Irma illusions – and realities

If human emissions made Irma worse, did they also bring the 12-year lull in Cat 4-5 hurricanes?

Paul Driessen

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma brought out the best in us. Millions of Americans are giving money, toil and sweat to help victims rebuild. Unfortunately, the storms also highlighted some people’s baser instincts.

Some advanced ideological commitments to campaigns to “keep fossil fuels in the ground,” raise energy costs and reduce living standards. Others hyped Harvey’s record rainfalls, claiming carbon dioxide emissions made the Gulf of Mexico warmer and its air more moisture-laden. A few were just obnoxious.

These storms are a product of “this administration’s climate denial, racism and callousness,” activist Jenny Marienau fumed. “How many once-in-a-lifetime storms will it take, until everyone admits manmade climate change is real?!” Daily Show comedian Trevor Noah fulminated.

Perhaps these newly minted “experts” received mail-order degrees in climatology or meteorology – or recently stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. They should at least take a few minutes to review hurricane and climate history, and talk to real climatologists and meteorologists, before launching tirades.

My geology, ecology and other studies taught me that climate change has been “real” throughout history. I’ve learned to be humble, respectful and vigilant in the face of nature’s power; to recognize that climate shifts can range from beneficial or benign to harmful or unbelievably destructive; and to understand that the sun and other powerful natural forces totally dwarf whatever meager powers humans might muster to alter or control Earth’s climate and weather.

Harvey marked the end of a record 12-year absence of Category 3-5 hurricanes hitting the US mainland. The previous 8-year record was set 1860-1869. NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division counts ten Category 4-5 monsters 1920-1969 (50 years) hitting the USA, but only three 1970-2016 (46 years). This year has brought two more, and the hurricane season isn’t over yet.

If Harvey and Irma were caused or intensified by human greenhouse gas emissions, shouldn’t those gases be credited for the 12-year lull and half-century decline in Cat 4-5 landfalling storms? For Irma’s changed intensity and route as it reached Florida and headed north? Certainly not.

If fossil fuels caused Harvey’s rainfall, were previous deluges like Hurricane Easy (45 inches in Florida, 1950), Tropical Cyclone Amelia (48 inches in Texas, 1978) and Tropical Storm Claudette (a record 43 inches in 24 hours on Alvin, Texas, 1979) the result of lower fossil fuel use back then? Highly unlikely.

Indeed, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concludes that neither the frequency of North Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes, nor their energy level, has displayed any trend since 1950. Despite slightly warmer ocean waters in some regions, global Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) levels in recent years have been at their lowest levels since the late 1970s.

When the Pacific Decadal Oscillation is in its cyclical positive phase, the tropics, west coast of North America and our Earth overall get warmer; cooling occurs during the PDO’s negative phase. The Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO) also cycles between warm and cool phases, affecting regional and planetary temperatures, as well as hurricane formation, strength and duration.

Any link between hurricanes and human carbon dioxide/greenhouse gas emissions is nebulous, tenuous and very poorly understood at this time. Asserted links to recent hurricanes are ideological illusions.

Hurricane Irma remained symmetrical and grew in size and intensity into the massive Category 5 hurricane seen in satellite photos, because it remained over warm water for a week as it crossed the Atlantic and Caribbean – and was not pulled apart by mid-altitude wind sheer – weather experts explained. Its encounter with Cuba’s coastal lands and mountains finally reduced its wind speeds and disrupted its symmetry.

Over Florida, strong north-to-south winds high in the atmosphere clipped the top off the hurricane. That further disturbed Irma’s shape and intensity, and steered the storm westward as it traveled north up the Citrus State. As is usually the case with storms moving north over Florida and parallel to its west coast, Irma’s front wall began to pull in both drier air and upwelling water. The bigger the storm the more it does this, WeatherBELL Analytics chief forecaster Joe Bastardi explained.

All these factor combined to slow whirling winds in the storm’s eyewall still more. It began wobbling on its axis, and Irma gradually became a disorganized tropical storm after it pounded Fort Meyers.

As to Hurricane Harvey, consulting meteorologist Joe D’Aleo notes that “hurricanes entering Texas are almost always very wet and often stall or meander.” This year, a large cool trough trapped Harvey and kept it from moving inland, enabling the Gulf of Mexico to feed it trillions of gallons of water for days, said Bastardi. It was “an unusual confluence of events,” said Weather Channel founder John Coleman, “but it was certainly not unprecedented.”

If there was a “human factor” in Harvey and Irma, climate alarmists need to explain exactly where it was, how big it was and what role it played. They must present hard evidence to show that fossil fuels and carbon dioxide emissions played a significant role amid, and compared to, the hundreds of natural forces involved in these storms. Their loud rhetoric only highlights their failure and inability to do so.

In fact, the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico are warm enough every summer to produce major hurricanes, says climatologist Dr. Roy Spencer. But you also need other conditions, whose origins and mechanisms are still unknown: pre-existing cyclonic circulation off the African coast, upper atmospheric calm, sea surface temperatures that change on a cyclical basis in various regions, to name just a few.

The combination of all these factors – plus weather fronts and land masses along the way – determines whether a hurricane arises, how strong it gets, how long it lasts, and what track it follows.

Damage from hurricanes has certainly increased over the years. But that is because far more people now live and work in far more expensive communities along America’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Since 1920, Greater Houston has grown from 138,000 people to 5.7 million; Miami from 43,000 to 6.1 million; Tampa from 50,000 to 3 million.

Meanwhile, death tolls have declined – at least in countries where fossil fuels, highways and modern technologies enable us to construct stronger buildings, track storms, warn, evacuate and rescue people, and bring in water, food, clothing, and materials to rebuild power lines and buildings in stricken areas.

