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I'm Brendan Loy, a 26-year-old graduate of USC and Notre Dame now living and working in Knoxville, Tennessee. My wife Becky and I are brand-new parents of a beautiful baby girl, born on New Year's Eve.

I'm a big-time sports fan, a politics, media & law junkie, an astronomy buff, a weather nerd, an Apple aficionado, a Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter fanatic, and an all-around dork. My blog is best-known for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina, but I blog about anything and everything that interests me.

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Hurricane forecasters say seasonal errors are hurting their credibility

The Miami Herald has an excellent article about the third consecutive high-profile failure of seasonal hurricane forecasts to closely approximate reality. (The forecasted storm totals were way too low in 2005, way too high in 2006, and substantially too high in 2007.) The article focuses, quite rightly IMHO, on the fear that these forecasting failures are lowering the public's confidence in the much more important -- and much more accurate -- operational forecasts regarding individual storms that the National Hurricane Center does such an excellent job with. I talked about this issue in my season wrap-up for Pajamas Media, and the Herald keys on it as well. Excerpt:

[G]iven the errors -- which can undermine faith in the entire hurricane warning system -- are these full-season forecasts doing more harm than good? [Yes. -ed.]

''The seasonal hurricane forecasters certainly have a lot of explaining to do,'' said Max Mayfield, former director of the National Hurricane Center. ...

Mayfield and virtually all hurricane researchers and forecasters, some of whom were skeptical years ago, now support the issuing of full-season predictions. [Why?? -ed.]

But many openly share concerns about the current system, focusing in particular on NOAA's tendency to subtly link the National Hurricane Center in West Miami-Dade County to the seasonal forecasts produced by [Gerry Bell, NOAA's lead seasonal forecaster]'s team, which is based in Maryland.

In fact, it is important to emphasize the distinction between the six-month seasonal forecasts and the real-time forecasts of an actual hurricane or other tropical system, which are called "operational forecasts.'' ...

Many [operational forecasters] worry ... that substantial errors in those full-season predictions can undermine faith in their generally accurate forecasts of actual storms.

They note that NOAA, parent agency of the hurricane center and Bell's team, often releases Bell's predictions during pre-season news conferences conducted at the hurricane center.

During other years, the hurricane center's director is ordered to participate in the pre-season news conference, wherever it might be held.

''NOAA has been using the good name of the National Hurricane Center, at least to some extent, to help promote the seasonal product and that's not the mission of operational hurricane forecasters,'' Mayfield said.

''In some areas, hurricane forecasters are losing credibility even though they are not the lead on this -- and that's always a concern,'' he said. "We don't want the credit for the seasonal forecasts.''

Bell said the differences between the two groups should be clear to the public by now. He said South Floridians and other residents of the hurricane zone should never disregard real-time forecasts, especially based on a misconception about the full-season predictions.

''There's no basis for those kinds of comments,'' Bell said, "especially if they're made by people who don't know what they're talking about.''

There might be "no basis" for comments linking operational forecasts and seasonal forecasts -- no valid basis, anyway -- but NOAA is setting itself for the inevitability that such comments will be made, with or without a "basis," when it releases its seasonal forecast with such a media splash and involves the NHC in that splash. So forgive me if I have little sympathy for the hue and cry that people "who don't know what they're talking about" are to blame for this. Ignorant people will always mouth off about things they don't understand, all the moreso when it suits a political agenda. NOAA is squarely to blame for giving them an easy opportunity to do so.

Philip Klotzbach, who issues the Colorado State forecast along with William Gray, "said long-range predictions satisfy the public's 'inherent curiosity'," according to the Herald. Well, he's a scientist, so he can do stuff simply for curiosity's sake if he wants to. But NOAA officials aren't just scientists, they're also policymakers, and they need to base their actions on sound policy judgments -- not just a desire to satisfy idle curiosity. It seems to me that these seasonal forecasts are indeed doing more harm than good, and NOAA should either stop issuing its own forecast or at least vastly scale back the media profile that it chooses to give that forecast. Don't call a press conference, don't do interviews, just quietly release the thing on the Internet (loaded with caveats) and satisfy the weather nerds' "curiosity" that way, without unintentionally (but foreseeably!) misinforming the public at large. And certainly, if you must make a media splash, don't involve the NHC operational forecasters in it, for heaven's sake.

It would also be a good idea to issue a press release, whenever anybody releases a seasonal forecast, reminding the media how generally pointless and useless these things are, that they're really just a curiosity, and that we ought to focus on what matters: preparing for big landfalling storms (which can happen in active and "inactive" seasons alike) and forecasting them accurately when they actually form.

Anyway, read the whole thing. And if anyone is tempted to turn this thread into a global-warming debate, please at least read my PJM piece first, if you haven't already. I address a lot of the obvious arguments there (like the old stand-by, "OMG If They Can't Even Forecast A Hurricane Season, Then How Can They Forecast The Climate In 100 Years?? Al Gore Suxxx!!") and I'd rather not repeat myself.

