The famous “Watts Up With That” website is being “deplatformed” by its current provider, which I suspect is part of the civil-cold-war currently occurring in the United States. I thought I’d better grab an article I wrote back in 2012 from that site, (before I even had this blog), in case that site, or the archives of the site, were “disappeared”.

I have three three reasons for retrieving this musty, old document from the spiderwebs of the past.

The first is that it is an example of Freedom Of Speech, which is the antithesis of “Cancel Culture”. Although we were to some degree concerned about falsified data eight years ago, I doubt we foresaw “Fake News” reaching its current epidemic proportions. Looking back, it was a kinder and gentler time, when an old nobody like me could get his writing published for the first time in his life by a kindly person like Anthony Watts.

Second, the article I wrote below in 2012 contains warnings I wrote in 2006, which Eliot Abrams published in his blog on the Accuweather Site, for I’d been wary of a bad hurricane pummeling the east coast for most of my life. I had studied history, and my Alarmism had nothing to do with CO2.

Lastly, I have a superstitious side, in that I feel if you mess with Truth you are messing with our Creator, and this seems unwise. Truth created us, sustains us, and can destroy us. People scoff at the idea of bad weather being brought about by bad behavior, but I worry.

People theorizing at their computers have little idea how swiftly life can become brutal. The computers can go dark, and then where will we be? If we can’t even handle the sniffles of a virus, how will we handle a force five hurricane coming up the east coast? Or how would Silicon Valley handle their “Big One”, which would be a force 8.5 earthquake; then it wouldn’t just be poor folk in California who were homeless and living on the streets. It would be the big shots as well. How long would Silicon Valley remain sensible with every computer dark?

Practical people don’t think much about ghosts until their car gets a flat tire by a graveyard at midnight. In like manner, tycoons are not concerned about churches being burned and holy statues defaced until that which they thought was firm and solid is shaken. Then they start praying like blue blazes. It is said, “There are no Atheists on the battlefield.”

In any case, here is the reprint of an article I wrote nearly a decade ago:

Hurricane Warning; McKibben Alert

(First published on the “Watts Up With That” website on August 21, 2012)

(Prelude🙂 With Joe Bastardi stating an opening for an east coast hurricane is possible the next three weeks, it might be timely to submit this semi-humorous look at the dangers of an east coast hurricane versus the dangers of heeding Bill McKibben’s Alarmism, from the view of a writer criticizing a writer, rather than a scientist criticizing a scientist.

Guest post by Caleb Shaw

I would like to venture two predictions which I believe have a, (as they say,) “high degree of probability” of proving true.

The first is that a terrible hurricane, as bad as the ferocious 1938 “Long Island Express,” will roar north and bisect New England. True, it might not happen for over a hundred years, but it also might happen this September. The fact is, 1938 showed us what could happen. 1938 set the precedent.

My second prediction is that if such a storm happens this September, it will not matter if it a Xerox copy of the 1938 storm; Bill McKibben will call it “Unprecedented.”

It really makes me wonder: Why on earth would such a seemingly smart person want to make such a total fool of himself? How can McKibben call so many events “unprecedented’ when all you need to do is open a history book, and you can see so many other prior storms set precedents?

It leaves the poor fellow, despite his Harvard education and obvious altruistic impulses, wide open for attack from people far less educated. I could have made mincemeat of his arguments when I was only twelve, (and had very few altruistic bones in my body.)

At age twelve my interest in hurricanes was largely motivated by two things: First, hurricanes made things go crash, smash and boom, and I was the sort of kid who could endure “The Bridge Over The River Kwai,” (including the intermission,) just for the train wreck at the end. (I was not alone. It might not be politically correct, but the entire theater burst into wild cheering and applause, when that train finally, finally wrecked.)

The second reason was that a hurricane might cancel school. I hated school. McKibben apparently loved what I loathed, for he went to Harvard, and there became ignorant where I became wise, for he doesn’t even know what I knew at age twelve: The precedent has already been set. Wicked awesome hurricanes have hit New England in the past.

I hoped they’d happen again, but they never did. When I wondered why not, and studied the subject, (which McKibben seemingly has failed to do,) I ran across books by a meteorologist-historian named David Ludlum, who spoke of the time after 1960 as the “quiescent present.” This suggested there were lulls in the activity of hurricanes in New England, and also active times. In other words, long before I had heard of such things as the AMO or PDO or sunspot minimums, I grasped the concept of “cycles.”

I was disappointed to learn that New England might be spared force-three hurricanes for periods of time so long that people actually forgot major hurricanes ever did more than clip Cape Cod. During such long lulls an amnesia set in: Authorities stated, “New England is never hit by hurricanes,” shortly before the 1938 monster hit. But that was only because they didn’t study the past as David Ludlum did, didn’t know of Saxby’s Gale in 1815, or the Great Colonial Hurricanes of the 1600’s. Those long-ago hurricanes set the precedent, and in many ways 1938 was just a copy.

Because hurricanes refused to happen after 1960, and refused to let me observe disaster first hand, at first I could only quench my boyish thirst for mayhem by reading boring books. I studied how the most powerful hurricanes had wrecked things in the past, and discovered a second thing that McKibben seems oblivious of. It is the simple fact that one of the ways the ecology of an area can be seriously damaged has nothing to do with man: Mother Nature does it.

McKibben seems to feel Nature exists in a steady state, and man is a thug who walks about wrecking things: Nature is balanced, and man is unbalanced. In actual fact the so-called “balance of nature” takes some very wild swings, often at mankind’s jaw, and also at ecology’s. Either Mother Nature is not the prissy twinkle-toes McKibben envisions, or else she has a Brother Nature who loves to splash and crash and smash, just as joyfully as a schoolboy.

McKibben can lecture all he wants about the proper maintenance and care of a forest, but a hurricane can come along and flatten the whole thing in an hour. Thick pines get snapped like match sticks, as anyone who saw what Hugo did north of Charleston can attest to. The same sort of blow-downs have happened, and can happen, in New England. When they happen the so-called “delicate ecology” of a forest gets hammered. The populations of some bugs, birds and beasts crash, as others soar. However this is not “unprecedented.” This is reality.

Perhaps McKibben can be forgiven for failing to understand reality. He grew up in one of those unreal, sheltered places called a “suburb,” where you are protected from nasty inner-city stuff. I grew up in a similar suburb, around eight miles away, and can attest to the fact Boston’s suburbs can bore a boy to tears. Fortunately I grew up eight years before McKibben, and could escape suburbs due to a wonderful form of public transportation that existed back then, called “hitchhiking.” You could go anywhere for free, and it was surprisingly safe (back then,) and all that was asked of you was that you tell tales, and listen to tales.

