Saturday, November 9, 2013

Ignorance & callous indifference from Anthony Watts for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, just to protest global warming!

Sou | 5:52 PM Go to the first of 11 comments. Add a comment
Addendum: See below for my reaction to Bob Tisdale having a shot at me.

The people living in the Philippines and Vietnam are in our thoughts this weekend, with the devastation being wrought by a mammoth typhoon.  This article is about how some science rejectors reacted to the news.

Anthony Watts wrote an article about Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). True to form, he peppered it with protests about global warming, writing this as his opening line (archived here):
Prepare yourselves for the second coming of Katrina, because you can bet that this storm will be hyped as an indicator of “global warming”.

Anthony liked that line so much that he adapted it in the body of his article.  Anthony didn't mention the people in the path of the typhoon, but he did manage to get in mentions of two of deniers' pet targets: Al Gore and Bill McKibben, writing:
With winds like that, expect to see complete devastation as it makes landfall. That of course will be hyped into an AGW caused storm, just like Katrina. Al Gore and Bill McKibben are already testing lies language on Twitter. Bear in mind that we have a very short historical record of Typhoon strength, and any claims that this is the strongest storm ever need to be qualified with that fact. Nobody has any credible record of typhoon strength back more than a few decades.

I'm not going to write at length about the devastation the storm is causing.  The news is still coming in, with recent reports that more than 100 people perished in the typhoon in just one of the areas hit, Tacloban.

What I'm writing this article for is to point out a bit of idiocy by Anthony Watts and Bob Tisdale.

Anthony wrote that the NOAA was wrong.  Actually he said that Heidi Cullen was wrong.  But Heidi was linking to an NOAA article.

Anthony Watts wrote (archived here):
UPDATE4: Dr. Heidi Cullen of Climate Central wins the “First Haiyan BS award” with this missive. 

Super Typhoon was fueled by lots of heat energy from throughout the water column

Anthony says that both Heidi Cullen and NOAA were writing bullshit.  Here is the NOAA article Dr Cullen linked to in her retweet:
Nov 07, 2013
Warm Water Fuels Haiyan Intensification
The intensification of Super Typhoon Haiyan is being fueled by "ideal" environmental conditions - namely low wind shear and warm ocean temperatures. Maximum sustained winds are currently at 195 mph, well above the Category 5 classification used for Atlantic and East Pacific hurricanes. Plotted here is the average Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential product for October 28 - November 3, 2013, taken directly from NOAA View. This dataset, developed by NOAA/AOML, shows the total amount of heat energy available for the storm to absorb, not just on the surface, but integrated through the water column. Deeper, warmer pools of water are colored purple, though any region colored from pink to purple has sufficient energy to fuel storm intensification. The dotted line represents the best-track and forecast data as of 16:00 UTC on November 7, 2013.

Here is a low resolution copy of one of the NOAA images with the colour bar indicating energy (click here to see the images at NOAA):

Source: NOAA
(In following the above NOAA link, make sure you click on the link at the bottom of the NOAA page to NOAA View, for a nice tool provided by NOAA - or click here and have a play.)

Seas are warm in the tropics - warm enough for tropical cyclones to form and grow

Anthony continues putting foot in mouth, writing:
As Bob Tisdale observes, there’s nothing to support this along the track of Haiyan:
Lots of the typical BS accumulating already about Typhoon Haiyan.  Let’s push some of it aside and present the sea surface temperature anomalies for the early portion of Haiyan’s storm track.
There was nothing unusually warm about the sea surface temperature anomalies for the early portion of Typhoon Haiyan’s storm track last week, the week of Wednesday October 30, 2013.  We’ll have to wait for Monday to see what the values were for this week.

"Nothing unusually warm" - says Bob.  But the seas don't have to be "unusually" warm.  Tropical cyclones need warm water to sustain themselves and grow.  Sea surface temperatures in the tropics are generally warm, and often warm enough or else there'd never have been tropical cyclones.  As stated here on a NASA page about the Super Typhoon (my bold italics):
AIRS infrared data also revealed that the sea surface temperatures are warm in the area of the South China Sea where TD30W is moving. Warm sea surface temperatures over 26.6C/80F are needed to maintain a tropical cyclone's intensity and those in the path of TD30W are warmer than that, enabling the storm to intensify through increased evaporation.