P.S. I will, however, repeat what meteorology Ph.D. student Charles Fenwick wrote back in August, because he made the point very well:

I don’t take too much interest in [seasonal forecasts] personally and don’t like how they are being pushed to the general public. They are a experimental works in progress and should be treated as such. I am most displeased with NOAA’s trumpeting of their forecasts. It gives the public the sense that these are operational forecasts that are on par with the other forecasts of the National Weather Service and that is definitely not the case. [One blog commenter, responding to a dire track forecast for an individual storm, asked], “Where are all the hurricanes the NHC had forecast for the last 2 years? just curious as to why we should panic over predictions that have little or no accuracy?” This shows the confusion that the hurricane season forecasts cause because the National Hurricane Center is not the agency that puts out the seasonal forecast and, as I just said, the seasonal forecasts do not have the same accuracy as the operational forecasts put out by the NHC. … [The seasonal] forecasts are most useful for people who have a stake in the macro-scale, namely insurance companies. They are of little value to individuals.

Indeed.

UPDATE: Welcome, InstaPundit readers!

I'm guessing the Instalanche makes it almost certain that a global-warming debate will break out, so I'll surrender to the inevitable and quote the key graf from my Pajamas Media article:

Ah, some say, but if scientists can’t even predict the number of hurricanes in a given year, how can they possibly predict the state of the Earth’s climate in 50 or 100 or 500 years? This argument is superficially compelling but fatally flawed, as it ignores the massive differences between the types of phenomena being predicted. Predicting the average temperature of the Earth in a given number of years is, at least arguably, much easier than predicting the precise number of hurricanes next year, or for that matter, the precise temperature (in tenths of a degree) at 4:57 PM tomorrow. The reason: the planet’s average temperature over a long period of time is not impacted by short-period, butterfly-effect type variables in the way that shorter-term forecasts are. This is not to say that long-term climate forecasts are necessarily accurate, but if they are to be proven inaccurate, it must be done some other way. The argument that “short-term and medium-term forecasts are flawed, therefore long-term forecasts must be even more flawed” simply does not pass muster.

In the Herald article, they make an even better analogy: early seasonal hurricane forecasts are like "predicting -- this past October -- the Marlins' precise win-loss record in 2008." Whereas, to extend that analogy, long-range climate-change forecasts are more like predicting that the Red Sox will continue to be successful over the course of the next decade. The latter prediction, based on long-range trends (like the amount of money a team spends, how good it is at evaluating talent, whether it's well-managed, etc.), is a lot more likely to be accurate than a prediction of an individual team's specific record in a specific year, even though the latter involves events that are more imminent at the time the forecast is made. The same thing applies to weather and climate predictions.

Also:

Just as it was both unsound and unwise for some global-warming advocates to hold up the 2005 hurricane season as proof of their position, it would be equally unsound and unwise for global-warming skeptics to hold up 2006 and 2007 as somehow disproving the existence of global warming. Such arguments are unsound because they confuse climate, which is comprised of long-term trends, with weather, which chronicles individual events. They are also unwise strategically because they are so vulnerable to attack when things — predictably — turn out differently in future years.  

The heavy reliance on 2005 in certain quarters, which gave some lay observers the false impression that all hurricane seasons would henceforth be similar to the freakish ‘05 season, left global-warming advocates open to cynicism, criticism and rebuttal when 2006 and 2007 failed to live up to expectations. Similarly, a global-warming skeptic who claims today that 2007 disproves global warming is leaving himself open to the argument, if 2008 is an active season, that ‘08 proves global warming is real after all. The more honest (and strategically sound) course, for both sides, is to discuss global warming on its actual merits, and not obsess over minor year-to-year variations that tell us very little, if anything, about long-term trends.

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Wait. You're telling me that people don't have faith in the weatherman's forecasts?? I can't believe how that's possible!!! ;-D

"Wait. You're telling me that people don't have faith in the weatherman's forecasts?? I can't believe how that's possible!!! ;-D"

That's gotta be the easiest job there is. I know, I know, the weather guys (and babes) on tv are plenty smart and go through a whole lotta schoolin' to get where they are, but the best they can do prediction-wise is maybe the next 48-hours. Anything farther out than that is an educated guess at best, as proven by the weather not doing what the weather person claimed it would previously. Predicting the number of storms and the associated intensity? Good luck with that. May as well use a Magic-Eight Ball to determine the same data.

They have the only job where you can be wrong so often on a regular basis and still keep your job.

"They have the only job where you can be wrong so often on a regular basis and still keep your job."

Well, Bob Shrum is still working, isn't he? What about Zogby?

I don't know what kind of models they are using to predict the number of hurricanes per season, but anyone who has worked with statistics knows that these models are predicting not a single number, but rather a confidence interval, i.e., "there's a 90% chance that there will be between X and Y hurricanes next season".

It would be interesting to know what is being reported. Is it X (the lower limit) , Y (the upper limit), or (X+Y)/2? What is the spread between X and Y? Are these models making predictions like "there is a 50% chance there will be between 1 and 100 hurricanes" (essentially useless) or "there is a 95% chance there will be between 17 and 20 hurricanes"?

