The Hurricane Patricia Debacle: Politics, not Science, Drove Predictions

In fact, every prediction the IPCC has ever made has been wrong. After their first inept efforts in 1990, they stopped calling their work predictions and instead labeled them projections. Yet the public, fed by a gullible and activist press, still believes the IPCC makes legitimate predictions. They fail to realize that, if your predictions are wrong, then your science is wrong.

That hasn't stopped the push from politicians who claim that the IPCC knows what it is doing. Two factors, President Obama’s drive to establish "action on climate change" as a major part of his presidential legacy, and the UN Climate Conference scheduled for Paris in December, are leading to an escalation of climate extremism to draw media attention. They now even present what are clearly natural events as if they are unnatural. It works because few people know what is natural.

Climate alarmists are focussed almost exclusively on generating exciting headlines that stick in people’s minds. Since scientific reality is always uncertain, and rarely reaches levels predicted by activists, they ignore science and disseminate fabricated "real facts" easy for politicians and a compliant press to use without thinking.

There are many examples, including Katrina, which was claimed to be a Category 5 but came ashore as a 3. The majority of the damage was due to flooding and most lives were lost due to drowning since an important dike was not improved because of interference by environmentalists. Hurricane Patricia is the most recent weather event to be the subject of political and media distortions. The level of threat was heightened to remarkable proportions.

How did they build the hyperbole and why was it so wrong?

Hurricanes begin as tropical depressions near the Equator. As wind speeds increase, they are renamed tropical storms and given a human name, in a bizarre form of anthropomorphism.

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Wind speed is only known when the system passes directly over a surface station and there are virtually none over the oceans. As a result, wind speeds are measured by an aircraft flying through the storms at high altitude. The Washington Post reported, concerning Patricia:

And in this case the measurement has added weight because it is based on data collected from an aircraft, rather than mere satellite imagery. “We would like to acknowledge deeply the Air Force Hurricane Hunters for their observations establishing Patricia as a record-breaking hurricane. Clearly, without their data, we would never have known just how strong a tropical cyclone it was,” wrote National Hurricane Center forecaster Richard Pasch this morning.

What the Post didn't report is that the few wind speed measures taken thousands of feet above the surface are used to predict surface winds using a computer model. The claims of Category 5 winds were clearly created to increase the hyperbole. The evidence that it was exaggerated is the rapidity with which the winds supposedly diminished after Patricia reached land. The New York Times reported,

“Less than an hour after Patricia made landfall as a Category 5 storm — the fiercest — the National Hurricane Center said it was barreling inland over southwestern Mexico with maximum sustained wind speeds of 160 m.p.h. But it quickly lost force, slowing to about 130 m.p.h. before 10 p.m. By Saturday morning it had been downgraded to a tropical storm.”

It is true that wind speeds decrease when a tropical cyclone passes over land because of friction and the removal of the warm water energy source. It is like cutting the fuel line to the car engine. But, in this case, the suddenness of the reduction was scientifically unreasonable and only occurred because they started with an artificially high starting speed as erroneously computed over the oceans.

The president of Mexico told his nation.

The first reports confirm that the damage has been less than that corresponding to a hurricane of this magnitude.

That was an understatement. The fact that Mexico’s death toll from Patricia stands at zero is not just because of efficient evacuation measures. It is also because the dangers of the storm were intentionally exaggerated.

At best this is a story of gross incompetence. At worst it is a story of deliberate misinformation and alarmism for a political agenda. Even worse, it is a story of both. Regardless, they got the headline they wanted.