This enabled me to skip the bother of books. If the ride was long enough, (and I wandered from Montreal to Florida,) I could usually work the subject around to hurricanes, and get first hand accounts, not merely of hurricanes, but of Pacific typhoons. It makes me feel sorry for McKibben, for he got stuck in the rarefied armchairs of Harvard and the New Yorker Magazine, and seemingly missed meeting the real salt-of-the-earth people who have been on boats in the bowels of a hurricane, or have fought the floods, or have battled to survive the jackstraw aftermaths. It is from such first-hand-accounts you learn the most, and see the precedent that has been set, and know something of what to expect.

It turns out that if you really want to learn about how a hurricane can destroy an ecology, you should ask a clam-digger on Cape Cod. Back in 1968 you could learn, from such fellows, of the 1938 Long Island Express, the 1944 Great Atlantic Hurricane, 1954’s trio of Carol, Edna and Hazel, the amazing drenching rains of 1955’s Connie and Diane, of Donna in 1960, and of the pounding surf caused by the bizarre loop of Esther in 1961.

I was, of course, green with envy hearing about all the crashing and smashing and splashing I missed (or was too young to remember,) but right then a grizzled old timer would use a word you don’t hear any more, “’Pshaw.” He’d say Esther’s pounding surf “t’weren’t nothing, compared to 1893.”

Look up the hurricane season of 1893, when there were four full-fledged hurricanes prowling the Atlantic at the same time, with a fifth that barely missed making the quartet a quintet. It matched the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season, when 4 Atlantic hurricanes were active on the same day. Then imagine the total fit McKibben would have, if the exact same season happened today. He would insist it was “unprecedented,” and even if it was a carbon copy he would say it was all due to carbon dioxide.

However McKibben would likely then go even further.

It turns out shorelines are mobile things, and that the vast estuaries of salt marsh behind dunes are very vulnerable to the dramatic changes hurricanes bring about. Not only can dunes be shoved inland and smother marshes, but inlets get filled in as new inlets are abruptly gouged, and the brackish water behind the dunes can be made poisonously salty by inrushes of ocean, or poisonously fresh by feet of rainfall, and the ecology of the marsh gets hammered, with crashes in the populations of clams, bay scallops, oysters, and blue claw crabs. But would McKibben blame nature, if such a population-crash happened today? Not likely. He would likely jump to the conclusion man was the culprit.

Actually it turns out that, (once man outgrows his boyish delight in mayhem,) man is not all that fond of disaster, nor of the ruin of ecosystems that his livelihood depends upon. Man actually tries to built dikes and stop the sea. And here is where a real bad entity, according to McKibben, appears: The US Army Corp of Engineers.

(I don’t know where McKibben gets off bad-mouthing engineers, especially when he himself is trying to engineer the entire planet’s climate.)

The simple fact of the matter is engineers are given a thankless and fairly hopeless task: They are asked to control the awesome powers of nature. They, more than anyone else, know how rivers want to meander and shorelines want to shift. Their geologists often write the best papers about the forces of Nature, the power of Nature, the wrath of Nature, and the whimsical ways Nature wants to go the opposite way of ways that makes life easier for man. Unlike McKibben, engineers have first hand experience with how fine-sounding plans and altruistic desires go awry. Rather than “The Law of Unintended Consequences,” they tend to simply call it “Murphy’s Law.” The amazing thing is not that, despite their best efforts, shorelines do shift and rivers do meander, but rather that so many disasters are averted.

One disaster they have managed to prevent (so far) involves the fact that the Mississippi River dumps 406 million tons of dirt at its mouth every year. (I’m not sure how many Manhattans that is.) As the water slows nearing the sea, the dirt settles out, not only building up the delta, but also building up the river’s bed and the floodplains, until the mouth of the river gets to be higher than the river upstream, whereupon the river decides not to flow uphill, but rather to take a new route to the sea. In the case of the Mississippi the new route would be the Atchafalaya River. The Mississippi likely wanted to take that new route seventy years ago, which would have been an economic and ecological disaster for New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and the Delta. You don’t just stop delivering 406 million tons of dirt a year, and expect a delta to not wash away, (even as a new delta grows to the west.)

In essence Mother Nature wants everyone to pack up and move. Not merely humans, but entire ecosystems. In the process it will not matter to her if historic districts vanish, along with the habitat of various endangered critters. A few creatures might even be unable to make the shift west, and go extinct, (in which case Mother Nature might get a tongue lashing from McKibben.)

In the face of this perhaps inevitable shift in the course of the Mississippi stand a group of puny engineers, who seem to catch hell no matter what they do. People upstream get mad if they allow erosion to occur, while people in the delta want more than the allotted 406 million tons of eroded dirt delivered each year, and get mad if shorelines wash away. The entire city of New Orleans is settling down into the dirt. Even as attempts to keep it a viable port involve dredging away dirt, dirt needs to be added. Engineers face delightful examples of Murphy’s Law such as the MRGO channel, which was 650 feet wide when dug, but rapidly eroded to 1500 feet wide. Then the very same people who demanded engineers build that channel accused the poor engineers of contributing to Katrina’s flooding.

Before Katrina, politicians demanded more money for levees, but the money strangely vanished in “administering” the levees, and the engineers didn’t get enough to build with. Even more money needed to be spent on lawsuits with environmentalists who didn’t like levees. Prior to Katrina the engineers were pointing out the precedent set by the 1947 hurricane, (and three earlier storms,) and the dangers New Orleans faced if levees weren’t strengthened, but guess who got the blame, when the levees failed during Katrina?

Then along comes McKibben, after the fact, and he states the Katrina was “unprecedented.” She wasn’t. She was only force-three, and a force-four storm had hit New Orleans in earlier times. If anything was unprecedented, it was the bureaucratic bungling of people who were entrusted with preparing for the storm, and also McKibben’s post-storm audacity.

Perhaps McKibben can be excused for using the word “unprecedented” so frequently, because no two snowflakes are alike, and this mean every snowflake is unprecedented, and unlike any snowflake that ever came before. However it is how he uses the word that irks me. He uses it like a bludgeon, to threaten people with, always ignoring factors that might allow people to relax. For example, while discussing Katrina he never mentions that other storms may have been as powerful, when they were as far out to sea as Katrina was when she reached level-five, but back when earlier storms blew up there were no satellites or storm-hunter aircraft to measure such storms with. He often follows his spiel about Katrina with a mention that Wilma, that same season, set “an Atlantic Ocean record for barometric lows,” failing to mention that a sailing ship of the old days could not possibly measure such a storm, because they were destroyed.

None of us wants to be destroyed by a storm, but none of us wants to be panicked into a purchase either, which is what McKibben’s railings often strike me as doing. Over and over he works himself up into a tizzy, promoting a sales-pitch he insists we must accept because “the offer expires soon,” but I’ve endured too many commercials in my time to fall for that, especially when his evidence includes stuff I knew was false when I was twelve.

Part of the sales-pitch seems extremely ungrateful to me. In order to heap up the grotesquely one-sided and inaccurate evidence he employs, he need to get the evidence from somewhere, and often he gets the evidence from papers writen by, or including references to, the very same engineer-geologists he later scorns and derides as being know-nothings.

