Saturday, December 31, 2005

Global warming does not cause earthquakes

According to Wired magazine's "Biggest Discoveries of 2005", the most important discovery of 2005 is that
Thanks to the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, global warming can no longer be ignored.

I agree that global warming can no longer be ignored, but you don't need to know too much about earth science to realize that the Asian tsunami has absolutely nothing to do with it.

4 comments:

math said...

right!:) What a terrible mistake.

Anonymous said...

Of course, I agree 100% with the with the point that the tsunami had nothing to do with global warming.

Another science point failed by Wired is that Katrina, while a very powerful hurricane, was not exceptional in terms of total amount of kinetic energy converted from thermal. The fact that it hit a densely populated area and caused much destruction tells only of government risk management practices and local cultural attitudes, but contains no information on whether the hurricane was an abnormality. Only a detailed statistical analysis will show whether 2005 was an outlier in terms of kinetic energy released as hurricanes, and if a trand away from randomness and secular variations has begun to emerge. If anybody has a link to such an analysis, please send it to me (ivlad2002 AT yahoo DOT com). I would expect insurance companies to have done such studies, but keep them in-house for competitive advantage. Hopefully someone has posted a good public one on the web, before going through a year-long peer review process.

The winter has been abnormally mild so far here in Trondheim. At the other end of the Gulf Stream, in Houston, my friends also report bouts of unseasonably warm weather. Warm water next summer will mean a larger thermal energy budget for hurricanes. If the Central Atlantic is indeed warmer, and if the number and/or the intensity of hurricanes increase higher than linearly with the temperature of seawater, southern US will be in for a very nasty surprise. (Read: 10 hurricanes in 2006, 20 in 2007...) People almost always extrapolate linearly, and almost everything else is a surprise. I would expect the supercomputers of the Department of Defense and maybe those of the Department of Energy to be crunching weather simulations right now. The threat of Muslim fundamentalists is a joke compared to what a higher-than-linear increase in hurricane activity can do to the US. Even if they conclude that this is very likely to happen, the current US administration seems too detached from reality to actually act on this threat, which runs against its entrenched political stand that global warming does not exist. Let's hope that: (1) global warming does indeed not exist, or (2) the number of hurricanes increases less than linearly with seawater temperature. Of course hope alone does not actuall help. But as far as I am concerned, I have just moved from Houston to Norway. It is nice to pray for my friends from safety, and I will help them should trouble befall them, but it is actually up to them to prepare for contingencies that may affect their lot.

zs said...

Nick (I assume...),

thanks for sharing your thoughts. I haven't spent much time reading about hurricanes and global warming, but there are indeed a number of highly publicized 2005 papers that deal with this issue. There is one published in Nature that compares the total power disspated annually by tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic to sea surface temperatures in September in the same place, and finds a surprisingly good correlation (Emanuel, 2005). The author concludes that "the large upswing in the last decade is unprecedented, and probably reflects the effect of global warming." A good summary and discussion is at RealClimate.org(where else?).

In any case, I will probably wish a number of times during this coming summer that I was in Trondheim or somewhere far away from the Gulf Coast.

My only consolation is that it is easier to get a reasonably priced good bottle of wine here than in Norway. And that is worth riding out a couple of hurricanes :).

Anonymous said...

We can see the modeling results of insurance companies for 2006 here.

(Not in the form of charts and graphs, but in a more reliable form: homeowners insurance premium increases of several tens of percent in Florida, and dropping coverage outright for some owners in more exposed areas)

Quote from article: "Meanwhile, Allstate, like Nationwide, is dropping 95,000 customers statewide"

Think of what it takes for a company to drop that many clients voluntarily...

 
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