Guest Opinion: Dr. Tim Ball
I gained a dramatic insight into the practice and dangers of anthropomorphism when I was asked to give a talk prior to a presentation by Jane Goodall, of chimpanzee research fame. I realized why I was invited after I spoke about the importance of trees in the urban environment using Winnipeg, the location of the event, as an example. My role was to extend the event to cover the failure to meet even the minimum expectations of the audience, but there were more severe problems. Ms. Goodall was an unmitigated disaster blatantly using the event to get money to the point where any goodwill was effectively erased. Everybody understood her campaign needs money; it is just the way it was done.
It began as people entered the theatre and were bombarded with the pure commercialism of T-shirt sales and other cheap trinkets. Goodall’s opening comments exacerbated the situation. She said she would give a 20-minute presentation followed by a 30-minute video shown on PBS the week before, so most in attendance saw it, and finish with a brief 10-minute question period. My 45-minute presentation stretched the entire show to one hour and 45 minutes.
I was amazed by the hostility of the audience to Ms. Goodall. One of the first questions from a young woman was a good example. She said, considering Goodall’s claim that we had much to learn from the chimpanzees, would she care to comment on the reports of cannibalism exhibited by a female chimpanzee who taught her daughter how to kill and eat other baby chimpanzees. Ms. Goodall said these were behavioral aberrations caused by the damage humans had inflicted on the chimpanzees. She offered no evidence to support the claim. She was then asked why, considering her policy of not interfering, she assisted the male leader of one troop. He was left to die after a few dominant males bit of his testicles in a leadership battle. She nursed him back to health by treating him surgically and with anti-biotics. He was then returned to the troop. Her answer was like the one about cannibalism. This time, however, a follow-up question asked, apparently with foreknowledge, what happened to him? Ms. Goodall acknowledged that he was killed by a gang of chimpanzees that included several females.
All this has anthropomorphic overtones that we see in the global warming claims: something was wrong therefore humans are to blame. There was no awareness that the judgment was colored, first by the fact that it was behavior she did not want to by her belief that chimpanzees and humans are almost identical, except that they still live with nature, while humans have taken the wrong evolutionary path. It was expressed in this quote from a US National Park Service wildlife biologist,
Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet. I know social scientists who remind me that people are part of nature, but it isn’t true. Somewhere along the line – at about a billion years ago – we quit the contract and became a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth. It is cosmically unlikely that the developed world will choose to end its orgy of fossil energy consumption, and the Third World its suicidal consumption of landscape. Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.
The Goodall event gave me the opportunity to use what I consider my best introductory line ever; “I never dreamed I would be a warmup act for chimpanzees, but here I am.”
The practice of anthropomorphism appears early in weather and climate, but these were usually done to help people visualize the events rather than to exploit fears, create misconceptions or mislead through anthropomorphism. For example, much of the terminology associated with weather forecasts were developed by Norwegian meteorologist Vilhelm Bjerknes. Pilots involved in the First World War wanted understandable weather forecasts, so Bjerknes invoked familiar terms of battle such as advancing and retreating Fronts and Outbreaks of cold air and over running warm air.
The situation began to change when they started naming hurricanes intermittently from around A.D. 1900. Apparently, it was done to reduce confusion when two or more hurricanes were threatening a region. We are told that,
“Human names are easier to remember than numbers or meteorological jargon.”
What nonsense, greater clarity is achieved by simply numbering each storm with a prefix of A (Atlantic) and P (Pacific.) It would also provide a count of events so people would know if the numbers were increasing as alarmists currently claim, but that wasn’t the concern then.
The article containing that quote identifies the women who fought to get hurricanes alternately given female names. When you look at the list of names planned by NOAA for the next few years, it is not difficult to see political correctness advocates demanding cross-cultural names.
This madness continued and took a clear anthropomorphic objective by deciding to start naming Mid-Latitude Cyclones, just like they do for hurricanes. It was nothing but a publicity stunt to create the idea that these storms were somehow increasing in power to link them with the catastrophic impacts of hurricanes. They are not the same thing at all, from the formation mechanisms to the overall structure and the latitudes at which they occur.
A Hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean or a Typhoon in the Pacific Ocean form close to the Equator but not within 8° of latitude because there is insufficient Coriolis effect to trigger the spinning motion symptomatic of the entire system. I will just consider the Atlantic Hurricane here. They begin as a trough of low pressure known as an Easterly Wave extending away from the Equator near the coast of Africa. This is a line of large thunderstorms moving from east to west in the zone of the Tropical Easterlies. If the Wave develops away from the Equator as it moves west, it experiences the influence of the Coriolis Effect. This causes the Easterly Wave to form into a circle of thunderstorms around a high-pressure center, the traditional ‘eye’ of tropical storms and hurricanes. When wind speeds are above 119 kph (74 mph) a tropical storm becomes a Category 1 hurricane. The hurricane structure continues to be a circle of massive cumulonimbus clouds around a high-pressure center.
Mid-Latitude Cyclones are created along Fronts in the middle latitudes. There are a few triggers that cause a wave to form in the frontal boundary between warm and cold air. Theoretically, they go through a process that begins with frontogenesis, seen at A in Figure 1. The system can begin and go through the complete cycle, or it can dissipate at any point. The system is at maximum wind speeds and lowest pressure between C. and D. At this stage, it can often cover a much larger area than even the largest hurricane.
It all became confused recently when they named a system hurricane Ophelia. Read this entry for Wikipedia to understand the confusion based on the classical descriptions above. (I use Wikipedia [footnotes removed] because it does as much as any source to promote the confusion.)
On 6 October, the United States’ National Hurricane Center (NHC) began monitoring the tail end of a decaying cold front for possible subtropical or tropical cyclogenesis. On the same day, a circulation developed on the periphery of this front. Soon afterwards, a non-tropical low developed within the circulation, and drifted to the southwest before becoming nearly stationary. The system began to acquire subtropical characteristics on the next day, and the chances of development were raised to a high percentage of cyclogenesis. After a brief loss of organization and diminished convection, due to moderate wind shear, the system continued to steadily organize, and developed a well-defined circulation center early on 9 October, as deep convection began to persist near the center. By 09:00 UTC that day, the convection had persisted long enough for the system to be classified as a tropical depression about 875 mi (1,410 km) west-southwest of the Azores, and the storm was identified as Tropical Depression Seventeen. A curved banding feature wrapped around the center as the satellite presentation improved, leading to the upgrade to Tropical Storm Ophelia six hours later.
Which was it? A tropical storm or a Mid-Latitude Cyclone?
The answer is it was a Mid-Latitude Cyclone that climate hysteria and anthropomorphism turned into a hurricane to amplify fears of bizarre and increasingly severe weather due to global warming.
In fact, what happened was traces of Hazel combined with and were reinforced by a Mid-Latitude Cyclone tracking from the west.
All this confusion allows the anthropomorphism of naming storm systems to amplify and distort natural weather systems to occur. It happens partly because climatology has such a limited understanding of atmospheric mechanisms as I detailed here. Weather systems are inanimate objects and naming them blurs the lines between the objectivity science demands and the exploitation of emotionalism by environmentalists.
Sorry, Ms. Goodall, the chimpanzees have nothing to teach us. Although, maybe, we can add the CO2 they produce to the false anthropogenic global warming claims.