Over 6,000 people perished in the 1900 Category 4 Galveston Hurricane, 2,500 in the 1928 Okeechobee, Florida Category 4 hurricane and storm surge. More than 1,800 died in Katrina (Category 3), due largely to corrupt and incompetent local and state governments.

Thanks to better preparation, warning and evacuation, overall tragic deaths were kept to 82 from Harvey and 93 from Irma. Incredibly, despite the vicious 185-mph winds that reduced most of Anguilla and Barbuda to rubble, Irma killed only one person on those Caribbean islands.

Even in recent years, cyclones and hurricanes have brought far more death and destruction to poor nations where modern energy and technology are still limited or nonexistent: 400,000 dead in Bangladesh in 1970, 138,000 in Myanmar in 2008, and 19,000 from Hurricane Mitch in Central America in 1998.

It may be fashionable to focus on alleged “social costs of carbon” and asserted fossil fuel contributions to extreme weather events. But it is essential that we never forget the enormous benefits these fuels bring.

Our Earth is a complex, wondrous, resilient planet. But it can unleash incredible fury. Wealthy, technologically advanced nations fueled by oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear power are far better able to avoid, survive and recover from those disasters. We must count our blessings, but always be prepared.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (, and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death and other books on the environment.

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September 22, 2017 9:08 am

If a volcano did not erupt for 12 years, then the high priests could remind the islanders be grateful that the annual human sacrifices kept the Volcano Goddess happy. If the volcano did erupt on the 13th year, anyone brave enough to ask what changed to make this alleged volcano goddess so angry could be involuntarily added to the list of the sacrificial heroes at the next full moon.

September 22, 2017 9:09 am

Waste of time, Paul. You are dealing with a religion, here, not logical people.

Phillip Bratby
Reply to  texasjimbrock
September 22, 2017 9:22 am

As a deceased professor, whose name I forget said in a lecture “it is a waste of time trying to get through to fanatics, you will never get them to see reason or to change their minds” (or words to that effect).

Reply to  Phillip Bratby
September 22, 2017 9:31 am

Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.
Friedrich Schiller. Die Jungfrau von Orleans (The Maid of Orleans) (1801), Act III, sc. vi

Reply to  Phillip Bratby
September 22, 2017 11:48 am

To paraphrase somebody, You can’t use reason to change an position that was arrived at through emotion.

Reply to  Phillip Bratby
September 22, 2017 11:56 am

Also, in reference to the “climate scientists” directly, “You can never convince a man something is not true when his paycheck depends on his believing it.”

Reply to  Phillip Bratby
September 22, 2017 2:44 pm

What a fool believes he sees
no wise man has the power to reason away.
What seems to be
is always better than nothing at all.
– Michael McDonald

Reply to  Phillip Bratby
September 23, 2017 12:52 pm

wws – if I may:
In reference to the “climate scientists” directly, “You can never convince a man something is not true when his paycheck; her health insurance, and their pension, depends on them (publicly) believing it.”
Fixed it for you.
Aware that benefits beyond the pay-cheque might affect behaviour . . . .

Tom O
Reply to  texasjimbrock
September 22, 2017 10:30 am

And without trying, you accomplish nothing at all.

Reply to  Tom O
September 22, 2017 11:46 am

Good article on the whole Paul , but :

despite the vicious 185-mph winds that reduced most of Anguilla and Barbuda to rubble

where are all these supposedly “viscous” winds? Not at ground level that is for sure.
This is a favourite trick of hurricane reporting ( it has to be as exciting as possible, right? )
NHC, quite correctly gives the max wind speeds measured by doppler radar. Since wind speeds are revelant for a number of activities including aircraft operation, they properly report that fasted values found.
However, these do not occur at ground level but typically at around 1500 ft. The media then latches on to the biggest numbers available and reports this as though it is what people will have to contend with at ground level.
Irma was reported as having 130mph sustained winds at landfall in the Keys but then we see people getting out of cars and trying to measure wind speed on handheld meters. I was watching meteo station windspeeds as the storm hit and Key West station never even made it to 64 knots defined as entry level for a hurricane.

Roger Knights
Reply to  Tom O
September 22, 2017 1:56 pm

NHC, quite correctly gives the max wind speeds measured by doppler radar. Since wind speeds are revelant for a number of activities including aircraft operation, they properly report that fasted values found.
However, these do not occur at ground level but typically at around 1500 ft. The media then latches on to the biggest numbers available and reports this as though it is what people will have to contend with at ground level.

The NHC should therefore always include the height of the wind speeds it’s reporting. Why isn’t it doing so? (I can guess.)

Reply to  Tom O
September 22, 2017 5:23 pm

Greg, that is an interesting concept….”viscous” winds? 🙂

Reply to  Tom O
September 23, 2017 3:56 am

Yes, vicious means full of vice. It is hard to see how wind can have a moral failing of showing vice. ( This was a quote, not my expression ).
Roger, I agree the NHC would do well to indicate the height of max wind speed and also give ground level winds. This is probably the most important factor that a hurricane report could communicate and yet is totally absent. I may make this comment to Chris Landsea whose name appears on the bottom of most of these advisories. He is not a warmist zealot and demanded his name be removed from AR4 because they refused to take account of his input as an expert reviewer.

Jim Butler
Reply to  texasjimbrock
September 22, 2017 1:29 pm

Completely agree. Logic and reason have no value to the AGW crowd, period. And when confronted by either/both, they just ignore it and start in on some other falsity.

