Monday, July 30, 2007

More weak science on global warming

There is a perfect example of the very sloppy thinking that passes for "science" these day when the subject is global warming and climate change in an article in USA TODAY by Dan Vergano entitled "Study links more hurricanes, climate change." In fact, nothing in the article actually links (in a causal sense) the alleged change in hurricane frequency to either global warming or climate change. Granted, science is not the goal of USA TODAY, but still I would expect something better for a national media publication. They should at least have a science editorial advisor to alert them to new results that are simply not ready for prime time.

I am curious how back in 1905 through 1930 they measured hurricane wind force at sea well enough to judge whether a storm was merely a "storm" and not a "hurricane." Today, we have aircraft which have sophisticated radar and satellite data that they can use to accurately detect whether even a portion of a storm has reached hurricance force. It is not unheard of for a storm to grow into a hurricane and then fall back to only tropical storm intensity. Back in the old days when ships changed heading to avoid the core of big storms, and accurate readings were only available at landfall, it would be no surprise if the number of storms classified as hurricanes was somewhat lower (Katrina was a Cat 5 out in the middle of the Gulf but only a Cat 3 at landfall.) I would really like to know how the researchers somehow magically finessed this issue.

Actually, the article does quote a couple of the critics of this research:

"Looking for trends in noisy count data is fraught with problems," says researcher James Elsner of Florida State University in Tallahassee. "I agree with the message, but cannot recommend the science."


"They're saying there's a long, upward trend of the last 100 years in tropical storms. All the data I have looked at show that's not the case," says scientist William Gray, head of the Tropical Meteorological Project at Colorado State University.

Gray, a critic of the view that human-induced greenhouse gases drive climate and hurricanes, says 19th-century data "is just not that good."

I would point out that the study started with 1905, so none of the 19th-century data was needed.

Meanwhile, despite the study, last year was a rather slow year for hurricanes and this year is very quiet two months into the hurricane season.

Let us all demand better science.

-- Jack Krupansky


At 4:29 AM , Anonymous CreditThinker said...

Well, they couldn't just write: 'those hurracanes are nothing new, the situation in the previous century was the same' or 'we can say nothing about what the wind force was like in the XIX century'. They have to write about some NEWS!


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