Monday, May 28, 2007

Big whoop...

Forecasters have read the omens for this year's hurricane season. I am beside myself with excitement.
The 2007 Atlantic hurricane season should have above-average activity, with three major hurricanes and a good chance at least one of them will make landfall, a top hurricane researcher said Friday. [More]

Methinks no sane forecaster would offer a "below normal" forecast. How many things could go wrong there? Better to err on the side of caution and predict the sky will fall. Someday. Maybe.

How good are these predictions?
Not bad at all. In general, the predictions fall within a storm or two of the observed totals. Last season, though, the forecasters had a bad year. 2004's six intense hurricanes doubled most predictions. The seasonal total of nine hurricanes was also significantly higher than expected. Forecasters blamed the poor predictions on a "year [that] did not behave like any other year we have studied." [More]

Provide me a break. To begin with the most-often quoted hurricane guru also has a prominent role in the global warming debate. And if it's OK to poke fun at Al Gore (too easy for any real humorist), Dr. Gray is also fair game.
The problem is not Gray's age -- we all revered Henry Stommel who did some of his finest work in his seventies. The problem is Gray's failure to adapt to a modern era of meteorology, which demands hypotheses soundly grounded in quantitative and consistent physical formulations, not seat-of-the-pants flying. The WSJ also made much of the withdrawal of an invitation for Gray to join a debate on hurricane trends at an Atlanta tropical meteorology conference. We can't speak for the organizers, but we find it easy to believe that their decision was guided more by the invalidity of Gray's scientific reasoning than by any political or personal considerations. [More]

So am I deeply concerned about this year's hurricane season? Actually, yes. America has demonstrated that where hurricanes are likely to hit are a low-empathy sector of our economy. Perhaps it is necessary to be harsh to discourage coastal development and shoddy building practice, but if we did not learn anything from Katrina, the victims are wretched indeed.

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