New at Reason

Patrick J. Michaels tells the story of the hurricane—and warming one authority came to blame for something that it never done. Having your house blown down's no fun—but it couldn't have been the warming of the world.

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  • ||

    Cato Institute Global Warming researcher, sniping at scientists who receive grants from the government for following a gravy train.

    That's funny.

    "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."

    Because people's memories about how weather used to be is such a reliable source. You think this past winter was cold? When I was a kid...

  • ||

    Yeah, he's talking about relying on personal memories, joe. That's exactly it. There are no scientific or governmental bodies anywhere in the world that keep records concerning hurricane wind strengths and durations, so that's what he must mean.

  • ||

    Anybody know where to find a link containing hurricane history? Say, number of hurricanes per year, how many Category 5s, Category 4s, and so forth?

  • ||

    I should mention, starting the comments section with an ad hom, a tu quoque, and a strawman in one comment does not bode well for the future of the thread.

  • ||

    "Here I define an index of the potential destructiveness of hurricanes based on the total dissipation of power, integrated over the lifetime of the cyclone, and show that this index has increased markedly since the mid-1970s. This trend is due to both longer storm lifetimes and greater storm intensities."

    I'm not a Nature subsriber, but it would appear to be misleading to state that the entirety of the case is based on the economic cost of each storm, when the author identifies "longer storm lifetimes and greater storm intensities" in his introduction.

  • ||

    Thanks to Phil, I had to look up what a "tu quoque" is. I thought it was one of those hats that Canadians wear.

  • MP||

    Because people's memories about how weather used to be is such a reliable source. You think this past winter was cold? When I was a kid...

    Mr. Michaels used the word "obvious" in the sense that it would be easily verifiable based on available data. Pielke's paper shows that it is not obvious at all, undermining the claims made by Emanuel in her peer reviewed paper. This is to be taken as evidence of the failures in the peer review process. Emanuel's paper shouldn't have seen the light of day. The fact that it was "peer reviewed" and ended up published in Nature gives us skeptics further reason to dismiss the continued rant of the GW booster club.

  • ||

    "Mr. Michaels used the word "obvious" in the sense that it would be easily verifiable based on available data."

    You mean like storm lifetime and intensity? That sort of thing?

    Michaels asserts that, if there was an increase in storm activity, it would be obvious, and there would be no controversy. Isn't this equally as true of those who say there has been no increase in storm activity - that if this were so, there would be copious amounts of data showing no trend?

  • ||

    Stevo,

    I believe you were thinking of the venerable Toque.

    Usage (from the New Canadian Version translation of the bible):

    "An eh for an eh and a toque for a toque."

  • ||

    I'm not a Nature subsriber, but it would appear to be misleading to state that the entirety of the case is based on the economic cost of each storm, when the author identifies "longer storm lifetimes and greater storm intensities" in his introduction.

    Actually, Joe, he bases his refutation on two simple premises: 1) If the force/intensity of 'canes has really DOUBLED, then there would at least be some sort of consensus among scientists that even approached that magnitude, yet, there is not, and 2) If it has really DOUBLED, then the adjusted economic cost figures should surely have skyrocketed, and they have not.

    You assert that he's addressing unrelated questions, but they are both actually directly causally related.

  • ||

    Figure 1 shows the PDI for the North Atlantic and the September mean tropical sea surface temperature (SST) averaged over one of the prime genesis regions in the North Atlantic20. There is an obvious strong relationship between the two time series (r2 = 0.65),

    There is indeed an apparent, but not obvious (there�s that word again) strong relationship.

    suggesting that tropical SST exerts a strong control on the power dissipation index.

    What the Fuck? Hack, nothing but a hack. This is the old statistical fallacy often illustrated by diaper rash v highway construction or rape v ice cream sales. Correlation does not show causation. If I had reviewed this paper I would have forced her to remove any talk of causation.

  • ||

    Michaels asserts that, if there was an increase in storm activity, it would be obvious, and there would be no controversy. Isn't this equally as true of those who say there has been no increase in storm activity - that if this were so, there would be copious amounts of data showing no trend?