Reply to  texasjimbrock
September 22, 2017 3:42 pm

“Waste of time, Paul. You are dealing with a religion, here, not logical people.”
Christianity is a religion, and “it” brought us science itself (Christian intellectuals initiated, and until very recently dominated, science in the modern sense of the word). Ragging on religion is quite fashionable these days, I realize (and speaking as though all religions are basically “equivalent”, because we can call them by the same general name . . though this same-name equivilizing force does not extend to other intellectual/philosophical realms equally, and no one says things like; *Hey, that scientific theory turned out to be bunkum, so all scientific theories can rightly be spoken of as equally bunkumish*, with no careful examination or critical thinking needed) . . but I suggest ‘superstition’ might be a less . . strategically inept term to apply in the case of the CAGW. For alienating/insulting the majority of Americans is a self defeating maneuver, I feel.

Chris Wright
Reply to  JohnKnight
September 23, 2017 3:08 am

It is a form of religion.
I believe science and religion are completely incompatible. Science is – or should be – based entirely on evidence and proof. You can’t have science based on faith – look how blind faith has destroyed climate science.
The problem with religion is that it is completely based on faith. It means that you can believe anything you want to believe. As a means of understanding the nature of the world and the universe, religion is utterly useless. The very fact that religions are often referred to as “faiths” is a bit of a clue.

F. Leghorn
Reply to  JohnKnight
September 23, 2017 1:13 pm

Chris? Very many scientists are Christians. And Jews. Etcetera, etcetera. My Bible instructs me to study the world and learn all I can – not sit around afraid and helpless. And just fyi – science is proving the existence of a creator on a daily basis. The world we live in is incredibly complex and amazing. Quite a testament to Him.

Reply to  JohnKnight
September 23, 2017 1:58 pm

“I believe science and religion are completely incompatible. Science is – or should be – based entirely on evidence and proof.”
A word game has been played, I am quite sure. In the Book (as in daily life), faith means belief in things you can’t just see plainly . . it does not mean belief in things one has observed no evidence in support of. We might believe in subatomic particles, or air, or gravity, for instance, but have never seen them . . we must do some indirect observing and reasoning/considering to come to believe they exist. It’s not “blind faith”, but it’s faith without seeing in the plainly visible sense . .
Hence, there is nothing incompatible between religious faith and science . . as clearly evidenced by where/who science actually “came” to us through.

Reply to  JohnKnight
September 23, 2017 5:21 pm

Ampere, Volta, Gauss, Riemann, Faraday, Maxwell, Mendel, Hertz, Pasteur, Joule, Marconi, Planck, Kelvin . . surely Newton . . and I could go on and on, because science in the modern sense of the word was initiated, and until very recently dominated, by Christians. Recent times? Christians have won a total of 72.5% of all Nobel prizes in Chemistry, 65.3% in Physics, 62% in Medicine.
Does it really make sense to speak of a lack of logic among those folks? A propensity for believing things without evidence? Who’s zoomin’ who?

September 22, 2017 9:22 am

And how did Trump (8 months in office) manage to trump(pun intended) Obama’s 8 years? Sounds like the real culprit must be Obama’s war on fossil fuels. LOL!

Reply to  Bear
September 22, 2017 9:34 am

Trump inherited the Bush hurricane machine. They hide it from democrat presidents. /s.

September 22, 2017 9:26 am

It wasn’t a lull — it was a drought. Save the climate!

Roy Spencer
September 22, 2017 9:27 am

I assume he means the lull in Cat 3-5 hurricanes.

Reply to  Roy Spencer
September 22, 2017 11:49 am

Cat 3-5 hurricanes striking the US mainland.

Gunga Din
Reply to  MarkW
September 22, 2017 3:20 pm

The US mainland is where an awful lot of $Green$ is available to be blown away.
That’s why they want that lull to be blown away.
They want to impress upon the younger “living memory”, not history, is all that matters.

September 22, 2017 9:39 am

While it is true that no major hurricanes hit the US main land in 12 years, it does not mean there were no storms.
What about this warmist talking point
The problem that the warmists have is it is different than the message they were touting before…
“A new study by Kerry Emanuel, a prominent hurricane researcher at MIT, found that contrary to previous findings, tropical cyclones are likely to become both stronger and more frequent in the years to come…”

Joe _ the Non climate scientist
Reply to  J
September 22, 2017 10:18 am

J –
1) the first point to mention is that climate central is not a science web site – it is an advocacy website – but you already knew that
2) The key measure is total Accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) . In both the Atlantic basin and the pacific basin, there has been virtually no change over the last 150 years. With the only noticeable difference to due to observational limitations from the earlier years. Virtually no change post 1960’s with the introduction of satellites
For a clue of observations problems as recent as the 1940’s – Admiral hasley sailed into 2 different typhoons in December of 1944 (NOt one but two typhoons) – In spite of the huge US naval presence in the pacific, few people knew those typhoons where there.

Reply to  Joe _ the Non climate scientist
September 22, 2017 11:04 am

I understand that it is a warmist advocacy site. But let’s not make the ad homminum (ad siteium?) mistake.
The article references PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences where the paper was published.
It would be like rejecting something here on WUWT saying this is a denier site, when usually links are shown to good original sources. In the graph he is referencing NOAA data.
The problem, for them, as I wrote is they also (to their credit) link to the UNIPCC where the opposite conclusion is reached, that warmer is leading to less hurricanes (though they assert ” with stronger winds and more rain”.
Then at the end of the article, they provide a counter point:
” James Elsner, an atmospheric scientist at Florida State University who was not involved in this study, downplayed the study’s conclusions given the considerable uncertainties involved with using computer models to simulate complex storms such as hurricanes.
“The results from the new Emanuel are provocative, but in my opinion there is little reason to put much weight on them when considering what might happen to tropical cyclone activity during the next 50 to 80 years,” he said in an email to Climate Central. “This kind of predictive risk analysis can be useful, but it would benefit greatly by being grounded in risk metrics computed from observed data.””
So, over all, a fairly balanced report from a warmist advocacy site.

