Roger Pielke Jr.: “The Hurricane Lull Couldn’t Last”

Guest post by David Middleton

Common sense from Roger Pielke Jr…

COMMENTARY

The Hurricane Lull Couldn’t Last

The U.S. hadn’t been hit by a Category 3 or stronger storm since Katrina in 2005. We were overdue.

By Roger Pielke Jr.
Aug. 31, 2017 7:09 p.m. ET

Activists, journalists and scientists have pounced on the still-unfolding disaster in Houston and along the Gulf Coast in an attempt to focus the policy discussion narrowly on climate change. Such single-issue myopia takes precious attention away from policies that could improve our ability to prepare for and respond to disasters. More thoughtful and effective disaster policies are needed because the future will bring many more weather disasters like Hurricane Harvey, with larger impacts than those of the recent past.

For many years, those seeking to justify carbon restrictions argued that hurricanes had become more common and intense. That hasn’t happened. Scientific assessments, including those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. government’s latest National Climate Assessment, indicate no long-term increases in the frequency or strength of hurricanes in the U.S. Neither has there been an increase in floods, droughts and tornadoes, though heat waves and heavy precipitation have become more common.

Prior to Harvey, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm, the U.S. had gone a remarkable 12 years without being hit by a hurricane of Category 3 strength or stronger. Since 1970 the U.S. has only seen four hurricanes of Category 4 or 5 strength. In the previous 47 years, the country was struck by 14 such storms. President Obama presided over the lowest rate of hurricane landfalls—0.5 a year—of any president since at least 1900. Eight presidents dealt with more than two a year, but George W. Bush (18 storms) is the only one to have done so since Lyndon B. Johnson. The rest occurred before 1960.

Without data to support their wilder claims, climate partisans have now resorted to shouting that every extreme weather event was somehow “made worse” by the emission of greenhouse gases. Earlier this week, New York Times columnist David Leonhardt directed researchers “to shed some of the fussy over-precision about the relationship between climate change and weather.”

[…]

Wall Street Journal

Featured image from WSJ article:

bn-uw839_pielke_gr_20170830112929

A neighborhood near Addicks Reservoir in Houston, Aug. 29.PHOTO: DAVID J. PHILLIP/ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

And some bad news for the alarmists…

Gulf of Mexico operators returning to work after Harvey

09/01/2017

Offshore staff

NEW ORLEANS – About 9% of oil production and 13% of natural gas production remains shut-in in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

[…]

BSEE added that no damage reports from oil and gas operators have been received.

[…]

As offshore oil and gas operations return to normal, the industry continues to provide assistance for the onshore Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

Hess Corp. has donated $1 million to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. The company said that it will match every donation employees make in the coming weeks to relief efforts by the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, American Red Cross, and United Way of Houston.

Transocean says that it has contributed $100,000 to the American Red Cross and $100,000 to the Houston Food Bank. The company says that it will also match donations made to the relief efforts by its employees.

Statoil announced via social media that it has donated $250,000 to the Red Cross.

Weatherford International plc says that is has pledged $25,000 to Feeding Texas, the Texas Food Bank Network, and $25,000 to J.J. Watt’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.

ExxonMobil says that it has increased its financial commitment for Harvey relief to up to $9.5 million, which includes a new employee and retiree donation match program and in-kind donations to the American Red Cross for recovery efforts in South Texas. The increased support builds on $1 million in previous contributions to the American Red Cross and United Way of Greater Houston.

Offshore Magazine

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55 thoughts on “Roger Pielke Jr.: “The Hurricane Lull Couldn’t Last”

    • For what it’s worth, the article is By SETH BORENSTEIN

      Apart from Buffalo Bayou, which is still receiving water from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs, the flood waters had generally receded within a few days of the storm passing.

      The drainage grid could definitely be improved… But I’m not sure how much of a difference it would make when the city receives a year’s worth of rain in 3-4 days.

      • Seth Borenstein was unusually muted in that article. I would have expected him to rant about unprecedented rainfall due to climate change, but he talks calmly about chronic flooding due to poor maintenance, free market excess and zone mismanagement. He even talks, very accurately, of “1 in N years FLOODING” as opposed to “1 in N years RAINFALL”. All he has to do know is recognize that if “1 in N” events are occurring “too” frequently, then perhaps the estimate for N is too large, rather than that there has been a significant change in the system generating the events.

