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Weather Blog

Be a good scientist.

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From the “things you won’t see on tonight’s six o’clock news” category… Storms don’t have to be worse for their damage to be worse.

In a recently posted article to the American Meteorological Society’s journals section of its website titled “Continental United States Hurricane Landfall Frequency and Associated Damage: Observations and Future Risks,” study authors Philip J. Klotzbach, Steven G. Bowen, Roger Pielke, Jr., and Michael Bell scrutinized past hurricanes and came to what some people may claim is a surprising conclusion:

“While United States landfalling hurricane frequency or intensity shows no significant trend since 1900, growth in coastal population and wealth have led to increasing hurricane-related damage along the United States coastline.”

In other words, there is no trend that storms are getting bigger, worse, or more frequent despite what you might have heard on TV or read on social media.

Harvey image

Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project

Some people might claim that at least one of the authors (Pielke, Jr.) should be discredited since, in the past, people who have disagreed with him have attempted to besmirch his reputation by calling him a “climate denier.”

Personally, I think it’s a positive step forward that the AMS is publishing their paper and has released a preliminary version on its site.

I sit on the sidelines of the battle over whether man-made climate change is “settled science.” I read studies and articles from both sides. I think critically about what I read, and I don’t take anything at face value. I ask questions and look for answers down rabbit holes. I also pay attention to the unfortunate fallout – when credible scientists suffer public smear campaigns and career-path roadblocks – all because they are not willing to submit to the so-called consensus and continue to do research that shows that the science isn’t settled.

Science should never be settled. If it were, the earth would still be flat. The sun would revolve around us. There would be nothing smaller than an atom. Gravity would be some god’s way of holding us down… Okay. Maybe that last one was more myth than science, but you get my point.

I’ve written before about how politicizing science causes more damage than good. It causes outsiders to distrust science as a whole, especially when the in-fighting among academics and popular scientists that have suddenly become TV personalities play out on twitter and national media networks. How can you be in search of truth and knowledge if you dismiss anyone who disagrees with what you think you know?

To be a good scientist is to have an open-mind and be willing to entertain more ideas than just the popular ones. A good scientist isn’t gullible or naïve. A good scientist is thoughtful, asks questions, and earnestly searches for answers – even if those answers disprove his own hypotheses. My challenge to all scientists is to strive to be good scientists.

Weather Blog

If…

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“If” is the biggest word in the English language, or so I’ve been told.

If I controlled the weather, we would still have tropical cyclones because they are an important part of the global system that encompasses weather, climate, ecology, and environment. Often, years without tropical systems end in drought. However, if I controlled the weather, Harvey would not have played out this way.

Harvey's forecast track

The National Hurricane Center’s forecast track for what’s left of Tropical Storm Harvey.

If I controlled urban development, we would not have cities built on barrier islands, or in flood zones, or in areas prone to annual wildfires… or in California now that I think of it. Yep. California would be one gigantic National Park. No urban centers allowed.

If I controlled human behavior, everyone would be patient, kind, and logical. People would understand just how complicated the world is and would find ways to reason out the best possible solutions to our problems without making more of a mess despite (or by way of) the best of intentions.

Are you rolling your eyes yet? I am.

If is a great playground for the mind, but if does not deal well with reality in this case.

Harvey is bad. Urban development in places like Houston exacerbates flooding potential. When things get bad, human emotions get riled, and many people have their own way of dealing with bad situations – not all of which are inherently bad themselves, but many of which are less than constructive.

I could write about how Harvey is breaking official records, but we’re still awaiting verified, quality-assured data. I could write about how my heart breaks for those affected by Harvey, but if you’re as human as the next guy, your heart is right there with mine. I could write about how to make charitable donations to help with recovery, but I know the rest of the media has that covered. (I chose the Red Cross, personally.)

Instead, I’ll just say that when the waters recede, the national media leaves, and those people who can return home to start picking up the pieces do… that’s when we will have time to head back to the playground called If and see what imagination, ingenuity, and logic can do to help us mitigate future potential disasters like this one.