Forecasting failures most likely are due to poor modeling data and assumptions. NOAA/NASA seem predisposed to forecasting in order to justify their global warming agendas. This is another case of garbage in, garbage out.

Agree this isn't about global warming.

Agree NOAA has brought this on itself. IMO, though, there's more to it than just the "seasonal forecast."

If the scientists want to preserve their status & credibility, then they have to repudiate inaccurate invocations of their work in support of political agendas.

Where global warming is concerned, though, they've largely stood silent or actively participated in Al Gore-type "appeal to authority" arguments.

If NHC wants to keep its reputation, it ought to repudiate the seasonal forecast.

Paddy, how then do you explain the 2005 forecast, which vastly understated the total number of storms? The argument that these errors are global-warming-driven is fundamentally unserious. As I wrote in the PJM article:

Some observers see a more sinister explanation for the seasonal forecasts, believing they are part of a campaign by agenda-driven scientists to hype the global-warming threat. If this were so, it would be a very short-sighted, risky, and ultimately counterproductive move, since the hype generated by inflated forecasts is short-lived and turns predictably into a backlash when the numbers are not borne out by reality. (This theory of agenda-driven forecasting also ignores the fact that Dr. William Gray, one of the most prominent and longstanding seasonal forecasters, is an outspoken global-warming skeptic.)

In reality, the preseason forecasts for 2006 and 2007 were not dishonest or inflated. They were simply wrong. But why were they wrong? For a variety of meteorological reasons that have nothing to do with Al Gore and everything to do with the incredible variability and unpredictability of weather. Tropical storms and hurricanes are fickle creatures, impacted by both large atmospheric patterns and small-scale phenomena. Any attempt at predicting an exact number of storms, months in advance, is going to run the risk of major inaccuracies. Some years (like in 2005), the predictions underestimate the number of storms. In 2006 and 2007, they overestimated it. These variations do not a conspiracy make.

The idea that vast swaths of the scientific community are deliberately inflating the numbers to suit a particular agenda is a conspiracy theory worthy of 9/11 Truthers. The actual truth, as usual, is much more mundane. They were just wrong.

"The idea that vast swaths of the scientific community are deliberately inflating the numbers to suit a particular agenda is a conspiracy theory ..."

The problem with this statement is that, while the "scientific community" may not be doing this, there are any number of agenda driven partisans that are doing it for them. Al Gore et. al. didn't invent the meme that monster hurricanes are going to kill us all out of thin air. The scientists need to speak loudly and often against this.

See also the recent report from the UN that the HIV numbers have been greatly exaggerated due, in part, to a desire to drive more funding.

Predicting the average temperature of the Earth in a given number of years is, at least arguably, much easier than predicting the precise number of hurricanes next year,

because hurricanes and climate have nothing to do with each other. Or perhaps it is because the models are so coarse that predicting anything using them is useless, except for finding out what a given program, run on a given computer, with a given set of inputs will do.

"Just as it was both unsound and unwise for some global-warming advocates to hold up the 2005 hurricane season as proof of their position, it would be equally unsound and unwise for global-warming skeptics to hold up 2006 and 2007 as somehow disproving the existence of global warming."

Yes, but that's just the point. The global warming shrieks like Al Gore have used 2005 as a major point of evidence for their cause. They can't use it as evidence one year and then poo-poo it when the results don't match their theory. If they want to be more credible, they'll stick to hard facts rather than hysterics.

Also, it'd be MUCH easier to believe global warming is a crisis if those telling me it is so horrible starting acting like it's a crisis themselves.

I'd take issue with the claim that the failure of medium-term forecasting such as hurricane activity has no bearing on the confidence we can place on long-term forecasting such as the GCMs used to predict the magnitude of AGW 50 years hence. Sure, the two things differ quantitatively, but do they differ qualitatively? All climate models suffer from the problem of sensitivity to initial conditions, and the further out the forecast, the more serious this problem is. I'm not saying that all climate models are necessarily bogus, merely that way too much credence is put in the current state-of-the-art versions. In many cases, by altering a few starting values within perfectly physically reasonable ranges, you find that your model fails to consistently predict the SIGN of the effect, let alone the magnitude. This isn't an argument against whether AGW is real, merely pointing out that the same flaws in atmospheric modelling that make hurricane activity prediction such a hostage to fortune also bedevil the AGW debate.

As an aside, I remain unconvinced of the physicality of the phrase 'average temperature' when applied to a system that is not in thermal equilibrium.

Claims that seasonal forecasts are inherently different from climate forecasts for decades and centures mearly means that there is no way to test or falsify the IPCC hsyteria.

Since they refuse to revisit the physics they base their models on, which is several decades old, I'm increasingly dubious. After all, they "predicted" warming for years since 1998, yet HADCRU3 data actually shows a decline. That's another "prediction" by models that failed.