Reply to  Joe _ the Non climate scientist
September 22, 2017 11:10 am

The late, great lamented Father of Climatology, Reid Bryson, archskeptic of man-made “global warming”, was a Navy meteorologist who warned Halsey about both typhoons, but the Big Fool said to push on. Twice.
He got an undeserved fifth star (Fleet Admiral) because the Navy had to have as many five star flag officers as the Army.

Reply to  Joe _ the Non climate scientist
September 22, 2017 11:56 am

2) The key measure is total Accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) . In both the Atlantic basin and the pacific basin, there has been virtually no change over the last 150 years.

Wrong !comment image

Reply to  Joe _ the Non climate scientist
September 22, 2017 11:57 am

“virtually no change”? I don’t think so.

Reply to  Joe _ the Non climate scientist
September 22, 2017 12:02 pm

BTW, the post 2005 “lull” just makes the end of the graph there due to the filter cut-off. The interesting thing is that there was similar drop during WWII which is usually dismissed as under-counting.
the similarity to the recent “lull” and it’s timing in relation to the plateaux in SST in both cases suggests it may have been largely a real event, probably exaggerated by disruptions to hurricane reporting.

Joe _ the Non climate scientist
Reply to  Joe _ the Non climate scientist
September 22, 2017 12:04 pm

Reply to sixto – my mistake – I had a vague recollection that Hasley had some limited knowledge of the two typhoons, though he pressed on and was not relieved of his command due to the error because, the general concensus was that the strength of the typhoons was significantly underestimated. (at least underestimated by the those in authority)
My primary point was there was observational bias/limitations make it difficult to compare ACE that have occurred in recent decades againt ACE prior to the 1960’s. Most of the warmist claim that the storms have gotten increasingly more intense without accounting for the observational bias. After making adjustments for the limitations, there is almost zero difference in the storm intensity over the last century and a half

Andrew Cooke
Reply to  Joe _ the Non climate scientist
September 22, 2017 12:12 pm

Sixto, Halsey got the fifth star because he had a very close friend by the name of Congressman Carl Vinson. Spruance should have got that star, as he was a far superior officer.

Joe _ the Non climate scientist
Reply to  J
September 22, 2017 10:19 am

FYI – climate central – being an advocacy website, is not a good source for accurate science or accurate climate information.

Roger Knights
Reply to  Joe _ the Non climate scientist
September 22, 2017 2:06 pm

“FYI – climate central – being an advocacy website, …”
How about our calling “cdv0ocacy” sites “wolf-crier” sites? It cleverly rhymes with “denier.”

Joe _ the Non climate scientist
Reply to  J
September 22, 2017 12:15 pm

J one othe point –
During the last 160+ years – all of which have come during a period of warming-
Please explain why the models project increases in storm intensity due to the continuation of a warming world, when the storms have not become more intense during the last 160+ years of a warming world

Joe _ the Non climate scientist
Reply to  J
September 22, 2017 12:35 pm

Try again
– Figure 1: Atlantic tropical storms lasting more than 2 days have not increased in number. Storms lasting less than two days have increased sharply, but this is likely due to better observations. Figure adapted from Landsea, Vecchi, Bengtsson and Knutson (2009, J. Climate)
Gregg – try to avoid the advocacy websites – terribly bad at real scientific accuracy

Reply to  Joe _ the Non climate scientist
September 23, 2017 4:20 am

“Gregg – try to avoid the advocacy websites – terribly bad at real scientific accuracy”
I assume this was addressed to me.
I do avoid advocacy websites – the graph and the linked article are my own work and analysis. There doubtless is some bias in the data due to sampling issues, this was discussed in my article with the graph. However, I doubt that the sampling issue will display either 9y nor a 60 periodicity. It seems that there is a strong influence from SST, though this is not a single variable problem, hurricane formation and energy content is a complex phenomenon.
ACE is a much more useful metric that simple hurricane “number of storms”. Nowhere in my analysis did I use simple storm count.

Joe _ the Non climate scientist
Reply to  J
September 22, 2017 1:01 pm

J my apologies – I frequent skeptical science which is serious warmist website – close to a third of their articles are pure advocacy lacking any basis in science. (and I only read the first half of yoru post)
“The problem that the warmists have is it is different than the message they were touting before…
“A new study by Kerry Emanuel, a prominent hurricane researcher at MIT, found that contrary to previous findings, tropical cyclones are likely to become both stronger and more frequent in the years to come…””
You are correct with the warmist changing their story to fit –
for the first couple of years after katrina – It was Hurricanes are more frequent and stronger – after a 12 year lull – it was fewer but stronger.

Rhoda R
Reply to  Joe _ the Non climate scientist
September 22, 2017 3:05 pm

I wonder how much fossil fuels those mobile goal posts are consuming.

Louis LeBlanc
September 22, 2017 9:39 am

I’m taking this to a class on the subject. Minor observation: wind shear, not sheer.

September 22, 2017 9:51 am

Obviously that POTUS Obama was the hero here…no hurricanes during his dictatorship. This and the earthquakes are all Trump’s fault for pulling our trillions of tax dollars out of an expected 0.02°C “predicted” rise in temperatures in 100+ years expected now that we pulled out. We need to bring POTUS O. back into power for life and we won’t have any more calamity in the US or the world. Utopia at last! NOT!

Reply to  Лазо
September 22, 2017 11:17 am

Why is Obama not responsible for the most powerful earthquake of the 21st century, the Magnitude 8.8 which struck Chile on February 27, 2010?
Especially since he has visited Chile?