And there's no need for Bob to wait until Monday.  He can come here and look at the chart provided by the Bureau of Meteorology from the link on this page (Daily/Globe/Analysis).  I've animated the global sea surface temperature for the 7 and 8 November 2013.  I colour matched the parts on the charts before inserting the arrows.  The sea surface temperature is shown as warmer than 26.6°C over a large area:

Data Source: Bureau of Meteorology Australia

Now the sea surface temperature just has to be warm enough to fuel a tropical cyclone.  Contrary to what Bob Tisdale and Anthony Watts implied, the sea surface does not have to be anomalously warm to fuel a tropical cyclone.  It just has to be above 26.6°C to sustain a tropical cyclone, according to NASA.  Here is the anomaly chart for the 8 November from the link on this page (Daily/Globe/Anomaly).  It shows that most of the area didn't differ from the baseline by more than +/- 1°C, although some areas were 1 to 2°C above the baseline.

Source: Bureau of Meteorology Australia

Now we can understand why Perennially Puzzled Bob Tisdale keeps getting things wrong, even though we can't excuse it.  Bob's not had any formal training in meteorology or climate science and is, by inclination, a climate science denier.  He spends his days trying to figure out how to reject science - ironically having to start with real science from real scientists so that he can distort it and pretend the facts aren't the facts.


Perennially Puzzled Bob Tisdale thinks I don't know what I am talking about, writing hopefully "Why Few Find Sou at Hot Whopper to be Credible"  (archived here).  He got distracted by the arrows which I put in to match the map colours to the scale at the bottom (the arrows were not to show where the typhoon was located), so he missed the point I was making.  Surprised?  Not really.

The point I was making was that Bob's comment which Anthony reposted (as quoted above) that "There was nothing unusually warm"  is irrelevant.  As long as the seas are warmer than 26.6C then if there's a tropical cyclone or typhoon it's warm enough to sustain it.

If Bob has a gripe he should take it up with Anthony Watts.  It's got nothing to do with me.  However looking at the post that Anthony Watts copied and pasted (archived here), I have to say that it would be reasonable to assume that Bob's comment about sea surface temperatures were intended to relate to the super typhoon and Anthony and I interpreted it as Bob intended.   Which just goes to prove my point made earlier - Anthony Watts should know better.

Bob expands on and explains in his later post (archived here) that all he was trying to show was that it wasn't global warming that caused the hurricane.  That may be what he was trying to say, but it's not what he wrote at the time (archived here).  I'll leave it to scientists to consider attribution, though I very much doubt it's possible to determine what impact global warming had on a single typhoon.  (Global warming affects all weather but that's not to say that huge typhoons could not happen in a cooler world.)

Oh, and Bob's wrong when he writes: "And one of the persons on this planet she dislikes most is me."  Bob has tickets on himself doesn't he.  I neither like nor dislike Bob Tisdale.  I've never met the man.  I think what he writes is mostly nonsense and I laugh at his sad attempts to show that global warming is caused by magical leaping ENSOs.  But he could be as sweet as a cuddly teddy bear as a person.  I neither know nor care.

Sou 10 Nov 7:53 pm AEDST

However, Anthony Watts studied meteorology for several years (he didn't graduate) and he spent several more years announcing the weather on television.  So what's his excuse?  Did he waste his time all those years and not learn a thing?  Or is it that he doesn't care about facts.  Is it just a matter of "anything goes" as long as it supports his rejection of climate science.

The big question for Bob Tisdale and Anthony Watts: Is it magic or warm oceans?

