Craig James

Words on Weather and Climate — December 2, 2010

December 2, 2010 // 0 Comments

Where are all the hurricanes? by CRAIG JAMES The 2010 hurricane season officially ended on November 30. How did the forecasts made by NOAA and other hurricane forecasters before the start of the season turn out? Most of these forecasts called for anywhere from 12 to 20 named storms and better than a 50/50 chance for a major hurricane to strike the U.S. Actually, it was a pretty good forecast for the number of storms, but not for either intensity or number of land-falling storms. This season tied with 1995 and 1887 for the third highest number of named storms in the Atlantic Basin. There were 19 named storms, which is well above the average of 10, and there were 12 storms that became hurricanes, which is more than double the average number of five. There were five storms that reached Category 3 or higher, attaining the status of a major hurricane. However, not one hurricane of any intensity struck the United States. To point out how unusual that is, consider this: Since 1900, there is no precedent of an Atlantic hurricane season with 10 or more hurricanes where none has struck the U.S. Some forecasts were calling for nearly an 80 percent chance of a hurricane hitting the U.S. The five previous seasons with 10 or more hurricanes each had at least two hurricanes strike our shores. The period 2006-2010 is one of only three five-year consecutive periods without a U.S. major hurricane landfall (the other two such periods were 1901-1905 and 1936-1940). There has never been a six-year period without a U.S. major hurricane landfall. I guess that means the odds of one hitting the U.S. coast next season are pretty high. In addition, the last hurricane to make landfall on the USA was Hurricane Ike on September 13, 2008. It is now likely that we will see the string of hurricane-free days extend to June 1 of next year, the official start of hurricane season, when it will be 991 days. And if there is no U.S. land-falling hurricane in the nine days after that, it will hit 1,000 days. Chances are good this will happen. While the Atlantic Basin saw a large number of storms, other ocean basins have been almost […]

Words on Weather & Climate

November 24, 2010 // 0 Comments

An $82 Billion Dollar Forecast by CRAIG JAMES I will readily admit I know next to nothing about how insurance companies estimate risk and establish rates, but I just have to share with you an article published on November 14, 2010 in a newspaper in Sarasota, Fla., about the insurance industry and hurricane risk prediction. The “prediction” was created in just four hours by four hurricane forecasters and turned out to be worth $82 billion to the insurance industry that had just suffered a $40 billion dollar loss due to Hurricane Katrina. Apparently, on a Saturday in October 2005, a company called Risk Management Solutions (RMS) brought four handpicked scientists together in a hotel room in Bermuda. The scientists all believed global warming was causing an increase in the number and intensity of hurricanes. They, along with RMS, also shared a very disputed belief that computer models could accurately predict such a change. Instead of using 120 years of history to calculate the average number of storms each year, RMS used the scientists’ forecast as the basis for a new computer model that would estimate storms for the next five years. This change in risk estimation “created an $82 billion gap between the money insurers had and what they needed, a hole they spent the next five years trying to fill with rate increases and policy cancellations.” RMS justified the change based upon what they called “scientific consensus.” True, it was a consensus, but among only four people who were highly biased. Based upon four hours of what one of the forecasters called “winging it,” they estimated that the historical long-term average of 0.63 major hurricanes striking the U.S. every year would now be 0.90 due to global warming. That seems like a small change until you realize that it is a 45% increase in the risk of a catastrophe. Plugged into a complex software program used to estimate hurricane losses, that number caused the reinsurance companies to triple their rates to the retail insurance companies. Since the Florida Insurance Commission would not let the retail insurance companies pass along rate hikes that high to homeowners, many insurance companies pulled out of the state, leaving an estimated 300,000 Floridians without insurance. Today, two of the […]

