to watch the US mainstream media yearn for a hurricane, especially
one that will threaten people. They anxiously scan the weather maps
off the coast of West Africa for any low-pressure system that might
develop into a news making, life threatening, normal event. It is
another measure of how the media is not about news but editorializing,
speculation and sensationalism. Sadly, they are joined in this or
at least not dissuaded or counteracted by government agencies.
of overstatement and predicting impending doom that doesn’t
materialize is loss of credibility. It is already happening to science
in general and climate science in particular, even allowing for
traditional skepticism about weather forecasts.
when the mainstream media run out of hyperbole for the weather?
Networks don’t have the weather report anymore; it’s extreme
or severe weather. Ordinary weather events are presented as extraordinary.
We’re told it was the warmest, wettest, or driest. Then they
add, in the last 10 or 15 years, or some other ludicrously short
period. All this creates the impression that global warming claims
of more severe weather are valid. What it really shows is how much
information is manipulated beyond the already exposed scientific
fiascos. It’s symptomatic of what is really the Age of Misinformation.
in the Pacific) season begins in late summer as tropical water temperatures
reach maximum levels. Water temperatures vary and where warmest,
low pressure develops in the overlying air. In the Atlantic they
begin close to the Equator off the African coast as depressions,
more correctly, Easterly Waves. They do not form the familiar circular
spinning shape of a hurricane because the effects of the Earth’s
rotation called Coriolis Force (CF) is not strong enough. Winds
blow from east to west and carry these Waves towards North America.
As they move away from the Equator beyond 10° of latitude CF
increases and turns them into circular Tropical Storms (Figure 1).
They are then
given a name and attract media attention.
As the wind
speed increases the category changes when it goes above 33 meters
a second (74 mph) it is a Category 1 hurricane and can progress
to Category 5. Here the limitations of the science also increase.
Variations factors can cause the wind speeds to increase or decrease
mostly related to changing water temperatures. It is also difficult
to get accurate wind speed measurements. The most basic technique
over the oceans is to convert upper level wind speeds obtained by
aircraft into surface wind speed using a computer model. This has
been very questionable.
Sequence of development of Atlantic hurricanes. Source.
The next issue
is the direction the hurricane takes and that science is equally
weak. Generally they turn north, advance more rapidly and internal
wind speed increases as they approach North America. The major energy
source is heat absorbed in evaporation that is released back in
to the atmosphere with condensation. This is why they lose force
very quickly once they move over land. It also occurs when they
move north over cooler water. As they move north CF increases and
they are directed further east. They’re also driven by the
As usual, many
of the limitations of the science are explained but the media ignore
these and pick results that are the worst case scenario. When Katerina
was approaching the shore of the Gulf of Mexico they couldn’t
wait to report it was a Category 5 hurricane. It was this briefly,
based on a single upper level wind-reading put in their computer
model. By the time it came ashore it was barely a Category 3. Major
damage was done because dikes, not reinforced because of environmental
protests, burst. The same dike failure happened in Galveston, Texas
1900 when hurricane Camille hit and 6000 people died. When the IPCC
reports provided a range of possible temperature increases the media
invariably chose the highest level.