No engineer wants the humiliation of building something that falls down, and therefore they are constantly seeking how Murphy’s Law might ruin what they build. This involves imagining their constructs being exposed to a worse-case-scenario, and in New England this involves hurricanes. In fact, if you want to become alarmed by what could possibly go wrong, engineers are often the people you should consult. It is due to engineers that much of our knowledge of coastal erosion and other geologies-in-flux exist. It was engineers who first had the need for the core samples from marshes, which show us layers of sand in the peat, which hint of monster hurricanes that occurred before history was written.

New England has a written history longer than other parts of the United States, including a record of floods along the Connecticut River clear back to the 1600’s. Such floods had never exceeded 30 feet, until the 1938 hurricane, whose flood was truly “unprecedented,” for its flood crested at 35 feet above normal.

A simple-minded conclusion would be that floods were getting worse, and levees must be built higher. (Another would be that the 1938 hurricane was a rare, once-every-400-year event, and nothing needed to be done for 399 years.) However the engineers looked into the problem, and came up with an amazing reason for the unprecedented floods. The reason the 1938 floods were worse had to do with the changing fashions of men’s hats.

In the early 1800’s men decided powdered wigs were no longer hip, and stove-pipe hats (such as the one Abraham Lincoln is often pictured wearing) were wicked groovy. These hats were made of the fur of beavers, which were then hunted nearly to extinction in the tributaries and headwaters of the Connecticut River. Thousands of beaver dams, which had formerly held back flood waters, no longer existed, and floods became worse.

Now, where do you suppose McKibben would go with that? Would he suggest engineers build flood-control reservoirs to replace the missing beaver dams? Or would he gnash his teeth about how mankind screws everything up, and how people should be moved out, and their towns be demolished as beavers were reintroduced?

Actually engineers suggested some older dams in New England should be torn down. Water power was no longer as economical as it had been, many old mills had gone bankrupt, and their mill ponds stood behind dams that were not maintained and were crumbling. Some dams had barely held through the 1938 storm. Unfortunately funds were not available, due to a major wars keeping engineers occupied overseas until the Korean War wound down in 1954. By then it was too little too late, as Connie and Dianne hit in 1955.

In parts of Southern New England Connie and Dianne’s rainfall approached two feet, (which was “unprecedented,”) and some old dams collapsed. Forty percent of Worchester was under water, and in places where the Blackstone River usually is seventy feet wide it grew to a width of a mile and a half. Despite the fact the rain was not as heavy to the north, the Connecticut River crested above thirty feet for the second time in its history. Even the meek Charles River reached “unprecedented” levels, and one of my earliest memories is of my mother looking out the window at that river in the back yard as the rain poured and poured and poured, and of her murmuring to herself, “What a rain!”

That got the engineers cracking, and, over the next decade and a half, New England’s system of flood-control reservoirs appeared. I know a little about it, as my grandfather was an engineer, though he was more focused on Boston’s storm drains. I know for a fact he was concerned about the environment, and was downright apologetic about a design flaw in Boston’s system. When the storm drains originally were put in, it was quite normal for sewerage to flow into rivers, and when storm drains were overwhelmed by excessive rainfall the overflow went through the sewer systems, which was a good way of flushing the sewers out, until people started thinking sewerage should be kept separate and be treated. Murphy’s Law had reared its head, and a design which once had been elegant and efficient now had to be reengineered, at great expense to the tax-payer. Mistakes like that made my grandfather cringe.

The new system of flood control reservoirs didn’t make him cringe, because before the man died it had been tested by heavy rains, (which in localized areas were “unprecedented.”) They work. It is highly unlikely the Connecticut will ever crest over thirty feet again. This is not only due to the engineer’s dams, but also due to the fact that beavers, (without asking McKibben’s permission,) have reintroduced themselves in New England, even to a degree where they cause flooding and are a nuisance in the very suburb McKibben grew up in. Also white tailed deer have returned to become a nuisance, eating people’s flowering crabs, and, because hunting them is difficult in such close proximity to picture windows, coyote have returned to eat deer, and also to eat cats and small dogs, and occasionally to snarl at joggers. All in all, suburbs sound a lot more exciting than they were when I grew up, and when McKibben learned to detest them.

Besides controlling floods, engineers have worked with the more reasonable environmentalists to improve New England’s rivers. The tidal basin of the Charles River used to hold dyes from factories up stream, and I can recall, during a long drought that afflicted New England in the 1960’s, that the water in the Charles River’s tidal basin was actually purple. It also reeked. It took guts to be a member of the Harvard crew, and row in that sludge. Now it is clean and the fish are returning. In other rivers salmon are returning, and engineers are working to remove older dams, and to design fish-ladders around dams that remain.

It seems clear to me that we are better off when we work with engineers to foresee what the future’s threats might be, and to allow engineers to take steps that remove the threats, and enhance that which we enjoy.

If a hurricane as powerful as the 1938 monster returns this September, the wisdom of some of our developments will be tested. We have, after all, built cottages on dunes that tend to shift, despite breakwaters, and we have built neighborhoods on floodplains that are called floodplains because they flood, even with flood-control reservoirs upstream. Now that I am too old to enjoy the mayhem I yearned to see as a youth, I’d see it, and also see all sorts of examples of Murphy’s Law.

It is important to consider Murphy’s Law, when preparing for a storm. You prepare for the worst even while (if you are old) you hope no mayhem occurs. There are some things I think New Englanders should consider, but, before I go one word further I should do something McKibben fails to do, and state I am not an engineer. I don’t truly know what I’m talking about.

One thing you’re told over and over, as a writer, is that “you should write about what you know.” It is close to being a Commandment.

Thinking about this, look at the start of McKibben’s essay, “A Deeper Shade Of Green,” which appeared in the August, 2006 National Geographic (which had the tabloid headlines: “No End In Sight.” “KILLER HURRICANES,” and “New Orleans: Home No More.”) McKibben begins with:

“This is the year we finally started to understand what we are in for. Exactly 12 months ago, an MIT professor named Kerry Emanuel published a paper in Nature showing hurricanes had slowly but steadily been gaining in strength and duration for a generation. It didn’t gain widespread attention for a few weeks — not until Katrina roared across the Gulf of Mexico and…”

It may be a splendid introduction and demonstrate McKibben’s skill at writing, but it annoyed the heck out of me at the time, because I’d been expecting, (due to my belief in “cycles,”) the 2005 season to be like the 1933 season, which set the old record of 20 hurricanes in a year. McKibben’s intro gave the impression of being precise, “Exactly 12 months ago,” even while blurring things, “for a generation,” and he failed to mention the precedent of 1933 at all.

