| Rush Limbaugh: Hurricane expert
| Friday, November 30, 2007
|By Bob King | Friday, November 30, 2007, 10:36 AM
Looks like Rush Limbaugh, Palm Beach’s favorite talk show host, has uncovered yet another liberal conspiracy — this one, based at the National Hurricane Center.
The plot, El Rushbo explains, is diabolical in its simplicity: The hurricane center’s meteorologists had predicted a lot of storms this season. And when the storms didn’t appear, the forecasters just made them up:
“We never named subtropical storms but will this year, and the reason they started doing that is because their predictions were running light. Their predictions were embarrassing, so they had to get some named storms.”
Did you know that? The hurricane center never named subtropical storms before this year? Well, not unless you include Nicole in 2004, a year that seemingly didn’t require any hyping.
Rush also goes on about how Tropical Storm Noel shouldn’t count because “Nova Scotia is not the tropics” — I guess that means I can tell my relatives up there to stop whining about Hurricane Juan ripping apart their homes four years ago. Plus, in his opinion, “the barometric pressure never got low enough” to justify naming some of the storms.
And rather than fretting that two inactive U.S. seasons in a row will make people complacent, “we ought to be celebrating that storms creamed other people this year and last year rather than us.”
Limbaugh’s not alone in questioning the hurricane center’s storm numbers. The conservative National Center for Public Policy Research is also alleging a conspiracy, claiming that the meteorologists are “inflating the count of tropical storms and aiding a political campaign to regulate energy use in the process.”
In other words, they say, the NHC is just trying to hype global warming.
Now this might come as a shock to hurricane center meteorologists like Chris Landsea and ex-Director Max Mayfield, who are frequently villified by climate activists who accuse them of covering up the truth about global warming. It also might surprise Colorado State University hurricane prognosticator William Gray, who produces the scary predictions but denounces global warming as a gigantic hoax. But that just proves how clever this conspiracy is.
Is there any real issue here? Maybe. Limbaugh’s spiel was inspired by a Houston Chronicle article in which various meteorologists, including ex-Hurricane Center Director Neil Frank, question the inclusion of several storms that barely qualified as tropical cyclones this year. Frank says as many as six of this year’s 14 storms are “very questionable.”
The Chronicle story adds:
“What everyone agrees has changed is the ability of meteorologists to more accurately analyze tropical systems, thanks to an increased number of reconnaissance flights with sophisticated tools and the presence of more satellites to monitor storms from above.
“Scientists generally agree that prior to the late 1970s and widespread satellite coverage, hurricane watchers annually missed one to three tropical storms that developed far from land or were short-lived.
“But this season’s large number of minimal tropical storms whose winds exceeded 39 mph for only a short period has ignited a separate debate: whether even more modern technology and a change in philosophy has artificially inflated the number of storms in recent years.”
On the other hand, the story says the hurricane center’s acting deputy director, Bill Read, disputes the claims: “For at least the last two decades, I am certain most, if not all, the storms named this year would have also been named.”
It is certainly true that changing technology, especially satellites and recon aircraft, allow meterologists to catch storms they would have missed decades ago. And this can make it difficult to decipher the long-term trends: Was the 2005 season really the busiest of all time, or was the 1933 season even busier? Were Dean and Felix really the first two Category 5 hurricanes to make landfall in the same year, or did the same thing happen in 1955? How does our decade compare with the 1880s and 1890s, when the U.S. coast was getting slapped left and right?
In fact, this question is one reason why Landsea is skeptical about the arguments that global warming is making hurricanes stronger — he says it’s not clear that hurricanes are becoming stronger at all. It’s also why he and other federal meteorologists have been involved in a hurricane “reanalysis” project to go back through records of storms since 1851 and reexamine them using today’s standards.
Then again, maybe Rush is right and the hurricane center is filled with linguini-spined weenies who like nothing better than to frighten the public with scary storm numbers.
Rush may want to explain his theory in person to hurricane center meteorologist Stacy Stewart — when Stewart returns from Iraq:
|posted by Moderator Londen time 6:47 PM