Reply to  Sixto
September 22, 2017 11:40 am

He’s not, because he’s not responsible for the 9.2M quake that struck Banda Aceh, Sumatra, in 2094, or the 9.1M Tohoku quake (Honshu) that struck Japan in 2011. And the Chilean quake is NOT the most powerful quake of the 21st century. Get your facts straight, will you?

Reply to  Sixto
September 22, 2017 12:01 pm

I don’t know – I know I can personally never forgive him for the Great Quake of 2094.

Rhoda R
Reply to  Sixto
September 22, 2017 3:07 pm

Careful there, if you do that you’d have to acknowledge that the first four of those 12 years were under Pres Bush and could, by that logic, credit HIM with the 12 peaceful years.

Reply to  Sixto
September 23, 2017 10:21 am

Yeah, I did NOT check for typos! My bad!

September 22, 2017 9:54 am

I wish they would all get real…
Spend half the money they spend on global warming…on hurricane predictions
..and stop making the entire population jump from one side of the state to the other…until there are no rooms anywhere
How in this world do people get conned into thinking they can model climate…when they can’t even model a hurricane?

Reply to  Latitude
September 22, 2017 12:08 pm

“East coast … err, between Cuba and Florida. … err sorry, hits Cuba, now west coast .. err no, right up the middle. ”
They did not get too close on this one. 😉

Reply to  Greg
September 22, 2017 2:40 pm

They never do….they have the cone of death from Maine to Rio

A C Osborn
September 22, 2017 10:13 am

These Hurricanes are bad and dangerous, but they have been over hyped using Satellite modelled data instead of ground based values, which all the previous Hurricanes had to use.
Where ground data has been available the Wind Speeds and Pressure of the current Hurricanes have been no where near the old Cat 4 & 5 Hurricanes.

Reply to  A C Osborn
September 22, 2017 12:48 pm

Don’t forget the Hurricane Hunter aircraft which penetrate the storm.

Reply to  Don Mattox
September 22, 2017 1:57 pm

Hurricane hunters do not make direct measurements.
They measure all kinds of proxy data like GPS reflections and white cap percentage, but there is no direct anemometer information. Particularly at 10 meters above the surface.
It’s voodoo meteorology.

FL Engineer
Reply to  A C Osborn
September 22, 2017 2:19 pm

As a resident of Florida affected by Irma (no power for 3 days, damage to roof and windows) I was paying very close attention to every advisory. What really caught my eye about the observations of the hurricane hunters is the change in measuring technology used on the aircraft since 2005. It’s possible now to watch in real time the planes going through the storm and track each observation along the way. See for a fantastic resource. What isn’t obvious is how this raw data informs the official maximum sustained winds in the NHC advisories.
NWS has one simple observational requirement for wind speed which is max speed sustained for 1 minute at 33 ft (10m). The planes record peak flight level winds at an altitude around 2500 m in 10 second intervals as well as a 30 second average. They also use a stepped frequency microwave radiometer to measure surface emissivity to determine wind speed at the surface. In about half of the 30 second observations their is a data quality flag indicating the measurements made might be suspect. The last method employs a dropsonde that is jettisoned in the eyewall and falls for about 3-4 minutes reporting a GPS reading every 0.5 seconds that is used to determine wind speed and direction.
The archived raw data from all these observations is accessible online and monitoring the recon data prior to each advisory report it was difficult to see how the MSW in the advisory was derived when the peak values or averaged values in the lowest 500m from the dropsondes were not quite hitting 185 mph.
Using data from surface stations either buoys or land based measurements near the path of the storm from NOAA the sustained readings and gusts were significantly lower than the advisory levels. Naples took nearly a direct hit and the highest recorded surface level gust at their station was 37.1 m/s (83 mph) and sustained was 28.8 m/s (64 mph). ( You can even see the eye effect where the winds drop at 8:48 pm on 9/10 then pick back up around 9:30 pm.
There is no doubt that Irma was a very damaging storm. Throughout the night the wind roaring against our windows was unnerving and I have no doubt our proximity to the eye and NE quadrant where the winds were the worst resulted in some substantial gusts but much less severe than I was anticipating.
It just seems like the current methods for measuring the storm intensity are not calibrated well against surface observations and that comparing modern measurements against historical ones would require revising the past upwards. In fact this has already happened with Andrew which went through a review in 2004 that determined its strength was under reported at the time. While that may be justified, how many other storms for which the data exists should be revisited and revised? Any claim that intensity has been increasing must be weighed against the observational bias and measurement techniques employed. Of course that would require real actual work when its far easier to just claim every new storm is the worst ever.

Reply to  FL Engineer
September 22, 2017 8:22 pm

Nice post, FL. Glad you came through the storm without too much damage.

Reply to  A C Osborn
September 22, 2017 11:41 pm

I did an analysis of IRMA tracking it from the Keys up through Florida. You can find the results at

A C Osborn
Reply to  NeilC
September 23, 2017 3:58 am

Neil, very nice analysis, this confirms my statement about this and previous over hyped Hurricanes.
The problem is that those hyped values are now written in to the records and peoples minds as what actually happened.

September 22, 2017 10:16 am

At least that’s the response you’ll get from those touting the view that it’s “Trump’s fault” or “Gore was right all along”. They’ll not bother reading past the first paragraph before becoming indignant. “Data not relevant, I was taught this in middle school”. That’s the general approach. And it’s irresponsible and immature in addition to being lazy. When I was a child I saw the movie Towering Inferno. I didn’t want to go into a high rise because I believed I would die in a fire. Then I grew up. Towering Inferno has nearly as much to do with reality as both of Gore’s films (or the hideously hilarious The Day After Tomorrow).