However I now notice something else. In his intro McKibben is breaking the commandment, “Write about what you know about.” He obviously hasn’t studied the history of hurricanes, and is only repeating what others have told him. He uses the “appeal to authority,” unaware that if you only repeat what Kerry Emanuel tells you, you are little more than a parrot, and, if Kerry is merely using you, you are in danger of being a puppet. To put it most bluntly, when a writer, even a gifted writer, relies on others rather than himself, he is in grave danger of being nothing but a dupe.

I was already aware of McKibben’s alarmism before that article appeared. After all, the suggestion that Katrina proved that CO2 caused hurricanes was being spoken by Kerry Emanuel before Katrina even hit. It seemed a lie to me for anyone to state that hurricanes had become different, when there were so many examples of precedents in history books. It also seemed, due to my belief in “cycles,” that, if the 1938 hurricane hit five years after the 1933 season, we should prepare for 1938-like monster to bisect New England exactly 5 years after 2005, in 2010. (FAIL.) However what aggravated me most was McKibben’s absurd assertion that the way to prepare for a hurricane was to buy curly light bulbs, wobble about on bicycles, and live crunched cheek-to-jowl like students in a Harvard dorm (even as he himself enjoyed his gentleman-farmer, Vermont country-life.)

Therefore, back in 2006, I decided to out-McKibben Mckibben, and to incite a riot, (or at least alarm,) by yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, but by doing so in a way that didn’t mention CO2 at all. Part of my essay was as follows, (and engineers will have to excuse me for writing about what I don’t know about.)

“…Next time you drive down our shady streets, look up at the electrical wires, and imagine 10% of our beautiful trees blown onto those wires. (On some hills, imagine 100%.) Also understand there are far more trees in New England now than in 1938, (and far fewer roadside elms, which withstood wind better.) We tend to gripe when the electricity is off for six hours. Can you handle six days? How about sixteen? Or even six weeks?

Our builders have displayed amnesia for fifty years, and have built on riversides that were under twenty feet of water, and on dunes that were below raging storm tides, and atop hills that were scoured by winds over a hundred miles an hour. Add some shade trees crashing onto roofs, and we are likely to have some homeless neighbors, if we are not homeless ourselves.

We have also become far more dependant on computers and cell phones. Look carefully at the flat receivers up in cell-phone towers, and imagine them stressed as winds rise past a hundred. (In 1954 the WBZ radio tower was blown over by Carol, resulting in new building codes for such towers.) Will we be able to telephone anyone, after a storm?

Cell phone companies go through great efforts to keep their receivers firmly anchored atop sturdy towers. Receivers must be able to withstand stresses such as thick, heavy, winter ice, for the receivers must be very carefully aimed to transmit correctly. The companies are aware of the power of wind, and competition forces them to try to be better than each other at repairing receivers bent ever-so-slightly out-of-line by hurricane-force winds. After storms their crews race each other to be back-on-line first, transporting mobile generators, and even mobile receivers, however repairs can be slowed if fallen trees and flooding make roads impassable. After a major hurricane one should therefore expect to have no phones for a while, besides having no electricity.

This sort of alarmist talk worries some, if only because they figure insurance companies may raise rates, if they hear about risks. However insurance companies should perhaps worry less about our barking dogs, and instead focus more on the integrity of their own high-rises. Both the Prudential Building and John Hancock Tower in Boston were built after the last major hurricane and before building codes became as strict as they now are. Both structures had design flaws that were exposed after construction, and old-timers can remember the windows popping out of the John Hancock Tower at such an alarming rate that the sky-scraper was more or less sheathed in plywood. Lastly, due to the experience of “The Big Dig,” Bostonians are not entirely confident builders obey codes, even when codes exist and engineers respect them. Alarmists can therefore gloat about the situation insurance companies now find themselves in; after all, one of their skyscrapers falling down does a lot more damage than a barking dog.

Anyone who has been up in high-rises during a gale knows they do sway in a most alarming manner. One then hopes the engineers knew what they were doing, and also wonders what fatigue occurs to the metal and concrete which form a high-rise’s trunk and roots, especially as decades of winter gales blast it, and the swaying building ages. (The 1978 blizzard’s peak winds gusted to 125 mph on Cape Cod.) Lastly, one knows the codes have become more strict, and one then wonders if this means the older buildings are suspect; after all, codes are made more stringent for definite reasons.

In actual fact no engineer wants his name attached to a building which comes crashing down, and the engineering that goes into such massive structures is amazing and, to some degree, reassuring. A building like the John Hancock Tower sticks up like a huge, flat sail, and therefore must have a huge keel, and it turns out high-rises are embedded into astounding amounts of reinforced concrete. Such buildings are designed to withstand winds 25% higher than the worst ever recorded, in the area they are built.

However, if you are a true alarmist, you hesitate at those words: “The worst ever recorded.” The worst winds recorded in Boston are recorded at Logan Airport, down at sea level. The tops of high-rises thrust up into winds which are far higher. Considering the force exerted by wind increases roughly 100% with every ten mph, construction costs also increase greatly if one builds a structure to withstand a wind only ten mph higher. Besides the pressure of wind, engineers also face the pressure of budgets, and therefore must decide “what they can get away with.” Their decisions have been excellent so far, for wind has never toppled a high-rise, however a true alarmist notes no high-rise has yet been truly tested, especially in the north, where codes are not as demanding. No high-rise has yet faced a direct hit from a F-5 tornado, and Boston’s have never been tested by a major hurricane.

Recalling the words, “the worst ever recorded,” one hurries back to the data, and discovers there is no data involving a worst-case-scenario. A worst-case-scenario would take a major hurricane through Boston’s western suburbs; when Donna took that route in 1960 it had been downgraded to tropical-storm status. The next closest pass was the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944, however it passed to the east, with its most devastating east-side winds away from Boston, over Cape Cod. The worst hurricanes of the last 30-year-stormy-cycle, the 1938 storm and Carol in 1954, both passed west of Worchester; however the 1938 storm, even with its center over the Connecticut River, was still able to sustain winds of 73 miles per hour, with gusts to 87, at Boston’s Logan Airport. One wonders what it’s winds were like at the altitude of Boston’s high-rises, and a true alarmist glances south to the summit of the Blue Hills, just south of Boston. At an altitude of 681 feet, on September 21, 1938, the Blue Hills anemometer registered steady winds of 121 mph, with gusts to 186.

If one transposes the tracks of Carol or the 1938 hurricane east, so they pass through the western suburbs of Boston, the city’s high-rises would be exposed to tremendous stresses. When I asked an engineer whether such buildings were designed to withstand winds of 186 miles per hour, his reply was, flatly, “No.” He did add that it was likely a high-rise’s windows would give out before the steel beams, and stress would be greatly reduced once the wind could pass through the structure, rather than around it. I found this reassuring. It is much better to have glass, copiers, office desks, computers and filing cabinets raining down onto the streets of Boston, than to have it be entire buildings….”

Well? Does my writing out-McKibben McKibben? Are you alarmed? Should I be selling insurance?

