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A Beryl of monkeys

10 Jul 2024 | OP ED Watch

Before the current hurricane season started on June 1, the news of the future was that it was going to be “a doozy“, brutal, record-setting, everybody-dies what with the boiling oceans and all. Which they needed for morale purposes at least because after all their huffing and puffing about the season in 2023, Hottest Year EverTM, only one Category 3 squib made continental US landfill. And by the end of May of this year there’d only been one named storm, the first such quiet preseason since 1984. Bummer, right? So now, mercifully, the Atlantic “Weekly Planet” breathes a sigh of relief that “Hurricane Beryl is a terrifying omen” and we all get to die after all. What a relief. Until Beryl limped ashore in Texas as a Category 1 storm “bringing heavy rain and potential flooding” rather than the much-hoped-for apocalypse.

The media loved the ominous ominosity. Euronews Green trilled “‘Potentially catastrophic’: Hurricane Beryl becomes the earliest category 5 Atlantic storm on record”. Especially after the first named storm of the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season, Alberto, sauntered in on June 12, peaked at 80 km/h and fizzled out they needed a boost. So when Beryl showed up the herd of independent minds found it, well, ominous.

OK, the New York Times went with a mere “harbinger of what is to come this hurricane season”. But Scientific American said “Hurricane Beryl’s Unprecedented Intensification Is an ‘Omen’ for the Rest of the Season” and told us that the predicted 17 to 25 named storms by the National Hurricane Centre:

“is the highest number of named storms the NHC has ever predicted; an average Atlantic season has 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.”

Mind you we’re working with a limited data set, since:

“Before Beryl, there has never been a hurricane known to form this far east in June, [a University of Miami “hurricane researcher”, Dr. Brian] McNoldy says. The only other storm that came close was during the record-breaking 1933 season, before storms were given names.”

So this whole business of how many named storms there were is very recent, meaning we lack a real basis for historical comparison. In fact the whole “Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale” with its Categories 1-5 and so forth was invented in 1971 though of course in those situations where accurate wind-speed monitoring facilities survived an earlier storm, at least long enough for the figure to be recorded, do let us go back and classify earlier storms. Though not much of that sort of thing was going on in impoverished, sparsely inhabited Caribbean islands in the 19th century.

Speaking of going back and classifying, why was 1933 record-breaking, pray tell? Does attribution science finger the Model T? Or was it just weather back then? Whatever it was, it was pretty bad:

“The 1933 Atlantic hurricane season is the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record in terms of accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE), with a total of 259. It also set a record for nameable tropical storms in a single season, 20, which stood until 2005, when there were 28 storms. The season ran for six months of 1933, with tropical cyclone development occurring as early as May and as late as November. A system was active for all but 13 days from June 28 to October 7.”

And without satellites and radar not every storm was detected back then, so 20 may be an undercount. Plus of the ones that were detected, 11 became hurricanes, six became major, two were Category 5 and eight killed more than 20 people each.

Never mind. We have a panic to sow here. So under the same ominous omen sign “Weekly Planet” chortled that “This season’s first major storm broke records.” And just you wait. “How bad will the rest be?” Terrible. Doom looms. Along with illiteracy:

“Hurricane Beryl is an unprecedented storm. It’s been at least 173 years since certain parts of the Caribbean have experienced a storm this brutal.”

So if it happened before, even 174 years ago, it’s not unprecedented. Just rare.

Ah but nay:

“We’re only a month into the Atlantic hurricane season, and already, the boundaries that normally govern it are breaking. The cause is abnormally hot ocean waters – warmed by El Niño last year, but also by centuries of burning fossil fuels.”

Centuries? How many? Did 18th-century coal fires contribute measurably to this mess? Anyway, here’s the record rundown from, speaking of the herd of independent minds, the same academic expert:

“Beryl transformed from a tropical depression to a Category 4 hurricane in two days, faster than any hurricane has ever done before the month of September, Brian McNoldy, a senior research scientist at the University of Miami, told me. It is the easternmost hurricane to emerge in the tropical Atlantic Ocean in the month of June. It’s the first storm to strengthen to Category 4 in the Atlantic in June, and now the earliest on record to hit Category 5. Hurricane Beryl ‘is not normal, in any way, shape, or form,’ Ryan Truchelut, a meteorologist in Tallahassee, Florida, who runs the consulting firm WeatherTiger, told me.”

And in case you aren’t yet quaking:

“In May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted an extraordinary season of eight to 13 hurricanes, compared with the usual seven. Between four and seven of those could count as major, between Category 3 and 5. A typical season sees only three.”

Which means that we might, since we don’t know yet, get one more hurricane than the usual number, and one more major hurricane. World ends, hype at 11.

Of course we might get more. Or fewer. As for trends:

“The previous record for easternmost tropical Atlantic hurricane was set in 1933, which saw six major hurricanes. The season in which a Category 5 storm took shape earliest was 2005, the year of Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. ‘Those two years are not years you want to be breaking records of,’ McNoldy said. ‘Those are the two most scary, active hurricane seasons that have ever been observed.’”

Um but one of them was two decades ago, and the other 91 years. How does attribution science explain that pattern?

4 comments on “A Beryl of monkeys”

  1. The sorrow and despair were palpable after Beryl turned out to be a fart instead of a wind storm! You could see the joy draining from their beings as the gale force numbers plummeted instead of increasing in the Carribean Sea! Xanax and martinis were required by all!

  2. MSM just bending over backwards to try and sow fear and panic,where none should exist.Sickening.One reason of many why I stopped paying much attention to them long ago.

  3. 2005 was the last really active season with hurricane Emily developing just a few days later in July than Beryl and surviving as a major hurricane just a few hours less than Beryl. Their tracks were almost identical but in all of the sensationalism that I read and saw, 2005 and Emily were never mentioned.

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