September 22, 2017 10:33 am

OT – Equinox trivia
A Sun Spot in Midtown to Celebrate the Autumnal Equinox (
The Sun Triangle, in the sunken plaza of the McGraw-Hill Building, 1221 Avenue of the Americas.
Designed by Athelstan F. Spilhaus, a geophysicist and meteorologist, At solar noon, the top of the great stainless-steel triangle will be pointing directly toward the sun at its highest point in the sky.comment image

Steve Fraser
Reply to  Yirgach
September 22, 2017 12:45 pm

And, snow yesterday in the mountains of California and Oregon.

September 22, 2017 10:38 am

Harvey and Irma were just barely class 4 when they hit the continental US, so a bit of fiddling with data could have made the 12 year drought longer if the NOAA had wanted to.

Reply to  Tom Halla
September 23, 2017 9:33 pm

The drought refers to major hurricanes, cat 3, 4, and 5. A bit of fiddling would not have changed that record.

Tom O
September 22, 2017 10:44 am

1860. I wonder how many hurricane hunters were flying and checking out hurricanes for intensity? Yes, being smart. Point is we all have seen “on satellite images,” large storms form and die well out to sea. In the 1800s and probably into the early 1900s, those storms would be undetected by anyone that didn’t happen to sail into them, and if they were “monsters,” they probably ended up as lost at sea and no one lived to report the existence of the storm. It’s not like there is a ship every 100 miles across the Atlantic, or there were bottles with notes about the size of the storm tossed overboard as the ship was sinking.
There is no way of knowing how many “major hurricanes” existed during those times, unless they hit land, nor how many lesser hurricanes and tropical storms. Only the truly simple minded can perceive that only during their own lifetime can “weather” have happened. Today they name the storm if it manages to meet the category criteria for 30 minutes, as seen from satellite. I wonder how many hundreds of “hurricanes” would have been added to the list had satellite been available since 1900?

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Tom O
September 22, 2017 11:21 am

Yes Tom O, that’s a similar scenario to the increase in reported tornadoes since 1860. You have to factor in civilization’s expansion and technological advances to get any perspective when looking back more than the most recent 60 years or so. The fact is, they have not shown an upward trend during that period, so they show no correlation with atmospheric CO2 rise.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Pop Piasa
September 22, 2017 11:35 am

comment image

Pop Piasa
September 22, 2017 10:57 am

We can only wish Trevor Noah a few once-in-a-lifetime BLIZZARDS!
That would befuddle his beliefs.

Andrew Cooke
September 22, 2017 11:05 am

Camille was once in a life time. Andrew was once in a lifetime. Irma………..

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Andrew Cooke
September 22, 2017 11:25 am

That’s it!
Too many lifetimes for you!
Report to the government termination facility immediately!
(this was just a test of our new A.I. Bot – you may disregard)

September 22, 2017 11:36 am

Just out of curiosity, was either Jenny or Trevor around when Hurricane Andrew whacked Florida? No? Well, what about Camille? And what about Katrina? What about Sandy, washing up on the shores of New York and plundering her way through New England?
Were they there? No? Well, what about Hurricane Betsy? Not there either, huh?
Well, those were bad, bad, bad, bad storms. Really, really bad storms.
Maybe I should ask about tornadoes, ;like the 1974 tornado swarm that started in Arkansas and grew into a real swarm of tornadoes, with a finish in the destruction of Xenia, OH, not to mention the 1990 Plainfield, IL tornado that was the first to receive a rating higher than F3, and destroyed the town of Plainfield. And what about Greensburg, KS?
I’m getting seriously tired of these know-it-all smartasses who holler, point and scream but don’t start the CO reduction with themselves.

September 22, 2017 11:46 am

Once in a lifetime storms?????
Are these fools 15?

Steve Fraser
Reply to  MarkW
September 22, 2017 12:51 pm

Saw a note by Joe Bastardi today, referencing the activity of Hurricane Flora in 1963. You can read up on it at
Here is one paragraph that caught my attention:
‘After moving off the Haitian coast, the weakened hurricane made another landfall in Cuba on 4 October about 48 km (30 mi) east of Guantánamo Bay. At the time of landfall in Cuba, the Category 3 hurricane packed winds of 201 km/h (125 mph). The presence of “atmospheric barriers”, including a high-pressure system to the north and an anticyclone to the west, caused the hurricane to meander over the island of Cuba and its coastal waters for 4 days. Vast amounts of rain fell and subsequent flooding incurred, and in eastern Cuba, 112 to 160 km/h (70 to 100 mph) winds lasted for over 100 hours. Isolated locations throughout the country saw exceptionally high amounts of rainfall, with the highest at Santiago de Cuba, where 2550 mm (100.4 in) fell during the event. Similar to the scenario elsewhere in the region, flooding caused damage to transportation infrastructure and crops in Cuba, especially in the southeast. Beach erosion was very significant along the northern coast of Cuba’s Camagüey Province where up to 1 km (3,300 ft) waseroded. Including a percentage of those missing that were expected to be dead, the death toll in Cuba was estimated to be 1,750. Total damages in that nation reached $300 million (1963 USD).’
Hmmm. Lingered 4 days in one place, and dropped > 100 in of rain in one place…. sound familiar? A previous section of the text describes the 57 inches of rain that fell on Haiti. It even did a little loop-de-loop.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Steve Fraser
September 22, 2017 1:45 pm

Imagine if we had a storm like that today. The warmunists would be screaming climate armageddon to beat the band. If anything is once-in-a-lifetime, it’s the CAGW gravy train save-the-planet kerfuffle about nuffin.

Bruce Cobb
September 22, 2017 12:53 pm

The “made storms worse” claim is laughably dumb, and is merely an Appeal to Emotion. It is based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever. In short, it’s the type of claim brainless Believers love.

