On Saturday, climate change again became a source of blame for Hurricane Harvey and its path of destruction along the Texas coastline as it moved inland where it has since dropped biblical-like amounts of flooding in the Houston area. Two hosts on CBS and MSNBC invoked climate change, without taking into account things like steering currents.
Mid-Saturday afternoon, MSNBC Live host Thomas Roberts brought on Aerisweather founder Paul Douglas to promote this claim seconds before a press conference by Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R).
“So, the demotion from a category four to a tropical storm really hasn’t stopped the threat of what is going on historic rainfall, more than 40 inches predicted and leaving nearly 300,000 people without power currently. Could climate change be fueling the history-making nature of this storm? It’s a question a lot of people are wondering,” Thomas claimed.
Douglas began stating his approval but was cut off by the press conference. Nevertheless, Douglas returned later in the hour and after a discussion of the rainfall totals and where Harvey could rank among the worst hurricanes ever, climate change returned.
Roberts set Douglas up again:
Paul, as we don’t want people to be fooled again by the downgrade and the severity of what it means for the rain and the historic flooding over the next couple of days, but bigger picture, explain why this could be more to do with climate change.
Douglas finally laid out what Roberts wanted, explaining that “a warmer climate is now flavoring all weather, Thomas.”
He conceded that Harvey “would have formed regardless,” but still found a way to shoulder the blame on climate change:
[B]ut the fact that it passed over water that is two to three degrees warmer than average, that helped to fuel the storm, and also water levels, sea level is a foot higher in Galveston than it was a century ago so that’s making the storm surge on the Texas on the coast even worse. So, a convergence of factors, climate change flavored the storm. It probably will make the rainfall amounts much worse than they would be otherwise.
Over on CBS This Morning: Saturday, climate change arose after NYU professor Michio Kaku informed co-host Anthony Mason and fill-in co-host Dana Jacobson that “the Gulf of Mexico is two degrees warmer” this year to the point that government forecasts revised their estimates for hurricane season.
This prompted Jacobson to interject: “And that’s the theory that climate change is impacting all of this.”
Somewhat similar to what Douglas would do hours later, Kaku made a caveat before offering a tacit endorsement:
Well, we’re not sure, okay. However, there’s no smoking gun but it is consistent with the fact that the Gulf is warming up, and that is the energy that is driving these monster hurricanes and, according to the government, this hurricane season, watch out.
Now, here’s a more realistic explanation for the unbelievable amounts of rain. As numerous meteorologists have explained, Harvey has stalled out versus most tropical systems that move quickly through an area has to do with a term called the steering currents.
Weather systems are affected by steering currents in moving across land in much the same way airplanes are aided in flying by the jet stream. The same could also be attributed to fishing boats as fish are more bountiful near the jet stream (ex. along North Carolina’s Outer Banks).
If there’s no current in the atmosphere to move Harvey along, it can stall out and that’s exactly what happened. Here’s an excerpt from a Washington Post article posted Sunday night:
Experts say the lack of “steering currents” to move the storm along is unusual and probably responsible for the scale of the flooding. As of Sunday evening, the center of the storm was virtually parked at a spot about 25 miles northwest of the coastal town of Victoria — crawling southeast at 2 miles per hour toward the Gulf.
With a more common tropical storm, the damage in any one place would be mitigated by the fact that the storms move quickly, spreading the rain over a larger area.
Heck, Brian Williams even was able to pick up on this. Here he was on Friday night providing an excellent definition:
There are no steering currents aloft. Normally, it would hook on to a tributary of the jet stream and you’ve seen hurricanes come up out of the Gulf and scoot on out in a high arc that leads them out over Bermuda and the cold waters of the North Atlantic. They lose their energy and they die. They end up as a cloud bank over Scotland. This one has no such plans because there are no such steering current to take it anywhere but coastal Texas.
If Brian Williams can grasp something like this, Thomas Roberts and company could too.
Read more at Newsbusters.org