Friday, September 23, 2005

Jeremy Rifkin blames Americans for Hurricanes

Hurricane: The latest Guardian piece where he goes into hysteria mode.

"....A new scientific report out this past week in Science Magazine, a prestigious American journal, gives fresh impetus to the connection between oceans warming as a result of climate change and the increased severity of hurricanes. 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. Katrina and Rita, then, are not just bad luck, nature's occasional surprises thrust on unsuspecting humanity. Make no mistake about it. We Americans created these monster storms. We've known about the potentially devastating impact of global warming for nearly a generation. Yet we turned up the throttle, as if to say: "We just don't give a damn." What did anyone expect? SUVs make up 52% of all the vehicles owned in America, each a death engine, spewing record amounts of CO2 into the earth's atmosphere. How do we explain to our children that Americans represent less than 5% of the population of the world but devour more than a quarter of the fossil-fuel energy produced each year? How do we say to the grieving relatives of the victims of the hurricane that we were too selfish to allow even a modest five-cent tax increase on a gallon of petrol in order to encourage energy conservation? And when our neighbours in Europe and around the world ask why the American public was so unwilling to make global warming a priority by signing up to the Kyoto treaty on climate change, what do we tell them?"
First lets look at this report in Science Magazine: (sea surface temperature = SST)

"....Numerous studies have addressed the issue of changes in the global frequency and intensity of hurricanes in the warming world. Our basic conceptual understanding of hurricanes suggests that there could be a relationship between hurricane activity and SST. It is well established that SST > 26°C is a requirement for tropical cyclone formation in the current climate (6, 7). There is also a hypothesized relationship between SST and the maximum potential hurricane intensity (8, 9). However, strong interannual variability in hurricane statistics (10-14) and the possible influence of interannual variability associated with El Niño and the North Atlantic Oscillation (11, 12) make it difficult to discern any trend relative to background SST increases with statistical veracity (8). Factors other than SST have been cited for their role in regulating hurricane characteristics, including vertical shear and mid-tropospheric moisture (15). Global modeling results for doubled CO2 scenarios are contradictory (15-20), with simulations showing a lack of consistency in projecting an increase or decrease in the total number of hurricanes, although most simulations project an increase in hurricane intensity." "....In summary, careful analysis of global hurricane data shows that, against a background of increasing SST, no global trend has yet emerged in the number of tropical storms and hurricanes. Only one region, the North Atlantic, shows a statistically significant increase, which commenced in 1995. However, a simple attribution of the increase in numbers of storms to a warming SST environment is not supported, because of the lack of a comparable correlation in other ocean basins where SST is also increasing. The observation that increases in North Atlantic hurricane characteristics have occurred simultaneously with a statistically significant positive trend in SST has led to the speculation that the changes in both fields are the result of global warming (3). "

We deliberately limited this study to the satellite era because of the known biases before this period (28), which means that a comprehensive analysis of longer-period oscillations and trends has not been attempted. There is evidence of a minimum of intense cyclones occurring in the 1970s (11), which could indicate that our observed trend toward more intense cyclones is a reflection of a long-period oscillation. However, the sustained increase over a period of 30 years in the proportion of category 4 and 5 hurricanes indicates that the related oscillation would have to be on a period substantially longer than that observed in previous studies. We conclude that global data indicate a 30-year trend toward more frequent and intense hurricanes, corroborated by the results of the recent regional assessment (29). This trend is not inconsistent with recent climate model simulations that a doubling of CO2 may increase the frequency of the most intense cyclones (18, 30), although attribution of the 30-year trends to global warming would require a longer global data record and, especially, a deeper understanding of the role of hurricanes in the general circulation of the atmosphere and ocean, even in the present climate state.

