Two Irresponsible End Of World Predictions: Richard Branson’s “Global Warming ‘Hurricanes Are The Start Of Things To Come’”…Right Up There With Meade’s “Earth Will Be Destroyed Saturday By Planet Nibiru”

HMS Hector and HMS Bristol in the hurricane of 1780

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(Cover Photo: “ HMS Hector and HMS Bristol in the hurricane of 1780 – October 10, 1780, the most violent Atlantic storm on record cut a path of destruction across the Caribbean islands of Barbados, St. Lucia, Martinique and Saint Eustatius. Scientists estimate that it was a Category 5 hurricane accompanied by drenching rains, a massive storm surge and winds in excess of 200 miles per hour—strong enough to strip the bark off trees. By the time the “Great Hurricane” finally dissipated, whole cities and naval fleets had been destroyed, and at least 22,000 people had been killed. ” )

This is not about apocalyptic prophesies…I just thought Richard Branson’s unqualified, unscientific, and unsupported utterance about global warming causing more catastrophic hurricanes ( ) deserved to be placed alongside David Meade’s numerological/pseudo-theological predictions of the end of the world this Saturday, September 23rd, caused by the Meade’s predicted approach of mythical Planet X/Nibiru ( ).

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic/Virgin Group, (foolishly?) rode out Hurricane Irma in his wine cellar on his billionaire “Necker Island” in the British Virgin Islands.

This, and his billions of dollars, apparently give him a pulpit from which he is allowed to contradict the “agree to disagree” divided meteorological community on the relationship between hurricane numbers and intensity and global warming.

By this I mean that, though climate and meteorological scientists are in agreement the world is warming, they are not able to reach consensus on the effect of these rising global temperatures on the number and intensity of hurricanes. Dr. Jeff Masters of summarized the general state of affairs regarding the link between climate and hurricanes with: “Hurricane experts are divided on to what degree global warming has affected the number and intensity of hurricanes, and a recent consensus statement by 125 hurricane scientists (see below) concluded: Though there is evidence both for and against the existence of a detectable anthropogenic signal in the tropical cyclone climate record to date, no firm conclusion can be made on this point.”

Perhaps one of the most outspoken and leading proponents for more intense and more numerous (controversially at odds with many climatologists over the latter) hurricanes as a response to global warming is MIT’s Dr. Kerry Emanuel.

Emanuel published a letter “Increasing Destructiveness of Tropical Cyclones over the past 30 years” just days before Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans. With Katrina’s destruction, this paper found a ripe audience, suggesting an increase in hurricane power and longevity as a result of global temperature increases that would consequently wreak more and more havoc with the increasing population in coastal communities.

Masters responds to Emanuel’s suggestions with “however, more recent scientific research has raised serious questions about the validity of these results. A new policy statement regarding the unproven link between stronger hurricanes and climate change was adopted by the World Meteorological Organization in December 2006, in response to the recommendations of a meeting of 125 hurricane researchers that attended a meeting in Costa Rica.” See

Dr. Masters provides a summary of the disagreements to Emanuel’s position:
1) “Dr. Bill Gray of Colorado State University, who is famous for his successful long-range hurricane predictions and nearly 50 years of hurricane research and forecasting, wrote: ‘I do not agree that global Category 4-5 tropical cyclone activity has been rising, except in the Atlantic over the last 11 years. The recent Atlantic upsurge has explanations other than global temperature rise’.”

2) “Dr. Chris Landsea, Science and Operations Officer at the National Hurricane Center, chaired a standing-room only session exploring the hurricanes/global warming connection at the 2006 meeting of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). He presented a talk with additional evidence supporting Dr. Gray’s position.”

