The Storm Last Night


As most of you guys know, I frequent a few CAGW skeptical blogs.  Steve Goddard’s Real Science is one of my favorites.  (Please note, he’s moving to a different address, the link here is for his new one.)  So, last night I decided to pop over and see what was going on………  oh my.  Apparently, Steve was mentioned in  the Drudge report.  I haven’t seen it.  So, we met a lot of new people.  Fanatical, for the most part.  Steve had made a post calling Irene a “phony” hurricane.  His point was that the wind speeds he was seeing didn’t meet the definition of a hurricane.  Last I checked, it had over 700 comments.  It seems many took great umbrage to Steve’s assertion that it didn’t meet the common standards.

Why does it matter so much to people?  Well, of the people that it matter, there were two different types making comments there.  One group, had a natural response.  They were experiencing the storm.  Humans always like to believe their cross is more burdensome than most others.  I see the same response in Kansas.  When a wind picks up and blows a barn down or worse, some people here take exception if the weather service calls it a straight-line wind as opposed to a tornado.  Why does it matter?  Because a tornado is known to be much more vicious than a wind.  It’s just human nature to act in such a manner.  But, there was another group of people there, too.  That group was people engaged in another act of human nature.  They wanted, perhaps needed, affirmation that their thoughts of looming catastrophe were warranted.  And this is where most of the more vitriolic comments were coming from.  Steve had attacked their belief system.

One of the most irrational arguments I saw was the constant mention of the death toll.  The dead don’t care.  It matters not a whit to the dead if it was a hurricane or a tropical storm.  It doesn’t diminish their life nor death.  Nor, does it abate or increase the grief the loved ones are feeling today.  I pray they find the comfort they need.

We cannot banish dangers, but we can banish fears. We must not demean life by standing in awe of death. ~David Sarnoff

Folks, there it is in the quote above.  This is the argument.  This is the reason why I engage in the CAGW discussion.  This is the idea that separates humanity.  Some people believe we can and should eliminate risk from life.  You can’t.  And I don’t believe the pursuit of such an idea is helpful to society, in fact, I believe it is quite detrimental.  Now, I’m not saying to act foolishly and not prepare for an eventual dangerous event, or not to use prudent caution when necessary, but this fear of a catastrophic event is paralyzing society and never materializes.  At some point in the future, I’ll address the costs of our obsession with attempting to eliminate risk from life, in terms of money, societal and personal psychological harm.  I find that Newton’s third law doesn’t simply apply to physics.  To all things there is a cost.  And when something is gained, something is lost.


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42 Responses to The Storm Last Night

  1. Tony Duncan says:


    I certainly agree that the hurricane was hyped, and the dangers exaggerated. But in Vermont with very little wind, we are having by far the worst flooding I have seen in over 10 years of being here. The whole bottom half of downtown is under about a meter of water. NONE of that has even been significantly under water before. Probably 50 stores will have their contents ruined just in downtown. Certainly millions of dollars of damage in a town of 12,000.

    I disagree with your assessment of both the content of Steve’s posts and the response. But i do think it is valuable to comment on the discontinuity between actual conditions and questionable analysis of things like wind speed.
    As I said on steve’s blogs, after Katrina and the snow storm in NY this winter officials are going to be overly cautious. it is much better to be accused of hype than of not being shrill enough if real devastation occurs. I have ben through a number o hurricane scares in NY and none ever materialized, and each time it was over hyped, and then people forget about it.

    • suyts says:

      I don’t know if being “shrill” is helpful. I’m sorry about the flooding your town is getting. Were the alarms not shrill enough? Or, were there not many preparations to take? Which, goes to my point. What possible good does it do to live in fear if what happens will happen. Your town had plenty of time to prepare for flooding, but sometimes, there just isn’t much to be done. But, in the mean time, millions of Americans stopped living their lives in anticipation of this storm.

      As to disagreeing, did you read some of those comments? They thought Steve was trying to take the storm away from them.

      • Latitude says:

        agreed, and you’re spot on…….

        This will brighten your day……

        The Great Political Migration
        Aug 27, 2011 3:43 PM EDT
        Millions of people are, for good reason, abandoning big-government blue states for low-tax red ones

        …………HEY TONY…..(hand wavy thing)

      • suyts says:

        Well, yes, that does brighten my day, but I can’t help but recall Oregon and Washington state. They once were sensible states, too. But the whack jobs of Cali migrated to get away from the cesspool they had created. Now, both states are engaged in one form of lunacy or another.

        While people often move to get away from the lunacy, many don’t understand it was their actions or inaction that caused them to want to move.

