Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina Conspiracy Theories etc. [Updated] 

In the midst of this true human tragedy, I have to say I am disgusted and enraged by the pseudo science and conspiracy theories being peddled by those who would seek to politicize even the most heart wrenching of events. We are being told that global warming is to blame for the hurricane, and that the war in Iraq has caused the deaths by taking away needed National Guard Troops. This is sickening. As I said earlier, I can't imagine what sort of narcissistic worldview is required to believe that we, man, can even begin to control the awesome forces of nature. The overall number of Tropical Cyclones has been declining since 1995, and hurricans in general had continued to decline before that, during the so called "warming."

Ah, and the conspiracy has at last blossomed into a full blown nonsense. In addition to the global warming claims, some are now comparing the attacks with 9/11, and not in terms of damage:

The connection between global warming and Katrina may be tenuous, but it is certainly much firmer than that between Iraq and 9-11.

We have dealt with this before, but the shear insanity of making such politically motivated, nonsense statements at a time when we should be concentrating on helping those in need, spurs me to act by refuting this drivel once and for all. Funding Suicide bombers and providing checks to their families, meeting with and harboring high level al Qaeda figures, according to a 1998 Justice department memo:
"Al Qaeda also forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in the Sudan and with the government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezbollah for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States. In addition, al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq."

And again from the 9/11 commission (Both links here):

" A senior Iraqi intelligence officer reportedly made three visits to Sudan, finally meeting Bin Laden in 1994. (Statement # 15). "

And having Iraqi Nationals indicated in the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing and 9/11 (Here's he link)

These don't seem like connections to Al Qaeda, terrorism or 9/11, do they?

And here's the punchline: we never went into Iraq, nor deposed Saddam, on claims of connections to 9/11 anyway. We did because not to do so would have been a moral injustice, and a security mistake so glaring and so potentially dangerous that the consequences dwarf 9/11 by far.
If you plan to come onto this blog and make comments, which are encouraged, be ready for the crushing power of truth and logic to decimate any liberal swank and lies you should feel the need to post. Again, as Jason said, we should all pray for the victims of this disaster and do what we can to help them, and our country, right itself from this mess; not float wacko conspiracy theories and play the blame game with something we cannot pretend to control or even fully understand.
Stay tuned.

[Update:] Check the comments for further discussion, based on accurate hurricane data

I can't imagine what sort of narcissistic worldview is required to believe that we, man, can even begin to control the awesome forces of nature.

While I agree with this statement, I think it's misleading. When people talk about global warming and such, they're talking about influencing nature, not controlling it. I certainly believe that man can influence nature and the environment.

But really the comment that made me respond was this one:

The overall number of Tropical Cyclones has been declining since 1995, and hurricanes in general had continued to decline before that, during the so called "warming."

If you read the research on tropical cyclones that was published before 1995, you will find there is a downward average in the occurence of major huricanes in the Atlantic/Gulf region. 1944-1995 linear best fit One should also note that the years prior to 1994 were El Nino years, which have statistically fewer hurricanes/cyclones in the atlantic.

Now, 1995 set the record for number of hurricanes/cyclones recorded in a single year. Since 1944, when systematic aircraft reconnaissance for monitoring tropical cyclones was commenced, 1995 has the highest number of hurricanes in the Atlantic region. So when you say the number has been declining since 1995, you've said next to nothing.

Here's a link to some frequency data for my next commentary:

If you do a simple linear regression on the data from 1944 to 1995, you will find that the slope is negative, thus indicating a declining number of hurricanes each year. However, if you include the years 1944-2003 (the latest data published on noaa's site) you will find the slope is positive, indicating an increasing frequency of hurricanes.

Basically, there have been so many more tropical storms than average in the past 10 years, that it has flipped a 50 year trend!