At the very least my essay should provoke a response. Hopefully it will provoke preparations other than buying curly light bulbs, if a hurricane starts up the coast and, unlike Irene, doesn’t dawdle over cold shelf waters, but rather stays out over the warm Gulf Stream, accelerates northward to over 50 mph, and only hooks inland at the last minute, like the 1938 monster.

However my writing likely also deserves the response of a good slap-down from engineers, and I deserve to be told to practice what I preach, and to “stick with writing what I know about.”

If McKibben would only write what he knows about, he might avoid saying foolish things, like he did last year when he stated Irene had Global Warming at her core. The joke of it was that, due to dawdling over cold shelf waters and ingesting drier air from inland, Irene’s eye wall collapsed and she soon didn’t even have a core. Was McKibben subconsciously stating Global Warming’s core was a nothing, like Irene’s was?

If McKibben wrote what he knows about one thing he would write about is what growing up in the suburbs of Boston was like. I actually strongly agree with a lot of his views on that subject. Suburbs were suppose to be a green paradise, but always struck me as a hollow vacuum. However just because I don’t like them, and moved on, gives me no reason to outlaw others from choosing to build them and live in them, should they desire to do so. Instead I should state what I find objectionable, and describe an alternative. McKibben does this rather well, but doesn’t seem to like the fact people ignore him, and do what they please. It’s a free country, but at times he seems to disapprove of freedom.

McKibben should also write autobiographical books, one describing Harvard when he attended it, and another describing the New Yorker Magazine and the changes it went through when he worked there. Those were two weird worlds, and I’m sure people would be fascinated.

Of considerable interest would be another book about the world of environmentalists. He wouldn’t have to say whether he feels his trust was misplaced, or whether he feels his considerable talents were misused, or whether Emanuel played him for a dupe. A simple description of the world where some scientists got rich as others went hungry, and some writers got fame, fortune and flattery as others knew poverty, would suffice.

However one thing McKibben absolutely should not write about is the subject of hurricanes. It only makes him look odd, like Paul Revere galloping down the streets in the dead of night shouting, “Buy curly light bulbs! Buy curly light bulbs!”

64 thoughts on “Hurricane Warning; McKibben Alert”

  1. Luther Wu Your scenario proves once again that it’s Bush’s fault.
    / <sarc tag, ok?
  2. David Ross The only thing that is “unprecedented” is the alarmists’ wilful ignorance/air-brushing of past weather events. My personal favourite to counter such lunacy is the great Paris flood of 1910. You can view some good pics here.
    By the way. Who is “News Staff”? Oddly anonymous for an article written in the first person.