      • Mike Davis says:

        My understanding of the Northwest conditions is that Washington and Oregon were the leading lights for the movement in California. With the folks in California being followers. Some people in Oregon do not want people from California in the state because they think California is to “Conservative” for their tastes.
        There are no self service gas stations because it would eliminate jobs. You have to get an environmental impact assessment before doing any work on your private property and they can declare your property environmentally sensitive at any time and demand you clean up a supposed hazard.
        I investigated the region before retiring along with Northern California. What I found resulted in striking the region off my places to retire list!

  2. Tony Duncan says:

    Yes. there was not much to be done. Couldn’t have put enough sandbags in enough places in the few days to prevent what has happened. And I heard warnings on the radio of possible 70 mile an hour winds. We certainly had gusts over 30-40 miles.
    I don’t think shrill is ever helpful, unless you are about to step off a cliff. But I think the polarization and litigious nature of Americans has forced politicians and officials to over react about these sort of things. As i said I have seen this happen in NY numerous times, but people forget about it if it is overblown, but they do NOT forget about it if a disaster occurs and not enough was made about it.
    As for Steve. It is his way of saying things that causes people to react. Posting that winds were 33mph in N. Carolina is just asking for people to pile on.
    I didn’t read all the comments, just scanned a couple of posts, but the worst I saw was people exaggerating to the same degree Steve was in the opposite direction, and the standard accusations of idiocy form both sides.
    I was quite confident this would not be the killer hurricane it was being made out to possibly be, but I read many commentators saying the the real problem was going to be storm surge and water damage and not wind speed as it becomes clear that Irene was going form hurricane to tropical storm. that is certainly the case here, and I am sure the storm will have caused billions of damages throughout the east coast.
    I think another big factor in the contentiousness is that tropical hurricanes going up the east coarst act very differently from those that stay in the caribbean. the uncertainties of temp pressure and being on/off land make them very fickle, and wind speeds and rain can vary tremendously as this one made very clear.

    • suyts says:

      lol, well you’re right about the litigious nature. There was even a comment that Steve should be sued! Myself, I had posited that if things were as bad as one of the commentators had implied, that he should put his big-boy panties on, get off the blogs and do something for himself. The thing is, Steve wasn’t exaggerating, per se. He was viewing information that ran contrary to what the NWS was stating. And even though there was some explanation to the discrepancy, it really wasn’t sufficient. But, I’m no hurricane expert. I’ll wait to see if Ryan weighs in on this ………

      And yes, the hurricanes seem to act differently going up the coast as opposed to wrecking havoc in the Caribbean. It is strange, growing up, I seem to recall coastal hurricanes more than Caribbean, but it may just be perception…… or perhaps a regime change of some sort.

    • Latitude says:

      Tony, it’s not really that difficult.
      NOAA relied on the computer games….exclusively
      They’ve been doing that for a few years now.
      The models don’t know how to figure land interaction – friction – and did not have any idea that the air on the east side of mountains is dry.
      Yet, at the same time, NOAA was hyping how big the storm was – area.

      The models said it would get stronger as it pulled away from the Bahamas. It would have if it hadn’t been parallel to the Appalachians. Then NOAA tried to blame it on sheer, it wasn’t sheer at all, it was dry air the models couldn’t figure on.
      Even when you could see it falling apart, NOAA still believed the models. NOAA kept believing it would spin down as it got closer to shore, friction again, making the eye smaller, making a much smaller – but stronger hurricane.
      ….again, the models didn’t count on dry air…..dry air killed it
      and NOAA relies so heavily on the models, they can’t believe a storm would do something that the models didn’t say it would do………..

      • Tony Duncan says:

        Latitude. that makes sense to me. But I wouldn’t say the dry air killed it. It maybe killed the organization and wind, but not the rain, which has already caused unprecedented (in my experience) flooding and damage and is supposed to get worse for a few more hours . the pictures and video being posted on Facebook are devastating for S. E. Vermont. A CAR was washed down what used to be a 4 foot wide brook today, and pieces of houses are going by as well.
        So I agree with you about the hype, and it is what I expected from previous similar situations.

      • Latitude says:

        The east side is still over water, picking up moisture.
        It was the dry air, coming in from the NW that disrupted the circulation.
        Don’t forget water is heavy, dry air is not.
        When things spin, like a top, if they are out of balance, they fall down…..;-)

        You guys seem to get a lot of floods, I didn’t realize that……

      • Tony Duncan says:

        Yeah. pretty much every year there is flooding, Pretty much all mountains and hills with narrow valleys with LOTS of snow melt in the spring. but I have never seen anything like this. The past couple of months have been bizarre: two murders; The biggest apartment building in town,an historic building, burned down; the worst flooding in a generation i would guess. Also new traffic lights were installed which only made traffic a little worse than usual for a few hundred grand! This caused a truck to get impatient a few weeks ago and go on the sidewalk and knock down the movie marquee.

