Hurricane Season Arriving …

Actually, it’s already here, and has been in the Indian Ocean (two bad storms hitting India) and there is a depression off of the Philippines and another trying to form, and a area of interest off of the west coast of Mexico. At least the Atlantic is quiet … nothing expected there over the next few days …

Formation probability for May 30- June 1st (click to embiggen)
Pacific View (click to embiggen)

As a reminder, now is the time to get your hurricane plan together – and remember hurricane (and severe weather) plans are a good idea inland as well as right on the coast. DHS/FEMA have a site (link) with lots of good advice and checklists on what to do. The big things I like to remind people of are to have a weather radio for alerts (especially tornadoes – the sirens aren’t designed to be heard everywhere, or in buildings, and often take several critical minutes to go off whereas the weather radios go off immediately because the weather service controls them; local emergency managers control the sirens). The other thing is to double check your insurance: especially flood insurance (link goes to previous rant). Once storms start to form it’s too late to do anything about that.

The current indications are this will be an average to slightly above average season – using the new normals. It will probably feel above average, but of course the numbers don’t matter, only the landfalls and near misses that trigger evacuations. People tell me they are afraid of hurricanes, but I think that’s somewhat misplaced. Although they can be incredibly destructive, hurricanes are actually one of the “better” disasters. First off we know where the risks are, and can plan for them. Second, and this is huge, you can see them coming and have days to prepare, unlike tornadoes where you may only have a few minutes of warning, if that. You, personally, can do a lot to reduce your risk and stress: have a plan, know where you will go if you need to evacuate (or have supplies laid in if you can safely stay). Have your insurance review. Ignore the breathless coverage and have an “information plan” (will do a post on that next week) so you don’t get stressed out by the hype. Then don’t worry about it until and unless you’re in a watch area – then do the plan. Otherwise, enjoy the summer!

Savannah’s Port and Megaships

Wednesday the largest ship to ever call at the Port of Savannah snaked its way up the Savannah River. The news coverage I’ve seen was all positive, basically echoing the press releases from the Georgia Ports Authority, commenting on the size of the crowds that came out to see the 1300 foot ship, and similar fluff coverage (link goes to WTOC TV). Entirely missing was the perspective that this kind of global commerce is destructive to local and national economies, and has created an unstable situation. The collapse of this system will create disruptions across the entire world. Sound dire? Well, this is doomwatch … so let’s look at two reasons this isn’t a good thing: economics and resiliency.

GPA Savannah Container Port (Enki Research Photo)

Economics: The economic implications of this kind of global shipping is often hidden. During the studies of the deepening of the Savannah harbor, and periodically since, the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) trots out economic analyses of the “benefits” of the port. I’ll be blunt: these “analyses” are misleading – even bogus. One key problem is that all the numbers about local jobs or regional impact overlooks the lost manufacturing jobs, and the distortion of the US economy from a balanced producer/consumer economy in to a consumer dominant economy supported by a service sector. This is one of the factors behind the increasing levels of disparity in income in the US, and the depressed middle class sector in the country: those middle class, manufacturing and repair service type jobs disappear since cheap goods means it is more “cost effective” to import and replace rather than repair them when they fail or break. Of course, it is only “cost effective” if you ignore the resources wasted in a throw-away world, but that is a different issue.

You’ll notice when GPA reports statistics, they talk about containers and tonnage exported, rather than the overall value of imports vs exports. If you run the numbers that way, billions of dollars a year (and therefore tens of thousands of manufacturing and related jobs) flow out of the US to foreign countries, some hostile such as China. In other words, China is treating the US like an extractive colony – but the US goes along with it because US based companies profit from the somewhat lower retail prices, even though the average person sees only marginal benefits. Ten or even 20% lower prices doesn’t mean much if your neighbors are either out of work or working lower paying jobs, or your taxes are high to cover social costs. You have to look at the whole society impacts – not just narrow sectors.

One of the reasons behind the American Revolution was that Great Britain restricted certain kinds of manufacturing in the Colonies. It makes sense from a colonial/control standpoint: extract the raw materials, force the colonies to buy the finished products. That way the net value is not equal – money flows out of the colony and enriches the mother country, and makes the colony dependent on them. China has been doing this to the US for at least three decades now – and we’re actually cooperating with our own subjugation.

Resiliency: Lost in the discussions over the ports and global commerce discussions are the social stability aspects, in that a mostly consumer based economy is vulnerable and ultimately unsustainable. The COVID pandemic came very close to crashing the US economy and even stability of the society. Critical supplies such as plastic tubing almost ran out because no US companies make them, and the global system of moving goods and supplies came to a standstill with the quarantines and shutdowns. In the past a disruption might cause a rise in prices, but many critical goods are no longer manufactured in the US. The loss of supply lines – be it due to natural disaster or geopolitical instability – can rapidly spin in to a crisis since there is diminished or nonexistent ability to replace the lost sources of those goods.

Underlying all of this is a philosophical meta-question: what is the purpose of an economy? In the US, the purpose of the economy is primarily geared to create shareholder profit. Human factors such as the dignity of work, providing a sustainable livelihood for the average person, and social stability are all lost in the pursuit of maximum quarterly profits. The celebration of the arrival of the Marco Polo is that distorted worldview writ large.

So for a variety of reasons, the global system of commerce that has evolved in to massive transfer of the manufacture of goods that could be made anywhere to a few areas like China (generally with exploited/oppressed workers), all in the name of increasing profit margins, has created a hidden global crisis that could for a variety of reasons trigger a collapse of the economy – with societal turmoil following close behind.

Rather than celebrating, at least we should be mourning, and better yet protesting if we had any sense.

Better news for #India, #Cyclone #Yaas weaker than expected

Cyclone Yaas is currently (Tuesday Morning ET) has not strengthened as forecast, and is likely to only be a minimal hurricane when it makes landfall about 24 hours from now. Here is the current forecast impact swath using my TAOS/TC model, based on the JTWC forecast track:

Click for embiggened view.

While a huge number of people are still expected to be exposed to tropical storm conditions (78 million), the number at risk of truly dangerous conditions is now under a million, and the storm is still expected to cause considerable disruption in the Kolkata area. And, of course, this will exacerbate the ongoing COVID19 pandemic and tremendous death and suffering that has caused in the country. But the weaker storm is good news …

Another #cyclone headed to #India, #Kolkata on edge of track

Cyclone Two (soon to be Cyclone Yaas) is headed towards the northwestern corner of the Bay of Bengal, and is expected to make landfall just south of Kolkata, India. This is a much more densely populated area than where last weeks Tauktae hit. On the current forecast track, over 110 Million people are within the tropical storm wind swath, with nine million experiencing hurricane conditions, and 1.5 million at risk from flooding.

Click to enlarge

The economic impacts would likely be around $1 BIllion USD, but of course as is usual in that part of the world the humanitarian impacts are far disproportionate to the economics. Another issue is the impact on India’s already overstressed health care system. In the damage swath are 477 major health care facilities and hundreds more smaller clinics at risk of disruption due to high winds and flooding. No need to say this will exacerbate the already horrid COVID19 situation now and in the weeks after the storm.

Hospitals/clinics at risk from Two (IO022021)

While not forecast to be as strong a storm as Tauktae, this one has the potential to cause a lot more human misery …

Subtropical storm #Ana in the #Atlantic

The US National Hurricane Center has started advisories on Subtropical Storm Ana. Here’s the impact swath based on the 5am ET Forecast:

Mostly of concern to shipping, aviation, and fish.

Although Ana has tropical storm force winds, it doesn’t quite meet the formal definition for a tropical storm, so NHC is using the term “subtropical”. I think that term is confusing, because a storms like Ana can have strong tropical storm force winds, and the term “quasi-tropical” would seem to fit better, but that’s what they use so we’re stuck with it.

In any event, it should already be moving away from Bermuda over the next few hours, , but it is such a large and disorganized system that Bermuda might get some tropical storm force winds. Along the US East Coast and Canadian Atlantic Provinces there will be waves and some rip currents, but that’s about it.

Elsewhere, there is a disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico, but it should move ashore over Texas before it becomes a depression. In the Bay of Bengal there is a weak system under observation but no objective guidance as of yet. So hurricane season in the Northern Hemisphere is underway. If you live near the coast, time to get ready (click here for checklists and tips from FEMA/DHS) , and remember inland winds and flooding are possible hundreds of miles from the coast, and most insurance is “frozen” when there are incoming storms (and flood insurance has a 30 day waiting period).

#Invest Areas in the #Atlantic: not major threats (and some words on names and numbers)

There are two areas the US National Hurricane Center are watching, one has tropical storm force winds but isn’t really very tropical, the other is tropical but doesn’t have tropical storm force winds …

As always click any graphic to embiggen

AL90 is already above tropical storm winds, but isn’t tropical in structure. It will be moving over warmer water as it brushes Bermuda, and may acquire some tropical characteristics and get a name. More on how that works below. AL91, in the Gulf, may barely reach the threshold for being a storm before landfall, but this is only a gusty wind and rain event for Texas.

So how do all these names and codes work? Recall that in the US meteorological community tropical cyclones are typically tracked using an identifier known as the Automated Tropical Cyclone Forecast Identifier (ATCF ID). These identifiers identify unique storms with a code for the format XXNNYYYY, where XX is the basin (ocean) where the storm forms, NN is the storm number for a given year, and YYYY is the year. So the first storm to form in the Atlantic will get the ATCFID AL012021.

What is called a tropical cyclone (TC) has a very specific scientific definition (link goes to Wikipedia definition). The problem is how do you balance the science, the evolving nature of these storms (that start out not being tropical cyclones, become a TC, then become something else) with the need to communicate with the public and issue warnings. That is a complex process. A storm system that does not meet the definition yet (but might or might not) needs to be tracked. These systems are given temporary ID’s. Since no areas of the world get more than 50 storms in a year, storm numbers 90 and above are used as temporary ID’s. So the first “maybe will be something” area of interest, or “INVEST” (short for “investigation” area), gets the temporary ID AL902021. The second, AL91, and so forth. These are recycled, so there will be multiple AL90’s in a year.

What about names? Names are assigned for public use to make it easier (and supposedly names get people’s attention better than a number), but names are only assigned when the storm reaches tropical storm strength (34 knots, or 39mph). Storms weaker than that are called depressions, and are just called by their number. While in the Atlantic the names are consistent, in the Pacific different weather services (especially the Philippines) give storms non-standard names, so using the ATCFID is essential in those parts of the world to keep things straight. But in the Atlantic everybody sticks to the WMO name list.

In theory the progression of the first storm would be from an invest area (AL902021) to a tropical depression (AL012021, called “Tropical Depression One”) to a tropical storm (still AL012021, but with a name; this year the first storm will be called “Ana”). But nature doesn’t always like to follow our rules. The thing near Bermuda already has tropical storm force winds, but does not meet the definition for a tropical cyclone. It’s more like a Nor’easter, a winter storm, because it does not have a warm core and other structures that a tropical system has. But of course your roof doesn’t really care about that – it only sees the wind – and forecasters want to draw your attention to the storm. So the weather service has created a new category they are calling a “subtropical cyclone” – a system that has subtropical (not quite tropical) characteristics but still presents a threat. Expect AL90 to become “subtropical storm Ana” and get the ID AL012021 later today or tomorrow (80% chance according to NHC).

Of course this presents lots of complications. For one thing, it messes up the storm counts and makes people think storms are getting more numerous (and before somebody cries conspiracy, no, it’s not that). In the past nobody bothered with these non-tropical events. At the end of the year Ana will count towards the total even though this same storm in 1992, much less 1982, probably would not have counted. Also, this year NOAA changed the definition of an “average” year from 12 to 14 storms, and their forecast is for “13 to 20” storms. Last year that would be average to above average; this year that is “slightly below to above average.” So whenever you read an article talking about average or above average seasons this year that doesn’t put it in proper context that the definitions changed, be wary …

And so it begins … Invest area in Atlantic

By this weekend we will likely have a named storm in the Atlantic, so let the games begin. Here’s the obligatory maps … for now the TLDR is don’t worry about it unless you live in Bermuda, and even then it’s not likely be be much more than a windy day. But a good reminder the season is about to begin, so get ready. NHC says 70% chance of formation in next 48 hours, 90% within five days.

Track models map – storm is probably going to do a doughnut and make waves.
Swath of Doom: No real doom other than potentially Bermuda, rip currents along US East Coast.

#Climate change: which “side” is more delusional?

One of the more catastrophic artifacts of America’s sharply split political system is that instead of one side being right and one side being wrong, both parties seem to be forced by their activists in to adopting positions that are driven by fringe ideology instead of rational thought as to how to solve any given problem. The looming climate crisis (which is really a complex energy/financial system crisis) is a perfect example. Which is worse? Hard to say, but let’s take a look at the two biggest delusions: there is no climate change, and renewables will save us.

The delusions of the R’s …

I’ve been involved in climate research for over 25 years, and as a scientist it still stuns me that anyone can possible say anthropogenic climate change is a hoax, or some kind if leftist plot, or whatever. I’ve blogged about this before. The data across interlocking disciplines like meteorology, oceanography, biology, geology/geophysics, all point in the same direction. You can argue over the details, and what to do about it, but you can’t argue over the big picture: humans have changed the earth’s climate system, and it is likely to enter a period of rapid change over the next century that will most likely prove highly disruptive both to humans and the natural world. However, as someone with a background in the geopolitical world, denying human impacts on climate doesn’t surprise me a bit – in fact, given how the crisis came to light, it was inevitable.

Some of the more outspoken scientists doing early research on climate really screwed up. I understand that they feared for the future and felt they needed to raise the alarm, but they overstepped the bounds of the role of scientists. Many of them in the public eye (such as James Hansen) crossed the line between science and partisan politics by advocating specific actions based on their political leanings. By the mid to late 1990s the impression had been firmly fixed in the minds of many politicians as well as members of the public that the science was politically biased. Combined with the religious component (as I discussed in the link above), this created a circumstance where the science wasn’t trusted. While it would have been a hard job to navigate the complex energy, financial, and societal response required by human impacts on climate, this false impression of political bias in the science has created an almost intractable situation.

and the D’s aren’t any better.

The situation on the Progressive side of the spectrum isn’t any better. By any rational metric the proposals floating around for the Green New Deal are technological fantasies, and are based more on restructuring society than the realities of trying to address the climate crisis. Take one small technical detail about so-called renewable energy: solar panels and wind turbines (much less batteries) are advanced electronic devices. They take a lot of Rare Earth Elements(REE) to make, and that presents two huge problems:
1) Mining and processing REE’s is an environmentally destructive process, basically being strip mining with lots of toxic (even radioactive) waste (more so than mining Uranium), not to mention using a lot of water.
2) Depending on how you crunch the numbers, there aren’t enough known REE’s on the planet for even a third of our present energy needs.

If it wasn’t so delusional and going to end so badly it would be mildly amusing to hear people rant about how fossil fuels are limited and using them is environmentally damaging, then in the next breath preach about the cleanliness and potential for solar or wind – which are by the same measures just as resource limited and environmentally destructive.

Maybe this guy wants the job of fixing things …

So what do we do? Like most things, anyone who says they have “THE” answer is, well, delusional. This is a very complex problem that crosses so many aspects of society. It won’t be easy, and it will take time – time we are running out of if we haven’t already. As I noted above, I think for the most part scientists should keep out of the political process. However, if I were acclaimed Imperator Caesar, Princeps Senatus, Tribunicia Potestas, Pontifex Maximus (which is the only way I’d take on the job), I think I could put together an approach to start down the path to a solution. But nobody presently in power would like it. The first thing I’d do is completely rework the system of global governance. The climate crisis is ultimately a failure of governance – and it isn’t the worst threat we face in that respect (I am convinced that the worst threat to humanity – and the environment – is conflict/war and the collapse of the complex system of resource allocation/distribution needed to sustain nearly eight billion humans). As for energy and resources, there really isn’t much choice for wide scale reduction of emissions given our present technology: immediate widespread use of nuclear for electricity generation, combined with a crash program for fusion and the development of a sustainable, high energy density method of powering transportation systems. There are other complex changes that need to be made, all of which will take time and some serious rethinking of how society functions. In other words, to fix this, the technology will piss off Progressives, and the social changes will piss off the Neoconservatives. So I just don’t know how our present angry, bifurcated political system can come up with a good plan without an outside force like a benign Emperor to make the two sides behave.

Yes, climate problem is a crisis, and we’ve wasted at least 25 years we really didn’t have to start dealing with it. But we need to sort out the technology and have a clear rational, compassionate path forward before upending our economy and society. Going down the wrong path will kill as many if not more people, and be at least as destructive to the environment, as doing nothing.

#Tauktae impact on #India wrapup

Cyclone Tauktae is fading out over northern India today, and the task of assessing the damage and recovering is underway. Here is the final track based on JTWC, with the extended GFS forecast …

The storm is dumping a lot of rain in Northern India and that will cause more flooding over the next few days. In economic impacts Tauktae was probably a $5 Billion storm, using the intensity estimates of the Indian Meteorological Department. Using the US Joint Typhoon Warning Center track (shown about) the estimate skyrockets to $12 Billion. I think the lower (but still catastrophic – that is the economic equivalent of $26 Billion storm in the US) IMD estimate is probably more likely. But as with many storms in developing economies, the dollar numbers don’t tell the story. Over 65 million people were likely within the area of tropical storm force winds. In population terms, would be like a storm hitting one third of the US. Given the out of control COVID-19 outbreak in India, the situation is even worse. This is a humanitarian disaster that will be with us for some time.

As noted in the article linked above, there is the potential for another storm to form off the east coast of India next week. But I think it’s a bit premature to look that far ahead – far too many uncertainties at this point.

#Tauktae approaching landfall in state of #Gujarat, #India.

Tauktae reached full intensity last night as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane just offshore from Mumbai, India. Here’s the view from the US Space Force EWS-G1 satellite this morning …

I really think “Space Force” is a bad name … click to embiggen.

From the early reports it seems like the worst of the storm has stayed offshore from Mumbai. Although there is a lot of light damage (and some fatalities and spots of heavier impacts), the winds were not as high as the JTWC forecast was predicting. The Indian Meteorological Service seems to have done better. Here’s a comparison of the two tracks and forecasts using the cool slider-comparison thingee. Notice that the IMS forecast keeps the hurricane force winds (orangish colors) offshore, whereas the JTWC shows the storm a bit larger than IMS and bringing hurricane force winds inland. That makes a *huge* difference in damage – 5 Million in the hurricane wind swath and just under $4 Billion in damage with the IMS forecast vs. 13.5 Million people and over $11 Billion on the JTWC track!

Drag the slider left to see IMS simulation, right to see JTWC simulation

Next up is landfall in Gujarat. Storm Surges could be over 4 meters (14 feet) just to the right of landfall and within the funnel shaped Gulf of Khambhat (Cambay). Here’s the storm surge forecast based on the JTWC track:

The forecast based on the IMS track is a little less but still well over 3 meters. This area is much less densely populated that near Mumbai, but damage will be more extensive.