    Yes, all other things being equal, yes, that would hold true. However, Michaels addresses that by pointing out the conflict of interest, and the unnatural incentives toward bias that drive the climate research community:

    "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."

  • ||

    Evan,

    I'm not sure there is enough data to draw on for those conclusions to have achieved broad acceptance. Last year was a particularly bad year for hurricaines, and the cost of rebuilding was immense. But whether that was the consequence of a long term trend, one flukish year, or some other factor, remains to be seen.

    It's not as though there is a broad consensus in the other direction, either. We're still dealing with a very open question here.

  • MP||

    Michaels asserts that, if there was an increase in storm activity, it would be obvious, and there would be no controversy. Isn't this equally as true of those who say there has been no increase in storm activity - that if this were so, there would be copious amounts of data showing no trend?

    He does not discussing "an increase". He is discussing "doubled". A 100% increase is a hell of a lot different than an increasing trend.

  • ||

    "Correlation does not show causation."

    No, but it suggests causation. Suggests, pigwiggle, like the verb she used in the sentence you quote.

    Evan, do you apply the "follow the money" principle to the other side, too? And do you really want to pretend that solid research refuting Global Warming theory would have difficulty finding funding from the government of Frist, Delay, and Bush?

    "The climate research community sees a grave threat when research shows there's no threat from the climate." Except, of course, that the overwhelming consensus among climate scientists is that there is a threat from the climate.

  • ||

    Joe, not to mention the fact that Michaels isn't arguing that there's no trend, he's arguing that the particular trend Emanual lays out is dubious.

    Where Y=no trend, and X=doubled trend:

    If X=notY, then arguing that X is untrue is not the same thing as arguing that Y is true. When you point out that the same standards apply to notY, then you've not addressed Michael's claims.

  • MP||

    Except, of course, that the overwhelming consensus among climate scientists is that there is a threat from the climate.

    Please stop repeating the "there is consensus" and "skeptics are oil industry mouthpieces" mantras and focus on the specifics of this article.

  • ||

    If Michaels were to limit his point to that, Evan, you are correct.

    MP, you mean the article that says the scientists who agree that Global Warming is real are "chasing a federal gravy train?"

  • ||

    joe-

    �No, but it suggests causation.�

    No it doesn�t. It perhaps suggests both phenomena are peripherally related to some event. Correlation between rape rates and ice cream sales (which incidentally have a much stronger correlation than the one calculated for SST and DI) do not suggest either that increased ice cream sales cause rapes or increased rapes cause ice cream sales. This was a rookie mistake and should have been pulled in peer review.

  • ||

    Down here in Florida right after the last hurricane season a bunch of billboards went up which said "Global Warming = Stronger Hurricanes. George W. Bush just doesn't get it." I wonder how many people have been "convinced" by special interest groups that there is definitely a correlation between global warming and hurricanes?

  • ||

    Greater energy in the ocean and atmosphere and stronger hurricaines is not exactly rape statistics and ice cream sales. Ice cream doesn't cause rape. The energy in the ocean and atmosphere causes hurricaines.

  • MP||

    MP, you mean the article that says the scientists who agree that Global Warming is real are "chasing a federal gravy train?"

    Yes. Skip his conclusion. I'm not interested in Michaels' ideological slant and I'm not interested in yours. Limit your analysis to the details presented regarding the Emanuel paper. And tell us skeptics why this shouldn't reaffirm our skepticism.

  • ||

    Jennifer,

    You might be able to find something here

    If not that exact page, I'm pretty sure that they have records of what you are looking for somewhere on the noaa.gov site.

  • ||

    Thanks, Dumbfish. I found something similar on another site, but I was hoping for a site that had all the information on one page, rather than one where you have to click on a separate link for each year. Because while we're not going to settle the global warming debate here, the hurricane one should be simple--how many hurricanes have there been each year for the past X years? Of those, how many fell into each of the five categories? There's either been an increase, a decrease, or no noticeable change.