"Conspiracy" on hurrican season predictions or not, they are shoehorning even the most minimal (eg, hourly) disturbances into "sub-tropical storms" and the like. If Chis Mooney's "Storm World" is credible, then William Gray is also correct in believing that there is unsustainable hype behind the claims of "science."

While I await the outsome of public choice ecnomics studies, call me justifiably suspicious of the "establshment." Too many bad and outrageous predictions - too little AGW reality.

"The idea that vast swaths of the scientific community are deliberately inflating the numbers to suit a particular agenda is a conspiracy theory worthy of 9/11 Truthers. The actual truth, as usual, is much more mundane. They were just wrong."

That's a nice theory, but for it to pan out, they'd have to be "just wrong" at least some of the time by issuing cheery predictions of fewer and less strong hurricanes. I mean, when you're always wrong in the same lockstepped direction, it stops looking like "just wrong" and starts to seem like a dishonest political bias impacting the science.

Think this'll happen anytime soon? Or are we pretty much gonna get the usual "DEADLY HURRICANE SEASON AHEAD, EXPERTS PREDICT" headlines right-on-schedule next year?

I don't believe for a moment that any given year's paucity or plethora of hurricanes says anything about global warming. But I think there is an indirect connection between these poor seasonal forecasts and forecasts of global warming. It is my understanding they both are based on the same computer models, the same models that are reasonably accurate as to the weather tomorrow but not so good as to the weather next week.

You were singing a different tune earlier this year, Loy.

And, in fact, hurricane periodicity is linked to AGW, in the sense that the only reason we are supposed to dislike AGW is that it will make our lives harder by, for example, making storms more numerous or stronger.

If it isn't -- and obviously it's not -- then you can put your carbon offsets where the sun don't shine.

That's a nice theory, but for it to pan out, they'd have to be "just wrong" at least some of the time by issuing cheery predictions of fewer and less strong hurricanes.

Dude. Pay attention. THEY HAVE BEEN. As I mentioned in the second sentence of this very post, the forecasts for 2005 vastly underestimated the number of storms that would form that year!! And as I wrote back in August, 2005 isn't the only time they've underestimated the storm total:

[I]n the five preceding years (2000-2004), Dr. Gray underestimated, by between 1 and 3 storms, each year’s storm total.

To repeat: Dr. Gray, the leading forecaster in this field, HAS, in fact, issued "cheery predictions of fewer and less strong hurricanes" six of the past eight years. 2006 and 2007 are the ONLY years this decade in which they have overestimated the number of storms.

But by all means, don't let me confuse you with the facts and disrupt your conspiracy theory.

You were singing a different tune earlier this year, Loy.

That's a hell of an accusation, Harry. I'd love to see you back it up. Where have I contradicted myself? Where have I ever "sung a different tune," by which I presume you mean I've said that seasonal forecasts are awesome, or that they are somehow significant to the global-warming debate. Where? WHERE? Post the link, provide the quote, or retract your accusation of hypocrisy.

In fact, I was NOT singing a different tune earlier this year. I have been completely consistent on this issue.

Perhaps you're thinking of earlier this season when I said it wasn't yet a slow hurricane season. First of all, that's not inconsistent with anything I'm saying here, and second of all, IT WAS TRUE at the time I said it. It did, ultimately, turn out to be, by some measures, a slow hurricane season, and certainly slower than the forecasters predicted. But it was totally ridiculous to call it a slow season back in June and July, as some folks were doing. That would be like predicting the outcome of a baseball game when it's 1-0 in the first inning. Just because the team that was leading 1-0 ultimately won 13-6, doesn't mean it made any sense to declare that they were dominating the game back when it was 1-0. Likewise, just because it ultimately proved to be a slow season, doesn't mean Drudge & co. were right to prematurely declare it so, back when the season had barely begun.

In any event, I NEVER, even back then, said anything that contradicts what I'm saying here, either about the merits of seasonal forecasting (which I've been skeptical of for some time) or about the connection between global warming and hurricanes, between weather and climate, etc.

I hope you'll have the decency to either back up your allegation (which, just a hint, you won't be able to do) or back off it.

Sanssoucy, upon further reflection, I apologize. I'm being unnecessarily rude and bitchy. So you were misinformed about the history of these forecasts, and you didn't read every word I wrote -- so what? That's no reason for me to condescend. I'm sorry. I guess Harry's comment set me off, and I took it out on you, which I shouldn't have.

I stand by the substance of what I wrote, but I retract the tone.

By the way, Harry, worsened hurricane activity certainly is NOT "the only reason we are supposed to dislike AGW" -- not even close. Rising sea levels and altered climate zones would be much higher on the list. And those are also much more direct effects of AGW; the connection between AGW and hurricanes is, as I've repeatedly acknowledged on this blog, a more complicated, heavily debated issue than the basic question of whether, and to what extent, AGW exists. It's entirely possible that AGW is indeed happening, but the purported link to worsened hurricane activity does not exist. Yet that would NOT mean that we have nothing to worry about. There is plenty of reason to fear the potential effects of AGW, even if it had no impact whatsoever on hurricanes.

