Rear-Guard Action vs. Hurricanes As Forests Beat a Hasty Retreat from the Cold
All the Congressional staffers and
all the environ-men who read this report should sit up and take note of two recent
mega-studies that throw an awful lot of cold water on glib scenarios of enhancing
hurricanes and burning forests. It turns out the hurricanes are weakening and the forests
Called "A Post-IPCC
Assessment," the recent collaboration of Ann Henderson-Sellers and 10 others is a
study of tropical cyclones (hurricanes, typhoons, willy-willies, and their ilk) and global
climate change (IPCC, of course, refers to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change). The much-feared increase in these storms as the planet warms just can't
seem to be found. And worse, computer models can't spin up a future that looks any
different from the past.
Prominently featured is the research
of co-authors Neville Nichols and Chris Landsea, who published a paper two years ago that
many would like to ignore. In their study, they found a statistically significant downward
trend in the frequency of intense storms in the Atlantic basin (Figure 1). In the latest
paper, Nichols cites new data indicating a decrease in storms around Australia, although
there is no change in the stronger storms, whose lowest pressure is lower than 29.23
Figure 1. Landsea
and collegues found no change in the number of weak cyclones (open bars), and a pronounced
decrease in the frequency of strong ones (solid bars) in the Atlantic.
Dismissing the notion that storms are
getting worse or more frequent, the authors then used computer models to conclude that the
Maximum Potential Intensity (MPI) could increase by "10 or 20 percent" with
doubled atmospheric carbon dioxide. But MPI applies to storms that are free of any
external disturbancerare cyclones indeed. For example, to reach MPI, a storm must
have an ideal vertical structure, never encounter a west wind, be over very warm water,
and not have its circulation significantly impacted by land. This last criterion is
especially hard to meet when storms hit the coast!
Even so, this change in MPI, the
authors say, would be impossible to detect because there is so much year-to-year and
decadal variation in hurricanes. And finally, the computer models that attempt to simulate
the enhanced greenhouse world contain "known omissions [that] all act to reduce these
Forests freezing to
Just about everyone knows that global
warming is pushing the limits of the world's ecosystems, especially by pressuring forests
to move north into the tundra, displacing jillions of cute little mosquitoes and black
Everyone, it seems, except the trees
of Scandinavia. The good Swedes, so environmentally conscious that they proudly toast late
Uncle Sven (and we don't mean by raising a glass) to heat their homes (WCR, Vol. 3, No. 3), established field sites
decades ago at the high-altitude northern forest boundary to monitor how climate change
affects the trees. What Leif Kullman found was enough to make the trees wish for a little
more of Uncle Sven's carbon dioxide in the air:
"The elevational tree-limits Betula pubescens
[birch], Picea abies [spruce] and Pinus Sylvestris [pine], in response to
the climatic amelioration [a.k.a., warming] earlier this century, now show clear symptoms
of increasing climatic stress."
The cause? How about "summer
cooling," "low winter soil temperatures," and "increased snow
accumulation"? Just in case readers don't get the message, there are also
"indications of enhanced periglacial activity." That's what happens around
And further, Kullman thinks he's not
looking at just one anomaly:
"In broader geographical perspective, alleged
"all-time high" global warming of the past one or two decades has, to our
knowledge, not concurred with any well-founded reports of ongoing global or regional
tree-limit advance or progression."
Further, "the apparent
global-scale lack" of northward movement of the forest is "remarkable in the
perspective of numerous simulations predicting the opposite." Kullman concludes that
neither his results "nor studies in other regions of the northern hemisphere can
support any glib initiation" of global warming.
"On the contrary," he says,
the forest results are "more consistent with satellite microwave soundings, showing
no significant recent global temperature trend."
A., et al., Tropical cyclones and global climate change: A post-IPCC assessment, Bulletin
of the American Meteorological Society, 79, 1938.
Tree-limit stress and disturbance: A 25-year survey of geoecological change in the Scandes
Mountains of Sweden, Geografiska Annaler, 79, 139165.
Landsea, C.W., et
al., 1996, Downward trends in the frequency of intense Atlantic hurricanes during the past
five decades. Geophysical Research Letters, 23, 527530.
Prove the Impossible or Pay Up!
Neither weakening hurricanes nor a
benign future persuaded the "Post-IPCC" paper's one co-author from the
reinsurance industry to stop soaking customers. Reinsurance giants like Munich Re insure
the insurers, so when Allstate gets hit, that's who ultimately pays.
Munich Re has been super-palsy with
the folks at Greenpeace, especially their director Jeremy Leggett, in pushing the concept
that hurricanes will get worse because of global warming. (Note to our American readers:
"Greenpeace" is an environmental organization.) Leggett spoke at an American
re-insurance conference in Miami last April. There, he argued that those scientists who
said hurricanes were overblown were just a weird minority of nonmainstream people who,
however convincing, shouldn't be listened to. Sounds like Greenpeace and Munich Re should
add 10 more names to their blackball rosterpeople who claim to represent the
post-IPCC consensus (and, not surprisingly, are IPCC folks!). Why do we think Munich Re's
G. Berz wrote the following portion of the article?
"The insurance industry in particular has experienced a
rapid increase in losses from tropical cyclone disasters during the last decade. This has
been caused, to a large extent, by increasing coastal populations [true], by increasing
insured values in coastal areas [true] and, perhaps, by a rising sensitivity of modern
societies to disruptions of infrastructure [absolutely, undoubtedly false]. However, the
insurance industry is worried about the possibility of increasing frequencies and/or
intensities of tropical cyclones... Until scientific predictions provide conclusive
proof that these fears are unwarranted, the industry has to prepare itself for extreme
catastrophic losses by means of appropriate reserves and restrictive underwriting
Which is to say, until scientists do
the impossiblewhich is to prove the negativewe will continue to use this as an
excuse to raise rates. Ignore the data, soak the customer.
Do it for the Kids, Part 2
agencies will use children to lecture us on how we don't care about their futures. (Verified again!)
Last issue, we stamped
"verified" all over our 1998 prediction that the Administration would try to
sell global warming policy by threatening damage to "the children." Just two weeks in, the EPA's Carol Browner
admitted this was their plan. President
Clinton himself got on board at the State of the Union address:
The vast majority of scientists have concluded
unequivocally that if we dont reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, at some point
in the next century well disrupt our climate and put our children and grandchildren
Clinton doesnt read the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society or Geografiska