  • ||

    Jennifer,

    I think this is what you are looking for.

    http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pastdec.shtml

  • ||

    Matt L

    Thanks, that seems to clear this argument up nicely, provided it is accurate and that the narrow scope of US mainland is statistically sufficient.

  • ||

    Jennifer

    There is probably not enough data on hurricanes to build any such database.

    We have only been able to accurately track hurricanes since weather satelites in the 60s.

    Before that data had to be collected locally. A lot of info was obtained post WWII when they started sending planes into storms to measure but before that we had to rely on observations of storms on land or by ships at sea (before radio of course many of those were lost without any idea whether they were lost in a storm or devoured by sea monsters:). The fact that many storms begin and end in the middle of the ocean witout ever touching land means many were simply missed.

    However 4 storms in one year in FL is not that unusual by long term historical standards. We had a long calm spell from the 60s to the 90s that led a lot of people to believe the climate was a lot more benign than it is.

    [off topic rant]That historical ignorance and the certainty that Uncle Sugar was there to bail them out has led many to ignore history and build many ill-advised projects.[end off topic rant]

  • MP||

    That historical ignorance and the certainty that Uncle Sugar was there to bail them out has led many to ignore history and build many ill-advised projects.

    Were they wrong about Uncle Sugar? It is only irrational to build ill-advised projects if Uncle Surgar doesn't bail you out.

  • ||

    It is only irrational to build ill-advised projects if Uncle Surgar doesn't bail you out.

    Point taken, but it still pisses me off.

  • ||

    I skimmed the paper. It seems like reasonable work, and it shows more than just an increase in storm intensity. Rather, it shows how changes (both upward and downward) of storm intensity track fairly well with changes in ocean surface temperature.

    Which seems plausible enough for storms that occur on oceans and shorelines.

    This paper alone proves no larger point. But it's good science. He develops a methodology for gaining insight into a system (storms in the atmosphere). He shows that two things are correlated. Yes, yes, I took Stat 101 as well as everybody else, so I'll repeat with you "Correlation is not causation." Good, we got that out of the way.

    Anyway, he develops a methodology and shows that it can gain insight into a physical system. It's one piece of a larger puzzle, but it's a well-done piece. Anybody who tries to read too much into it is just as dishonest as those who feel threatened by it.

    I'm not enough of an expert in the field to say whether it was worthy of a first-tier journal (I simply don't know how ground-breaking the results were). My first impression is that I was less impressed by it than by other articles in Nature, but it was good work.

    Make of it what you will.

  • ||

    I like pigwiggle's name. It's fun to say.

  • ||

    FWIW, based on my perusal the author of the Nature article never said that human factors are causing warming. Rather, he built a case that hurricane intensity is tied to temperature changes. Whether those temperature changes are man-made or otherwise is not the subject of the article.

  • ||

    Julian: that was bad. Baaaad. Painfully bad. And now I have that frigging awful song in my head. Damn you.

  • ||

    Ice cream doesn't cause rape.

    Well, that depends -- what flavors do you have?

  • ||

    correlation is not causation, but the correlated factors might both be being driven by some third factor, which is the cause of the two measured factors, such that increased global temperatures is a predictor of greater storm intensity

    I find it odd that a libertarian mag, where I've often read the mantra that the cure for bad speech is not censorship, but more speech advocates not allowing these articles to be published. By allowing the articles to be published, poor reasoning is debunked by other researchers. In fact, the article by Michaels mentioned critics from both directions of the controversy criticizing articles from both directions of the controversy. This isn't evidence that the peer review process is broken, this is evidence that it's working.

  • M1EK||

    "However 4 storms in one year in FL is not that unusual by long term historical standards. We had a long calm spell from the 60s to the 90s that led a lot of people to believe the climate was a lot more benign than it is."

    Actually, 4 storms of that strength all making landfall in Florida in the same year IS unusual by long term historical standards. Yes, even compared to the 20s through the 50s. What was unusual about the spell from the 60s to the 90s was that there were many years where NO non-trivial storms made landfall in Florida.