    It is a generic author account. Sometime used for guest posts or other news articles. As shown clearly in bold, this article is by Caleb Shaw but he doesn’t have a WUWT author account. We’ll fix that and get him one. – Anthony
  3. AJB Shock Troops of Disaster, eh? What of the “Great Flood of 1936 mentioned in the news reel? Nice article Caleb. Out-McKibbens McKibben to be sure. For now anyway 🙂
  4. Bob Tisdale Caleb Shaw: It was a pleasure to read. Thanks.
  5. son of mulder If it doesn’t happen then it will be a travesty that we can’t account for the missing hurricane.
  6. Pull My Finger The guy in the newsreel has a really bizzare accent. Like Irish-Canadian.
  7. Owen Weldon “That’s Unprecedented!”
    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
  8. AnonyMoose Xerox copy? Carbon copy? What be this bizarre terminology? This is unprecedented!
  9. Richard Keen I know several meteorologists out here in Colorado whose careers began when the likes of Carol and Hazel excited their lives back in ’54; like me, they are now retiring. I was summering in Wildwood, NJ, that summer, and as Carol skipped by some 50 miles offshore I frolicked in the flooded streets with the other kids. It was just like the scene in that great book, “Isaac’s Storm”, with the kids playing in the swamped streets of Galveston a few hours before the eyewall came in. Unlike 1900’s Galveston storm, Carol missed a direct hit on Wildwood, and I and the other kids continued to play the next day. Back in 1815 a similar storm did make a direct hit on the same location, but there was no Wildwood then.
    A few weeks later Hazel enthralled me by trashing half the trees in my neighborhood in Philadelphia, halfway between destroying coastal towns in the Carolinas and passing through Toronto to become Canada’s greatest ever natural disaster.
    A few years later I read Isaac Cline’s “Tropical Cyclones” in the school library; Cline himself – the Isaac of the Galveston storm – died on August 3, 1955, the day Hurricane Connie formed in the Atlantic on its way to Pennsylvania.
    There have been no storms the likes of Hazel, Carol, Connie, 1938, 1815, et al. since. When inevitably there are, they will, of course, be “unprecedented”. That’s why in the eyes of the believers, aka the warmers, the history of the earth begins in 1970. No dust bowl, no 50’s hurricanes, no Galveston hurricane, no Jeffersonian warm spell in Virginia, no Medieval warm period, no Holocene optimum, no Eemian interglacial, no Carboniferous. For them, the Creation was in 1970, probably on April 22 (Earth Day).
  10. Roger Sowell Decision-makers should listen to us, the engineers. They don’t.
    The price for such folly will be paid.
    We now have high rise buildings along the US gulf coast where hurricanes will most assuredly wash them away.
    The good news is that hurricane frequency is declining as carbon dioxide increases. One can only wonder if that inverse relationship will continue.
  11. NikFromNYC Manhattan under water, for real:
    Those of us near Columbia, including NASA GISS, are way above the evacuation zone.
  12. Richard Keen Correction… The early Wildwood hurricane was 1821, not 1815. The 1815 storm was more like the 1938 Long Island hurricane.
  13. tadchem “Open a history book?”
    Now THAT’S ‘unprecedented’!
  14. Ric Werme AJB says:
    August 21, 2012 at 9:42 am
    > Shock Troops of Disaster, eh? What of the “Great Flood of 1936 mentioned in the news reel?
    I was going to jump on Caleb about that miss, I needed to go back to my copy of Ludlum’s “The Country Journal New England Weather Book”. We can also get some pretty serious summer rains not related to tropical storms. Some twenty years or so ago there was an event that threatened to fill some of the smaller flood control reservoirs.
    Suffice it to say, 1938 provided the convincing data that flood control dams would be important enough to sacrifice a few towns. They’re important enough so that Massachusetts usually remembers to pay for part of the system as they are a major beneficiary in their part of the Merrimack river valley.
    Also, I think the most remarkable aspect of the heightened hurricane activity that started in 1995 is that the New England Coast has not been clobbered by a major storm. It may be unprecedented. D’Aleo and Bastardi may agree with me about that.
  15. Dave I am an engineer and all I have to say is… well said!
  16. jayhd It’s nice to read a well researched article. Maybe if the CAGW “scientists” did a little more research about past weather events, they would have a better perspective.
  17. Ric Werme > Considering the force exerted by wind increases roughly 100% with every ten mph, construction costs also increase greatly if one builds a structure to withstand a wind only ten mph higher.
    Nope. This varies with the square of the wind speed (modulo various confounding factors). So the wind force (drag is the better term) increases 100% with every 40% increase of wind speed. From 25 mph to 75 is 9X the force, 25 to 100 is 16X the force.
    See for good notes foucused on antenna design.
  18. Louis Hooffstetter Miss Cleo, my psychic friend just told me that McKibben and others are already rehearsing their “unprecedented hurricane disaster caused by AGW” stories. They only need the name of the next storm and the damage estimate$ to fill in the blanks. She also tells me they’re praying for the ‘as yet unnamed’ tropical depression east of Guadeloupe to reach Category 5 and smite Florida (like the hand of Gaia) during the Republican National Convention.
  19. Keith AB As my son might say . . . Kewl.
    Thanks Caleb.
  20. Paul Marko What a well contructed (“killing me softly with his song”) critique. Total enjoyable read.
  21. Fred Such a refreshing blast of common sense balanced with a razor sharp evisceration of one of the leading buffoons of the “Global Warming, We All Gonna Die, Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” cabal.
    A most enjoyable read, many thanks sir.
  22. Julian Flood Re Esther:
    She went strange at the point where she hit the coastal current which runs along the eastern seaboard of NA. Interesting. Now what could have caused that?
  23. John Garrett Mr. Caleb Shaw:
    It’s always a pleasure to read something written by someone who knows how to write.
  24. Jeff L Thoroughly entertaining! Hope to see you post again on WUWT
  25. Auto Fred says:
    August 21, 2012 at 11:56 am
    Such a refreshing blast of common sense balanced with a razor sharp evisceration of one of the leading buffoons of the “Global Warming, We All Gonna Die, Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” cabal.
    A most enjoyable read, many thanks sir.
    I respectfully concur.
    No stranger to litotes – or vitriol – I wish I had written an article (for anywhere, anything; Net or print) half as good.
    Hugely appreciated.
  26. Dan in California Thanks for the excellent essay. I was in southeastern PA in the summer of 1972 when hurricane Agnes dropped by. Lots of local flooded creeks with some houses under water. The Susquehanna river went from a mile wide and a foot deep to a mile wide and 8 feet deep. In upstate NY, the Chemung river swelled and flooded major portions of Elmira and Corning. But back then, it was just weather.
    You ask: “(I don’t know where McKibben gets off bad-mouthing engineers, especially when he himself is trying to engineer the entire planet’s climate.)” A possible answer is that he is tired of being ridiculed by engineers and took this opportunity to strike back – poorly. I’m an engineer and I know many others. As a group, we are good at seeing through baloney and getting to the truth in things natural. I know not a single engineer who buys into the AGW hoax. And, unlike scientists, engineers are less afraid to voice our disdain for the warmers. (one reason I hide behind a pseudonym is because I work for a NASA contractor and could get my employer into trouble. It’s either that or don’t post here at all)
  27. Otter If mcfibben read this all the way thru
    If mcfibben understood even half of it
    That would be Ùnprescedented!
  28. Doug Proctor “… the deniers of climate change are among the most scientifically literate members of the general population…. This is not so much because they reckon they are smarter than the experts, but because they are able to pick the experts who agree with them.” See Climate Depot on the blog about us having to have a religious type attitude to “save the planet”.
    How does McKibben write what he does? The above quote (not by him, but related) sheds light on the answer. The warmists are able to recognize confirmation and belief bias in us skeptics without realising it applies as equally to them. The warmists come from a fixed position of moral right that guarantees their technical truths (or at least truthiness). They are like the priests of armies facing each other on the battlefield who tell both sets of combatants that God and Right are on their side.
    Whatever McKibben believes in the moment has been sanctified by his sense of moral righteousness. He can say “unprecedented” because what is today is different from what was. Comparisons are invalid: in the past lightning caused forest fires, yes, but today Satan (or his fossil fuel Imps) set them, so THESE fires are unprecedented. Without Satan these would not have happened, for the natural problems of yesterday were statistical flukes, while those of today are certainties based on the actions of the devil.
    I have read of similar arguments against the “deniers” of witchcraft in the 15th to 17th century: those outside the mainstream view are self-serving and selfish it’s-not-my-problem types, self-delusional, dupes of rhetoric and intellectualism, or in league with the Devil himself. For McKibben CAGW is a fact, as witchcraft was for James Ist of Scotland.
  29. MAtthew Epp I too am an engineer and I thank you for your writing which gives just a glimpse into the engineers world. We are always asked to build a Taj Kahall with a dog house budget and in the end, the owner is never satisfied.
    We had a storm 3 summers ago, a 500 yr event, for our town, that flooded streets and overwhelmed the storm sewer system. The system ws designed for the 100 yr event. Home owners complained that the city should have built better storm sewers, and how their money was wasted and squandered. Truth is we can design and build a system for a 1000 yr event, but who wants to pay for it? And when the system is never fully utilized, homeowners will complain that we wasted their money on a system that was too big. Either way the thought always ends with comments such as “stupid engineers, I could tell you that wouldn’t work” or some such simile. Although we live a thankless unappreciated life, we know our value and our worth to society as a whole.
    Thanks for the praise, we appreciate it.
    On a side note (and not at all weather related) one of my favorite movies is Apollo 13, because the heroes were engineers, working behind the scenes, doing their jobs and the boys made it home safely.
    Matthew R. Epp P.E.
  30. MAtthew Epp OOPs Fat fingers Taj Mahal
  31. gregole Caleb,
    Simply excellent. And I believe you can still vote for “Prat of the Year” and McKibben is in the running. Vote and see my comments.
  32. SS I was a resident of the Eastern Gulf States…I’d be watching closely the track of Isaac. Further west track = stronger storm.
  33. clipe Any British bookies taking bets on Isaac this far out?
    I see a chance to lose some money. ☺
  34. Jack Denial It’s unprecedented .. CO2 makes hurricanes turn clockwise …
  35. Gunga Din I’m not sure if that was a writing lesson, a history lesson, an engineering lesson or a meteorological lesson. But it was a lesson that needs to be heeded.
    (PS “Man actually tries to built dikes and stop the sea.” Should be, “Man actually tries to BUILD dikes and stop the sea.”)
  36. clipe clipe says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    August 21, 2012 at 2:35 pm
    Any British bookies taking bets on Isaac this far out?