Personally, I don't think that mere decades worth of data is enough to make global predictions, but please don't say that the number of hurricanes is decreasing, because that is patently false.
Thanks for the inciteful comments, and the link to the hurricane data, both of which are appreciated. And you are correct when you assert that the data from 1995 to 2005 would seem to reverse an overall trend in the previous 50 years. You are, however, being misleading when you assert that hurricanes have increased in frequency, and in fact when you extend the discussion to incompass all tropical weather patterns via the strength of Accumulated Cyclone Energy, the pattern is the exact opposite.
According to the data linked in the comment, this is not the first period of a prolonged increase; the graph and the list of figures show us this well. Look, for example, at the period from 1948 to 1958: It yields an average annual ACU (Accumulated Cyclone Energy, a comprehensive measurement) of 134.7, a full 22 points above the average for the period 1996 to 2005, and more than 12 points higher than that period when 1995, the record setting year, is included. That means the the ten years from 1948 to 1958 were actually worse in terms of overall tropical weather patterns. In fact, examining the linear regression for the period 1944 to 2005 for the ACU reveals a negative slope, even with the recent upspike. I would also note that I find it difficult to reconcile the ease with which you disregard the pre-1995 lull as a naturally occuring consequence of El Nino, but cannot apply the same reasoning to an upswing in the frequency of storms, a pattern that is as frequent as the troughs (as demonstrated above)
I would hesitate to draw any conclusions from this information, since I agree that we have yet to accumulate enough data. That fact, however, only strengthens my argument, since the ability of a naturally occuring upswing at the end of a set of datapoints to swing the slope of the regression means that neither the 1944 to 1995 or the 1944 to 2005 graphs have enough data points, and that the slope of the regression is so small that a prolonged, if slight and recurring, increase can change the sign of the slope. Translation: either way, the line is about flat.
I'm left with the feeling that you are arguing with me, but I see very little in what you've stated that I would argue with ;-)

My main purpose was to say that the statement "Hurricane frequency is decreasing" is false. I do not wish to assert the statement "Hurricane frequency is increasing". (Perhaps I wasn't clear about that, it's difficult to argue against one thing without appearing to be for the other) The last decade has had an exceptionally high number of hurricanes/tropical storms in the Atlantic -- that could easily be a 10 year trend that ends next year, or the beginning of an upward trend -- there's no way to tell at this point. My opinion is that most weather related phenomena are cyclic.

Since you brought up ACE, sure, it's trend is decreasing including the recent upspike. Can you tell me what that means? I certainly can't. Unfortunately, the ACE taken as an isolated metric provides little information. It is used in conjuction with other metrics such as number of hurricanes, number of severe hurricanes, and number of named storms to help rate the severity of one year.

That means the the ten years from 1948 to 1958 were actually worse in terms of overall tropical weather patterns.

No, it only means that those years had a higher ACE index. Isolating the ACE index value takes away much of its information value. Severe storms that grow rapidly can have the same ACE index as a weak but long lasting storm. By itself, ACE is not a good comparison metric.

The years you mentioned are considered 'above normal' hurricane years though. In fact, in broad terms:
~1950 to ~1970 are 'above normal'
~1970 to ~1990 are 'below normal'
~1990 to ~2010? are 'above normal'
Of course that 2010 date is pure speculation on my part, but I'm more likely to vote for 'cyclic' rather than either 'rising' or 'falling'.
I must concede that it is difficult to claim an overall decrease, since as we have both said the data is inconclusive, the sample size is too small, and the slope of the line is so small as it is. And since I am not a meteorologist, I also admit my understanding of the ACE index may be a bit cursory. I think we are both heading in the same direction, and that is that there is little conclusive information for either an upward or a downward trend. The main thrust of my argument is that there is no evidence that global warming, vis-a-vis president Bush and his Haliburton cronies, are causing an abnormal increase in Severe weather. I say abnormal, because I agree that the weather pattern is probably cyclical, and the small amount of data available seems to verify this. This seems to be the growing consensus, that the recent upturn only mirrors past such trends, and will probably encounter a trough in the next decade (let's hope). Again, thanks for stopping by, this was certainly the most interesting and informative discussion I've seen on the comments section of the blog in some time. Keep reading, and feel free to keep up the input.
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