Understanding What Is Driving Climate and Weather Is Vital in Forecasting
I was recently in the Bahamas for a conference and spoke on the upcoming hurricane season. I love the Bahamas. After four visits there, I have grown to love the Bahamian people. You get off the plane and it’s like you are meeting your long lost uncle or aunt — you are greeted by people affirming how glad they are to see you. It’s a wonderful place. Makes me a fan of redistributing wealth in the form of any recreational cash I have.
My goal is to be part of the client’s goal — to be a good corporate citizen. They are working very actively with the met office that’s run by Trevor Basden, who had one of the most compelling talks I have heard (he also did a math trick at dinner that I have yet to replicate despite staying up all night trying). My part is to supply my client with our ideas, and then perhaps it can help with overall preparations. The client, Nassau Container Port, has a huge responsibility, and the private sector in the Bahamas actively led the way with the clean up after Joaquin.
Basden’s presentation left me with two huge impressions. 1) Three of the top seven islands to be hit by hurricanes are in the Bahamas. Abaco is the number one island for most hits in the Atlantic basin. (There are very few hurricane facts that get by me; I naturally went for Hispaniola.) 2.) The tracks of storms through the Bahamas was mind boggling. Can you even see an island?
My point is that the issue of climate change is a moot point. How many more or how much worse can it get? Whether you believe in it or not, guess what? You live at ground zero for hurricanes hit.
So my suggestion was that each island with anyone on it should have a one-week supply of food on it in case the islands get cut off. The Bahamas suffer the same fate as all the areas of the world that are affected by weather — if more people and property are in the way, and you are changing the basic structure of any given place (example: replacing natural wet lands with concrete), you are going to pay a bigger price when storms come along. That is common sense intuition.
I was in charge of showing where we think this season and the next one are going, but Basden’s presentation was sobering. Like me, he made no public statement on the issue of climate change, but if one simply looks at the facts of the past and says, “Let’s deal with the obvious problem now,” you make your point. You don’t need to get into turf fights over the climate issue; there is a problem NOW. Every island should have a building on it for storage where people can come in the event of a disaster. Simple. It’s called adapting, and it’s much less costly than some of the other things being proposed.
All those people hugging me coming off the plane did so because they understand that a profitable tourist industry makes the country profitable. But if there are no tourists due to a rough economy, then the islands suffer. So in the climate situation, when the U.S. is being handcuffed economically trying to be an example to the planet and trying to stave off .01 degrees Celsius (EPA administrator’s words, not mine), it is hurting the people in the Bahamas and elsewhere. The bottom line is, as wonderful as this place is, it’s not paradise, and the private/public sectors should be taking steps to prepare for storms that can cut these islands off for days.
Basden hit them with the past, and I hit them with the idea we have currently a very warm western Atlantic that could lead to multiple rapid feedback events like Joaquin in close to the coasts in the western Atlantic basin. This isn’t climate change; it’s just common sense. And when you grow to love a place and meet its wonderful people, you simply wish to help. I feel like I am helping people in this situation — and who does not want to help people? You handle the problem in front of you that you can see and aid in it, not engage in something that is so subtle that there is debate as to the extent. And you could care less who gets the credit.
Perhaps a stronger example would be advising countries in the cocoa belt. If I am advising them, I am not concerned with what the increase of one molecule of CO
So what would I be advising the private and public partnerships in these areas? That the current natural cyclical pattern is going to be turning around in the coming 20 years, because the AMO is going to turn cold again. This is why I love and study climate so much — it gives me an edge. So, who are you going to trust with the forecast — the guy that goes back, shows you what happened because of the major driving factors, or someone who simply wishes to blame everything on something that is debatable?
Think about this: The uptick of knowledge in farming the past 20 years has all been going on while the pattern is a wet one (by the way, you can see why John Kerry’s idea of blaming the rise of Boko Haram on drought was absurd, because there has been no drought in the warm AMO in this part of Africa). If you have adopted policies based on the false premise that this was because of CO2 rather than the AMO, you are guilty of faulty reasoning and a missed diagnosis. Quibbling over what the influence of a minuscule increases of CO
Basically it’s like I always say: Know the WHY before the WHAT. Climate and the understanding of it is a powerful tool in knowing WHAT is coming because if you have seen it before, you understand WHY.
Above all, understand that at Weathebell.com, it’s our prime concern to nail forecasts, and by doing so we help people. Knowing what is going on by understanding what has happened is a huge tool, and I just thought that I would share a couple of practical examples for you. This is why the knowledge of the major forces driving weather and climate based on long standing, proven examples is so vital to what we do and why I speak up when I disagree with people who do not do this every day for a living or have not loved it since their first memory. I am not out to save the planet but to nail the forecast. And that makes one a bit more objective, because the agenda is simple — be right and help those who will listen.
Joe Bastardi is chief forecaster at WeatherBELL Analytics, a meteorological consulting firm.
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