Hyping Hurricane Harvey to Teachers and Students

Published December 1, 2017

Hurricane Harvey is long gone but he has become a favorite of the climate alarmists. A perfect example is a very bad article in last month’s issue of “The Physics Teacher,” published by the American Association of Physics Teachers. The title is “Neil deGrasse Tyson links climate deniers, the eclipse, and Hurricane Harvey” but the article itself goes way beyond Tyson’s silly video.

This piece of Physics Teacher hype even includes the absurd claim that hurricanes are caused by greenhouse gases warming the ocean. Of course the ocean is perfectly capable of warming itself, as well as the atmosphere. The El Nino is a well known example of this. Then too Hurricane Irma, which followed Harvey, formed in waters that were thought to be too cold to spawn a hurricane. The whole “warmer waters cause more hurricanes” story is just junk. Hurricanes are complex critters.

The article then refers the teacher to the hyper-alarmist “Climate Science Special Report recently released by the US Global Change Research Program.” Here it incorrectly states that the CSSR was coordinated by NSF, NOAA and NASA in order to give it prestige that it does not deserve.

As for Tyson, even though he is an astrophysicist, he seems not to know the difference between astronomy and climate science. He claims that just because we can predict an eclipse with precision, we should swallow the garbage coming out of climate models, no two of which agree.

In fact these two fields are nearly perfect opposites. The motion of the planets, while slightly chaotic, is still very predictable. This is because it is simple, regular and well understood.

The motion of climate change is highly chaotic, poorly understood and at this point completely unpredictable within certain broad limits. In fact there is strong evidence that the natural climate is capable of warming or cooling several degrees very quickly. Why it does this is not known but changes in ocean circulation are suspected. (The ocean controls the atmosphere, not vice versa.)

This all points to the two basic fallacies underlying alarmist climate science today. Ignore what we do not understand and simplify the physics to the point that a computer can model it. And as we know from computer games, reality is then not a constraint.

In this sense Tyson is half right. Today’s so-called climate scientists are treating climate change as though it were as simple as astronomy. When it comes to science, this is about as wrong as it gets. Teaching it to children is even worse.

And the garbage keeps coming out. In a recent study, self-proclaimed hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel claims that Texas is now six times more likely to see huge, hurricane-related flooding than it was in the 1990s. I am not making this up.

He does this by lashing together several different computer models, for hurricanes and for climate. He has to do this because climate models are far to course to even include hurricanes, which are actually very small bad weather events. The output of this worthless kludge is then reported as an established physical fact. It was duly published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which often features attribution junk, and reported as proven.

Such is climate science today. If they stopped publishing modeling results as physical facts there would be very little left.

The real fact that several 50+ inch rains have occurred in Texas in recent times, compared to Harvey’s very local 60 inches, does not matter. Nor does it matter that the record for a Gulf hurricane is about 100 inches in Cuba, or about twice Harvey’s. One would think that a hurricane expert would know about these natural statistics, but Emanuel’s computer still finds that Harvey’s rainfall must have a human cause. Once again, reality is not a constraint on climate alarmism.

It does not speak well of The Physics Teacher that it runs this shoddy stuff, especially given that the author is also an editor. Using the term “denier” in the title is reprehensible, but at least we know going in that we are dealing with an alarmist.

The true shame is that teachers read this stuff and believe it, then teach it to their students, spreading it like a disease. What is lacking are alternative skeptical sources of sound science for teachers and students.

[Originally Published at CFACT]