    Apologies for not considering the plight of those who may be imminently or shortly endangered by Isaac.
  37. David A. Evans Nice essay Caleb.
    Perhaps mother nature has a 12 year old son circa every 120 years?
  38. Chuck Nolan Is this a southern hemisphere hurricane? Are the bands are going the wrong way in McKibben’s pic?
  39. clipe
  40. John F. Hultquist Very interesting. Thanks.
    At age twelve my interest in hurricanes was largely motivated by two things: First, hurricanes made things go crash, smash and boom, and I was the sort of kid who could endure “The Bridge Over The River Kwai,” (including the intermission,) . . .
    At the age of about 10 (mid 1950s) my cousin and I were sitting on a ridge of over-burden from a western PA strip mine. We were watching his dad, my uncle, run the dragline and uncovering the coal seam. In the distance, beyond the machine we saw trees falling over and seconds later we felt the wind. We headed for the house about a half-mile away. I ran down the slag heap and across the front yard, my cousin about 100 feet ahead of me as we passed under a large tree in the front yard. The tree began to fall as I passed its trunk and it followed my path as I ran out from under it. Since then I have not been fond of being near things that go “crash, smash and boom.
    For the record, the movie you mention in the above quote uses the word “on” while the book used the word “over.” One of life’s little mysteries is why do I know that? — And I have no idea.
  41. donaitkin Great fun, and well written, too!
  42. Rodger This article states “No high-rise has yet faced a direct hit from a F-5 tornado.”
    The Lubbock Tornado (1970) was an F5 tornado. It made a direct strike on the Great Plains Life Building. This 20 story building was heavily damaged. It’s structure was twisted as a result. One man, I forgot his name, figured out how to straighten the structure. He bought it for a song, removed bricks in the right place and the building straightened out. After renovation he re-opened it as Metro Tower. It is still occupied today.
    The Lubbock Tornado was one of several that Ted Fujita used to establish his F scale for tornado intensity. I went to one of his lectures while I was at Texas Tech in the mid 70’s. I was fascinated by his discovery of sub-vertices within a large tornado. I do not know if one of these struck the Great Plains Life Building.
    Another interesting outcome of the Lubbock Tornado was the establishment of a program to study the structural damage a tornado would have on buildings. They did this by building a gun to shoot 2×4’s into brick walls. This was originally located in the Civil Engineering Building on the Tech campus. It is now located in a research park where Reese Air Force Base was.
  43. Mr Lynn Wonderful essay, Caleb Shaw, just a stunning rebuke to the ahistorical alarmists who hysterically proclaim the ending of the World that apparently began only thirty years ago. Bravo!
    I assume, by the way, that by ‘Worchester’ you mean the city of Worcester, just 20 miles west of where I am right now—in the suburbs, unfortunately (but on a canoe-able river, the Sudbury).
    /Mr Lynn
  44. eyesonu Thank you for the interesting essay.
    There sure seem to be a lot of engineers commenting. 😉
  45. Caleb What a blast to come home and see the article I submitted this morning actually got published!
    Whenever I get the itch to write I tend to get in trouble, because the lawn goes uncut, and other responsibilities get neglected. Therefore I’ve been rushing about today trying to make up for the fact I’ve been hiding out in my study way too much, the past week.
    My wife, who has to put up with my fits of irresponsibility, was glad to see me come to my senses, glad the lawn got mowed, glad an urgent bit of book-keeping got attended to, and glad to see me charge off to do other chores involving the upkeep of our small business. I confess I slowed down a bit, once I was out of her view, but she herself slowed her usual efficient pace, doing something unusual for her, which was to check out WUWT.
    She was surprised by how swiftly my submission appeared in print, and delighted by the flattering comments. I am very grateful to everyone, for the kind comments are helping me get out of the dog house.
    I’ve only had time to glance through the comments, and doubt I’ll have time to properly address a lot of them, but will try to do justice to a couple of old friends.
    RE: Ric Werme says:
    August 21, 2012 at 10:54 am
    Hi, Ric. You never can resist anything involving New England history, can you? Hope people check out your website, which is wonderful.
    I’d forgotten the name of Ludlum’s, book, “The Country Journal New England Weather Book.” My large, paperback copy fell apart years ago, but if you find your copy you’ll see a lot of my facts came from that source. I’m pretty sure you’ll also see that 1936 flood was a “spring freshet,” and involved heavy snow-cover being melted by warm and heavy spring rains.
    I got Ludlum’s book because I subscribed to his magazine “Weatherwise,” back in the early 1970’s. Back then it was the only way you could get the sort of information we get so easily on the web today. Each issue had, at the back, the day-by-day weather maps of the prior month. It was like the Weather Channel was when the Weather Channel first came on the air. If you had the geeky desire to obsess about weather, it soothed your craving.
    I’m not sure what became of my Weatherwise magazines. Maybe they are still in my attic, or maybe they fell apart, like Ludlum’s book. But at least they lasted longer than my computer, which occasionally crashes and deletes all the links I so carefully save. All that I am left with is a clutter of trivia in my brain, some of which is fact and some of which is urban myth.
    Thanks for setting me straight about how the force of wind increases with the speed of the wind. In the unlikely case I’m ever rich, I’ll hire you to fact-check what I write.
    Newspapers used to fact-check every article before it saw the light of day. Sadly, that seems to be a lost art.
    RE: Bob Tisdale says:
    August 21, 2012 at 9:56 am
    Thanks, Bob. Praise from the praiseworthy is praise indeed.
    I hope people check out your site and your book. You have used the years wisely, since I first noticed your name, which I think was on the Accuweather site, back before WUWT existed.
    I don’t know what happened to that site. It has been moderated into a boring echo-chamber. I doubt Brett Anderson is to blame, because he was always too polite, too kind, and perhaps too timid, to moderate at all. Therefore that site, back then, always struck me as a sort of barroom brawl. It was the only place where Alarmists and Skeptics could really duke it out. The true moderation was the fact you had to wait hours, or until the next day, to see your comment appear. In many ways the moderation, in the end, was often supplied by the people doing the commenting. I found it great fun, and spent half of my time offending people, and half of my time soothing the people I had offended. You were one of the few quiet and sane voices, as I recall.
    I really enjoyed all the debate which Accuweather encouraged. Part of my day was to check out the “Weather Warriors,” and watch Joe Bastardi and the late Ken Reeves go nose to nose. It didn’t seem to matter if they were arguing about some blip on a map that likely wouldn’t even happen, because it was on day nine of a ten-day-forecast, Joe would insist it would pump-a-ridge that would dig-a-trough, and Ken would insist it would dig-a-trough that would pump-a-ridge.
    I enjoy debate, and think it would be fun if Bill McKibben would comment here, and do his best to kick my butt for saying what I’ve said. It would be healthy, because I’m not perfect, and he would help me see where I am mistaken. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t expect he will comment.
    I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t expect Bill or any of his group will respond to your excellent work either. You use their data, and produce observations rather than theory, but will likely get a no-response.
    You deserve better.
  46. Don Penim Great article.