How do Bob Tisdale and Anthony Watts explain how this super typhoon got started and how did it grow so huge?  They both claim that the sea surface temperatures weren't anomalously warm, which is a straw man because nobody claimed that they were.  Bob and Anthony were trying to argue that NOAA was wrong and there wasn't a lot of energy in the ocean fuelling the storm.  So are they dropping back to the "it's magic" meme so favoured by science deniers?

Will tropical cyclones become more frequent in a warming world?

Super Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda (depending where you live) was one of the biggest if not the fiercest in the measured record when it made landfall. The science isn't in on whether tropical cyclones will become more frequent.  As I've commented elsewhere, the IPCC latest report, AR5 WG1 it indicates tropical cyclones are projected to stay the same or decrease, but the ones that emerge will be fiercer and wetter.  But there is low confidence (still considerable uncertainty and conflicting analysis, particularly whether all strengths of cyclones will increase in frequency or whether it will only be the biggest ones.)

From the WUWT comments

There were quite a few WUWT readers who didn't slavishly follow Anthony Watts' lead, and who recognised the devastion.  However others mocked the plight of those in areas devastated by the typhoon. For example, philjourdan doesn't appreciate how unusual was Sandy or Super Typhoon Haiyan.  He says:
November 8, 2013 at 12:55 pm
One thing I think most of us have missed (and if I missed a comment addressing this, my apologies).
Haiyan is a pussy cat of a storm! How do we know? Climate Alarmists tell us this. They claim Sandy was a superstorm because of the billions in damages done! Haiyan’s damage total is going to come no where near that. So it cannot be a bad storm.

While there were some who decided that "warmists" would hijack the issue, not seeing that it was Anthony Watts himself who used the tragedy to push his denialist barrow.   For example, Andy Wilkins says:
November 7, 2013 at 2:18 pm
It’ll be horrific for anyone in the direct path, and what annoys me most is that people such as the odious Joe Romm will use these peoples’ suffering to advance his warmist agenda.
I checked climateprogress and found an article, not by Joe Romm but by Katie Valentine.  She did reference climate change at the end of her article about the typhoon, but with a much lighter touch than Anthony Watts' protest and in context - writing this:
The Philippines are no stranger to typhoons — around 20 hit the island nation each year. Just last December, Super Typhoon Bopha slammed into the country with 175 mph winds, causing widespread destruction and killing nearly 650 people.
The Philippines has appealed for international help on the role of climate change in such weather events before. During last year’s international climate talks in Doha, which were underway when Super Typhoon Bopha made landfall, the lead negotiator for the Philippines broke down as he asked participating countries to do something about climate change, saying the country had “never had a typhoon like Bopha.”
“I appeal to all, please, no more delays, no more excuses,” he said. “Please, let Doha be remembered as the place where we found the political will to turn things around. Please, let 2012 be remembered as the year the world found the courage to find the will to take responsibility for the future we want. I ask of all of us here, if not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?”
This year’s international climate talks will begin next week in Warsaw.

TomRude probably dismisses any expert in meteorology and says:
November 8, 2013 at 12:28 pm
It’s been a long time since Jeff Masters could be taken seriously…

jonny old boy might reject climate science but he knows a Super Typhoon when he reads about it and says:
November 8, 2013 at 11:04 am
this storm will make history if its track prediction is accurate…. it is shaping up to be Vietnams biggest natural disaster in its modern history. This is nothing proven to AGW/climate blah blah blah but this IS unusual and extremely violent.

Old England couldn't give tuppence for people living far from the motherland or for climate science, and mockingly says:
November 7, 2013 at 1:51 pm
Typhoons of this strength are unprecedented before tens of thousands of wind turbines were been erected – ergo they must be related to and with 95% certainty caused by the number of wind turbines – or have I misunderstood how the reasoning behind most of warmist ‘climate science’ works ?

If you're interested you can read more comments archived here.  They are a mixed bag of sympathy, mockery and, of course, the usual rejection of science.


  1. It's amazing how people like Watts and Tisdale can take a completely innocent statement and turn it into an example of supposed "warmist" fearmongering.

    Also, darn the Phillipines for using Typhoon Bopha to further the warmist agenda! How dare they! Have they no shame?