3) “Dr. John Knaff, a hurricane researcher at the NOAA/Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere Colorado State University, has performed an extensive re-analysis of Northwest Pacific typhoons, and questions the intensity estimates used by Webster et al. for typhoons during the period 1966-1987. His paper, “Reexamination of Tropical Cyclone Wind-Pressure Relationships” has been accepted for publication to Weather and Forecasting, and” can be found here:

Masters continues: “Global warming in the past century has increased ocean temperatures about 1°F (0.5°C) which should correspond at most to about a 2.5% increase in hurricane wind speeds. If this theory is correct, an upper-end Category 3 hurricane with wind speeds of 130 mph–like Hurricane Katrina at landfall–owes 2-3 mph of its sustained winds to global warming. Hurricane wind speeds are estimated to the nearest 5 knots (5.8 mph), and one can get a general idea of what percent increase we’ve seen in Category 4 and 5 hurricanes due to global warming by looking at the number of high end Category 3 hurricanes (winds of 130 mph) and low end Category 4 hurricanes (135 mph winds). If we assume a 2-3 mph increase in winds of these storms is due to global warming over the past 35 years, one would expect to see a 5% increase at most in Category 4 and 5 hurricanes. An increase this small is not detectable given the current accuracy of estimating hurricane winds, and the relatively few number of of these storms that occur each year. This expected maximum 5% increase is quite a disagreement with the 80% increase found by Webster et al!  So, either the measurements are wrong, or the theory is wrong–or a combination of the two. I believe it may well be a combination of the two. The fact that the originator of the intensity theory (Kerry Emanuel) is one of the scientists who is advocating that the theory may be in error, is reason enough to doubt the theory. ”

Perhaps one reason the slight increase is far below the predicted increase is offered by a paper submitted by Vecchi and Soden that determined that climate models predicted higher wind shear with increased global temperatures, having the opposite effect on hurricane intensity (wind shear tears hurricanes apart).

In 2008, Smith, Montgomery and Vogl criticized Emanuel’s methodology pointing out a major deficiency of his theory being the “tacit assumption of gradient wind balance in the boundary layer, a layer that owes its existence to gradient wind imbalance in the radial momentum equation. If a more complete boundary-layer formulation is included using the gradient wind profiles obtained from Emanuel’s theory, the tangential wind speed in the boundary layer becomes supergradient, invalidating the assumption of gradient wind balance. We show that the degree to which the tangential wind is supergradient depends on the assumed boundary-layer depth. The full boundary-layer solutions require a knowledge of the tangential wind profile above the boundary layer in the outer region where there is subsidence into the layer and they depend on the breadth of this profile. This effect is not considered in Emanuel’s theory.”

As recently as July 2013, Mother Jones Magazine summarized climatologists view of Emmanuel’s work predicting higher frequency high intensity hurricanes with global warming (at odds with many climatologists) with “The debate over Emanuel’s new results has just begun—but already, the work has been challenged. The divergent findings, says hurricane expert Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, ‘indicate that care needs to be taken in being too explicit with climate predictions of changes in tropical cyclone frequency at this stage.’ ”

Consider the NHC/NOAA storm and NASA temperature data I have compiled and compared below. Figure 1 compares 500 years of specifically observed and indirectly reported hurricane data versus Loehle’s non-tree ring derived temperature data.

Figure 1: I’ve circled 3 regions that seem clear that the number of hurricanes does not correspond with global average temperatures.

Figure 2: Shows clearly that between 1940 and 1995 that increasing temperatures did not increase the number of major hurricanes (category 3-5).

Figure 2 compares NASA global average temperature anomalies (from the frequently referenced 1951-1980 average) with the number of hurricanes and major hurricanes (category 3-5).

Finally, figure 3 looks at the accumulated cyclonic energy (ACE) each year (the total amount of energy from all storms for a year) with respect to the global average temperatures (here the ACE data is treated the same as the temperature data: the standard average was taken over the period from 1951 to 1980 and annual values were subtracted from this average to find the delta value. Once the delta value was determined, both the delta ACE and delta Temp were normalized by the largest value in each data set).

Figure 3 : Suggests the ACE appears to vary cyclically rather than as a function of global average temperature.

Seems like whenever there’s a natural disaster, the prophets of doom come out and find an audience. This includes bad hurricanes (“bad” because it produces major damage like Katrina, Harvey, Irma, Maria), giving billionaire hurricane survivor Richard Branson a pulpit to predict what many scientists are unprepared to predict.

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