Hurricane Irene: End Of The World? Obligatory Global Warming Post

What do you call a Japanese lady with one leg shorter than the other?

Irene! Ha ha ha ha!

But, seriously. Hurricanes are no joke. Particularly this one, which the media assures us is the official frontman of the Four Horsemen of the—make that the—apocalypse. The headline at Yahoo news is:

Hurricane-force winds from Irene battered the North Carolina coast early Saturday as the storm started wreaking havoc even before a potentially catastrophic run up the Eastern Seaboard. [emphasis mine]

On the radio is a reporter saying something like, “I’m here in at the hotel Whatsitsname, Bob, in the Outer Banks. It’s raining and I see wind. That’s why I’m shouting, even though I’m safely ensconced in the room near the mini bar. If I look carefully I can see things blowing around. If you were in the path of one of these blowing objects, it would be almost certain execution. I urge all my listeners to take cover now! Unfortunately, I can’t see much damage.”

The reporter didn’t use the word unfortunately, but you can hear the gloom in his voice. The potential for winning an award for covering a horrific disaster has been blown away by anemic winds.

Hurricane IreneI am, very unfortunately in California, feeling sharp, stabbing pains of jealousy. I missed the earthquake and am going to miss the hurricane of the century! I do not jest. I started life as a meteorologist and love storms, as all weather people do. At least there is the internet. Sigh.

There has been criticism of the mayor for his storm preparations. Shutting down the subways makes sense, however. Even a brisk rain floods parts of the system, which is century old and looks it. And if the city didn’t announce the shutdown long in advance, New Yorkers would count on the lines running.

Same thing for the airlines canceling flights. Can you imagine the lawsuits if a plane flew through high winds and a passenger spilled coffee on herself? One shudders.

Meanwhile, we hear that Irene is the spawn of global warming. Sure, there hasn’t been a hurricane that hit us in years, and this one is not the Pinwheel of Death as hoped for by televisions journalists, but it is a hurricane, and hurricanes are storms, and Al Gore did promise that we would see more and stronger storms because of global warming. Therefore rampant, out of control global warming is real. Quod erat demonstrandum.

But I ask you: If global warming was responsible for the vicious Irene, was it also responsible for the many years of tropical quiescence? For those years when nothing happened? For the falls where the skies were clear, the temperature clement, the waters warm, and life good?

Why, if global warming is real, does it only cause bad things? Why not good ones, too?

Well, we know the answer. Listen: this storm can still cause a lot of trouble. So if you are in her path, don’t act stupidly. Stay home and keep the television off, lest you are needlessly panicked.

Update It is interesting to consider the earlier model runs showed Irene to be bigger than she turned out to be. These models were not predicting events many years into the future, just those for tomorrow. Our observations along Irene’s path are pretty good, not like the global temperature network, which is spotty at best. So even though our storm models aren’t perfected, surely our global climate models are.

Update Monday morning. I had to go to Taiwan television to see this report on Irene hype, on Next TV. One image showed a CNN reporter “battling” the breeze on the boardwalk, “Which is being breached!” The man is stuggles to stand, nearly falters, but recovers to describe the horror he sees. Meanwhile, in the background two gentlemen stroll past, hands in pockets, completely unconcerned.

Another is a clip of a weatherman in New York announcing that 1883 still stands as the last time a hurricane hit New York. “Really?” jumped in the female anchor, “Can’t we still say it was a hurricane? Are your sure we can’t say we battled it out…” etc., etc.



  1. John Crane

    Could it be that the water temperature value they put into their models was not the actual temperature?

  2. Will

    Who would have thought that modeling the entire planet and it’s many chaotic interactions and unconstrained fluid dynamics would be so difficult…..

  3. So you are comparing the performance of a mesoscale model with many highly unconstrained parameters (which still didn’t do badly in a broad sense – it did, after all, rain and blow) with a macroscale model with many constrained (though also many unconstrained) parameters?

    By that rationale, my inability to predict into which slot on the roulette table the next roll of the ball will fall means that life insurance companies must not be able to make a profit because they could have no clue when any individual will die. And yet, somehow they seem to be profitable.

    I will agree with you that opining that CO2 emissions caused Irene is silly. Further, I don’t know any climate scientists (and I know a few, though I’m assuredly not one) who say that predicted climate will not produce beneficial effects at some locations and times.

  4. How doubly unfortunate you are Herr Professor, to be here in California where even if you were to experience – shudder – a 5.8/9/whatever earthquake it would not be nearly as catastrophic, nor as havoc wreaking, as a comparable seismic experience on the least coast.

    Probably just as well we don’t have many hurricanes out west, either, because the few tornado’s that come our way seem to be ho-hummers, too. Not much to news-break about. Or could it simply be another form of easterners ogling their umbilicus?

  5. DAV


    See what happens when you chase money to CA? You get to miss all of the fun.

    Irene is turning into a dud but then it’s now just leaving Elizabeth City, NC. Might pick up steam on the way to Ocean City, MD. I’ve been under the edge now for about 2.5 hours and it’s mostly a rainy day. No torrential downpours; no telephone poles bending in the wind. Ho hum. Maybe I’ll change my mind when it passes OC about 5 AM. Just as well, though. I lost power for two weeks after the last one that came through here.

    Rob Ryan,

    At least weather and climate are derived from the same observations. Hopefully your life doesn’t depend on a ball falling into a given slot. But if it really does then maybe this will help:

  6. Dav: What about a tree falling through my apartment and killing my son?

  7. Justin Ert

    In the UK this year, a report by Sir John Beddington – the Government’s chief science advisor states:
    “…The onset of more severe climate impacts overseas may also open up temporary opportunities, or ‘policy windows’. These would allow legislators the licence to take specific bold actions which they ordinarily believe would not otherwise be possible or politically acceptable… In effect, envisaged solutions can become rapidly translated into practical options for action following a major disaster or near-miss.”
    The relevant page is 113. It was picked up by the Spectator who paraphrased it nicely:
    “he [Sir John Beddington] calls upon the government to use weather-related disasters as ‘policy windows’ to push through unpopular policies to cut carbon emissions…”
    Given that Irene had massive global publicity, the potential for the misinterpretation of the link between extreme weather events and CAGW is itself extreme. So, more important than the linking – scientifically speaking – of Irene to CO2 induced MMCC, is the social response to it, the nature of the strategies in place, and how those strategies shape the way the public interpret the event. There is perhaps significant political capital to be earned from the wholesale evacuation of the areas projected to be hit, and the way that measures were deployed to ensure and enforce it that will have left a mark on the public’s response and interpretation of it within the context of “climate change” and their future expectations.
    We can surely expect any and all extreme weather – from everywhere around the globe – to be big news every time. Several unfortunate events in quick succession could garner huge public support if masterminded through the media quickly and effectively enough. Weather, the tool of choice for the discerning politician? Random but possible.

  8. We are destroying the erf, Mother Gaia is angry with us.

    Tremble with fear and send all your money to Reverend Al Gore, who will pocket your money and grant you indulgences…

  9. Edmh

    As the temperature differential between the tropics and polar regions, (the driver of adverse weather events), are reduced. Warmer periods in the past have given more stable, more benign weather patterns. There is clear evidence that tropical storms and hurricanes have been reducing in frequency and intensity over the recent decades in response to the current modest warming.

    So it is possible that the landfall of Hurricane Irene should be taken as an indication of the initiation of cooling rather than ascribed to Global Warming.

  10. Nomen Nescio

    Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who’s garbage cans blew away in the storm.

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