      • David, city and county negligence and poor maintenance made even this storm much worse than it should have been.
        Brays bayou, the watershed I live on, has flooded 6 times in about 40 years.
        Rach time we are told it is exceptional, unprecedented, etc.
        Yet in the upper bayou NOTHING had been done to bring maintenance current, much less actually improve things.
        There of the floods have been in the last 27 months!
        Our elected and technocrat leaders have a lot to be held to account over.

      • Braes Bayou has flooded three times in the past couple of years.

        Parts of Houston are extremely flood-prone

        Apart from codemning the flood-prone areas, I don’t see how you can improve the drainage enough to handle a year’s worth of rainfall in 4 days.

      • For the record, one rain gauge in Harris county recorded 51″ over the five day Harvey period. I keep seeing that or four feet as typical for Harvey for the area. That gauge was an outlier. A few gauges in the southeast of the county got 3′. The rain gauge nearest my home recorded 29.5″. Most rain gauges in Harris county recorded between 2 and 3 feet total. This is not actually a years worth of rain. The county gets about 50″ of rain per year. This was very bad but let’s not pick the biggest rainfall total out of over 100 gauges and present it as typical for the whole area.
        https://www.harriscountyfws.org/
        See for yourself. Choose historical data and set the dates for 5 days before 8/30.

    • The article makes a number of questionable assertions. One that the western prairies could absorb 11 inches in 24 hours. The question is how much at that rate? My yard was designed to absorb water, it will absorb 1.5 inches per minute, but it will only absorb 3 inches. A quick look at the websoil survey for a sampling of soils show that there are few soils that will absorb or transmit at that rate (0.45 inches per hour) or hold that much water.

      The other aspect that stood out to me was the channels being soil (mud) was somehow a detriment. Dredging that out would provide more flow area, but paving the channel will not appreciably speed up the flow. The channels at a slope of 1 ft per mile are just too flat.

      While some improvement could undoubtedly could be made, the article is entirely too optimistic about what could be accomplished. 50 inches of rain on a flat basin is just too much to expect to develop.

    • the foot per mile drop was pretty telling.
      I knew was flat area but though drainage had been set to steeper levels.

    • “Nearly any city would be overwhelmed by the more than 4 feet of rain that Hurricane Harvey has dumped since Friday,”

      No, only one rain gauge recorded more than 4 feet of rain for Harvey and that was an outlier. Most of Harris county got about 2.5 feet. That would be closer to the average for the city and county.

      “The entire system is designed to clear out only 12 to 13 inches of rain per 24-hour period … ”

      About half of Harvey’s rain fell on one day – 8/27. On that day 14″ or 15″ was pretty typical for most places. Here are the daily rainfall totals for the rain gauge closest to me, which I think was pretty typical for the county:

      8/25 0.1″
      8/26 4.7″
      8/27 14.4″
      8/28 7.1″
      8/29 3.2″

  1. Sigh, I’m old enough to remember when every extreme weather event was blamed on atomic bomb testing. The more things change the more they remain the same.

  2. With a few decades of Federal and State funds diverted away from drainage infrastructure projects the Governor and Houston “Leaders” were just waiting for the luck of the draw and Harvey delivered. Now, can count on diverting billions of dollars into their pockets, for narcotics and enjoying male-child prostitutes on their new super yachts sailing in the Mediterranean.

    Congratulations to the Governor of Texas and current Mayor of Houston. Enjoy your new pot of gold.

    • You sound like you are blaming the current administrations for allowing the failures of the past fifty years to catch up with the problems in Houston? Or that the current Texas leaders desired something like Harvey. Thats like blaming Governor Chiles for the decades of local mismanagement in South Florida leading the housing destruction caused by Andrew. Or blaming Bush for the flooding of NO during Katrina which could have been prevented or at least mitigated by flood gates on Lake Pontchartrain. Flood/ storm surge gates that had been stopped from being constructed by environmentalists and a federal judge for years. I use to get briefed on New Orleans annually long before Katrina and how it was a disaster waiting to happen and how we ALL would regret that environmentalists and a federal judge stopped the gates. Houston is flat, suffers as NO does from subsidence. A cities that should have either never been built where they were or allowed to grow where they are. Super storm Sandy’s destruction was as much to do with building infrastructure, albeit the wrong infrastructure in the wrong places.

