10 August 2010

Imagine If

The image above is from Ryan Maue from Florida State and shows a 2-year running measure of global tropical cyclone activity.  As you can see, global tropical cyclone activity is presently very low, in fact, as low as it has been in the past 30 years.  Here is what Ryan says:
Global TC Activity remains at 30-year lows at least -- The last 24-months of ACE at 1090 represents a decrease from the previous months and a return to the levels of September 2009...Since Hurricane Katrina (August 2005) and the publication of high-profile papers in Nature and Science, global tropical cyclone ACE has collapsed in half. This continues the now 4-consecutive years global crash in tropical cyclone activity. While the Atlantic on average makes up about 10% of the global, yearly hurricane activity, the other 90% deserves attention and has been significantly depressed since 2007.
Now, to follow up on my post from earlier on the media coverage of Pakistan's floods, imagine if a journalist wrote the following, reporting on Ryan's data:
Leading scientists have said that warming could, on the whole, in fact reduce tropical cyclone frequency, leading to less tropical cyclones, exactly like what we are currently observing worldwide. Such observations are consistent with scientific predictions of the effects of greenhouse gases on tropical cyclone behavior.
Imagine if I then wrote the following:
The remarkable lack of tropical cyclones and the related lack of damage in recent years -- welcomed by insurance companies and coastal homeowners alike -- should raise more questions about the wisdom of putting the world on a path to lower carbon emissions—as such actions may in fact reverse a trend of fewer tropical cyclones.  This would lead to the weather reaching extremes that no one can handle.
This of course is a parody of the Time magazine piece that I critiqued.  What I have written is perfectly scientifically accurate.  But it is every bit as nonsensical as those various articles making the rounds suggesting that various extreme events around the world provide support for action on reducing carbon dioxide emissions.