The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, September 02, 2019


I stood on a Florida beach this morning and watched storm-generated waves crashing into a rock jetty. Beyond the rocks and across only 100 miles of ocean, Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 storm, pummeled the Bahamas with 180 mph winds. It is a truly dangerous and catastrophic storm.

Living in South Florida, hurricanes are a frequent summer and early fall occurrence. They are dangerous and often destructive and in the extreme, can be life threatening. But that's in the extreme. In general, hurricanes are massively inconvenient and sometimes create major problems and expenses for homeowners, renters and businesses. But it's exceedingly rare when people die, and even rarer when people starve or perish from thirst. Yet you'd never know that if you listen to the local and national media narrative.

The media specializes in "catastrophizing" hurricanes and as a consequence, whips some people into a pseudo-hysteria that is as ridiculous as it is unnecessary. Long before the hurricane comes close, gas lines form and the shelves at grocery stores empty. People began to hoard for no good reason because ... hurricane!! One can only wonder what would happen in a real national emergency.

Sure you have to prepare. FEMA does need to position resources, our power company, FP&L has to position workers and equipment, and government officials do need to warn those on the coast about potential evacuation.

But all of this should be tempered by the information gleened from short-term NOAA models, that although extremely useful, still have a "cone of uncertainty," even when predicting a storm's path 3 days out.*

As I write this, Dorian is moving 1 mph and beginning its predicted northward turn (thank goodness). It's highly probably that we won't be in the target zone—this time.


* It's worth noting that even with a relatively well-understood meteorological models, real-time data coming in from aircraft, satellites, ocean buoys, weather data that identifies high and low pressure regions around the storm, there is uncertainly at three days, and considerable uncertainly at 7 days. The predictive hurricane models focus on a path area that is about 150,000 square miles and properly admit that there's a lot of uncertainty at the margins.

Now, for just a second, consider other models that purport to predict climate change, not days or weeks or months out, but decades out. Those models are not as well understood as hurricane models, are notoriously inaccurate when they are applied to known past data and asked to predict current climatic conditions, must consider an order of magnitude more variables that are difficult to collect in real time, and most important, attempt to predict climate across 200 million square miles (the surface of the planet).

To their credit, meteorologists have the humility to admit that there is considerable statistical uncertainly in their predictions at 5 or 7 or 10 days (that's why the cone of a hurricane predictive model becomes wider and wider as time passes). One would think that climatologists and those politicians who tell us that "the science is settled," would have the humility to admit that there is rather considerable statistical uncertainty in their predictions. After all, they're using provably weaker models to predict a more complex phenomenon that covers an area at least a thousand times as large as hurricane predictions.