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Aspects of Al Gore's lies on category 6 hurricanes

Two days ago, Al Gore gave an interview to the Washington Post

Al Gore explains why he’s optimistic about stopping global warming
in which he pretended to be optimistic that unhinged alarmists like himself may still morph from the hopeless dirty losers such as himself to winners. With his characteristic diplomacy, the former future U.S. president compared climate realists to champions of apartheid, to homophobes, and to an alcoholic father who explodes whenever the elephant in the room (more precisely, ethanol in the bottle) is being mentioned which is why his relatives prefer to be silent.

But it was his scientific contributions that led to the most widespread reactions:
Al Gore: ...Would there be hurricanes and floods and droughts without man-made global warming? Of course. But they’re stronger now. The extreme events are more extreme. The hurricane scale used to be 1-5 and now they’re adding a 6. The fingerprint of man-made global warming is all over these storms and extreme weather events.
Remarkably enough, pretty much all the climate writers on all sides of the conflict agreed – while using various words for the same proposition – that Gore is a shameful lying mongrel who should splash himself into a toilet.

Aside from expected critics such as Anthony Watts, Marc Morano, the Wall Street Journal, the Hill, Newsmax, Politico, The National Review, and many others, even the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, The Union of Concerned Scientists and Climate Skeptics' Dogs, and their likes pointed out that Gore's claim was a science fiction that isn't backed by any credible enough experts.

One must still understand that the separation of hurricanes into categories, the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, is a matter of human conventions. But the experts doing these things are simply not adding any new category. Ultimately, the most important reason is that the hurricanes (and all other local weather phenomena!) are doing what they have always been doing and there's no reason for any change of the classification because we don't observe any fingerprint of any qualitative change, in a striking contrast with the claims by alarmist liars such as Al Gore.

Wikipedia's two paragraphs on Category 6 hurricanes actually tell you pretty much all the facts you need to know to understand the situation.

After some strong enough hurricanes, e.g. in 2005, various people proposed to create a new category 6 for the hurricanes. None of these people has ever been influential or successful. In the current terminology, Category 5 hurricanes include all the hurricanes with winds above 70 meters per second. If you allow me to simplify a table, the speeds in meters per second are:
Category 1: 33-42 m/s
Category 2: 43-49 m/s
Category 3: 50-58 m/s
Category 4: 58-70 m/s
Category 5: 70-∞ m/s
I hope you are able to translate the speeds to kph (km/h) or kn (knots). For each of the speeds, one may almost reliably predict the normal central pressure (lower than one atmosphere and decreasing with the category!) although it's an independent quantity and doesn't enter the primary definition of the scale.

Sorry that for some categories, the borderline speed is the same and for others, 1 m/s was added. They know how to round it and classify it in the marginal cases although the outcome may often be affected by the error margin, anyway.

At any rate, there is some minimal speed for which a tropical storm may be called a hurricane and the borderline speeds increase by roughly 10 m/s per category. Don't ask me why it's not uniform. But if you do ask me, it's because they wanted to associate the categories with the impact on man-made structures. But the final category (5) includes all the storms above a critical value.

Robert Simpson, a co-author of the Saffir-Simpson scale and a scientist who is now over 100 years old, gives a simple reason why it's a bad idea to introduce a higher category – even though you may find it natural to introduce an arbitrarily high category: he claims that the final category is rupturing buildings independently of the engineering methods that were used to construct it so there's no good reason to finely discriminate. I am a bit skeptical about the claim that the men can't design better materials and structures that simply withstand greater winds than the minimal Category 5 hurricane winds (in other words, I am probably more optimistic about the abilities of the new technologies) but I hope that he has some reasons to make this general claim.

However, there's another reason why the new category isn't even being considered. The number of such "Category 5 hurricanes on steroids" in the record is too small. Among the 35 Atlantic Category 5 hurricanes on the current record, 17 exceeded 78 m/s and 8 exceeded 80 m/s. You see that near 80 m/s, the number of storms seems to be dropping quickly. Similar decrease is seen in the Eastern Pacific hurricanes. Recall that the Northwestern Pacific tropical storms are usually classified with a different terminology than this scale and one talks about typhoons and supertyphoons etc. that have independent definitions.

