Yasi in context


I have just had the misfortune to listen to a nauseating, kid-gloves interview by Deborah Cameron on ABC Sydney of Ian Lowe, president of the environmental activist group Australian Conservation Foundation and global warming extremist (see here for previous form), in the wake of Cyclone Yasi. No transcript yet, but from the ABC blog:

This morning an interesting perspective from Professor Ian Lowe, President of the Australian Conservation Foundation. He told Deborah there is a clear relationship between increased (man-made) Greenhouse emissions and changes in the climate – and the evidence is there to suggest that weather patterns are intensifying. (source)

There were so many misrepresentations one hardly knows where to start… I telephoned the producer and asked if he was going to get Bob Carter to provide an alternative viewpoint for balance, but I won’t wait up for a reply. The ABC made up its mind on climate change years ago, and anyone who questions the consensus is just a filthy, ignorant denier.

So here are some more considered views of Yasi, firstly from Roger Pielke, Jr:

[…] a systematic evaluation of the long-term tropical cyclone landfall record in eastern Australia was published last summer in Climate Dynamics by Jeffrey Callaghan and Scott Power (2010). Callaghan and Power find a long-term trend of much fewer landfalls of intense cyclones (i.e., Category 3, 4, and 5) in the region.  They write:

The linear trend in the number of severe TCs making land-fall over eastern Australia declined from about 0.45 TCs/year in the early 1870s to about 0.17 TCs/year in recent times—a 62% decline.

The figure at the top of this post comes from their paper and comes with the following caption:

Fig. 1 The number of severe tropical cyclone (TC) land-falls in each TC season from 1872/1873 to 2009/2010 inclusive. The corresponding linear trend of -0.0021 TCs/year is also shown. This represents a decline of approximately 60% over the full period.

They find evidence for a relationship between intense cyclone landfall activity and the ENSO cycle, reflecting the natural variability of the system. (source)

And from Jo Nova:

As usual, it’s the name-callers who cling to 100 year time-frames and deny the long term evidence, while we cherry-picking denialists gravitate towards long term studies based on real observations. (The evidence lies in an obscure industry newsletter called Nature.) The way researcher, Jon Nott, describes it, things have been unusually quiet in our high CO2 world for the last few decades, but cyclones used to be a lot worse, and “worse” is coming back.

Thanks to The Australian for putting together a very timely piece about the historical pattern of cyclone activity.

[Johnathon] Nott is an expert on the incidence of super cyclones. By analysing ridges of broken coral pushed ashore by storm surges, he has catalogued the incidence of super-cyclones over the past 5000 years.

In a paper published in the scientific journal, Nature in 2001 his research shows the frequency of super-cyclones is an order of magnitude higher than previously thought.

Nott’s work puts into perspective current debate about whether climate change is responsible for the extreme weather events in Queensland.

Over recent centuries, massive cyclones have been relatively common. And after an extended period of relatively little activity their return is overdue regardless of rising global temperatures. (source)


  1. Perhaps they’re cherry picking 1988-2011. In that period, the number of landfalls has doubled in the last 5 years.

    If anything, the last 80 years have been “extreme”-ly quiet, aside from the freakish seasons of 1973/1974/1975. There certainly wasn’t any AGW scare stories back then.. there were warnings of an oncoming ice-age, however.

  2. I think part of the problem is how do you measure a cyclone? Is it storm front size, surge height, maximum wind speed (measured), lives lost, central barometric pressure or number of houses destroyed?

    The media are trotting out the unprecedented and ‘largest ever’ adjectives, but on what measure? It certainly looks as though the repair bill wil be lower than Larry, the wind speed measured isn’t that high, and houses destroyed will be few because of the sparse population in the affected towns. Cyclone descriptions could certainly come up with some type of index that rates them on things other than windspeed, so that comparisons could be made. Or perhaps they are all to unique to be properly compared.

    One thing is fore sure, the hyperbole of yesterday is looking a little overplayed by the usual media suspects. I think the image of the weatherman standing outside in a storm is about to get something of a backlash, at long last.

  3. Lew Skannen says:

    If Queensland is ever by a hurricane I might start to believe in AGW.

  4. How about the stats on how many cyclones follow that closely to record flooding..it sounds like Climate Chaos as predicted by global warming caused by humans of great hubris

    • The Loaded Dog says:

      “Sounds” like Jean’s a “true believer” in what those “humans of great hubris” are preaching.

      What does that say about Jean?

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