Anyway, you seem to be under the mistaken impression that I, personally, am some sort of global-warming zealot. I'm not. I do believe there is a strong scientific consensus that AGW is real, and that most of the real debate is around the margins of that consensus (e.g., how much, how soon) rather than about the basic fact of AGW itself. However, I certainly do not fancy myself a climate-change expert, and thus I wouldn't presume to lecture anyone about the meat of the issue. If you want to deny AGW, I'm not going to try and stop you.

I am, however, going to call you on the carpet if you support your position with factually incorrect or logically flawed statements. I get incredibly frustrated when I see people conflating weather and climate, and making ignorant statements about either or both. And yes, I get equally frustrated when the zealots on the other side do it, which, as I've acknowledged over and over again, they often do. But I don't get too many zealous Al Gore types commenting on my blog, so I don't usually end up arguing with them. More often, I end up arguing with folks like you, who are perfectly willing to do the very thing you constantly accuse the other side of doing, namely, distorting facts to suit your agenda. For example, using 2006 and 2007 to prove that AGW "obviously [is] not" making hurricanes stronger or more numerous, which is just as fatally flawed, and for precisely the same reasons, as using 2005 to prove that AGW obviously is making hurricanes stronger and more numerous.

All I'm asking is that EVERYONE cease and desist from making these substanceness, factually devoid, bullshit arguments, and base their statements on sound logic and facts and science. That's all I want. Beyond that, I have no real agenda. If you can want to argue against AGW without resorting to such tactics, be my guest. But don't expect me to sit on my hands while you spout nonsense.

I stand by the substance of what I wrote, but I retract the tone.

Brilliant! Man, why didn't I think of that? If I use that line just after ripping A&A, Mad Max, or David to shreds, surely I'll regain a positive reputation on this blog. I can't wait!

LOL.

It's a genuine sentiment, though. I wrote the comment, went into the other room, thought about it a bit, realized I was being a dick, but didn't have a chance to do anything about it until I felt it was too late to just go back and edit the comment (because Sansoucy might already have read it). Hence my writing what I wrote. Not my finest hour, but there it is.

Oh, so earlier this year you were going on about long-term forecasting, at great length, as if it meant something; and now in November you've decided that long-term forecasting doesn't mean much.

I'd call that a different tune.

Consistency would have been writing, both times, that spending a lot of time on long-term forecasts is a waste of a lot of time.

Or consistency would have been writing that we have no reliable data about how many storms there have been over time, or how intense they were, so that even if predictions of the next season turned out to be accurate, there would be nothing to let us know whether that indicated anything about a long-term trend. Trends have to have pasts as well as futures, and storm trends have no known past.

"Similarly, a global-warming skeptic who claims today that 2007 disproves global warming is leaving himself open to the argument, if 2008 is an active season, that ‘08 proves global warming is real after all. The more honest (and strategically sound) course, for both sides, is to discuss global warming on its actual merits, and not obsess over minor year-to-year variations that tell us very little, if anything, about long-term trends."

This is logically flawed. AGW advocates argue that increasing emissions will cause more frequent and violent storms. For that to be true, you'd see the number of hurricanes and the strength of the hurricanes continue to increase each year.

Obviously that's not true, which is what skeptics point out. It doesn't matter if 2008 is a monster of a season - 2006 and 2007 were not, and skeptics will argue that any year could see any number of hurricanes.

In the end, the skeptics are right, and the AGW advocates are not. One hurricane season does not prove anything, which is what skeptics have been saying all along. Meanwhile, Al Gore seized on 2005 and pretended it would be representative of the coming years. It wasn't.

Who's being dishonest? The skeptics? I don't think so.

You can't just say, "global warming will cause more frequent and more violent storms" and then when it doesn't happen, say, "Oh, well, we didn't really mean it would happen in any discernible way!"

The Church of Global Warming, after 2005, was convinced that every following year would get worse, due to the increasing emissions. We were all put on notice, more emissions, more hurricanes, you're all gonna die.

Now the 2007 season is over. Suddenly there is little talk about global warming vis-a-vis hurricanes. Which will of course abruptly change once another active season comes along.

Meh.

The exact nature of the linkage between hurricane number & intensity and GW is a matter of legitimate debate even among real hurricane experts. In general, everyone agrees that there ought to be one, but there is a question as to whether the signal has been seen or not.

Unfortunately, there's plenty of other evidence that GW is happening. And it's not just the climate models that predict it, but any honest attempt to construct a physical understanding of the atmosphere - consistent with ALL the physics and chemistry that we know - finds it extremely hard to avoid the conclusion that dumping a whole lot of C-O2 into the air (about 35% increase over the past 150 years) will definitely do something to the climate, because it will create an imbalance in radiative energy exchange. It's like running a bathtub with the stopper plugged in: Something's gonna happen.

On global average, the temperature will rise; but since weather is local, in some cases it will get hot, and in other places you will get storms, hot or cold. Nature will get more energy budget to play around with, and the weather will get "interesting".

