Guardian today reaches out to a self-flagellating American, Jeremy Rifkind, in order to press its vision of apocalyptic global warming as the cause of all weather-related events, a global warming for which, natch, Americans are primarily to blame.

Rifkind’s litany of American sins is predictably tedious: too many SUV’s, too much oil consumption, not enough taxes, not enough Kyoto, yadda, yadda, yadda. We’ve heard it all before, endlessly, and it is too boring to sustain my attention long enough to even critique it. However, Rifkind also promotes the equally predictable “global warming as cause of Katrina/Rita” meme, and this is worth taking a look at.

Rifkind cites a new report in Science Magazine in which, according to Rifkind:
Scientists report that the number of major - category four and five - hurricanes has nearly doubled in the past 35 years. Tropical storms, say the scientists, draw their energy from warm ocean water. As the global rise in temperature heats the world's oceans, the intensity of hurricanes increases.
This is odd, especially in light of the National Hurricane Center’s chart on US hurricane strikes per decade, which shows that the number of category 4 or 5 hurricanes to strike the US peaked in the 1950’s, with 3. Since then, no decade has had more than 2 such hurricanes. And, in terms of what the Hurricane Center defines as major hurricanes, ie category 3 and higher, there has been a clear trend downward from a peak of 10 in the 1940s. The most recent full decade, the 1990’s, had only half that amount.

Now, it certainly does appear that the current decade, with the addition of Katrina and possibly Rita, is on pace to outnumber the previous decade. But if global warming is the cause of that, what is the explanation for the high number in the 1940’s, and the steady decline for the rest of the 20th century?

As for the rises in water temperature accounting for this year’s hurricane activity, Tim Worstall has some facts and figures.


Blogger chip said...

From what I've read, a rise in sea temperatures applies only to a couple of the world's oceans, including the Atlantic. Scientists believe global warming should affect all the oceans.

Furthermore, of the two oceans that have experienced an increase in hurricane intensity, one of them has not had a rise in sea temperature, suggesting the cause is something other than warming.

Global warming may or may not be causing recent hurricanes. But it's clear that we're far from having the information for a conclusion either way.

The heated attempts claim global warming is upon us -- and that we can do anything about it -- have the strong whiff of religious fervor about them.

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unbeliever! The wrath of Global Warming shall smite thee, yea unto the third generation sayeth I! Those who harketh not to the vision of global warming... harketh not to the vision of global warming!

3:41 PM  
Blogger The Gorse Fox said...

MMmm. Firstly Gorse Fox does not hold with all the current hype of global warming. (Nails colours firmly to mast).

He was thinking about the question you posed "But if global warming is the cause of that, what is the explanation for the high number in the 1940’s..." and wonders if it could have been the pollution of the atmosphere caused by the discharge of explosives, and the fires of the Second World War. Particulates in the atmospher may have caused some form of effect that triggered the storms... Don't know, no science to back it up, just a thought ou loud.

4:07 PM  

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