WORDS ON WEATHER & CLIMATE — November 18, 2010

November 18, 2010 // 0 Comments

It is going to get colder by CRAIG JAMES    You may think, “Of course it is going to get colder, it is November and we are heading into December.” However, I don’t mean just here in Michigan, I mean temperatures across the globe are going to head downward If you have read some of my past articles, you know how I believe the satellite-derived global surface temperature record is much more accurate than the record from surface-reporting stations. There are so many problems with the surface observations that many people studying this issued believe the surface data set simply can’t be trusted. The problem, of course, with satellite measurements is that they only go back to 1979. Here is a graph of the global temperature anomalies (departures from average) from Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) in Santa Rosa, Calif. The graph begins in 1979 and covers 400 months, which ends last month, October 2010. You can see the spike in temperatures around month 230, which was caused by the strong El Niño in 1998. You can also see the spike this past summer caused by the latest strong El Niño. Notice how quickly the temperatures dropped after the 1998 El Niño, and it looks as if that process has started again. I am one of the many people who believe we could see the graph drop below the zero line by the end of this winter. On the second graphic, I have drawn an arrow indicating where I think the graph will end up by March 2011. If this does indeed happen, you can see from the trend line I have added that we will actually have seen slight cooling since 1998 even though CO2 levels will have gone up over 10% in that time. One of the main reasons for the surface temperatures cooling is the dramatic cooling that has taken place in the world’s oceans, especially in the Pacific as seen in the next image. You can clearly see the much-cooler-than-average surface water in the Pacific along the Equator. This is an indication of the strong La Niña that has developed. Also, note the very cool water in the North Pacific. The Pacific has actually switched into its cold mode after being in […]

Words on Weather & Climate

November 12, 2010 // 0 Comments

A Political Agenda  by CRAIG JAMES  The most vocal proponents of the theory of human-induced global warming lay claim to understanding the “scientific truth” about the supposed catastrophe that awaits if we don’t do something now to alter the way we live. The skeptics of such a catastrophe, who claim that real science shows no such catastrophe headed our way, are called “climate heretics” or “climate deniers,” with the same connotation as holocaust deniers. How can two groups of educated people so strongly disagree on what are supposed to be “facts” of science? I firmly believe one of the few things we know about climate that can truly be called a fact is that “climate changes.” There is such inherent natural variability in the climate, which we don’t yet understand, that we are currently unable to know with any certainty how greenhouse gases will affect that variability. It seems to me that climate change has become not a scientific question but a political agenda. How did we get to this point? Dr. Judith Curry, a world-renowned climate scientist and chair of Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, has had the courage to suggest that both sides get back to science and out of politics. Staking out a position smack dab in the middle of those who warn of global warming’s existential threat to humanity and those who call it a hoax, Dr. Curry has made herself a target of both camps. In the wake of the release of the Climategate e-mails, which she credits as changing her perception of the IPCC and the way it operates, she has written a wonderful article on her blog site, “Climate, Etc,” explaining how she has “been trying to understand the crazy dynamics of climate science and policy and politics, and how things went so terribly wrong.” She writes, “The enviro advocacy groups saw the climate change issue as an opportunity to enlist scientific support for their preferred energy policy solution.” A solution many politicians believed because they were told the science was settled. “The policy cart was put before the scientific horse.” Instead of open scientific investigation, “the entire framing of the IPCC was designed around identifying sufficient evidence so that the human-induced greenhouse warming could […]

Words on Weather & Climate — November 4, 2010

November 4, 2010 // 0 Comments

The Great Lakes Storm of 2010 by CRAIG JAMES  The major storm that affected much of the United States the last week of October was certainly one for the record books, but given its intensity, I think it produced far less damage than was expected. The storm first impacted the West Coast with very heavy rain and high winds, and this may be a prevalent pattern over the upcoming winter for that area of the country. Coastal areas received four to eight inches of rain from the system and a lot of 40-50 mph winds. Waves reached 22 feet off the Washington Coast, none of which is all that uncommon for a strong Pacific system. The strong jet stream did help produce wind gusts to 132 mph at Squaw Peak northwest of Lake Tahoe, but that was at an elevation of 8,700 feet. The weather computer models did a very good job of forecasting how the storm would reorganize over the central plains and become a huge and very intense system as it headed toward the western Great Lakes. Barometer readings were forecast to fall to record low levels in the center of the system and that is exactly what happened. On Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 27, a barometer reading of 28.21 inches was reported in north central Minnesota, making it the lowest pressure reading on record for any storm in the interior of the country. Hurricanes and nor’easters have had lower pressure readings, but no storms over land in the center of the country have had readings this low. The blizzard of 1978 had a slightly lower reading of 28.05 inches when it was over Lake Huron but not when it was over land. Since a barometer reading this low is usually associated with a category three hurricane capable of steady winds of 111 to 130 mph with gusts to 150 mph, it was surprising the winds were not stronger with this system. Peak winds throughout the Plains and Great Lakes were generally around 40 mph with gusts to 50-60 mph. There were a few gusts between 70 and 80 mph but not many. In Michigan, a gust to 71 mph was reported near Ludington, a gust to 74 just northwest of Traverse City and […]

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