    I grew up in Boca Raton, and my family's still there. There's enough historical record in most of Florida to be pretty sure which storms were big and which weren't back to the 1920s or so.

  • ||

    also, wouldn't losses to the insurance companies be higher only if all those hurricanes actually, you know, damaged the insured property? hurricanes can obviously be stronger without necessarily damaging US property

    is this evidence that Reason's editorial process isn't working?

  • ||

    There seems to be another scientific explanation for the (alleged) increase in hurricane activity:

    http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2005/s2484.htm

    "This confluence of optimal ocean and atmosphere conditions has been known to produce increased tropical storm activity in multi-decadal (approximately 20-30 year) cycles. Because of this, NOAA expects a continuation of above-normal seasons for another decade or perhaps longer. NOAA's research shows that this reoccurring cycle is the dominant climate factor that controls Atlantic hurricane activity. Any potentially weak signal associated with longer-term climate change appears to be a minor factor."

    The article also notes that the Pacific is experiencing a decrease in hurricane activity, also due to the multi-decadal cycle.

  • MP||

    I find it odd that a libertarian mag, where I've often read the mantra that the cure for bad speech is not censorship, but more speech advocates not allowing these articles to be published.

    This is from the Nature about page:

    "Nature is a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology on the basis of its originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising conclusions."

    So if a study published in Nature can be easily debunked, is that an indictment of the editors of Nature or the peer review process used to vet the papers published in nature? Either way, it undermines Nature's credibility.

  • ||

    "This confluence of optimal ocean and atmosphere conditions has been known to produce increased tropical storm activity in multi-decadal (approximately 20-30 year) cycles. Because of this, NOAA expects a continuation of above-normal seasons for another decade or perhaps longer. NOAA's research shows that this reoccurring cycle is the dominant climate factor that controls Atlantic hurricane activity. Any potentially weak signal associated with longer-term climate change appears to be a minor factor."

    How is this inconsistent with the observation that storm activity and ocean surface temperature are correlated? Now, the driving forces controlling one or both factors is a question that can't be answered solely on the basis of the paper in question. But nobody ever said that a paper on atmospheric science must address every single open question in atmospheric science.

    Will some people over-interpret the paper? Undoubtedly. But that doesn't undermine the basic fact that the author detected, analyzed, and reported an interesting correlation in nature.

    I lack the background to judge whether this finding was significant enough to merit publication in Nature rather than some other journal. My first inclination is that it seems a little out of place in Nature, but I lack the knowledge to make a definitive judgement.

    And yes, I know, correlation is not the same as causation. I took Stat 101 just like everybody else. Hell, I wrote a good chunk of my thesis on the statistical properties of electromagnetic waves, and I'm doing research on random walks in biology. So I know probability and statistics as well as anybody here (unless there's a professional statistician, of course).

    But while correlation alone cannot settle a scientific question once and for all, it can be a useful tool to identify matters in need of further study. And a paper that simply identifies a significant trend is still a solid contribution to scientific knowledge.

    Finally, it is interesting to me how everybody feels so threatened by a paper that I found to be perfectly innocuous. Feel free to criticize those who draw unsupported conclusions from this paper. If you have a scientific critique more sophisticated than "It's only correlation!", by all means offer it. Maybe there are problems in his data set. Maybe his statistical method has a flaw that goes deeper than "it's only correlation!" But don't go after a perfectly decent piece of work simply because the conclusions aren't ideologically correct.

    Oh, and "It's only correlation" sounds suspiciously like "Evolution is only a theory." Yes, correlation analysis is frequently abused in certain areas of study. But I find that researchers, especially in peer-reviewed studies, are usually (no, not always, but usually) rather modest in the conclusions that they draw from correlations. (Go ahead, toss me your favorite anecdote if it makes you feel better.) It's usually the press that over-states the findings, not the researcher.

  • ||

    Unfortunately, I'm leaving for a conference in a few hours. I'll try to check this thread as much as I can over the next few days, but it might disappear from the main page before I can post responses to your responses. If you post a critique and I don't reply, don't take it as cowardice.