      • Latitude says:

        on top of jobs, what is my house really worth, my 401k is trash……..
        We’re all under a lot of pressure………..

      • suyts says:

        And getting worse before it will get better.

      • Mike Davis says:

        And all of those things happening in your town were probably caused by HICC!

  3. Anything is possible says:

    An interesting study in human nature to say the least. Steve posted (correctly as it turned out) that the impacts of Hurricane Irene may not be as bad as forecast, and a load of people came crawling out of nowhere to heap abuse upon him. Exactly the same kind of people react the same way when you try and tell them that elevated levels of CO2 aren’t going to cause the atmosphere to spontaneously combust sometime in the latter half of the century. You seriously have to wonder whether they aren’t wishing disaster on the entire human race….

    To quote the old North of England colloquialism :

    “There’s nowt as queer (in a strictly non-sexual way!) as folk”

    • Tony Duncan says:

      The problem is that Steve did NOT post “that the impacts of Hurricane Irene may not be as bad as forecast”. he posted that the landfall wind speed was 33mph in NC, and other posts that were at best exaggerations to make NOAA and other weather forecasters look completely bonkers. Of Steve had posted the words you just used I think none of that would have occurred. And people who don’t know Steve took those posts at face value and were rightly confounded by the unreality of his exaggeration. Some of them then proceeded to make exaggerated defenses of the weather services and the fight was on. I enjoy those fights with Steve, but I understand what is actually going on, whereas these people that DON”T know Steve think he doesn’t have a clue about these issues, which is a big mistake.

      • Mike Davis says:

        Steven posted the graphic from WU showing the actual wind speeds at the time he did a screen capture. I also went to sites showing wind speed from NOAA surface stations and could not find any Hurricane force winds any time Saturday or Sunday. The most I saw were lucky to be called in the TS category. Noaa was claiming much stronger winds.
        Steven was not exaggerating in any way by showing NOAA’s own monitoring results from their surface stations that disagreed with their claims.

  4. Mark Reau says:

    Anything is possible says:
    “An interesting study in human nature to say the least. Steve posted (correctly as it turned out) that the impacts of Hurricane Irene may not be as bad as forecast, and a load of people came crawling out of nowhere to heap abuse upon him.”
    Great point, have you seen his numbers today? I felt like I was in an Edgar Rice Burroughs story, I’m sure I heard drums at one point!
    Sorry about the flooding, Tony Duncan.
    Stories are popping up everywhere about people uniting to help each other. Another interesting study in human nature. Thanks Latitude for that FEMA link, good one FFR. James, anyone who quotes David Sarnoff can’t be all bad….just joking, Great post as usual.

  5. Mark Reau says:

    LOL Sorry man, you look taller in the juggling pic.

  6. Mike Davis says:

    Of course there is always this:

  7. Mike Davis says:

    In situations like this we should all keep this in mind:

  8. Mike Davis says:

    I pretty much agree with your opening comments and appreciate Latitudes contribution. Of course being the person I am I waded into some of the “Discussions” at Steven’s site just like I do with Tony and Laz.
    Maybe we need genetically modified Pigs so people can see life for what it really is!
    I always hear the claim that the world will be better ” When Pigs can fly”

  9. Mike Davis says:

    I pretty much agree with your opening comments and appreciate Latitudes contribution. Of course being the person I am I waded into some of the “Discussions” at Steven’s site just like I do with Tony and Laz.
    Maybe we need genetically modified Pigs so people can see life for what it really is!
    I always hear the claim that the world will be better ” When Pigs can fly”
    Wordpress has a SPAM filter that wipes out some of my comments, here and at Steve’s old site when I use the facebook login! 😦 Such are the tribulations in life!

  10. suyts says:

    Mike, sorry about that….. . I just rescued one from the filter…… its strange. It even sent one of my comments to spam hell. It happens all the time to me at WUWT.

    It was kinda fun wading into the comments and exposing people in proper ways to destroy assertions. 🙂 But, it just wowed me a bit.

    • Mike Davis says:

      I got that a lot before when I was wandering around the believers sites. Probably why I don’t visit them anymore.
      I helped close this forum a year ago after posting over 2300 times in response to believers:
      I tend to shy away from a few so called scepitc sites also primarily because they promote the lukewarm “want to believe” attitude which to me is almost as bad as the believers.