As it seems to have been doing recently...

The real dynamic here is that GW hysterics want to build a sort of "heads we win, tails you lose" logical ratchet into the fabric of the media environment:

Active hurricane season? "Proves us right! We're all doomed! Park every private means of transport except Al Gore's Gulfstream IV!"

Painfully, inconveniently quiet hurricane season - or *two of them in a row*? "Proves nothing! Weather isn't climate! And ... OMIGOD, quick, look at those *glaciers*!!"

[sigh]

So we've arrived at the surreal point where agenda-driven "scientists" (or just dimwit law students who channel them...) echo a version of the old joke with the punchline, "...and third, I ain't got no hound!":

STEP 1: Issue terrifying, alarmist seasonal predictions for a nightmare hurricane season.

STEP 2: When everyone notices it's nowhere near so bad as you predicted, first sputter stupidly about how it's not really that quiet and then ...

STEP 3: Claim it never mattered anyhow, weather isn't climate, blah-blah, presto-chango.

Kids, if "weather isn't climate" then WEATHER ISN'T CLIMATE. If inactive hurricane seasons don't prove GW hysterics wrong, then active hurricane seasons don't prove them right.

Consistency would have been writing, both times, that spending a lot of time on long-term forecasts is a waste of a lot of time.

You mean like when I wrote, back in August, at the very same time that I was objecting to the factually incorrect statements about this being a "slow season" thus far, that:

It doesn’t help that there has been a sudden proliferation of these long-range predictions, as every meteorologist and his brother jumped on the long-range hurricane forecast gravy train in hopes of getting some free publicity. At its core, though, this misunderstanding between the scientists and the public is largely a creation of the MSM beast. It must be enormously frustrating for serious scientists to see their work absolutely butchered like this. But frankly, I wonder if the whole exercise isn’t futile or even counterproductive at this point. What is gained by giving people a rough estimate (or rather, multiple rough estimates) of the number of storms that might form each year? Hypothetically, a big number might encourage them to prepare — but shouldn’t they be prepared regardless of the number (considering Hurricane Andrew hit in a season that saw just 7 storms)? And isn’t the preparedness advantage more than offset by the danger of complacency caused by this “crying wolf” perception? When I see people asking questions like, “Where are all the hurricanes the NHC had forecast for the last 2 years? just curious as to why we should panic over predictions that have little or no accuracy,” I worry that the credibility of hurricane forecasters is being undermined — even as their ability to predict individual storms continues to improve by leaps and bounds — because of misunderstandings and misperceptions about long-term forecasts that aren’t all that useful anyway.

Or consistency would have been writing that we have no reliable data about how many storms there have been over time, or how intense they were, so that even if predictions of the next season turned out to be accurate, there would be nothing to let us know whether that indicated anything about a long-term trend.

You mean like when I wrote, back in July, that:

As with seemingly all weather-related posts these days, the only thing anybody wants to talk about in comments is… global warming. Apropos of which, a hearty Amen to Scientizzle’s comment:
It’s worth reiterating:

Yearly very small fractional increases in average global temperature and, in particular, regional oceanic temperatures would not simply manifest its effects in the integer value of the variable number of tropical storms that meet an arbitrarily defined human threshold. If anthropogenic global climate change exists, and if that climate change does result in the oft-predicted increase in the number and/or intensity of tropical storms, it certainly cannot be reliably determined by any one year of activity. It likely cannot be reliably determined by a decade’s worth of activity.

Long-term trends, people! Only controlled long-term analysis will support or refute this hypothesis. Why is that hard to understand?

Lots of people on both sides of the argument seem to have a hard time understanding it. Some folks on the “skeptics” side seem to think that the deceptive rhetoric of Al Gore & co. on this front somehow justifies their own deceptive fact-fudging for rebuttal purposes. Which is odd, because I thought the Right was anti-relativism. In any event, when substantial numbers of people on both sides of the debate are deceptively or ignorantly conflating weather with climate, short-term occurrences with long-term trends, the whole public discourse on this important issue suffers greatly. It’s time we all made a commitment to do our part to raise the discourse, regardless of what others might be doing.

Your selective memory does not mean that I am inconsistent.

And the fact that I, in Sansoucy's words, "sputter[ed] stupidly about how it's not really that quiet" -- back in the early part of the season, when it was factually incorrect to state conclusively that it was a "quiet season" (Note this comment in July: "It might end up being another below-average season. But the jury is very much still out, and at any rate it isn't a 'slow season' thus far." Or this comment in August: "I'm not saying it won't ultimately be a slow season; I have no dog in that fight. I'm just saying that conclusion is premature at this point.") -- doesn't contradict what I'm saying here. At all. It just means that I care about factual accuracy. It is perfectly possible, and consistent, to hold the following two thoughts in one's head simultaneously:

1) Seasonal hurricane counts don't mean as much as many people think they do, and they certainly don't "prove" or "disprove" global warming.

2) If we're going to talk about seasonal hurricane counts, we should at least be accurate about it.

