October 19, 2005

Wilma.

How can it be that there is another Category 5 hurricane? And here we are down to the "W" name. It's just a coincidence, isn't it, that Katrina, Rita, and Wilma have come in the same year?
Wilma's top sustained winds reached 175 mph early Wednesday in the most rapid strengthening ever recorded in a hurricane, said meteorologist Hugh Cobb of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. At the same time Tuesday, Wilma was only a tropical storm with winds of 70 mph.

Its confirmed pressure readings Wednesday morning dropped to 882 millibars _ the lowest ever measured in a hurricane in the Atlantic basin, according to the hurricane center. The strongest on record based on the lowest pressure reading is Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, which dipped to 888 millibars....

Forecasters said Wilma was more powerful than the devastating September 1935 hurricane that hit the Florida Keys, the strongest Atlantic hurricane to make landfall on record. But Wilma wasn't expected to keep its record strength for long, as higher disruptive atmospheric winds in the Gulf of Mexico around the hurricane should weaken it before landfall, Cobb said.
Well, that last sentence is reassuring, at least. Still, Katrina and Rita were Gulf of Mexico hurricanes.

30 comments:

starboardside said...

Well,as they say,BOHICA.
Pray it peters out before landfall.

Robert Fovell said...

Don't forget Hurricane Dennis...

Regarding the record low measured central pressure. I think it's worth remembering our ability to record these pressures in a precise, accurate and timely manner has improved quite a bit. Past hurricanes, even relatively recent ones, could have had lower pressures, but they eluded our ability to measure them.

downtownlad said...

Global Warming has to be discussed as a POSSIBLE cause.

As I understand it, there's no evidence that global warming increases the number of hurricanes, but it certainly can explain their strength. After all - hurricanes gain strength when they are over warm water - usually requiring a water temperature of 80 degrees to become a hurricane.

I'm sure this will be instantly dismissed by conservatives, because they refuse to even consider the possibility that global warming even exists, despite the fact that we just had our warmest September ever.

Nonetheless - I think scientists need to delve into this possibility.

Personally - I think that sunspot activity is causing global warming. And global warming is causing us to have stronger hurricanes. But I'll look at evidence that proves me wrong.

SteveR said...

In the past we also didn't have 24/7 coverage and the continous worst case scenarios. I still wonder how much that numbed the Katrina areas in the days before. Of course we now blame people for causing and not preventing hurricanes. Its a big game, how big will it be? where will it hit? how will the govenor do? how will FEMA do? will the president overreact or under react? will one helicopter tour of the devastated area be enough? What will it do to oil prices?

ALH ipinions said...

At least we can take heart that FEMA and Homeland Security will be determined to avoid another Katrina fiasco. Floridians can rest assured that all of the emergency management assets that were denied New Orleaneans shall be available to help them fight (and survive) this natural terror.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Remember we've only been naming hurricanes for something like 50 years. The hurricane statistics I've seen suggest we're in a relatively high period, but not much different from the previous intense periods.

Icepick said...

downtownlad, your comment "that we just had our warmest September ever" is hardly a fact, as you assert. It is the warmest September since we started recording tempatures with decent instruments on a (somewhat) wide scale. There is a non-trivial difference in these statements. For one thing, one hundred years of measurement has problems as a statistically significant sample.

Look back a few tens of millions of years ago, and the geologic record indicates that average global tempatures were higher. In fact, at times the Earth has not had any polar ice caps at all. As it is, we are still coming out of a long period of global cooling. Good riddance, sez I. Anyway, that's largely India's fault. (The landmass, not the nation-state.)

As far as hurricane measurements go, both Robert Fovell and Charlie (Colorado) bring up valid points. Do you really think that we have good central air pressure readings on the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane when it was out to sea? I doubt there were many Army Air Corp reconnaisance flights at the time.

And for frequency, I wouldn't be surprised if 100 years back storms like Lee and Phillipe didn't even register. Perhaps they would have intersected shipping lanes and been noticed that way, perhaps not.

Also, Tammy and Jose might have been looked on as nothing more than particularly wet weather systems back before good instruments and precise definitions existed. Hell, if I hadn't been watching the news, I wouldn't have known about Tammy, and it formed up about 100 miles from where I live. I'd have simply cursed the rain and gone on with my life.

Finally, rest assured that we Floridians don't bother to wait for FEMA or DHS to take care of us. The state has already started evacuations and begun ramping up crisis centers to full speed. And no doubt everyone with any sense is stocking up on supplies (assuming they haven't already) and boarding up where appropriate as we chat.

My Boaz's Ruth said...

If global warming is causing the hurricanes -- then to what do you blame the tsunami of last January and the recent earthquake? and even the weather of the Northeast?

Seems to me that things are acting up all over the place, not just in hurricanes.

Icepick said...

Ruth, things are always acting up all over. That's the fun part of living on a geologically active planet!

Robert said...