If you introduced a new boundary near 80 m/s for the Atlantic hurricanes, the classification of Category 5 vs Category 6 would finely depend on the speed (on accidents, roughly speaking), and this extra splitting wouldn't be too useful, anyway. If the borderline speed were much higher than 80 m/s, you would probably be left with no or almost no hurricanes in the new group. If you're looking forward to some very strong hurricanes in their new class and you need some terminology to talk about them, why don't you directly talk about their speed? Try to make people excited while they are waiting for the first 85+ m/s Atlantic hurricane (that would mildly beat Camille 1969 and Allen 1980: you will probably never see one). Such an ad hoc threshold speed surely sounds less sexy than a new category but meritocratically speaking, this topic of the top hurricanes isn't sexy so you shouldn't try to pretend that it is. After all, the strongest hurricanes are remembered not according to their modest differences in the speed but according to their location and impact (a slower hurricane may be much more influential than a faster one) and these things are so dependent on the culture that no objective assignment to the categories could be done according to such criteria (but the classification should be objective so that we know that the distribution isn't changing with the human mood).

An essential fact to notice is that nothing seems to be visibly changing about the distribution of the tropical storms and hurricanes into the categories. Saffir and Simpson did some work in evaluating the data and dividing the hurricanes into useful categories and because the statistical data is pretty much the same (but more extensive) today, they would probably end up with the same results today, too.

None of the hurricane data shows a clear, statistically significant trend. Statistically insignificant trends may be positive and negative depending on what you precisely quantify and how. Theoretically, there exists a good fundamental reason – often emphasized by Richard Lindzen – why one should expect fewer hurricanes and weaker hurricanes in a warmer world (which we're very slowly entering, according to some claims and according to linear regression in the last 30 or 100 years): a warming occurs primarily in the polar regions that were and still are much colder than the equatorial zone (due to various polar e.g. ice-albedo feedbacks) and that's why the globally widespread warming trend also means that the polar-equatorial temperature difference decreases. But this difference – locally speaking, the gradient – is one of the main causes that power the storms (not only tropical storms) so if it goes down, so should the frequency and strength of the tropical cyclones.

It's plausible that someone has built a climate model that produces the opposite result but it's almost certainly an artifact of some numerical (or conceptual!) defects of the models (if I avoid justifiable accusations of fudging). Because there doesn't exist any theoretical, computerized-oracle-independent argument why the hurricanes should be getting stronger or more frequent, we should use Occam's razor and ignore such a complicated extra hypothetical trend until we have a reason to think otherwise.

At any rate, no one in the world of experts is proposing anything such as a sixth category for the hurricanes. It's too bad that Al Gore began to think that any lie that goes in the alarmist direction is excusable. I sincerely hope that his lying dirty mouth will start to be broken into many small bloody pieces whenever he says something comparably outrageous so that by the time he possesses one last tooth, he learns to speak the truth, at least sometimes. Unfortunately, most Americans are cowards who are afraid of beating scumbags such as Al Gore on the street while a minority of Americans even sympathizes with similar scumbags. Yes, I sort of preferred the America from the Westerns where Category 6 assholes such as Al Gore are finally shot by the heroes.

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snail feedback (13) :

reader lucretius said...

I don’t think you should insult mongrels, who are often fine dogs, buy comparing them to the fork-tangued reptile Al Gore.

reader lucretius said...

Completely off topic but anyone here who thinks that Czechs are only good at physics should take a look at this:

reader Luboš Motl said...

LOL, I tried to check how native speakers would react to this unusual expletive which was obtained as the most accurate translation of the Czech "podvraťák".

This may mean the mixed dogs you mention and in this interpretation, mongrel is used as a synonym of "bastard", but it's also related to the verb "podvracet", essentially "undermine", which is probably the main reason why it sound like a more natural expletive in Czech than in English.

reader Ann said...

I recall hearing this past spring alarmist predictions for this season 2013 of many hurricanes, 'a lot more than average' being the prediction. We are not done, but at end of August we are only at 'E' or thereabouts in the named storms, all just tropicals, not hurricanes. Btw, in the 19th century the royal mail ship The Rhone sank in a terrible hurricane. I don't believe they recorded wind speeds then, but the barometric pressure was the lowest ever recorded in the Caribbean. Finally, I cringe at the alarmist language manipulations - they refer to 'climate deniers'. Who denies there is climate or, in fact, changing climate. Stupid, stupid alarmists.

reader papertiger0 said...

I wish one of you had control of Al Gore's teleprompter - even if it were just for a day or so.
Think of all the positive mischieve.

He does a good job of it all by his lonesome, but wouldn't it be fun.

reader Bernd Felsche said...

Now you're being silly: "Category 5: 70-∞ m/s"
∞?? :-)

Wind speeds cannot exceed the speed of sound in the medium. The air can't be compressed any more quickly.

As for designing structures to cope with more than 70 m/s winds; BTDT. Dozens of times. Although design standards, even in cyclonic areas, may be higher (e.g AS1170 now up to 72.6 m/s), those design wind speeds are based on 3-second gusts. It takes much less than 3 seconds for pressure to build up on a (significant) structure, perhaps producing a destructive force. The variation in intensity is a function of the turbulence of the wind acting on the surface.

