Myths and speculations

Homes destroyed by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston in Fiji. Picture: ABC

TROPICAL CYCLONES, also known as hurricanes or typhoons, are one of the most violent weather phenomena on the planet, posing significant threats
to those living near or along coastlines where tropical cyclone–related impacts are most pronounced.

About 80 tropical cyclones form annually, a rate that has been remarkably steady over the period of reliable historical record.

The annual global rate of tropical cyclone formation continues to mystify professional meteorologists and climate scientists; that there are about
80 tropical cyclones, and not 40 or 160, for instance.

This is a statistic without a fully satisfactory explanation, and there is no extant theory for what sets the global rate of formation.

However the fact that the earth-atmosphere is a closed conserved system, where energy, heat, momentum and moisture are all conserved on an annual basis, would explain this.

During the 25-year period from 1990 to 2014, when full global data are available at the WMO, an average annual number of 79 tropical cyclones occurred, with an incredible low standard deviation of only seven, for such large numbers and period of the tropical cyclones.

About two thirds of these storms form in the northern hemisphere from about June to November, while the remaining third form in the southern hemisphere typically during the months of November to April.

Our understanding of the global and regional spatial patterns, the year-to-year variability, and temporal trends of these storms has improved considerably since the advent of meteorological satellites in the 1960s because of advances in both remote-sensing technology and operational
analysis procedures.

In today’s hyper-politicised world of “climatechange” rhetoric, hardly a cluster of cloud or tropical cyclone can pass by without somebody invoking
the ‘because of climate change we are getting more frequent and stronger cyclones’ mantra.

Politicians of late have been by far responsible for many of these ill-conceived remarks, going against the realm of nature and scientific facts.

They remain uncorrected by their scientific staff at their National Meteorological Centres (NMSs) who also help their superiors paddle these myths and speculations; out of respect not to hurt their masters’ great enthusiasm in politicking about “climate change issues”.

This is not a good practice as our younger generation are being fed lies and misrepresentation, when they should be exposed to evidence based science, and should be helping the nation from its great free falling standards in science education.

We all are just as concerned about the future generations and the impacts of human activities on our planet Earth and the consequences that
it may have on our habitat, weather, climate and extremes that may occur.

However, the regional and global paranoia by selected segments of our society, with vested interests, has definitely been out of proportion of the
issues at stake, given that governments and even the international bodies have hardly spent a penny in the name of pure meteorology and climate science; despite wasting many millions on “talk-fests” treading the globe like “flying executives” in the name of being “climatechange” champions for their nations.

It should be made abundantly clear that one does not have to be Einstein to know that if the “climate- change” activists were more concerned with
the results and the people of the Earth, then they should have been working towards climate-science, more money for in-situbased observational scientific instruments, drifting buoys, satellite sensing equipment, airborne and land-based sensing equipment, radars and wind profiling instruments and many more global ocean and Earth-based climate data observing stations expenditures.

This together with more active and vocal attempts by their governments to support more and better climate science-based studies, research and student funding for increased expertise in these fields.

These efforts would bear better results for them in supporting or either disproving their claims and also would have been of great help to the people of the Earth in pursuit of scientific justice, rather than endless speculative conjecture in endless expensive and lavish ongoing
“talk-fests” in international hotels costing many millions in accommodation, meals, allowances and expensive travels over the years, that
have not borne any results to date not to forget the unbinding nature of many of these “talk-fest” deliberations.

We must emphasise strongly to our dismay that the great many politicians and even the UN have failed the world miserably, leading to myths and speculations, and the extreme politicisation of entities like the IPCC, away from pure science, towards reports based on degraded quality of data,
cherry picking trends that suit their arguments — all of these have been the biggest pitfall of our people of the world.

The rhetoric and fallacy that needs addressing is the convoluted logic being used by misguided people which seems to be: We are only going to see more and worse floods, droughts, tornadoes, and of course, tropical cyclones.

The problem with this argument is that overall, we are not seeing more floods, droughts, tornadoes, or tropical cyclones in spite of the steady rise
in the small amount of carbon dioxide, and in spite of the mild warming of the planet.

The data show that there is no significant upward trend in any of these weather events.

These are not the conclusions of climate skeptics.

They are conclusions drawn by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the USA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

We are not seeing more frequent tropical cyclones, nor are we seeing a greater number of major tropical cyclones.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said as much in its latest science report: “Current data sets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century and it remains uncertain whether any reported long-term increases in tropical cyclone frequency are robust, after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities. No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin.”

Be on the alert for those who quote the IPPC as saying there has been an upward trend in hurricanes (tropical cyclones) since the 1970s.

That is a very misleading and erroneous claim.

Hurricane (tropical cyclones) landfalls actually fell for the decades before the 1970s globally as established by scientific data.

Cherry-picking endpoints can produce “trends” that are either up or down. The fact is that for the past century, there is no trend.

Furthermore, there was never a time when the climate was stable (as some would claim), when weather events happened with smooth regularity.

There have always been cycles — years and decades that included large numbers of tropical cyclones, and others with few.

  • Dr. Sushil K Sharma BA MA MEng (RMIT) PhD (Melbourne) is a former British Aerospace and Royal Saudi Air Force aviation meteorologist, a tropicalcyclone expert with training and studies also at the USA National Hurricane Center, Coral Gables, Florida including the Miami University. Dr Sharma is a World Meteorological Organization accredited Class 1 professional meteorologist. The opinions expressed are that of the author and not this newspaper.

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