      • You are absolutely right, Edwin. What happened in New Orleans was the fault of Environmentalists, Judges and local political graft and ineptitude. Yet, to the general public the problem was increasing CO2 in the atmosphere and President Bush. That is the power of propaganda.

  3. The hurricane lull is a massive thorn in the side of climate alarmists. It was exactly the opposite of what they were proclaiming would happen. It is far more convincing evidence that they are wrong than the heavy rains of Harvey are an indication that they are right.

    This is like an NFL football coach proclaiming that his team is the number one team in the nation before the season starts. Then, after loosing their first 11 football games, they finally bring home a winner and the coach says “See…we are the number one team!” That scenario is so preposterous that it will never happen in football, but we let these climate change alarmists get away with it as if their point is even worth considering.

    So here is my response to anyone who wants to run around screaming doom and gloom over Harvey: UNPRECEDENTED TWELVE YEAR DROUGHT, BABY! If that is man-made climate change, we need a lot more of it! Right now, it would take 4 more landfalling, major hurricanes THIS SEASON just to get back to the average for any 12 year period before CAGW was a thing. If we have 5 more this year, then maybe they can start talking about a negative impact with any kind of a leg to stand on. Until then…they got nothing! If man-made climate change is having an impact on the tropics, it is a hugely beneficial impact so far!

  4. David, Thank you for the post. Pielke, who somehow has managed to hold on to his job at CU, also proposes serious changes to city’s building and infrastructure. One of his bullet points:

    • Encourage resilient growth. Disaster researcher Dennis Mileti has explained that the choices made at the local level—such as where to build—determine how a community will experience disasters. As communities develop, it can be difficult to see how local decisions might affect disasters years or decades down the road. This is particularly the case in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, when the push to “return to normal” might mean simply reinforcing the conditions that led to problems. Local communities need to take better advantage of experts who can explore development choices with an eye toward better preparing for an uncertain future.

    I read Wall Street Journal, but I also listen to the mostly-liberal “News Hour” and NPR. Those sources, too, are talking about far-sighted changes that might be beneficial in rebuilding. So, good for Seth Borenstein if he’s addressing real problems instead of imaginary ones. I don’t know if building houses on stilts is the right approach in that area, but I think people are either going to have to elevate their houses or move inland to no-flood areas. I have a feeling city leaders and developers will be the followers, rather than the leaders in this. It may take some rich individuals violating codes to show them how it should be done.

    • Galveston, Aransas Pass, and almost all open-coastal towns all the way around to the Key Largo side of FL often require the first floor of the sea-facing and near-sea buildings be “floodable” against storm surge (essentially stilt-built, or open-garage under the first floor, or a raised second floor with open floor entryway.) But, go even a few blocks inland – and not very much higher at all! – and you find conventional first floor construction susceptiblee to water damage from sea water/storm surge/flood-waters.

      As if the builders/town codes/flooding laws recognize “sea-driven waves” and require the very expensive buildings be set up to minimize damage from storm surge waves right near the beachs, but ignore “rising water” as an even greater danger to many more tens of thousands of square miles of low lands filled with lower cost buildings. telling in and of itself!

    • In the wake of Sandy, homeowners at the Jersey Shore looking to rebuild are required to elevate their structures by 10 feet in certain areas. You can use that new area to park your cars, boats, and whatnot, but no living quarters at that level anymore.

    • Katrina was barely a hurricane at her first landfall in Florida, but strengthened to a Cat 5 over the Gulf, then weakened to a Cat 3 when she hit Louisiana. She was the third most intense United States landfalling tropical cyclone, behind the 1935 Labor Day hurricane and Hurricane Camille in 1969.

      The storm inflicted the most deaths since the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane and the most dollar damage of any US hurricane, but dunno about inflation adjusted destruction value.

      • Don,

        That’s what I get for going by memory. I was in Austin, TX at the time, waiting to fly to Afghanistan from Ft. Sill, OK later that week.