September 22, 2017 12:55 pm

“… or recently stayed at a Holiday Inn Express.”
Hey now! I stay at Holiday Inn Express’s all the time! Maybe you should take a closer look at the prizes in Cracker Jacks… just sayin’. 😄

September 22, 2017 12:58 pm

Wrong about “Keep fossil fuels in the ground raises energy costs!”
You have to get specific on that issue. For old-fashioned gasoline driven motor vehicles and long-haul transport vehicles it does that.
For electric vehicles (which with a 200 mile range today are perfect for the vast majority of people)? No and the costs of electric vehicles are becoming equivalent to the cost of old-fashioned gasoline and diesel powered vehicles, power costs included.
Same thing for solar power and wind power, they can meet and BEAT fossil fuel generated power production in many areas.
I agree with you on some things like the whole Climate Change due to Man thing is nonsense but this is one case where in my opinion you have lost the plot.

Roger Knights
Reply to  lerianis
September 22, 2017 2:22 pm

Look up “solar” and “wind power” in the Categories drop-down list for counter-arguments re renewable power. Also look up “Renewables”.

I Came I Saw I Left
Reply to  lerianis
September 22, 2017 5:16 pm

the costs of electric vehicles are becoming equivalent to the cost of old-fashioned gasoline and diesel powered vehicles, power costs included

No they’re not. There may be a cost similarity at a particular price point, but there is no equivalence in real value. People want convenience and reliable utility. EVs aren’t there yet (if they ever will be). I’d scoop one up if they were.

Bruce Cobb
September 22, 2017 1:13 pm

You seem to have drunk deeply of the “green” energy koolade. The truth is that without heavy subsidization, so-called “green” energy, and EVs couldn’t compete with fossil fuels or fossil fuel powered cars.

September 22, 2017 1:23 pm

The change of the name of scourge from global warming to climate change was designed to make it easier for the warmists to maintain their scam . Because the world wasn’t warming fast enough despite a concerted effort to manipulate data the renaming of the issue to climate change was meant to make it an easier to highlight . Any strong wind, any heavy rain, any drought , any extremely hot days or extremely cold days , any forest fires, any tornados or hurricanes anywhere in the world would be visual examples ( together with television footage) which proves their claim of a link to CO2. Forget the fact that there are no scientific experiments that might give a basis to this theory , just lets make it up. The global warming experiment at least had some lab level evidence to support it. Alright so in the real world feed backs were different than expected and things didn’t emulate the presumed mathematical relationships but climate change. Who cares? Let’s make it up! The governments , the media and academe are either too dumb , trusting or complicit to actually question it and once you influence the newsmakers ,the noisemakers and the educators you control the world. Your evil plan to bring down western civilisation as we know it is back on track.
Thank god for the revolution being fought by subversive resistance fighters ambushing these warmists by using the Internet to reprogram a generation that has been subjected to a constant indoctrination equivalent to a form of child abuse. This is a real war , a war of the minds of the people , a war that must be won by the good guys or the consequences will be pretty dire. Trump and the people who influence his policy on this topic simply must win and it may take another term for this to die. But die it must or all our futures will be rather bleak.

james whelan
September 22, 2017 2:14 pm

I followed Irma’s path ( I have a house in Fort Myers) , and according to ALL ground weather stations on or near its path it never recorded sustained wind speeds above Cat 1.
Certainly when it crossed the Keys it was recorded as below Cat 1 and when it hit Marco Island on the Florida mainland it was well below Cat 1. The instant it hit Marco, the southern wall completely disintegrated. As it followed the US41 towards Fort Myers it was a ‘tropical storm’ , it was completely diverted at Fort Myers by the Caloosahatchee river, diverting NEast.
Compare this with the hurricane to hit the Scottish central belt including Glasgow in 2011. Here recorded sustained ground level wind speeds were well over 100mph. No lives lost, no major damage to buildings and all electricity supply restored in 2 days. No story for the MSM, because of good sea defences, stone/brick buildings, and underground power network.
Get real! Its bad weather. You reap what you sow.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  james whelan
September 23, 2017 4:09 am

All those places you mention were west of the eye. All the strongest winds were in the northeast quadrant of the eye wall. And yes, thankfully, the eye wall started to disintegrate as soon as it was over land. But you seem to have the same misunderstanding about the wind field of a hurricane. Maximum winds are just that, maximum. Those winds are never spread out over the entire wind field but are usually just in a very small portion of the eye wall. The wind strength falls off rapidly as you get away from the eye. The wind field also tends to band with strong winds in those bands and much less wind in between. The reason the max winds are reported is so that you prepare for the absolute worse just in case you happen to be in that tiny area where those max winds are. Everyone else generally does fine if they are prepared.

james whelan
Reply to  Tom in Florida
September 23, 2017 1:37 pm

Tom, I am aware of all that. But unless you have some ground-based measurements to verify the readings of maximum winds postulated from 1 mile up then you have to accept what is recorded. There were no doubt some gusts in some geographical locations higher than the numbers from the weather stations, but without data its guesswork.

September 22, 2017 5:44 pm

“If fossil fuels caused Harvey’s rainfall, were previous deluges like Hurricane Easy (45 inches in Florida, 1950), Tropical Cyclone Amelia (48 inches in Texas, 1978) and Tropical Storm Claudette (a record 43 inches in 24 hours on Alvin, Texas, 1979) the result of lower fossil fuel use back then? Highly unlikely.”
Not really. The point is simple. Temps are higher than they would have been. Because of that, the impact of Harvey was worse than it would have been before global warming. Pretty simple logic.
Hard to figure how people can not follow that.