  11. Tony Duncan says:

    And I have seen dozens of videos and pictures of devastation all over the east coast. Just am getting info that my town was not unusual of VT. 3 people dead, and there are some towns that are completely inaccessible due to many roads being washed out and widespread flooding throughout the entire southern half of the state.
    I have also seen video of people in NC and Virginia with what appear to be sustained gale force or hurricane winds , and I have seen pictures of a weather front that looked suspiciously like a hurricane. I also saw MANY weather and public officials repeat that the wind speed was not the crucial issue for this storm that rain and flooding were the big worries. As I write this the director of public safety in Vermont said he has never seen anything close to this degree of devastation. He is now talking about how the only comparison is the 1927 storm, but that all the infrastructure today is so much better built, and yet there is at least as much or more damage as then.
    I saw posts where Steve had 30mph winds in NC at landfall. He may have been technically right for the very particular point, but he was minimizing the actual impact of the storm.

    • Mike Davis says:

      Steven was showing screen shots from WU that showed regional wind speeds. I went to various NOAA sites around the region and looked at the historic wind for areas that should have received the strongest winds, where the bands were and to the north east of center. Steven was NOT technically anything, he was conveying what was available to all if they only searched the internet.
      There were all kinds of wind speed sites showing NOAA measured speeds!
      Flooding is a byproduct of a Hurricane and can happen any time the weather pattern is right for flooding conditions. I was in North Carolina for a hurricane that kept me awake all night with high winds so what was experienced for 5 or even 15 minutes don’t mean squat. I lost a 40 by 100 barn roof due to straight line winds in April 06 and it took out barns all down my side of the road, about 4 miles. Some it even blew off their foundations. I am very familiar with wind damage from when I lived in Southern Nevada as well as damage from flash flooding. Due to poor planning on the part of regional agencies that region is a disaster waiting to happen. But I learned to find shelter in areas that wold not be affected by excess rain and to build in a protected place.
      The barn was on the property wen I bought it but my house is protected from wind on 85% of the circumference by ridges. I sit back in a hollow in the mountain and have drainage down both sides of the house. The worst I expect is to not be able to drive out of the valley for a few days but I have vitals and a water source in case of loss of power.

      • Tony Duncan says:

        And a significant factor in buying my house was that it is about 50 feet higher than where the Whetstone Brook flooded, which caused most of the damage in town.
        Steve was posting, as if this was not anything to be concerned about, a total dud. I totally agree it was overhyped as a hurricane, and I do not doubt that wind speeds were exaggerated,even on purpose. But it WAS actually a hurricane until it started disintegrating and was a tropical storm and there were places with high winds, and the state of Vermont where I live, which did NOT get very high winds suffered the biggest disaster since at least 1927. As I posted, I saw many sites that said the wind speed is not the most damaging factor in this type of storm. The size of the storm and the pressure indicated LOTS of rain. That and the track of the storm were very accurately predicted. On wednesday I saw the track of the storm predicted going right over manhattan and exactly over brattleboro. they totally nailed that If Steve and others want to say the wind speeds were exaggerated I have no problem with that. And i think it important to get elected officials and bureaucrats and technocrats to report honestly even if it means that stupid people ignore them and think it is safe.

      • Latitude says:

        Tony, a two year old could have totally nailed that – one day out
        Thurs – Irene going into the gulf and hitting the panhandle
        Fri – Irene going to Tampa
        Sat – Irene going up the west coast of Florida
        Sun morning – A Cat 4 going right up the center of the entire state of Florida
        Mon – Irene going into Miami
        Tues – Irene going up the straights
        and on and on
        Irene going into So Carolina as a Cat4
        Irene intensifying to Cat 4, possible 5 – exiting the north Bamahas

        ……Irene totally falls apart because of dry air

        There’s a whole lot of “save face” going on here too.

        What gets me, these are the same crappy computer models that model global warming…
        and it seems that most people do not make the connection.

        No one, not one single person, is saying you didn’t get a bad storm. But bad storms happen…..

      • Latitude says:

        Bamahas??? Bama – has???
        What the hell is a Bama-has?

        ……..I’ve got Obambi on my mind

      • Mark Reau says:

        Hey Latitude,
        I’ll never hear Georgia on my mind the same way again:)

  12. Mark Reau says:

    Wallace S. Broecker, a scientific overseer of CarbFix – the man, as it happens, who also is credited with coining the term “global warming” four decades ago. His followers protest frakking, yet, think injecting carbonic acid deep underground is cool??? WTF is up with that?

  13. Tony Duncan says:

    thought you guys might like to see this.
    This is about 3 miles from where I live. One of the small streams that got big ideas yesterday.

    • suyts says:

      Floods suck. Always. Video stops at 10 secs for me now, but I’m still having internet probs. The last time I swam in a flood …….. you start against the current at the highest point and then swim like hell towards the destination. If your lucky, you’re only a few hundred yards away on the other side after you’re done.

  14. Mark Reau says:

    @suyts says:
    August 29, 2011 at 9:35 pm
    Ask the Navy next time, I’m here to help……

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