I have believed both of those things, consistently, all along. My archives bear that out. Again, your selective memory is not my problem.

if "weather isn't climate" then WEATHER ISN'T CLIMATE.

Yes... and I HAVE ALWAYS SAID THIS. Always!! I have repeatedly criticized the Al Gore Hysterics for misstating the truth on this front, and I have also repeatedly criticized the Anti-Gore Hysterics for misstating it. What more do you want from me?!? Time and time again, I lambaste both sides for their conflation of weather and climate, and yet when I direct that lambasting at you, you accuse me of... being on the other side. You treat me like *I* am an Al Gore Hysteric, despite my constant comments to the contrary. Ridiculous! Infuriating!

You people are hopeless. The Anti-Global Warming Movement is just as much a religion as the Pro-Global Warming Movement. This is why I hate talking about f***ing global warming. You are all completely impervious to facts. I give up.

By the way, Sanssoucy, I notice that you didn't even address the fact that I completely eviscerated the factual substance of your previous comment by pointing out that forecasters DID, in fact, underestimate the number of the storms that would occur, every year from 2000 to 2005 (including a truly massive underestimation error in '05), and thus 2006 and 2007 are the ONLY years this decade in which they overestimated. It's odd that you chose to ignore these facts, since they COMPLETELY DISPROVE WHAT YOU SAID EARLIER. But since you've now firmly established yourself as a member of the Church of Anti-Gore, I guess I shouldn't expect you to care about facts... any more than the members of the Church of Gore do. Your opinions on this topic, like theirs, aren't based on facts, they're based on beliefs! And who am I to disrupt your beliefs with facts? This is America, dammit!

But, for those brave souls who do still care about facts, I want to briefly point out what has occurred here:

Sanssoucy: "[Saying scientists aren't biased, they're 'just wrong' is] a nice theory, but for it to pan out, they'd they'd have to be 'just wrong' at least some of the time by issuing cheery predictions of fewer and less strong hurricanes. I mean, when you're always wrong in the same lockstepped direction, it stops looking like 'just wrong' and starts to seem like a dishonest political bias impacting the science."

Brendan: [points out that scientists HAVE, six times in the last eight years -- which surely counts as "at least some of the time" -- issued "cheery predictions of fewer and less strong hurricanes," and that, far from being "always wrong in the same lockstepped direction," they've only been wrong in that direction TWICE this decade]

Sanssoucy: [completely ignores this information, goes off on a tangent about "the real dynamic here," fails to address the fact that the substance of his previous comment has been disproven]

Intellectual honesty, people. Live it, love it!

I've waited months for this thread.

BL wrote, "But it was totally ridiculous to call it a slow season back in June and July, as some folks were doing."

No, Brendan, it was not. As I wrote back then, there were scientists who said that the slow start was due to certain conditions and that these very same conditions were highly likely to predominate the rest of the season. They were correct then and they are correct now. How ridiculous. lol

You also state, in BOLD no less, that "THEY WERE JUST WRONG," in response to those who claim a political/funding agenda within the scientific community, NHC included. By mosy every report I've read, there were at least two, and probably three, systems that were accorded a name that simply would not have been under Mayfield's protocols. Why the change? Especially since there was heightened concern (as demonstrated in this thread) about the crying of wolf? The obvious answer is to create relevancy for those who are devoted to the tracking/forecasting of tropical systems.

The fact that our science is woefully insufficient as regards tropical storms less than six months out is entirely persuasive when one considers the validity of forecasting the entire global thermal universe years and decades out.

There is empirical and peer reviewed evidence that warming is cyclical and that sun activity and the salinity levels of the seas correlate well with major fluctuations in global temperature.

there were scientists who said that the slow start was due to certain conditions and that these very same conditions were highly likely to predominate the rest of the season. They were correct then and they are correct now.

Ed, to the extent that scientists indeed said such things, they weren't ridiculous and I had no objection to them, then or now. But that's not what I was reacting to back then, and it's not what I'm referring to now. I'm not talking about people who analyzed the meterological conditions and concluded that a slow season was likely. I'm referring to folks whose "analysis" was nothing more complex than asking, in June and July and August, "Where are all the storms?!?" The underlying premise of the question being that, well, there oughta be more storms by now, and since there are not, it must be a slow season! Never mind that June and July are supposed to be slow months with weak storms -- the mere fact that there hadn't been any big storms yet was enough, by itself, without any further meterological analysis, for some people (like Drudge) to start throwing around questions like "Where are all the hurricanes?" in EARLY JULY. Yes, that is ridiculous. Completely ridiculous. It would be like if a football team took the field, and after five plays that brought them to midfield 3 minutes into the first quarter, you asked, "Where are all the touchdowns?! This quarterback sucks!!!" Even if the quarterback ultimately didn't throw any touchdown passes in the game, that line of reasoning was totally premature and ridiculous at the time it was stated. Now, if you were able to advanced a reasoned analysis of why the QB's lack of success was likely to continue (e.g., "look at the way he's been throwing the ball these first 3 minutes; if this pattern continues, there's no way he'll throw any touchdowns in this game"), THAT would be reasonable. But again, that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the simple storm-counters who saw an allegedly small number of storms in June and July and concluded from that fact alone that the season was "slow."