    1. The attack on Cullen is baseless,as neither poseur address depth of warmth. And the tone of rectitude and pseudo-authority is a giggle. For example, having 'sagely advised' that 'Nobody has any credible record of typhoon strength going back more than a few decades' they then cite a record of super typhoon Ida from 1958 in order to contradict a statement by Jeff Masters.

      Tisdale, Watts; out of their depth with another unnecessary interjection.

  2. He has taken it a step further with his later article where he ironically criticises the headlines in the Daily Mail. The disturbing part is the arguments in the comments section about the death toll. Apparently 1200 people, as Anthony claims, isn't bad enough to be respectful when other reports are coming in saying there are more than 10000 dead. The faux outrage by the dispassionate and morally bankrupt sycophants that frequent WUWT when any "warmists" discuss tragedy in the context of climate change doesn't extend to them when the shoe is on the other foot. Some are even making jokes. Disgusting.

  3. Also see Greg Laden


  4. You do know that most of the typhoons, hurricanes and cyclones have all occurred for many centuries, with Hurricane Camille the worst in 1969?

    Some of the hurricanes in the 1800s were extremely deadly. These things have been going on forever. As bad as this typhoon is its no different to many others over the journey.

    1. Sorry readers. There are times when I regret having such a liberal comment policy.

      The above comment by Anonymous was surely meant for WUWT, not HotWhopper.

    2. Anonymous, do you often find yourself in social situations where you make some observation that's, well, just plain 'obvious' to you, and the people around you go strangely silent and seem uncomfortable?

      I'm going to guess the honest answer is 'yes'. You're in good company at Watts'.

  5. Hi Sou .. Enjoy reading your commentary. I'll jump in as this is my (occassional) territory. As the NOAA article correctly suggests it is water temperature in depth / oceanic heat content (OHC) that counts for determining maximum potential intensity (MPI). Google maximum potential intensity oceanic heat content and you'll get plenty of references (I-I has some interesting material coming out soon by the looks). Note the older references focus on SST, the newer references on OHC.

    Intense tropical cyclones mix the upper 50m to 100m of the ocean. Further north that the track that Haiyan took and the thermocline is relatively shallow and systems can overturn cooler water - up to 6 to 8 degrees in some instances - and this can have a significant impact in intensity even for moderate forward speeds.
    Haiyan was over a region with a deeper thermocline and so upwelled water is generally less cool and therefore intensities can be more readily maintained.

    SIGNIFICANTLY Haiyan was moving very quickly (18 kn from memory). This meant Haiyan continuously sourced undisturbed waters and stayed intense - and this was both a swing and a roundabout - as a least the system transitted the region quickly and limited the height of the storm tide.

    I would normally strongly argue that debating the SST anomaly is irrelevant, it is whether OHC was abnormally high that should be the focus. However, the rapid forward speed, in this specific case, does suggest that the temperature in depth is not as important as it traditionally is - but should still dominate.

    In general, many other factors dictate final intensity before OHC (such as shear, upper diffluence, mid level moisture). In a warmer world (assuming that the near surface warms at least as much as the troposhere) then maximum potential intensity for tropical cyclones should be higher. However, it is also feasible that increases in wind shear, for example, could make that maximum potential intensity harder to achieve.

    Apologies for the anonymity.

    1. Thanks for the detail. I learn so much from people commenting and appreciate you pointing out the difference in emphasis over time. I'll get more out of the papers on the topic now.

      (No-one here ever needs to apologise for anonymity.)

  6. addendum .. to be clear .. I enjoy reading your commentary .. yes .. but I do not not enjoy reading about the suffering of people in the Philippines or the callousness of certain people.

  7. For the record : I dislike Bob Tisdale but that pouts him in a very large crowd, and he doesn't stand out at all. He should realise that, if he goes so often on WUWT to get his ego stroked, a blog focussed on WUWT inanities is going to feature him just as often. I say 'should realise', but I doubt he's capable of it.

    (Thanks for the term 'has tickets on himself', which is a new one for me.)


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