I’m sure that almost everyone in the United States has followed the dynamic onslaughts of hurricanes Henry and Irma. The meteorologists forecast both tracks the days before these storms approached our country. They forecast the Texas landfall near Houston and even its path inland and then a retreat to the Gulf of Mexico, and even then the second landfall near Galveston. For Irma, the path was forecast to skirt Puerto Rico then Cuba. They then expected Irma to turn north to go up the Florida peninsula and finally end up entering Georgia and northern Alabama as it wound down. Both hurricane tracks were essentially correct. So, how did they do this?
Although weather forecasting is an art, it is science also, and probably much more of a science than an art. Mother Nature does have her quirks but the scientific study of weather has proven accurate and worthwhile.
I would like to mention a personal study in the area of weather and weather forecasting. When I was stationed in the Air Force in California, there was a long range weather forecaster talking on radio. Rice is grown in the Sacramento area and the farmers needed information relating to rain. In his studies, he realized through observation that weather systems seemed to change in six day cycles, and further, on the 36 day cycles more significant changes usually happened. He mentioned that if the change didn’t happen on the sixth day, then the change would happen on the 12th or 18th, etc day.
Because of a general interest of weather and during a time when I was involved in sailing, I started a journal regarding weather. I used passages of cold fronts as my cycle start because it was a very observable occurrence. For the next four years in California my journal showed to me that his theory was right. In the San Joaquin Valley there were periods of fog. Once a cold front came through, there was a progression from clear to a build-up of fog until the cold front cycle. If no cold front arrived, the fog persisted until the 12th or 18th day when finally a cold front passed. I also observed that his 36 day more significant weather change held true. My thought as to why these cycles were constant is because of the closeness of the Pacific Ocean that allowed weather systems to develop over the water unaffected by land masses. This is born out by my subsequent observations of over 30 years from Thailand, Florida, New Hampshire and Maine; however, the cycle was less predictable and harder to follow. I attribute this to land mass interference and my New England observations had more variability. As in politics, weather is local. Weather systems seem to enter a unique situation regarding the Appalachian Mountains, the Atlantic Ocean and the southwest to northeast aligned coastline.
Finally regarding weather, the science exists however there are other factors that enter into forecasting, there is no doubt about that. The art of forecasting is valid but it is indisputable that the scientific study of weather has made and is making weather forecasting more accurate.
Let’s revisit the forecasts about hurricanes Henry and Irma. Both were forecast to develop into significant storms and both did reach category 5. Both tracks were forecast accurately. Both were vivid examples of the high destruction a hurricane can do. Many persons died as a result of these severe storms. Damage to the land, buildings and infrastructure was also severe. (How many more people would be alive, how much less damage would have happened if Henry and Irma had not occurred?)
There is a reason why I write about this. I believe that at least 95% (probably higher) of the forecast information about Henry and Irma was predicted and happened. It follows also that scientists are also 95% (probably higher also, probably 99%) right about global warming, climate change, whichever term you use. We are having more severe weather because our climate is changing. And, fortunately, we can do something about it.
There are five things we have to acknowledge:
- First- Warmer global temperatures lead to more severe weather. (Storms such as hurricanes thrive on the warm temperatures available in ocean waters.)
- Second- Part, probably most, of the warming is a result of human activities.
- Third- We can solve this warming problem.
- Fourth- Actions that we take to reduce global warming would not be detrimental even if we were wrong that global warming is caused by humans.
- Fifth- There are many other benefits also. Some are indirect but all are important and would lead to a higher quality of life to all who live on this planet now and for all those generations of the future. Consider: cleaner air, cleaner water, less mining and drilling of fossil fuels, more jobs, a more productive economy…hardly a whole list…to be sure.
There are so many reasons to do what we must do. One word could be the positive catalyst….Resolve.