  • ||

    When a scientist claims something like "the power has doubled" you need to look at how they define power. Generally power is an energy per time, so storms lasting twice as long wouldn't affect it. On the other hand it doesn't necessarily mean the wind blows with twice as much energy (and it certainly doesn't mean twice as fast). The power could be integrated over the whole area of the hurricane. A huricane with 1.4 times the diameter would have twice the area and might have twice the power. It all depends on how they've defined "power".

    You could just as easily say one earthquake is twice as powerful as another, but that's the difference between a 5.0 and 5.3 on the Richter scale, and you'd have to be pretty talented to pin down the difference.

  • ||

    LankyB-

    I don't have access to the online article from home (it's subscription only), but as I recall the word "power" was used colloquially. What was defined rigorously was total power output, which is a combination of area, time, and intensity. Since total power output is proportional to economic damage wrought, it's a practical significant thing to monitor. He argued that time and intensity were the main things that mattered, citing earlier work which supposedly shows that the area covered by a typical hurricane doesn't vary significantly. Well, he said it varies but not enough to introduce significant error into a procedure that makes heavy use of statistical averaging.

    Is that a justified assumption? I don't know. Given that Nature is for a wider audience than specialty journals it might have been nice if he'd spent a little more time on it. But I don't feel qualified to dismiss the study on that basis alone. It's worth noting that plenty of scientific studies neglect one or more factors on the grounds that previous work has shown that the error averages out in a large data set. So it's not like he did something unheard of in the history of science.

    Again, I'm not convinced that this work is ground-breaking, but the conclusion (correlations between ocean surface temperature and storm intensity) seems to be reasonably well-supported by the data. It also seems physically plausible: The warmer the air, the more energy it contains. Storms ultimately arise from energy stored in air, so it seems reasonable that higher temperatures mean more energy is released in a storm. It would have been nice if he had done some estimates of the energy scales involved and compared these estimates with observations, but I don't consider it a fatal flaw. I consider it an avenue for further research.

    Once again, as a non-expert I can't judge the overall significance of this work (whether it's ground-breaking or mundane), but I don't see anything obviously ridiculous about it either. I think the questions raised in this article are worthy of further exploration.

    Finally, if a study using similar methods had found no correlation between storm activity and ocean surface temperature, I have a hunch that it would be broadcast loud and clear on this forum. Which would be fine: If it's a sound study the results should be heard and considered.

  • ||

    biologist,

    This isn't evidence that the peer review process is broken, this is evidence that it's working.

    Not necessarily. If none of the people doing the peer reviewing are being objective, then no legit peer review is occurring.

    It's a little known secret (which I learned from my secret decoder ring) that scientists and engineers are as prone to passing fad ideas, as anybody else. It clouds judgement.

    Fortunately, in the long run the clouds blow away and the truth does surface. But it can be a really long process, and it can break down along the way.

    Science may be objective. Scientists aren't necessarily objective at any instant in time, individually and/or collectively.

    thoreau,

    When a scientist claims something like "the power has doubled" you need to look at how they define power.

    There's a point here, but it isn't in splitting hairs over the definition of "power". The point is, a common sense view is worth something here.

    "Hurricanes are getting worse". Well, where's the evidence? If there's no indication that hurricanes are doing more damage when they make land fall, then what exactly does "worse" mean?

    I'm an engineer, not a scientist. In my profession we have what we call sanity checks. If you're doing a really complex analysis and don't know what the right answer "ought" to look like, then you try running some simpler, order of magnitude estimates, to see if both approaches are landing in the same ball park (order of magnitude).

    If there's a descrepency, then we go back to the drawing board and start digging for the reasons why. We don't conclude much of anything until we've convinced ourselves that we've found the reasons.

    Unfortunately, I've seen very few climate scientists do sanity checks on their work.

    ____________________

    I don't believe the GW crowd will be happy and shut up until we're all living in environmentally friendly grass huts, wearing environmentally friendly grass skirts, and plowing our fields with environmentally friendly cows.

