Monday, October 29, 2012

The Truth About Climate Change? It's All in a Name

The power is still on here in my little corner of NOVA. If we make it through the night, we might just be among the lucky ones. The DC area as a whole has fared quite well as "only" a couple of hundred thousand people have lost electricity to this point with the worst of the winds expected to start to die down in a few hours. I guess the power companies around here actually learned something from last summer's massive derecho.

Anyway, in between being glued to the incredible updates coming out of NYC and surrounding areas tonight, I idly checked the National Hurricane Center's list of retired Atlantic basin hurricane names in the assumption that Sandy will be soon joining it. In looking at the list, something suddenly struck me. As you know, the annual hurricane names list goes in alphabetical order, so the further down the alphabet, the later the number of that year's storm. The list began in 1954, but prior to 1995, Hurricane Janet, a "J" storm, was the furthest down the alphabet to be retired.

Amazingly, since 1995, by my count Sandy will be the 17th storm to be retired whose name begins with a letter later than "J," including notorious blowouts like Katrina, Rita and Wilma. That means that not only are their more total hurricanes and more destructive hurricanes than there used to be, but they are coming later in the season than ever before. And yet I will bet you right now that the giant black eye Sandy just delivered to DC, NYC and most points in between still won't be enough to break the total political inertia on combatting climate change.

Bonus: "Rock you like a hurricane"


  1. The problem is that human nature makes people accept any plausible sounding good-news explanation over any bad-news explanation regardless or evidence, data, math or science. Since rational climate change people will always admit that no single storm can be attributed directly to climate change, the deniers always have the plausible explanation that this was just one freak event. From there, human nature takes over and the population can go safely back to ignoring climate change. Move along, nothing to see here...

    1. Freak weather events in 2012 and in U.S. alone:

      1) Warmest year on record January to September.
      2) Warmest March on record.
      3) Wildfires burn over 1 million acres in June alone. To the middle of September, 8.4 million acres in the U.S. have burned, 2nd highest to 2006 - but we still three months to go.
      4) Derecho rolls from Chicago to D.C.
      5) Drought covers more of the U.S. than at any point in the weather record.
      6) 50% of U.S. counties named disaster areas.
      7) A hailstorm in Dallas caused roughly $2 billion in damage (national average for yearly combined hail damage in all of the U.S. is $1 billion).
      8) Warmest July on record.
      9) Hurricane Isaac set daily rain record of 7.86 inches in New Orleans (Katrina had the previous high of 4.5 inches).
      10) The U.S. records the most extreme weather from January to August, according to the Climate Extremes Index:
      11) Warmest September on record globally (tied with 2005). This is the 331st month in a row with warmer temperatures globally than the 20th century average.
      12) Hurricane Sandy causes record flooding on the East Coast, multiple fatalities, and estimates of at least $10 billion in damage.

      And here's the kicker - it's not even an El Nino year. And I didn't mention the record Arctic melt this year.

      Somebody really ought to make a video of people saying different weather phenomena are 1-in-100 year events in the past few years. It'd probably be over 10 minutes long of just that. One thing I noticed was that Bloomberg was more careful - he said Sandy was a 'once-in-a-long-time' event.

      Meanwhile, on top denial blog 'Watt's Up With That', Sandy was technically not a hurricane when it reached landfall:

  2. Bill,

    Thought you might be interested in this article:

    1. Thanks, Anon. I hadn't seen that one. Why is that the British press has done a better job of covering that story than the American press? Nevermind, I know the answer of course.

  3. I agree with your general point, but your link shows you missed one: Keith in 1990. If you start THERE, Sandy becomes #18.