      • Donald: 2 hours later, public advisory 27 has the center of Katrina ‘moving ashore’ with 125 mph winds, a category 3 hurricane. This was the reported condition at landfall. 26b was before landfall. There was a wind gust of 135 mph reported near the Mississippi Coast, but, to my knowledge, now surface instrument reported a category 3 sustained wind.

        It is interesting to note that New Orleans never reported a sustained wind of hurricane force. I am not sure if even the gusts reached that level. The hurricane sucked in a lot of dry air when it was at its category 5 peak over the Gulf of Mexico. As it made landfall, it was diminishing rapidly. The damage was done by the momentum of its impressive storm surge and its ‘worst case scenario’ track through the Delta Region. Her winds were generally not that impressive at landfall and beyond.

      • jclarke341 regarding the #27 advisory saying “moving ashore”: The whole truth is “again moving ashore”. And coordinates 30.2 N 89.6 W. The 26b advisory says 29.7 N 89.6 W. Try putting these two location into a map. Both of these are on land, with water in between. The water is “Lake” Borgne, a lagoon of the Gulf of Mexico.

      • Katrina was the third most intense hurricane by pressure, not by wind. There was at least one other hurricane after the Labor Day Hurricane and Camille that had higher winds than Katrina, namely Andrew.

      • My apologies. I just learned that Katrina’s 135 MPH wind as of the 26b advisory was reanalyzed downwards to 125 MPH (more exactly from 120 to 110 knots) after the storm.

        Also I learned that Katrina’s pressure at the time of its first Louisiana landfall, about 50 minutes before the time of the 26b advisory, was 920 mb, less than that of Andrew.

    • You are correct, Roy. Officially, it was Wilma later that year. But I like to go old school and recognize that there was no ‘ground-truth’ to Wilma or Katrina being a major hurricane at landfall. (Same for Harvey.). In the old days, before flying radar and dropsondes, hurricanes only reached their maximum categories with surface based measurements and observations. If we apply the same requirement to these modern storms, we would have to go back to Charlie for the last landfalling major hurricane, and we are still awaiting the next one. Looks like Irma will fill that role if Cuba doesn’t take her out.

      • The flooding in New Orleans was due to rather shoddy construction of drainage canals that hold rain water being pumped North to the Lake. High levels of water in the canals caused a few concrete wall sections in several canals to wash out and fall over. This allowed the lake to drain into the city beginning a day AFTER the hurricane and continuing for days. The canals did not have gates at the lake to prevent this. They have since added gates and converted the canals to I-walls instead of the less stable T-walls. And added some much larger gates and structures to handle storm surge. Meanwhile, we still have old pumps to drain the city and only 90% now works (up from ~75% a few weeks ago) and there are issues getting power to them due to a fire in an electrical station that runs many of the pumps. They have brought in generators to help with this. Still, the middle of hurricane season is not the time to find out the pumps a screwed up. We often have heavy rains and tropical storm rains but if we get what Houston got, we will flood again, probably worse due to half the city (the newer parts/suburbs) being below sea-level. My house is raised 3 feet and has had water in the garage/ground level at least 6 times since Betsy in 1965 (so FEMA tells me). But only in Katrina has the house ever had water in the raised main level.

      • jclarke341 Regarding pre-Charlie storms having their winds determined by ground observations and measurements: Generally it’s observations and measurements other than direct wind measurements, such as barometric pressure, and size of the eye and size and latitude of the storm, and the prevailing pressure around the storm or in the air mass that the storm entered or formed in. Note how even those storms have wind speeds rounded to the nearest 5 MPH – those are analyses, not anemometer measurements.

        Most major hurricanes have greatest extent from center of hurricane force sustained winds (analyzed and not measured with a measurement more direct than an SSMR, that is) only 30-50 miles from the center. The area with major hurricane force sustained wind is much smaller, and hits few or no official anenometers, let alone ones at the official altitude of 10 meters (most are lower), and that survive.

