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Tropical Storm Numbers Have Been Inflated

From the Houston Chronicle:

Decisions to name storms draw concern

By ERIC BERGER
Nov. 29, 2007

With another hurricane season set to end this Friday, a controversy is brewing over decisions of the National Hurricane Center to designate several borderline systems as tropical storms.

Some meteorologists, including former hurricane center director Neil Frank, say as many as six of this year’s 14 named tropical systems might have failed in earlier decades to earn “named storm” status.

“They seem to be naming storms a lot more than they used to,” said Frank, who directed the hurricane center from 1974 to 1987 and is now chief meteorologist for KHOU-TV. “This year, I would put at least four storms in a very questionable category, and maybe even six.”

Most of the storms in question briefly had tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 mph. But their central pressure — another measure of intensity — suggested they actually remained depressions or were non-tropical systems.

Any inconsistencies in the naming of tropical storms and hurricanes have significance far beyond semantics.

The number of a season’s named storms forms the foundation of historical records used to determine trends in hurricane activity. Insurance companies use these trends to set homeowners’ rates. And such information is vital to scientists trying to determine whether global warming has had a measurable impact on hurricane activity.

Forecasters at the hurricane center deny there’s any inconsistency in the practice of naming tropical storms…

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.

A case in point is Tropical Storm Chantal, a short-lived system that formed in late July south of Nova Scotia and moved toward the northeast, out to sea.

Some meteorologists say the storm was never a tropical system at all, because it formed well out of the tropics. Others say it wouldn’t have been named before the 1999 launch of the QuikSCAT satellite, which measures surface winds and alerted forecasters to Chantal’s organization.

“Without QuikSCAT, Chantal might never have gotten named,” said Jeff Masters, a meteorologist and founder of The Weather Underground Web site, a popular resource for tracking hurricanes…

The apparent change in the philosophy of naming systems has rankled some longtime hurricane watchers. Jill Hasling, president of Houston’s Weather Research Center, said comparing the number of tropical storms and hurricanes today with the historical record is almost impossible

Inconsistencies with the data have plagued scientists trying to determine whether global warming has increased the number or intensity of hurricanes.

In fact, there are reasons to believe that historical storms have been overcounted as well as undercounted, said Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Before satellites, scientists had few ways to tell the difference between tropical systems and non-tropical storms. As a result, some non-tropical storms probably were named.

“The bottom line is that, yes, we do have errors in tropical cyclone counts,” said Curry. “But it is not clear whether this adds a net negative or positive bias to any trend.”

Gee, why would these meteorologists be trying to pretend there have been more tropical storms than there have really been?

That is a tough one.

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.

Meaning there is no true historical record.

Inconsistencies with the data have plagued scientists trying to determine whether global warming has increased the number or intensity of hurricanes.

We have seen scant evidence of these “scientists” being plagued. They don’t seem to have a doubt in their minds when they hold forth.

And yet how many times have we heard that the number of tropical storms and hurricanes has gone up due to global warming?

Lies. All lies.

And lies told with the worst of intentions.

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, November 29th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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