Reply to  reallyskeptical
September 22, 2017 6:14 pm

Hurricane’s form and operate on the principle similar to a Carnot engine. They require a differential between sea surface temps and air temperature. Warmer sea surface temps alone do not lead to more powerful hurricane’s unless air temps are proportionately cooler relative to the warmer sea surface temps. CO2 enhanced greenhouse effect theory doesn’t predict warmer sea surface temperatures. Enhanced greenhouse effect theory predicts warmer air temperatures. I don’t know why people just can’t get that.

Reg Nelson
Reply to  reallyskeptical
September 22, 2017 6:18 pm

Temps were higher in the US in the 30’s. No one can dispute that. What were the CO2 levels back then?
Hard to figure\understand how people can not follow that.

Reply to  Reg Nelson
September 22, 2017 6:23 pm


Reply to  reallyskeptical
September 22, 2017 6:32 pm

Dear Oxymoronic name, most of the actual, not reconstructed, temperature records are from the US, or western Europe, or Australia. With real records, the 1930’s were warmer. The seances done by HADCRU and NASA GISS to divine the missing areas conclude otherwise. The issue is how much to trust the adjusted and infilled “temperatures”.

Mark Luhman
Reply to  reallyskeptical
September 22, 2017 10:04 pm

“Not really. The point is simple. Temps are higher than they would have been. Because of that, the impact of Harvey was worse than it would have been before global warming. Pretty simple logic.” How do you know temps are higher than they would have been. Are you God, the way we measure temperatures is so inexact a person of average intelligence can tell we don’t really know what the temperature really are let alone what they should be. We only occupy 3% of the world surface we measure land base temperature only in those places, we so measure temperature via satellite but we only been doing that for a very short time, so again we don’t have the data to tell what the temperature should be let alone that they are higher than they would have been. Your pretty simple logic is pretty stupid logic, actually your logic is non existing.

Reply to  reallyskeptical
September 23, 2017 12:30 am

How does a colder body transfer energy to a hotter body (stratosphere > troposphere)? How does CO2 work as a barrier to atmospheric convection (greenhouse analogy)?
Be more skeptical lol

james whelan
Reply to  reallyskeptical
September 23, 2017 2:29 am

reallyskeptical, the Glasgow hurricane I referred to contained ice and snow. The air was very very cold and happened over Christmas 2011. The gulf stream gave the ocean a higher temperature than the air. It resulted in over 100mph sustained winds at ground level. None of this, nothing at all, had anything to do with CO2 , raised SSTs , or any other ‘climate change’ garbage. It was followed just after New Year (2012) with an even stronger storm, but no-one talks about that because it didn’t spoil the Christmas pud!
Strong winds will destroy poorly built buildings and poorly maintained infrastructure . Strong winds are an inconvenience to well built buildings and protected , well maintained infrastructure.
Has the western world gone mad? Has it stopped using common sense?
Refer to parable of ‘3 Little Pigs’ to understand, no computer modelling required.

Michael S. Kelly
September 22, 2017 6:31 pm

At 9:17 am Eastern time, January 4, 2017, the earth passed through its closest approach to the sun. At 4:11 Eastern time, July 3, 2017, it passed through its furthest approach to the sun. Due to the inverse square law, the solar intensities at the top of the atmosphere for the two dates were 1,406 W/m^2 and 1,317 W/m^2 respectively. The difference is 89 W/m^2 The earth’s projected area is 1.275E14 m^2. So on January 4, 2107, the earth received 88×1.275E14x86,400sec/day = 9.8E20 Joules more energy than it did on July 3, 2015.
That amount of energy is 929 quadrillion BTU. Human beings consume energy at a rate of 500 quadrillion BTU per year. So a one DAY difference in natural energy from the sun is nearly twice the one YEAR total amount of energy human beings use. I defy anyone to explain how anthropogenic effects can even be measured in a signal-to-noise ratio that enormous.

September 22, 2017 7:33 pm

Human beings consume energy at a rate of 500 quadrillion BTU per year.

And how was that measured?

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Yirgach
September 22, 2017 11:31 pm

What a devastating comeback.
Come back when you finally graduate first grade.

Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
September 23, 2017 12:25 am

You must have replied to the wrong comment, Yirgach has a valid question (exactly *how is that* quantified?). I don’t think you’re wanting to be incredibly rude.

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
September 23, 2017 10:58 am

Why is that a “valid” question? It isn’t even a comprehensible one, let alone pertinent.

Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
September 23, 2017 9:59 pm

Michael, it’s often easier to answer the question than to justify an insult. One of the goals at WUWT is foster knowledge. Please keep that in mind.

Reply to  Yirgach
September 23, 2017 9:51 pm

The US EIA (Energy Information Administration) tracks all that stuff from both source and consumption. See for various links and documents.
Global energy use is closer to 600 Quads:

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Ric Werme
September 25, 2017 5:15 pm

And how is that measured?

September 23, 2017 12:22 am

Gaia is our mother. She breathes and heaves and we must leave to explore.
If anyone reads this, I recommend a book titled ‘Earth Abides’, pretty good post-apocalypse book 😉

September 23, 2017 3:02 am
September 24, 2017 12:54 am
September 25, 2017 10:46 am

One must also account for the fact that we are now much better at detecting the absolute maximum wind speed (and lowest pressure) of a hurricane that is in the middle of the ocean. We are much better than even 10 years ago, much more so 50 or 150 years ago. We will naturally continue to break records for high wind speeds and low pressures simply because we can measure those features better.
We will also break records for longest time that a hurricane remains at 185 mph, etc., because we take measurements more often. When we were flying planes in once per day to read wind speeds, there was not a good chance of capturing the max speed , much less so detecting the full length of time it stayed at a max speed. Back then, a hurricane could be at 185 mph for 70 hours, and depending on reading times, we might only record it as lasting 24 hours–IF we could even record the max at all.

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