        As for status of Harvey as a landfalling major hurricane by direct wind measurement: There was a 96 knot sustained wind measured at the ANPT2 buoy near Aransas Pass. 96 knots is classified barely as Cat-3. It converts to 100.47 MPH, and has been reported both as 110 and 111 MPH, and more as 111 MPH to keep the classification as Cat-3. When a storm is analyzed as having maximum sustained wind in knots rounded to the nearest multiple of 5 knots as 95 knots, that is considered the upper end of Cat-2, and reported in MPH after rounding to the nearest 5 MPH, as 110 MPH and still said to be Cat-2. When the wind speed in knots is known to be 96 as opposed to 95 or 95 +/- 2 or whatever, then the storm is barely a Cat-3.

  5. Quick question, what has appreciably changed with infrastructure or building post Andrew, post Katrina, post Sandy? OK it was a rhetorical – 5 will get you 10 the answer is nothing has appreciably changed.

    • I can tell you what happened in Fairfeield CT after Sandy. The government passed a law requiring flood insurance if you lived within the designated risk zone, and insurance companies were allowed to require that your first floor be 15 feet above ground. Most people sold their houses cheap rather than completely rebuild them, and the developers swooped in to make a fortune buying cheap beautiful old houses and rebuilding them as modern monstrosities for millionaires.

  6. Part of the issue here is Insurance Companies and their insistence on replacing only what was in-place before the disaster…..even though the Homeowner’s Coverage is in some cases double the assessed value! It is more complicated with flood issues as the reality is re-building single family homes on lots which are out of the 100 year floodplain. In tornado or hurricane prone areas the solution is the elimination of stick–built, or manufactured homes, including trailers. That will minimize the potential loss of life. The most important consideration to be sure. Financially it is an another story for those at the bottom of the housing sector. Hopefully advanced building techniques will provide more affordable, structurally sound alternatives built in areas not subject to disaster.

    I live in a wind/shear prone area so I constructed my home in the side of a hill with reinforced concrete walls ( R Walls ) with Douglas Fir timber-framed roof, post & tie beams and anchored SIP roof panels. Finished with standing-seam metal roof panels. More expensive to be sure, but it will survived a Cat 4-5 hurricane when I close my shutters and buttress the doors.

    When visiting Netherlands and Germany 16 years ago I noticed residential construction methods and materials more substantial in all areas, including flood prone areas. I guess the authorities finally realized the importance of sound building techniques.

    In any case the taxpayers cannot continue to shoulder these inevitable disasters as it is unsustainable madness.

    • 40 yrs ago, I took in Mardi Gras in N’Orleans and toured a 200yr old plantation house. They knew how to build ’em then.

    • @Carbon;
      If you eliminate stick built, manufactured, and trailers that’s about 90% of housing stock, at a wild guess.

      Manufactured or pre-fab housing is much tougher than you think. It has to be sturdy enough to roll over the roads and get lifted by a crane. Stick-built homes can easily meet Cat 4 conditions and survive. It requires the will of politicians to set the necessary building codes in place.

      • J. Hawkins—as a former stick built home builder I am well aware of 2X6 wall strength when you don’t use engineered trusses for roof framing— minimum 2X10 with hurricane clips, 3/4 inch tongue & groove plywood and heavy duty roofing material like tile or cement shingles.
        But you overlooked the geographic point, i.e., stick built homes don’t belong in disaster prone areas—period. I suggest you view pictures of Andrew’s devastation in Florida—masonry structures with dimensional lumber roof framing with tile roofs survived—- stick-built homes were leveled.
        As the first builder to put a full sized home in the Philadelphia Home Show in 1988–stick built off-site and oversized load transported 50 miles to the Civic Center….reconstructed for a week…dismantled and re-transported to an awaiting foundation…..it is still occupied…..yes when process is controlled stick-built is fine.
        This exercise was before the pre-manufactured home industry materialized and utilized my background as a Rigging/Millright/Crane project manager. I love to watch these cable reality programs utilizing these varying processes that I and my crews completed in the 1980s.
        When it came to my current and last house….. concrete poured in Styrofoam Formwork with a web of horizontal and vertical steel reinforcement in the walls…with timber framing roof and post and beam construction provides a fortress of protection. Remember I chose to build on windy ( history of wind shear ) hillside. Much of this approach to building was exemplified on “This Old House” after I built my house. Yes I am a Missionary with respect to many anal approaches to design and construction I have taken in my lifetime. A direct result of being a Boy Scout ( Moto: Be Prepared ) my education and experience as a Professional Engineer for which I do not apologize for.
        I think 90% you quoted is a bit of a stretch as the majority of homes built in the last century (pre-manufactured) are still standing and occupied.