    Then we can all worship the god of the hurricane, as it blows our skirts up and our huts down and our cows away. Life will be so much simpler.

  • ||

    I don't believe the GW crowd will be happy and shut up until we're all living in environmentally friendly grass huts, wearing environmentally friendly grass skirts, and plowing our fields with environmentally friendly cows.

    Yes, yes, and the anti-GW crowd won't be happy and shut up until we're all living under water and working as serfs for the oil companies. Strawman much?

  • MP||

    thoreau,

    Thanks for your insightful analysis.

    FWIW, based on my perusal the author of the Nature article never said that human factors are causing warming.

    Maybe the paper didn't explicitly reference this, but the Boston Globe article did:

    "[William Gray] also questioned Emanuel's contention that human actions, such as the burning of oil and other fuels, have caused the surface of the ocean to warm."

    There is also this other tidbit:

    "Emanuel said he, too, was surprised at his results, which found the total power of North Atlantic hurricanes has more than doubled since the mid-1970s, while western North Pacific cyclones have increased in intensity by 75 percent."

    Unfortunately, the Globe article makes it impossible to determine if Emanuel ever actually said "doubled" or if this was a (potentially gross mis-)interpretation of the data by the Globe writer.

    The whole episode is still a good example of the GW spin zone at work, which makes it so difficult for laymen to see through the spin and come to a good conclusion. Until the spin is stripped away, the debate will rage on.

  • ||

    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."

    so what kind of fallacy is this? Anybody?

  • ||

    thoreau-

    First, I'm not commenting on the caliber of work, as I'm unfamiliar with the state of the art. My point is that all the causation language should have been pulled in review. The author didn't stop at the correlation between SST and DI. From the get go the author is pimping global temperature trends as the cause for more destructive storms.

    "There is an obvious strong relationship between the two time series (r2 = 0.65), suggesting that tropical SST exerts a strong control on the power dissipation index. ... The above discussion suggests that only part of the observed increase in tropical cyclone power dissipation is directly due to increased SSTs; ... (from the abstract) reflecting well-documented climate signals, including multi-decadal oscillations in the North Atlantic and North Pacific, and global warming. My results suggest that future warming may lead to an upward trend in tropical cyclone destructive potential, and taking into account an increasing coastal population�a substantial increase in hurricane-related losses in the twenty-first century."

    The author moves from noting a suggestive trend to asserting causation, albeit SST being only one causal factor, finally invoking the specter of global warming and it's potential impact on the coast. The author is working the golden goose of climate change. Recently I've been reading a lot about small water clusters. You can tell when the manuscript was written by the intro, before the 80's the work is motivated by relevance to industrial solvent recovery, after that comes atmospheric chemistry and ozone depletion, and most currently atmospheric chemistry and climate change.

    Oh, and for the 'it makes sense' crowd. When you get the answer you expect that is the time to be most critical; complicated phenomena are rarely intuitive or appeal to common sense. This kind of 'casual' scrutiny is dangerous; I'm speaking from experience. And certainly, this cuts two ways for the global warming ideologues.

  • ||

    Kahn: I don't believe the GW crowd will be happy and shut up until we're all living in environmentally friendly grass huts, wearing environmentally friendly grass skirts, and plowing our fields with environmentally friendly cows.

    Jennifer: Yes, yes, and the anti-GW crowd won't be happy and shut up until we're all living under water and working as serfs for the oil companies. Strawman much?

    How was that a strawman?

    A strawman is when you create a weak agument and knock it down. That wasn't what Kahn was doing, at least in the above quote. He was simply stating his opinion of his opponents' motive.

  • ||

    Don-

    Yes, and his weak argument was that ALL people who worry about global warming really want to destroy civilization and make everybody live in grass houses.

