Sunday, May 11, 2008

Cyclones Happen

Kevin Drum asks:
...what surprises me is that more people haven't been making the connection between the Burma cyclone and global warming. That kind of talk was all over the place after Hurricane Katrina even though it made little sense in that case. In the end, Katrina made landfall as a strong Cat 3 hurricane, hardly a superstorm, and the bulk of the damage to New Orleans was done not by Katrina itself but by the breaching of poorly built levees. That had nothing to do with global warming.

By contrast, the Burma cyclone really is a good example of the kind of thing we're likely to see more of in coming decades.
It's not at all clear that this cyclone is a consequence of global warming, and no one will ever know, and it's scientifically and intellectually wrong to make such an attribution.

Look, cyclones happen, unfortunately. The April 30, 1991 Bangladesh cyclone killed 138,000 people. What that the consequence of global warming?

The 1970 Bhola cyclone in East Pakistan killed up to 500,000 people. Was that a consequence of global warming?

What about the 1923 cyclone in Japan (250,000 deaths)? Or the 1881 cyclone in China (300,000 deaths)? Or the 1737 cyclone in India (300,000 deaths)? Were all these a consequence of global warming?

Want more?

Source: "The deadliest cyclone in history?" Neil L. Frank and S.A. Husain, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Vol. 52, No. 6, June 1971.

If you want to attribute this Burma cyclone to global warming, please tell us why you do not associate any of these other past, big cyclones with global warming?

Were all these cyclones a consequence of global warming? Of course not. Cyclones happen. Even worse cyclones that we just saw in Burma. Will they be more likely in the future as the world warms? Perhaps. Probably. But they would happen even if the world wasn't warming.

No comments: