November 29, 2007

ECONOMY INFLATING? NOT SURE. Weather inflating? Sure looks like it:

With another hurricane season set to end this Friday, a controversy is brewing over decisions of the National Hurricane Center to designate several borderline systems as tropical storms.

Some meteorologists, including former hurricane center director Neil Frank, say as many as six of this year’s 14 named tropical systems might have failed in earlier decades to earn “named storm” status.

“They seem to be naming storms a lot more than they used to,” said Frank, who directed the hurricane center from 1974 to 1987 and is now chief meteorologist for KHOU-TV. “This year, I would put at least four storms in a very questionable category, and maybe even six.”

Most of the storms in question briefly had tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 mph. But their central pressure — another measure of intensity — suggested they actually remained depressions or were non-tropical systems.

A lot of people seem to be interpreting this as global-warming hype, but it’s probably just bureaucratic mission creep. If you’re the National Hurricane Center, you need hurricanes to stay in business. If hurricanes fall off, you’re tempted to cook the books just a bit. Ditto for the rest of the weather establishment. Blizzards are okay, tornadoes good for a bit of quick fun, but hurricanes are the real money-maker, combining intense fearfulness with multiday longevity like nothing else.