Neater Summary:
What part does global warming have to play in these hurricanes? Although this has been an exceptional year in terms of the number of storms, there have so far not been as many as there were in 1995, when we had 19. There have been similarly active seasons dating back decades. In both 1960 and 1961 there were two Category 5 storms in the Atlantic region and in 1933 there were 21 storms. If you discount Ophelia, which grazed the Carolinas, three hurricanes have so far made landfall over the US this year. In 1886, records show that there were seven. So there is no evidence that there are more storms when looked at globally, but what we may be seeing is an increase in the peak intensity of the strongest ones. Two research papers published in the past month have suggested an increase in the number of category 4 and 5 storms. Tropical cyclone activity is highly variable, often as a result of natural changes in the atmosphere and ocean, so although this evidence is a start, we are a long way from proving a connection.
KRT:
"We are solidly into one of these active periods," said Colin McAdie, a meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center. "We're figuring we're 10 years into this one. We could be looking at 10 to 20 more years." That means next year, and the years after that, could be just as scary as this one, with mega-storms taking aim at Florida, the Carolinas or the Gulf Coast, spiking the anxiety levels of those in their path. Hurricanes feed on warm water and scientists say the pattern of increased storm frequency and strength is caused by a cyclical rise in ocean temperatures. Besides fueling more powerful hurricanes, a higher number of storms means more of them will be stronger. "Certainly, with more frequency of active systems, we can see a lot more chances to have more intense hurricanes," said another storm forecaster, Chris Sisko. The cycles commonly run about 25 to 30 years, scientists say, but can vary and see breaks of as much as a decade. The current cycle started around 1995. Prior to then, from 1975 to 1995, only four major hurricanes, defined as a Category 3 or higher, impacted the state. "In the `70s and `80s," McAdie said, "people were saying, `I guess we don't get hurricanes any more.'" By contrast, 23 hurricanes hit South Florida alone during the last cycle of high hurricane activity, from 1926 to 1965. Of those storms, 15 were major ones. "We had about a 40-year period when it was very busy," said meteorologist Chris Landsea with the National Hurricane Center. During that cycle, on Labor Day 1935, a Category 5 hurricane hit the Florida Keys. "....A cycle of warm ocean water fuels individual storms like Rita, and gives rise to stronger hurricanes during high activity cycles such as the present one. Researchers say a higher salt content in the Atlantic causes the water to become more dense, which in turn causes the water to grow warmer, perhaps by as much as a degree. That single degree can make a difference in whether a tropical wave rolling across the sea will develop into a devastating hurricane. Researchers have yet to decipher the rhythm of the storm cycles. "The oceanographers are looking into that, trying to understand that," Landsea said. Contrary to speculation, the cycles may not result from human-induced global warming. Prevailing scientific opinion says global warming has little or nothing to do with the trend. "The science is not settled on that," McAdie said. "It's an open question."
Rifkin who earlier this year proclaimed that the EU was the new hotness and America was old and busted on the world political stage(then came the whole EU constitution debacle, continued high unemployment in the EU..etc..etc) The SUVs and evil selfish Americans and others are the proud parents of Cat 5 Hurricanes, facts be damned. The advice he gives out to change the ways of everyone seems familiar.
"In the coming weeks and months, millions of Americans will reach out to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina with offerings of food, shelter and financial assistance. Natural calamities tend to bring out the best in the American character. We pride ourselves on being there for our fellow human beings when they cry out for help. Why can't we muster up the same passionate response when the Earth itself is crying out for help? Shame on the United States of America and the peoples of other countries - we're not alone - who have put their personal, short-term whims, desires and gratifications ahead of the welfare of the rest of the planet. "....If I could get the ear of George Bush, for just a moment, I would say: "Mr President, if you had looked deeply into the eye of the storm, what you would have seen was the future demise of the planet we live on." It's time to tell the American people and the world the real lesson of Katrina: that we need to mobilise the talent, energy and resolve of the American people, and of people everywhere, to wean ourselves off the oil spigot that's threatening the future of every creature on earth."
He wants a 2005 version of the Jimmy Carter malaise speech, which worked wonders back in the days. The global warmers like Rifkin are swooning about these hurricanes because they can make it fit into what amounts to a religion these days. Don't believe the hype.

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