Design standards need to be applied according to the function (importance) of the structure and its likely exposure to the historic (50 or 100-year) peak gusts.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Bernd, the symbol "infinity" simply means that the speed of hurricanes in the category 5 hurricanes is unlimited and is allowed to be arbitrarily high. It would be much more silly to write random figures as an artificial boundary of the interval, like 343.2 m/s for the speed of sound.

Moreover, I disagree that wind can't be faster than the speed of sound, in principle. It's just a fucking moving air. A sound wave is periodic but the wind doesn't have to be periodic. Something may make the atmosphere rotate around the Earth quickly and it may pump new and new speed to the air mass.

The only truly physical limitation of the wind speed is the speed of light.

reader Gene Day said...

The eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 produced wind speeds considerably in excess of the speed of sound.

reader Gene Day said...

The Golden Gate Bridge was designed to withstand only 50 mph winds. If it had not been subsequently reinforced it would no longer be there.

reader Bernd Felsche said...

Category 5: 70 m/s to Mach 1

Of course it's easier to say "70 m/s and faster".

The shock wave from a supersonic event propagates at the speed of sound in that free medium, even if the supersonic perturbation was from a mechanism capable of moving through the medium at such high speeds, the medium doesn't freely propagate the shock at a higher speed. Only the molecules directly "forced" by the object move more quickly.

To put it another way, the speed of sound in a medium is the fastest that a pressure change can be communicated through that medium. Winds result from a pressure gradient over a finite distance.

Flow velocities in excess of the speed of sound are made possible by forced flow along surfaces. (non-free flow). Although mathematically plausible that such could occur naturally in the event of a volcanic eruption forcing a moving mass at Mach 1 that cascades over amenably-shaped terrain satisfying e.g the conditions of a Prandtl-Meyer expansion, the supersonic winds would be very isolated; before being damped by the much larger volume of free air.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Bernd, what you write makes no physical sense.

It's called the principle of relativity that guarantees that the physical behavior of a system uniformly moving by the speed v - any speed lower than the speed of light in the vacuum - is exactly the same as the behavior of a system at rest.

The wind isn't a sound and it's not limited by the speed of sound. I was hoping that I gave you an explanation you couldn't possibly misunderstand - and Gene gave you a totally real-world example of the fact that the wind has no trouble with violating the speed limit.

reader Yonason said...

Slightly aside...
When studying "waves and vibrations," we were shown a video similar to this one.
(same event without the "newsy" commentary)
Not only wind, but soldiers marching could also take a bridge out, which is why they would walk, not march, across.

reader Bernd Felsche said...


The speed of sound (except in "pop science") is always relative to the medium and its condition at the time of pertubation.

I've been looking for months ofr EVIDENCE of what you claim Gene, but I can find only _speculation_. USGS says "Peak wind
velocity during the eruption varied between 80 and 140 km/hour as measured 400
km downwind of the volcano at about 12 km above sea level"

The speed of sound (except in "pop science") is always relative to the medium and its condition at the time of pertubation.

That is completely consistent with the basis of what I wrote; that bulk motion of a fluid cannot be sustained above the speed of propagation of sound in that medium as the low-pressure pertubation of sound is a measure of the highest rate at which the medium can be perturbed, without packaging it up or exterrnally forcing another medium through it. However, neither situation represents "wind" which is a sustained bulk motion of air.

Mechanical (molecular) coupling within the (real) fluid results in the speed of sound being distinct for each frequency of pertubation.

Even atmospheric testing of nuclear devices has failed to produce (measured) wind speeds in excess of the speed of sound.

Luboš' suggestion that wind speeds can approach the speed of light is UNrealistic given the limits of available energy.

What is necessary for Luboš supposition to exceed the speed of sound, is effectively for the observer to be in a different reference frame to the observer. With a bulk medium moving at zero velocity relative to itself, the speed of sound within that bulk is relative to itself.

But the "Relativity Joker" isn't in this deck as the reference frame is the surface-bound observer; notionally about to be ripped apart by Luboš' hypersonic wind.

For the bulk medium to progress through free, relatively stationary air (i.e. to be "wind"), it must displace, molecularly, by PRESSURE, the air that is not part of the wind. It has inertial, viscous and, to a lesser extent, gravitational forces to overcome.

Bulk fluid flow is described just as much by compressability (Navier-Stokes) as is the speed of sound in that medium.

Although I struggled to understand and to independently replicate the calculus 30 years ago in my studies of Thermodynamics and Fluid Mechanics, I think I grasped the essence of what the equations mean; and hopefully an insight into their limits of applicability.