  • ||

    Jennifer,

    Depends on what he means by "GW crowd". Certainly there is a segment of the environmentalist community that pushes GW to further a Luddite view, and there are various leftists who push it in an attempt to take the West down as many notches as possible. If this is the "GW crowd", I'd agree with his assesment. No doubt there are plenty of primary school children who are worried about GW, and they are simply victims of propaganda (I recall the environmental propaganda teachers submitted us to back in the early '70s--similar really to the "hell" images provided in church, except provided via tax $$). I suspect that he wasn't referring to school children and other innocent victims, and I also assume he wasn't referring to scientists who were simply jumping on the funding bandwagon.

    Looks to me like you are the one erecting a strawman.

    Incidently, one consistent aspect of the GW side is that they call for some sort of government coercion to make the world better--at the expense of someone else's private property rights. It is really just the same argument as confiscating someone's home to put up a Wal Mart.

  • ||

    Don--

    Well, the late Carl Sagan also thought global warming was a problem, and he certainly wasn't a Luddite.

  • ||

    Don, while all movements have extremist idiots, do you think it's possibly for anyone other than a Luddite, an anti-capitalist, or a child to be concerned about global warming? Or is it a case of "you agree with me or you're a fool?"

    I'm just curious to know where Sagan would fit on your spectrum.

  • ||

    First, I realize that this thread will soon disappear, but it's the first time I've had access in a few days.

    Second, to pigwiggle-

    No, he didn't prove causation, but he used the all-important word "suggests." Nowhere in the article does he say that the case is closed. He says "suggests." Any good scientist reading this article understands the limitations here. Harping over it is even worse than the freshman physics textbooks that teach you to scoff at the term "centrigual force." (Mature scientists actually use phrases like "centrifugal term" to describe parts of equations.)

    What would be interesting to me is an analysis based on the heat capacity of air. How much energy is associated with the termperature changes? How does that extra energy compare with the changes in storm energy? As Kahn pointed out, a good "back of the envelope" calculation along those lines would shed more light on the work.

    I'm not convinced that it was the best work in the world, but I see nothing in there to get upset about. Yes, there are people in the pro-GW crowd who will over-interpret the results. But given the knee-jerk responses of some (not all) of the anti-GW folks, I'd say there's enough dishonesty to go around.

    So let's cut the crap and simply treat this as a modest but decent contribution to our understanding of hurricanes, and move on to ask the next questions: Given these correlations, is the energy involved consistent with a causal scenario? How do these results compare with simulations? How about a more detailed time series analysis to address the question of whether temperature swings actually precede changes in storm intensity? Such an analysis still couldn't prove causality, but it might disprove causality, if the temperature swings actually came AFTER the changes in storm intensity. Note that if I had the article in front of me I could probably do an eyeball analysis of the graphs, but that's no substitute for a more careful time-series analysis. And, perhaps more importantly, are there systematic errors in the data collection, due to flaws in the instruments? Always a question worth asking.

    These questions are far more important than harping over whether the word "suggests" was sufficient disclaimer.

  • ||

    �I'm not convinced that it was the best work in the world, but I see nothing in there to get upset about�

    Really it seems a bit thin to me. I had the misfortune of collaborating on a Nature submission and am overly familiar with their criteria. To be considered the work needs to be original (usually method development) and of critical importance as well as broadly appealing. I suppose this is broadly appealing, perhaps critical, but the method was non-unique or at least a trivial extension of some other folks stuff. And further, for manuscripts based on data set analysis there are stricter criterion. I�m unconvinced that this would have been published in Nature if the author didn�t insinuate a connection with global climate change. And that�s exactly what they did, sex up the paper by talking about climate change and it�s potential economic impact on the coast. You�re being pretty generous when you say all the author does is �suggest�, so I repost the passage.

    �The above discussion suggests that only part of the observed increase in tropical cyclone power dissipation is directly due to increased SSTs�

    If only part of the increase in DI is directly due to increased SSTs, can I say that certainly part of the increase is directly due to increased SSTs? Sure I can.

    �So let's cut the crap and simply treat this as a modest but decent contribution to our understanding of hurricanes,�

    Indeed, lets cut the crap. I get the feeling Nature would publish a turd if I wrote �global climate change� on it.

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