Interesting. "Warmest September ever" er- since record keeping began. Doesn't that mean that August was NOT the warmest August ever? You can be sure that if August had been a record, that fact would have been mentioned: WARMEST AUGUST-SEPTEMBER EVER!!!!
In fact, doesn't that mean that August was below average? If it had been above average, the two-month period would probably have been a record, no? Funny I didn't see that reported anywhere.

Hecla Ma said...

Our busiest hurricane season ever recorded happened in 1933 - well before "global warming" became the devil of the day.

Head of Royal Intelligence said...

For what it's worth, The Storm Track (be patient with it; their bandwidth gets overwhelmed when everyone's interested in a hurricane at once) is blaming the upswing on the end of the particulate-pollution-caused cooling of the North Atlantic. (Short version: big clouds of soot from Rust Belt industrial plants used to blow out over the North Atlantic, reflecting sunlight and keeping the ocean temperatures cooler. But then the U.S. cracked down on particulate pollution, and now more sunlight reaches and warms that part of the ocean.) Law of unintended consequences and all that....

L. Ron Halfelven said...

One of the possibilities Downtownlad may wish to consider is that scientists have already delved into the possibility and not found much of anything.

Jeff said...

Good points Icepick. Temperature fluctuations on the earth are normal. The Midwest has experienced at least 4 separate ice ages in the least 100,000 years or so. The last one ended 8,000 years ago. The period from 1400 to 1900 is known as the little Ice Age as world wide temperatures were far less then today. What we might be seeing is a continuation of a warming trend that started around a 100 years or so.

Head of Royal Intelligence, I respectively disagree with the guys at StormTrack about the particulate cooling from human activities. Particulate and CO2 loads from Volcano activity is significant. The Northeast in 1816 had a year without a summer as an enormous amount of particulates from the eruption of an Indonesian volcano radically reduced solar heat. I go into greater detail in the StormTrack Comment Section (See #3).

Jeff
BS, Geology
Purdue University

Too Many Jims said...

downtownlad said...
Global Warming has to be discussed as a POSSIBLE cause.

Paul Zrimsek said...
One of the possibilities Downtownlad may wish to consider is that scientists have already delved into the possibility and not found much of anything.

From the link provided by Paul Zrimsek: "However, more study is needed to better understand the complex interaction between these storms and the tropical atmosphere/ocean . . ."

So it seems to me that both downtownlad's and Paul's positions are supported by Paul's link. Namely that the relationship between global warming and hurricanes should be studied more but at this point the scientific evidence does not conclude that there is much of a demonstrable effect.

downtownlad said...

That's exactly right Jim. Global warming cannot be ruled out.

How some people can be so dismissive of global warming is rather shocking. I really think that no amount of evidence would cause them to change their minds. There has to be a word for that, no? Ideologue perhaps?

I don't buy the argument that global warming is caused by man. I think the belief that it is caused by sunspots is much more persuausive. But I don't rule out human causes either. Scientists should continue to study it.

But some conservatives feel that since they read an article by a scientists or two way back in 1995 that said global warming is false, that suddenly we should be instantly dismissive to any evidence to the contrary.

That's rather close-minded, don't you think? Especially in a field that is so new.

Do people really think that rising water temperatures would have ZERO impact on hurricane strength?

But I guess if you choose to have your head in the sand, and deny the fact that water temperatures are rising (despite ample evidence to the contrary), then you don't even have to consider this question. Must be fun to live in such a simple world.

Effern said...

It's just a coincidence, isn't it, that Katrina, Rita, and Wilma have come in the same year?

Being that they are all part of the 2005 Storm Names collection, yes, I'd say the likelihood was in the high double-digits.

(Sorry, but I couldn't resist. I trust you meant to say that it was a coincidence that they were all rated a level 4 or 5 hurricane...?)

Bruce Hayden said...

Global warming can't be ruled out, true. But at this point, we honestly don't know. And, as a result, it makes no sense to do anything about it except, maybe, to study it a bit more.

downtownlad said...

Doesn't that mean that August was NOT the warmest August ever? You can be sure that if August had been a record, that fact would have been mentioned: WARMEST AUGUST-SEPTEMBER EVER!!!!
In fact, doesn't that mean that August was below average? If it had been above average, the two-month period would probably have been a record, no? Funny I didn't see that reported anywhere.
- Robert

Me thinks Robert didn't do his homework.

The June-August summer season was the tenth warmest on record for the contiguous U.S., while precipitation was above average. Global temperatures were second highest on record for the season which runs from June 1 through August 31.

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/2005/aug/aug05.html

I know - facts can be rather annoying things . . .

downtownlad said...

Bruce - I agree with you 100%. Even the most expensive "solutions" for Global warming will only keep current emissions constant. Hardly with it if we don't even know that global warming is manmande.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Robert: Doesn't that mean that August was NOT the warmest August ever?

Downtown: Me thinks Robert didn't do his homework.

