Sunday, October 23, 2005

Flim-Flam from Florida

The (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel, published in Fort Lauderdale, is a decent mid-size paper, but like many dailies here in the US, its editorial staff is easily persuaded to believe the worst about global warming, especially when it works as a pretext to bash the Bush administration (the Sun-Sentinel has endorsed the Democratic candidate for at least the last five elections; I can't remember if they endorsed Reagan in 1984 or in 1980). They won't let the facts get in the way of a diatribe, as evidenced by this editorial from yesterday's edition.

[snip first two paragaphs]

There is no conclusive proof that global warming is causing the increased hurricane activity and intensity of recent years. Indeed, National Hurricane Center director Max Mayfield last month told a congressional panel that the cause is more likely a natural ocean cycle that can last as long as 40 years.

But Mayfield is not the only expert, and others disagree. In August, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published a study that found a correlation between higher ocean temperatures and greater hurricane intensity. Some discounted that, but now another study concurs.

Max Mayfield has been studying and researching hurricanes for 35 years (he started in 1970 while he was in the Air Force), and has been director of the National Hurricane Center for the last five. I think that at least in this one field, he can be considered a definitive expert, but his heretical thinking makes him an unreliable witness for the prosecution.

Kerry Emanuel, the MIT researcher cited by the editorial, went to great pains to discount the global warming angle of the results of his study, but it's easy for newpapers to write up a distorted headline and bury the researcher's qualifiers far into the article, where fewer people will se what the study actually discovered.

Google News (an easy metric to use, since I don't have access to Lexis/Nexis) has 92 hits for the string "Kerry Emanuel" study, but only 4 hits for "Kerry Emanuel" study "El Nino". Considering the significance of the El Nino phenomenon and its effects on water temperature and hurricane formation, 96% of the articles left out a critical part of the equation.

The National Environmental Trust reports that a team of scientists from Georgia Tech University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research has published a study in the journal Science finding a significant increase in category 4 and 5 hurricanes over the past 35 years, corresponding with higher ocean temperatures. While neither this nor the earlier study blames global warming alone for this pattern, the findings should not be ignored.

Hmmm, 1970 was near the beginning of one of the quietest cycles recorded, one that ended in 1995. (Hurricane Andrew was the only major hurricane in 1992, a season in which only six tropical storms formed). The last ten years have seen a sudden upward swing, which would cause a notable spike if one didn't go back farther and see the same numbers in the past. Remember, this uear broke a 72-year old record for the number of storms formed. It's also possible that there were other equally active storm years prior to 1950, when regular stormtracker flights were started, or 1960, when the first weather satellites were launched. It wasn't until 1970 that what could be considered "modern" weather satellites were launched, ones that could accurately record cloud temperatures.

Besides, there are other signs of global warming. The polar ice cap shrank this summer to its smallest size in at least 100 years, and NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies recently documented that 2005 is on track to be the warmest year on record.

The Earth's ice cap is shrinking? So is the one on Mars, and the Rover is solar-powered, so you can't blame THAT on SUV's. It's possible that the SUN might have something to do with it.

Also, while the Artic ice cap is shrinking, the Antarctic ice cap is growing, and the overall temperature at the south pole is slightly lower than it was 30 years ago.

Steven Milloy has an excellent piece that allays most of the hyperventilating of the Sun-Sentinel editorial. It can be found here. It has plenty of links; be sure to check it out.

posted at 06:29 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

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