The explanations in the wake of hurricanes have gotten so strange. There is now disagreement not only on why they happen but what actually happened. So I have a few post-Hurricane Michael comments to make.
1) The Need to Seed
I am an increasingly loud proponent of seeding major hurricanes or storms projected to become major hurricanes within 24 hours of landfall. I have made the argument that for a storm to be strong, it needs increasingly favorable conditions. The stronger the storm, the better the atmospheric conditions it needs. If you can disrupt those conditions in any way, you can lessen the impact. Results from Project Stormfury were labeled inconclusive, but the intensities of the storms seeded were not as great as the ones I want to see seeded. I think it’s worth a try. Unfortunately, there is a lot of opposition.
I sometimes wonder if it’s because people do not want to see storms seeded. I didn’t when I was a younger for two reasons: I did not think mankind should try to mess with nature, and I did not want the storms to weaken. I loved strong storms. It is a morbid fascination and one I have had to come to grips with over the years because the results of strong storms are flat-out bad.
There is nothing positive about a storm destroying people’s lives. Now I have a different attitude. If I can somehow help forecast these storms, I can help people deal with what I believe is natural. In the case of hurricanes, I do think seeding is worth a try. What if it works? Well, then it would be an example in which man actually does affect nature.
But perhaps there are some people who don’t want that because if hurricanes are weaker at landfall, it takes away a talking point. How do we know that? One reason is because the vast majority of the public is not aware that landfalling major hurricanes have decreased over the last 50 years or that Michael is only one of a handful of major storms over the last 30 years — the golden age of global warming — that reached the coast at peak intensity. Hurricane Florence was more typical of most hurricanes. Why that fact is not common knowledge is interesting to me.
The result of a Twitter poll shows support for my seeding idea.
I see a partial link between hurricane-seeding resistance and the no-nuclear-power argument — fear of something negative happening. Interestingly enough, Dr. James Hansen, who believes CO2 is destroying the climate, and myself, who obviously does not, agree that we should be using more nuclear power. I think you need to plan and build wisely. I really don’t care where energy comes from — any energy company needs a forecast. In fact, in terms of meteorology, wind and solar industries are even more profitable than the fossil-fuel industry, as they need weather forecasts every day, not just longer-term outlooks.
If I can provide them with great forecasts, I can lower costs. But sometimes I wonder if lessening a problem would cut the feet out from under an agenda. If hurricanes weren’t as strong, or if nuclear power lessened the panic over CO2, what would happen to a whole slew of people who seem solely interested in promoting a means to an end? Trying to limit hurricanes via seeding or instilling a non-CO2 source of energy that is cost efficient may be opposed by people who have ulterior motives. What happens if the CO2 argument goes away? It doesn’t affect me in the least — but what happens to those whose livelihoods are based on promoting a scheme?
2) Who Stopped the Rain?
For as powerful as Michael was, the rainfall was not all that impressive.
There is a reason for that: The storm moved faster. Then again, Hurricane Floyd in 1999 moved fast and deposited much more rain and was not as strong as Michael.
Lee was a tropical storm back in 2011. Why did he have more rain than Michael? Look also at how much there was in the Northeast well after landfall.
Why did Amelia, a disorganized tropical storm in 1978, dump so much rain? Forty-eight inches, in fact, very far inland.
There are many other examples.
The argument that tropical cyclones are producing more rain today because of warmer oceans is an agenda point. Could it be right? Perhaps. But how do you put a number on it? Amelia’s 48" rainfall measurement occurred in a shorter period of time and farther away from the Gulf than Harvey’s record. The latter stalled because of an anomalously cold trough of low pressure that captured the storm near the coast. Absent a cold trough, the storm would have kept moving inland, as many Texas hurricanes do, and the temperature gradient needed to enhance condensation processes wouldn’t have been there as long. Saying there was X% more rain is not provable. Then again, it is not unprovable. Which gives opportunists carte blanche to toss around unseemly numbers.
Hurricane Florence moved very slowly but weakened off its peak. So was the accompanying heavy rain the result of climate change, but the weakening was not? How can you have it both ways? Looking at other examples, why did Hurricane Michael underwhelm in terms of rainfall? Again, it’s not just one factor. Michael ran northeast, but very chilly air to the west of it that could help enhance rainfall was not there. It was warm when the rain went through; the cold air came after. You need slow movement, or you need a big clash. And if you get both (like Harvey did), look out!
Florence moved slowly and stayed near the coast for so long that it was able to pull in major amounts of moisture for a very long period of time. One could argue, “See? That’s because of the warm water and a big ridge.” I would say, “Sure, you may have an argument there, but the flip side is that talk of Florence being the strongest storm to ever hit that far north was way out of touch.” With Florence, did climate change make it rain more but also not make the winds as strong? With Michael, did climate change make it intensify more but also lessen rainfall?
You can’t just simply take whichever variable supports your missive and say, “Told ya!” Which brings me to the next point…
3) The Lack of Respect for Nature
The post-Michael comments by some indicate to me that, for all our knowledge, we are ignoring what nature can do. It’s not why do Michaels happen, but why shouldn’t they? Moreover, why can’t they be stronger?
Denying how strong Michael was because Tyndall Air Force Base had a gust of only 129 MPH in the eyewall ignores the fact that the wind was coming from a land component, where frictional effects can knock it down 25% or more. It’s also a spot anemometer, and not too many devices were set up where the eyewall came in with a wind direction from the Gulf. A look at the damage shows it was the beast it was portrayed as. Radar, recon, and damage (trees being snapped, trains blown off tracks, high storm surge, etc.) all suggest that strong wind was being produced. It’s like arguing DNA at the scene of a crime is useless. No one planted the evidence of the storm; it showed up with it.
Downplaying this is totally unnecessary, because this is what nature does, can do, and should do every so often.
That being said, the other side is predictably showing up after the fact and claiming it’s indicative of the climate going haywire. Once again, climate opportunists simply waited until Michael swept through and then blamed human influence. They do it time after time. It’s up to every American to actually look and realize what kind of game is being played here. Blaming humans shows no respect for the power of nature. Attributing these storms to man-made global warming is based on fostering an agenda.
Some computer model runs had this storm even stronger. I saw some runs bring the pressure down to near 900mb! That’s 20mb lower than what the storm actually deepened to. So why did this modeling, which has no CO2 input, see this as getting stronger? Can I say Michael ended up being 20% weaker than it should have been? Of course not.
In any case, we need to respect the power of nature, not turn it into a Rodney Dangerfield meme.
Joe Bastardi, a pioneer in extreme weather and long-range forecasting, is a contributor to The Patriot Post on environmental issues. He is the author of “The Climate Chronicles: Inconvenient Revelations You Won’t Hear From Al Gore — and Others.”