"There is empirical and peer reviewed evidence that warming is cyclical and that sun activity and the salinity levels of the seas correlate well with major fluctuations in global temperature."

Yes, but what is the proportion of that evidence compared to the evidence that CO2 levels are causing global warming? And that the increase in CO2 levels is being caused by human activity? In addition, how much of that evidence on sun activity and salinity discounts CO2 levels as still a primary cause for warming?

Whatever you think of Gore's approach (and I do believe he exaggerates the evidence), the fact is we have reached a tipping point in public opinion. CO2 levels will be capped eventually. Alternative fuels will be developed and made commercially available. The rising costs of petroleum will contribute to its eventual demise as the world's primary fuel source.

P.S. With regard to the charge of "count-padding," I defer to the far more knowledgable Charles Fenwick:

On ‘cooking the books’ , naming storms that wouldn’t have been named in the past and/or are undeserving of a name

One of the comments to Brendan’s post raised this issue, which has come up in recent years as an allegation that the number of storms are being inflated to help meet a forecast number.

There is a bit of truth to it, there are some storms in recent years that were classified as tropical storms that wouldn’t have been in the past. This is because meteorologists have many more tools in the toolbox than they used to. There is a mountain of data available from remote sensing that wasn’t available ten years ago and is that data that enables forecasters to realize that some of those storms that once would have been considered non-tropical do in fact have tropical characteristics (Chantal being a prime example of this, based solely on appearance it would have been considered non-tropical).

This concern to make sure that every tropical storm gets classified is not restricted to the present. The Re-Analysis Project of the Hurricane Research Division is devoted to reviewing as much as possible on past seasons to find storms that were missed or were stronger than originally thought.

In any event, even if a handful of storms were named that wouldn't have been in prior years, that still doesn't prove that scientists are inflating their forecasts -- and as I point out in my Pajamas Media article, it would be incredibly foolish to inflate the forecasts in order to create AGW hype, because artificially inflated forecasts will inevitably lead to backlash when their artificiality is revealed by the failure of the predicted activity to materialize! (And, as we saw this year, "count-padding" can't fix this problem for the alleged forecast-inflators. You can only "count-pad" very weak storms, and those don't make much of a dent in the public consciousness, nor do they affect the ACE very much at all.)

Moreover, the fact remains that 2006 and 2007 are the ONLY seasons, by my reckoning, that have been overestimated; all other seasons since 2000 have been underestimated. (Fenwick, looking at a different set of numbers I guess, reaches a slightly different conclusion, but it comes to essentially the same thing. He says:

There have been three seasons [from 1984 to 2006] that were significantly overforecast: 1993, 1997, 2006. The common thread between those three years: El Niño conditions that were either totally unexpected by the forecast team or were stronger than expected. On the flip side, there have been an equal number of seasons that were significantly under-forecast: 1995, 2001, and 2005. Both TSR and the CPC had similar issues for the seasons that they were doing forecasts.

How does an equal number of overforecast and underforecast seasons prove a conspiracy to inflate the forecasts? The evidence just isn't there to back up this claim.

Oh, and once again, Dr. William Gray DOES NOT BELIEVE IN GLOBAL WARMING, and yet his forecasts have been very much within the consensus these last two years. So if this is a conspiracy, the Gore-ons must be getting to him through mind-control or something.

In the studies of which I have heard, the salinity and CO2 levels were directly correlated. Whichever is the chicken and which is the egg, historically they go arm in arm.

This is all long before the industrial revolution and the ever expanding and evil carbon footprinting.

"The idea that vast swaths of the scientific community are deliberately inflating the numbers to suit a particular agenda " - the biggest problem is that it is the UNscientific community that are the main acolytes of the Cult of Global Warming ... the scientific community still is looking at the data, to see what can be learned and/or successfully predicted ... the UNscientific community is the part busy saying "Global Warming is settled science" ...


Oh - and, before I forget, pray permit me to commend to you, Brendan, the advice from many Childbirth Classes ...

Breathe ! BREATHE !

(experienced grin)

The "actual" versus forecast TC count would have been even further off if bogus features such as occluded fronts, squall lines that developed a bit of vorticity, cut off lows which originated as Tonapah Lows and floated down over Mexico collided with tropical waves and sat off the Belize coast, etc, were not counted. We also saw nor'easters counted. Granted, it was argued that some of these features "went tropical." However, using the same logic, we shall have to vastly increase future counts in the Eastern Pacific. Now, here is a mind bender. If the cut off low currently down off Baja gets up above 35 MPH, should it be named, claimed and counted? - it is after all prior to Nov 30. The funny thing is, this same feature is prog'ed to become a major blizzard with a bead in the center of the US, a few days from now.

Wow. What a crock of shit.

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