Saturday, October 8

Gaea sez, "Stop that!"

As usual I was laying in bed this morning listening to Morning Addiction and a story came on about the latest energy bill in Congress and how it's been called the "No Oilman Left Behind" by its detractors. Suddenly it hit me:

  1. Burning petroleum products adds to global warming.
  2. Global warming warms the ocean that fuels larger and larger hurricanes.
  3. Huge global warming-fueled storm wipes out oil refineries.
  4. Congress passes bill providing huge bags of cash to oil companies to build more refineries so we can have more petroleum to burn.
  5. Goto 1

One really does need to wonder if, in order to be elected to national office, one must first give up any knowledge of the scientific method or the principles of cause and effect.

I know, it's not exactly a profound insight, but it's before 9am on a friggin' Saturday morning and I haven't had any coffee yet, so gimme a break!


  1. Yes, but they can now REFINE the oil without releasing nasty pollutants into the air. So it's a GOOD thing. (At least that's the argument I keep hearing from those pro-new refinery.)

  2. I'm sorry, but that logic is simply ridiculous. These storms aren't caused by global warming. Category 5 hurricanes are natural, and happen all the time. Sometimes they make landfall, sometimes they don't. Katrina was no more the fault of the oil companies than it was yours or mine. Blaming these companies (or Bush for that matter) is the simpleton's way out, and gets us no where.

  3. Anonymous -

    Although G's logic may be a bit simplistic, it's based in fact. Hurricanes need warm ocean water to get started. With global warming the oceans are getting warmer, so the likelihood that the water is warm enough for a hurricane to start is greater, therefore there are likely to be more hurricanes.

    Look at the NUMBER of large hurricanes that are making landfall... things are bad.

  4. Exactly.

    I know it's a simplistic model (like I said, it occurred to me before I'd even gotten out of bed) but the root meaning is still valid. No, global warming did not directly cause Katrina. But warmer oceans do fuel more numerous and more powerful storms. The warmer the ocean beneath the storm is, the more likely a Katrina-sized storm is going to develop. What would have been a smaller and far less damaging storm is now supercharged by the abnormally warm waters of the Atlantic (or Pacific, if we're looking at typhoons). What might have been a relatively minor storm fifty or a hundred years ago is now more likely to be a major one because there is simply more thermal energy being pumped into it as it develops.

  5. Global warming will have a profound effect upon the weather, and we can only expect worse and worse tropical storms.

    Global warming is serious, and I wonder why we are so eager to rebuild right back in these places that will only get hit more and more in the future. I don't think the use of fossil fuels is really that big of an influence on global warming, because it's going to happen anyway, but we certainly seem to be accelerating it.

    A few months back National Geographic had an excellent article on the ramping up of hurricanes. I imagine it was one of those things that you kind of regret being right about.

  6. Don't let me rain on anyone's parade...but that logic is not air tight. Let's skip the political value of #4, and focus on the relationships of #1-3.

    Number one is certainly not wrong, but it leaves out a lot of facts...mainly that combustion of fossil fuels is not the major driving force of global warming. Consider this...sea level has risen roughly 400 ft (120 m) in the last 18,000 years due to "deglaciation" - aka global warming...we have only been burning fossil fuels for about 130 years.

    Number 2 is also only partly correct. Global warming has only warmed parts of the ocean...for example large areas off the west coast of South America and north of 40 degrees in the North Atlantic are getting COLDER.

    Yes, there have been an increase major hurricanes over the last 20 years, but there was a similar high period in the 1950's and 60's...with a drop off in storms in the 70's and 80's.

    Interesting note to consider...hurricanes in general, and especially major hurricanes (Cat. 3-5) actually COOL the tropical ocean my upwelling the colder underlying waters as they pass.

    It's not climate is climate variability (ie- the former suggests some pre-existing steady state that is now changing, while the latter implies that there is no steady state in the long run)

    I just hate to hear people bend to the headlines which miss all the facts. Read the science.

    -GeoDiver (PDX semi-native, PhD in climate and ocean science)

  7. Thanks, GeoDiver. I stand corrected.

    As I said, this all came to me in a pre-caffeinated state one morning. However, in my defense, I was basing my logic on some things a friend of mine (who is a fisheries biologist) told me about the warming of the Gulf Stream and its climatological effects. No, she's not an expert in climatology, but she sure as hell knows more about it than I do! I'll be sure to ask her about the facts you presented.

  8. Glad to hear you are willing to track down some answers. I acknowledge and respect that you made these connections before coffee, and I can sympathize with that condition.

    The Gulf Stream is of major importance because it moves enormous amounts of heat from the tropics to the northern is why London doesn't have the same climate as Greenland. Some evidence suggests decadal scale variability and may be related to the North Atlantic Oscillation (see: Joyce, T. M., et al. (2000), The relation between decadal variability of subtropical mode water and the North Atlantic Oscillation, J. Clim., 13, 2550-2569.).

    The problem is that weather is easy, but climate incredibly complex. You can find a scientist, who has done decent science, with evidence to support almost any view you want to believe in. This is partly why the government is in the scientific position that they are in (deliberately avoiding any suggestions of political motivation). In the end, this all gets simplified and distilled to the public, who then don't usually take the time to question the source (ie- Fox news).