  7. With the falling output of the Sun likely to bring with it falling global temperatures and with the fact that with falling global temperatures comes increases in both the number and severity of storms why is there not a massive push for changes to building codes. The reason that the alarmist believe that the changes are needed are different from the real reason that they will be necessary but it should be easy to get them behind the effort none the less. Unless we as a race are just going to be too stiffed necked and sit and watch our cities repeatedly be subjected to disaster after disaster.

  8. It seems to me that Houston has a local talent for doing pipe work. Why don’t they build a better drainage system that would involve retention ponds, and pumps, and pipes? If you constructed 1 meter diameter pipes and buried them under the street, you could pump out the retention ponds before the storm hit, and use the pumps as the water accumulated to force water into the Gulf at higher pressure, and discharge rates. It may make more sense to do larger pipes and have less of them. It may not have stopped Harvey flooding, but they could have lessened the damage, and prevented some of the other floods. And all flooding is not equal. Flooding parks, golf courses, and undeveloped land, is always better than wide-spread out of control flooding.

      • You don’t need to implement the whole system all at once. You could do it over a 20 year period, when ever you need to tear up streets for re-pavement or widening. You could do the areas that are closest to the Bayou first and work your way outward.
        Many of the structures that are in the most “flood-prone” areas, should not be re-built. Make those areas public space that can be flooded during the periodic floods that Houston currently endures, instead of prevents.
        It is better to prevent, than to continually re-build in areas that should be utilized to store water temporarily during a deluge. Most modern cities have found ways. Houston seems to be behind the curve.

  9. It has been so long since the last cat 3 hurricane that the people of Texas forgot how to manage their own safety and failed to heed the sailor’s mantra to weather storms they can’t bear and bear the storms they can’t weather. Property damage caused by a hurricane stalled at the coastline by on-shore high pressure zones coupled with a storm surge preventing storm flood drainage in an asphalt jungle such as Houston and environs is a known threat. Human tragedy remains the fault of ignorance and incompetence of the leadership. The mayor of Houston had too much influence not only within Houston but also the nearby burbs. Had they listened to the better informed governor the human tragedy would have be far less. Yes, people would be going home to flooded homes but that is a consequence of living in a flood zone. They have to suck that up. It is certainly not the first time in recorded history this story has played out like this in this area. Cite the 1970s during the “new ice age scare” for severe flooding, for example. Mann should be held accountable for his misinterpretation of the events around Harvey and which will no doubt continue should Irma make landfall.

  10. “Hess Corp. has donated $1 million to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.”

    That alone is more good than all of the warmists, put together, have ever done.

  11. “The lull couldn´t last” sounds intuitively right, but surely Roger Pielke jr. is aware of one of the basic facts of statistics: “Chance has no memory”. Tossing a coin ten times and getting only heads does not increase the likeliness of getting tails on the eleventh toss.

  12. The quasi-cyclic way that climate progresses, with its chaotic periods of near stable states between swift runs of upheavals, gives plenty erratic behavior modes that allows the scurrilous charlatans of the AGW religion opportunities to jump in, screeching their nonsense about it all be human caused, mindlessly insisting it’s all about CO2.

    Atmospheric and Oceanic cycles govern the weather, govern the climate. Like all natural terrestrial cycles they are the vector sum of many disparate forces from many quarters — solar, lunar, seismic, atmospheric, variations in planetary spin, magnetic dipole movement, salinity variability, thermal mass, bulk and small eddy fluid movements, just to name a few. Together they affect us but we do not control them. To say CO2 is the governor for all this change is a travesty of science. CO2 barely impacts on this natural change but ocean changes have a major impact on the atmosphere, and thus the climate. Water and the vast bulk of the oceans — not CO2 emissions (from any source) — is the major controller of our weather and climate.

    We are traveling with nature and as part of it, and it is nature’s rhythms that dictate the pace of change, not puny human life.

  13. Build a city in a swamp near the coast and sooner or later you have problems. Common sense should prevail, but seldom does.

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