The June-August summer season was the tenth warmest on record for the contiguous U.S., while precipitation was above average. Global temperatures were second highest on record for the season which runs from June 1 through August 31.


Me: What?

Icepick said...

downtownlad, exactly who are you accusing of having their head in the sand? Who are you calling an idealogue? Me? Jeff? Paul?

Let's see, I corrected a rather imprecise statement on your part and added a few observations on the imcomplete data record. Jeff threw in some knowledge from his (at least one time) field of study. Paul threw in a link from an authoritative source that basically said "The storms of 2004 cannot be attributed to global warming at this time, since their frequency and intensity don't seem to lie that far out of the expected range, but further study is warranted."

So who exactly are you trying to insult?

downtownlad said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
downtownlad said...

I'm insulting people who cherry-pick their research, absolutely refusing to look at any evidence to the contrary.

I mentioned that global warming had to be included as a POSSIBILITY. I was attacked for saying that.

Draw your own conclusions about who I'm trying to insult.

Jonathan said...

I have here conclusive PROOF that these hurricanes were caused by a CONSPIRACY. But, of course, I cannot reveal my proof because that would sort of, you know, spoil it. It's just a conspiracy thing. You wouldn't understand.

BTW, why is it necessary to insult anybody?

Icepick said...

downtowlad write: I mentioned that global warming had to be included as a POSSIBILITY. I was attacked for saying that.

Funny, I haven't seen anything warranting the term "attack". Oh well, to each his own.

Jonathan wrote: BTW, why is it necessary to insult anybody?

Tradition.

And we all know Karl Rove is behind this, in conjunction with Big Oil, the Queen of England, and Ron Jeremy.

david bennett said...

Yes, by itself it is just "coincidence."

Like rolling 6 heads in a row. It can happen.

They talk about things like "hundred year storms" because sometimes strange things happen.

But it is suggestive, it is a piece of "circumstantial evidence" in a legal sense. Get enough of these and they add up.

In this case it is certainly not enough to establish a strong probability that weather patterns in the gulf are changing. You need some years for that and we've got at best a 300 year observation record with over 2/3rds imprecise.

Still the indications can get stronger.

A few points to make:

- Even if a change in weather patterns is established it doesn't necessarily mean it's caused by warming.

- Even if warming is established then it isn't proven that it is caused by CO2 or other human activities.

However there are a number of indications of warming. Even hopes of a true north west passage in summer.

And warming is consistent with increased CO2 models. Hurricanes are consistent with models that try and map plausible results of that warming.

It does add up, you have lots and lots of "circumstantial" evidence in lots of areas.

Those who dismiss the theory (and I believe in the arcane language of science it is beyond a hypothesis) can do so simply because the standards of proof in science are so high.

But they frequently do so in a way that is simply nitpicking, like the five year saying, "you didn't actually see me taking the candy."

So the rigor of science can be used to "disprove" almost any assertion. But the reality is that the standards of proof are quite high and the system is (relatively) open to alternative suggests. See Kuhn's arguments on "paradigms" and the half seriious assumption that the older generation has to die off before they are accepted.

This does show that there can be a "political" or social element to commonly held beliefs. But the blatant rightwing objections on the mass of scientists from a variety of fields who support the likelyhood of the Greenhouse effect suggests a belief in something that nears corruption.

This is tragic if it is occuring. Because science unlike almost any other endeavor has built critical communities loosely guided by a set of powerful logics such as repeatibility and the insistence that a theory must be formulated in a way that it can be disproven that make it the closest "wordly" thing we have ever achieved for arriving at "truth."

This does not mean that major mistakes can not be made and fallacies mantained by the "establishment" of science, but the casual and blatant nature of the criticisms is corrosive and quite the opposite of conservative in the sense of mantaining public trust in what has been a very effective set of institutions. The gist of this approach is not "conservative" but reactionary.

Giselle Zheren said...

Ann:

I've gotten tired of living here in South Florida hurricane country.

If I move to Wisconsin, where would be a nice place that doesn't have too much bad weather?

Thanks,
Giselle

downtownlad said...

Brilliant post David.

It annoys me when both the left and right are so dismissive of science, solely to advance their political agenda. The right when it comes to things like global warming and evolution. The left when it comes to things like genetically modified food.

They not only cherry pick the science they believe, but they cherry pick their news sources as well. The right will only listen to fox news. The left will listen to NPR.

Why are people so afraid to realize that the other side might actually have a valid point or two?

Dogtown said...

A bigger coincidence would be a simultaneous Pacific hurricane by the name of Fred.

And, Downtownlad, I'm on the right but listen to NPR all day in my office. I recommend it, especially for politically like-minded commenter. It's much more interesting and challenging to argue with commentary coming from intelligent liberals than it is to listen to Rush or watch Fox News. Yes, I'm arguing with a radio, but that's another problem for me altogether. Anyhow, the station is here in Los Angeles, KCRW, and it has the best music program on M-F from 9a-noon local time. Their site is kcrw.com. It's a gem.

Brian