The National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative “think-tank”, has again issued a press release asking if NOAA is Smarter than Fifth Graders (?) when forecasting the number of Atlantic tropical storms in 2011. However, in their lame satirical attempt at making serious points, they reveal how little they actually know about seasonal hurricane forecasting. Amy Ridenour, president of the outfit, falsely conflates seasonal hurricane forecasting with climate science methods relating human-caused global warming to changes in x, y, and z phenomena.
Ridenour and her Think-Tank should not mock the researchers who are legitimately trying to determine the ferocity of the upcoming hurricane season – as preparedness is the key to preventing loss of life. NOAA, including the National Weather Service and the many labs around the US including the Storm Prediction Center and National Hurricane Center perform admirably to warn the public of impending situations, and often explain the causes and implications of weather phenomena in professional manners.
If you read the NOAA Hurricane Outlook for 2011, you will find the scientific reasoning for the upcoming “above-normal” hurricane season. However, predicting the exact number of storms is indeed a crap-shoot, as many tropical cyclones develop from small-scale, seemingly opportunistic disturbances that are not necessarily characteristic of the prevailing large-scale climate. Looking to the tropical Pacific for the current and upcoming El Nino Southern Oscillation phase is well-established in the scientific literature to be a statistically significant and useful predictor of Atlantic and Pacific seasonal tropical storm activity.
“Washington, D.C. – The same organization that challenged NOAA to bragging rights for the best hurricane forecast last year using a trained chimp armed only with a pair of dice and a craps table is challenging the agency again: This time by putting two fifth graders up against the multi-billion dollar federal agency.
“Forecasts are just that: forecasts. All that matters is what actually happens,” said Amy Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research. “We should keep this in mind as we consider whether to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Past forecasts of rising temperatures, sea levels, and droughts and other extreme weather events due to rising concentrations of carbon haven’t proven any more reliable that NOAA’s annual hurricane forecast. Until their reliability improves, it would be irresponsible to base policy on them.“
I ask Ridenour to retract her conclusions based upon her false logic, and issue an apology to the specific forecasters at NOAA, who are not invested in global warming prognostications, but legitimate public service in providing expert assessments of hurricane risk in 2011.
Instead ask this question: how much money has been spent on seasonal hurricane forecasting research instead of climate change modeling scenarios for the year 2100? If you are going to mock someone, then make sure you have the right target.