Storms of My Father
James Hansen has a fantasy book out called “Storms of my Grandchildren.” I say fantasy because it seems that if you are climate scientist, or pretend to be (Dr. Hansen is actually a trained astronomer and a darn good one from what I have heard), you are allowed to make forecasts that no one now will be around to verify, and the ones you do make short term are allowed to bust and then be claimed as correct anyway. I think a lot of people in my business, who pre-date the rise of the climate science hero, are wondering if we chose the wrong profession.
However, I have a real story. It ties in with the major worry we have about what on paper in the large term is a less than spectacular hurricane season. And now I see forecasts coming out that look and sound much like what WeatherBell Analytics has had out for quite some time now.
Read about it here. It has been out since the start of April!
I thought I would recount a story that my dad would tell me. We were still living in Rhode Island at the time, before my father went to Texas A&M to get his degree in meteorology, and it may have been around the time of Donna in 1960. But he always knew I would get fired up when he told me as a little kid (I was not normal – the 3 bears never hacked it for me). Of course my “nonna” knew she could fire me up with Oreo cookies, but that shows you how much I loved the hurricane stories too.
Side note: The senator from Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse (interesting name if you have presidential ambitions using global warming as an agenda to get attention, eh?), either does not know what happened to his home state between1954-1960, even after being devastated in 1938 and hammered to a lesser degree in 1944 by hurricanes, or he is trying to purposely use the fact that less and less of the population that remembers is around so he can distort the current hurricane conditions. This is par for the course given what is obviously a politically-driven agenda now. But how do you try to say things are worse now than they were then? We have a radar fence on the East Coast partly because former Rhode Island Senator T.F. Greene (the airport is named after him) thought it was important for the state to get prepared for hurricanes slamming them in alarmingly frequent fashion. He was probably tired of thinking storms would pass to the east and then dealing with hurricane blasts knocking over trees left and right.
In any case the story of my father involved the New England hurricanes of 1954, Carol and Edna. My father’s story: “Joe I came home from work at 8 am (he was working the graveyard shift at United Wire in Cranston) and turned on the Today Show. And the announcer (I believe at the time David Garroway) was saying Hurricane Carol was passing east of Cape Hatteras and would ‘break up east of Cape Cod’ that afternoon.” Then, with a pause to enhance the drama, dad would say, “20 minutes later, the power went out at Westerly (RI).”
No wonder; look at this picture of Westerly from Carol.
His description of the passage of Carol was interesting. At the height of the highest winds, which were at a constant roar, there was a cirrus overcast that one could see the sun through. As in so many storms that recurve, there is less rain east of the center relative to the west of the center. This is because of the storms’ structure changing as the cool upper troughs that catch these systems start to interact with the storm. However, there is no doubting the severity of the surge up Narragansett Bay, second only to 1938.
Here is the Edgewood Yacht Club in Cranston, RI, not more than five miles from where I lived the first five years of my life:
What is amazing is this picture. Remember what my dad said about the overcast being high and thin? Look at this guy fighting the wind, but notice you can see the cumulus clouds against a backdrop of high, or few clouds.
I can’t do justice to this, but a good description of Carol is in Wikipedia.
But it wasn’t over; not yet.
While Carol’s little sister Dolly recurved southeast of New England, dad’s story picked up with Carol’s ferocious sister, Edna. “11 days later, the power had just come back on and here comes Edna, being forecasted to travel the same track as Carol! At the last minute, Edna veered enough so the wind shifted from hurricane force gusts from the east and northeast to the north and northwest, not south like Carol. The center passed to the east of Rhode Island, over Cape Cod, resulting in a huge blowout tide in Narragansett Bay, and the exposure of ships not seen since the revolutionary war! But if Edna had stayed the course, then Rhode Island would have been devastated twice within two weeks! Nothing has come close to this since.”
Which says a lot about people that are trying to say things are worse now than ever, especially a U.S. senator from the state of Rhode Island, or any East Coast state for that matter given what happened between 1954 and 1960. (Remember, we had Hazel too in 1954, another story which I have linked with Sandy many times). And finally there was Donna in 1960 along the entire East Coast, which my dad wrote about at Texas A& M. With hurricane force winds from Maine to Florida, no other storm has come close to that since!
Now these storms of my father are not some fantasy about the future, but verified fact that less and less people alive today remember. But they were told and retold to me, which why I scoff so much at the hysteria whipped up by people today that look from afar, and may I add down the noses of people that actually experienced this.
My dad would always end the story, and he will tell it many times through the years: “Joe, do you realize what would happen today if this repeated itself?”
You know, it’s a scary thought for several reasons. 1.) The population and property now on the East Coast. 2.) The amazing politicization of the weather. 3.) The lack of what appears to me to be a media that will do its job to make sure the public understands that something like this has happened and can happen again, and that man does not have a darn thing to do with it!
Now let’s look at that 1954 season. You can easily see the tracks of the three sisters up the East Coast, the strongest by the way was Hazel, a category four hurricane in mid-October.
Notice there was only one big storm, Hazel, that came out of the deep tropics. Most of the action was to the north. The 11th storm was a fluke so to speak – it developed at the end of December in the northeast Caribbean. Again, can you imagine with the propaganda and the agenda today how this would be twisted as something less than natural? By the way, look at storm number four, Dolly. Suppose that was 200 miles further west, a stones throw in terms of the global circulation.
Let’s get to the water temps. around this time of the year back in 1954. There was plenty of warmth off the East Coast.
Now look at 2014.
Very similar with warm water in very close to the coast. Why? We are in the same decadol cycle in the climate overall; it’s why anyone that has studied hurricanes understands that we have been fortunate compared to the 1950s. Now again I want you to look at our forecast, which came out to clients first at the end of March, and went public on April 8th. Notice our worry and where it’s targeted.
The “Storms of My Father” were real. Perhaps I am guilty, because of a love for the weather and the way the weather has worked in its patterns throughout time (that’s called climate), of being a bit overdramatic here. But the fact that you see something before, and understand the cause, and then see it again and warn people you are in a similar set up, is far different from those who perhaps know what should happen, then try to attribute a different reason to it for their own gain. I don’t know. But there was a great senator years ago that grew up in New England like his brother before him who was struck down by an assassin’s bullet in the prime of his life. As perhaps a too idealistic and yes, a bit naive, teenager at that time, I was a big fan of RFK, and even today I wonder what would have happened if he and his brother lived. In any case, there was something he used to say that applies in a way to the hurricane threat today. While any storm that comes along, or multiple storms for instance like the “storms of my father,” may have some men asking, “Why?” I see the weather and climate for what it is and wonder, “Why not?”
Joe Bastardi is chief forecaster at WeatherBELL Analytics, a meteorological consulting firm.
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