    I have no doubt that the Climate Alarmists and media will feed upon the next hurricane that heads towards the U.S. shores claiming it to be a sure sign of climate change “just as predicted” and the “new normal”. This despite the longest break ever between Catagory 3+ hurricanes hitting the U.S.
    Tropical Storm Isaac is the next candidate as it is currently heading towards Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. It is forecast to become a hurricane and possibly head blow through southern Florida.
    Predictable headlines and media attention to follow…
  47. Lonnie E. Schubert Reblogged this on gottadobetterthanthis and commented:
    Long article, but well worth your time. The movie is absolutely worth your time, all of it. Puts a lot in perspective. The move is a news reel made in the 30s right after the 1938 New England hurricane. It talks about the WPA in rather glowing terms, as might be expected of a prewar news piece in depression era USA. Though perhaps propaganda, there is an honesty and respect in the commentator’s voice. Again, the movie is something you owe to yourself to watch.
  48. Dan in California “Thanks for setting me straight about how the force of wind increases with the speed of the wind.”
    Sorry about being anal retentive, but the force of the wind goes with the square of the speed.
    Drag = 1/2 rho * v2 * Area * drag coefficient. Engineers….. sheesh.
  49. johnmcguire Thank you Caleb , some of the best writing I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Thank you Anthony for having him here .
  50. Mike Bromley the Kurd Brilliant. Sure to silence the Pepperazzi and close the Gates. Speaking of which, I seem to have noticed a paucity of those kinds of posts lately.
  51. Yngvar 406 million tons of dirt is about 1.7 times the amount of trash produced in the US each year. Says Wolfram Alpha.
  52. MostlyHarmless Entertainment, truth, observation, whimsy and cutting satire (not necessarily in that order) rolled into one. Thanks for your essay, Caleb – it lightened my morning. Your writing style is unique, nay unprecedented, and while somewhat rambling, draws the reader on to find out what you’re going to say next, which is what good writing does.
    Perhaps you’d consider volunteering to write the “Summary for Policymakers” in the next IPCC report? It might go on a bit, but at least it would mention everything relevant, be balanced, and only use the word “unprecedented” in the right context (if at all)..
  53. rogerknights But at least they lasted longer than my computer, which occasionally crashes and deletes all the links I so carefully save. All that I am left with is a clutter of trivia in my brain, some of which is fact and some of which is urban myth. Sign up for DropBox, which backs up your data to the cloud in real time in the background, here:
    It also allows private data to be selectively revealed to others, and for collaborative editing and composition to be done. And it syncs your files among your devices.
  54. rogerknights PS: The first few Gigabytes are free.
  55. MostlyHarmless Boston’s in for it – “Boston Plans For ‘Near-Term Risk’ Of Rising Tides”
    “Regardless of the ongoing national debate about climate change, Boston is calling the projected sea level rise a near-term risk. Projections range from 2 to 6 feet here by the end of the century, depending on how fast polar ice melts.
    Add to that a hurricane storm surge, and some models show parts of Boston under 10 feet of water. Researchers have told the city that by 2050, that could happen as often as every two to three years.”
    A hurricane every two to three years? Now that would be unprecedented.
  56. Mr Lynn I sent a link to this post around, as a ‘must read’, to some friends and relations, with this comment: If you don’t know, Bill McKibben is a very public spokesman for ‘global warming’ alarmism. You’ll hear him on places like NPR. In this wonderfully-written essay, Caleb Shaw neatly demonstrates how misuse of the word ‘unprecedented’, coupled with a naive view of ‘Nature’ as calm and balanced unless disturbed by Man, has led to a complete misunderstanding of climatic history and man’s place in it. It’s also a paean to engineers, long overdue in my view.
    The monster hurricane of 1938, by the way, completely flooded downtown Providence. At some point, there will be another like it, and it won’t be ‘unprecedented’. /Mr Lynn
  57. Ric Werme Caleb says:
    August 21, 2012 at 8:51 pm Hi, Ric. You never can resist anything involving New England history, can you? Hope people check out your website, which is wonderful. Thanks. The older I get I become more fond of history I was in. And missed. I’d forgotten the name of Ludlum’s, book, “The Country Journal New England Weather Book.” My large, paperback copy fell apart years ago, but if you find your copy you’ll see a lot of my facts came from that source. I’m pretty sure you’ll also see that 1936 flood was a “spring freshet,” and involved heavy snow-cover being melted by warm and heavy spring rains. Well remembered. From “The Book” (btw, mine is still in good condition), a sidebar lists the crests of floods at Hartford CT greater than 25 feet starting in 1683. None in the 18th century, 10 in the 19th, 7 in the 20th. Those greater than 29 feet:
    1854 May 1: 29.8 feet
    1927 November 6: 29.0 feet (tropical feed overrunning cold air, worst flood in VT history)
    1936 March 21: 37.6 feet (heavy rain on snowpack – “The Great All-New England Flood”)
    1938 September 23: 35.4 feet (Hurricane of ’38, of course)
    1955 August 20: 30.6 feet (Hurricanes Connie and Diane)
    While the flood control dams I’m familiar with are in the Merrimack River watershed, it’s adjacent to the Connecticut River watershed.
    The description of the 1927 flood in Vermont sounded much like that from Irene, but comparisons says 1927 was worse.
    There was also a 26 foot crest in 1933. That decade must have quite an impetus for the flood control system. It looks like some dams were finished around 1960. I got Ludlum’s book because I subscribed to his magazine “Weatherwise,” back in the early 1970′s. Back then it was the only way you could get the sort of information we get so easily on the web today. That must be how I got it. Copyright 1976, I wrote in some key events like the Blizzard of ’78. I’d buy a 2nd edition.
  58. Caleb .”A hurricane every two to three years? Now that would be unprecedented.”
    Ha! Very unlikely. As I recall, Ludlum described only a few such super-tides, searching all the way back to the 1600’s. Boston is lucky, because it is sheltered by the protecting arm of Cape Cod. Also the tides are around 10-12 feet, so a storm has to hit at high tide, or else some of the storm surge is subtracted. If a storm surge hits at dead low tide it can be less than a normal high tide.
    I actually saw this, up in Maine, during hurricane Belle in 1976. I lived in a clammer’s shack right on a dock in South Freeport harbor, but was visiting friends in Vermont. On July 9th Belle had winds of 120 mph, and I thought to myself, as it started up the coast, “Oh -bleep-. This might be the Big One.” So I hopped in my tiny car and headed to Maine early on July 10. That storm wasn’t the “Big One,” as it wasn’t big enough to begin with, and weakened over cold shelf waters. However I was impressed by how the winds remained strong up in high places. Coming down a steep hill against the south wind in New Hampshire I had to step on the gas, which is a very strange sensation. Then, after all that worry and fret, I got to Maine and saw the surge wasn’t that big, and it was low tide. The only thing flooded was the clam flats and mussel shoals.
    It would take a perfect set-up to flood Boston. Also NYC. But if it happened, the infrastructure would be stressed to the extreme. I think the tunnels and subways in NYC would flood, simply because they go underground in places below the level of the worst-case storm surge. I have heard whispers and murmurs Boston’s “Big Dig” has some serious flaws, but I’m not sure how true the gossip is. One story states the roof may cave in due to the extra weight, as the cement was sub-standard and so on and so forth. Another rumor states the ventilation shafts are badly placed. A smart bureaucrat (and there is such a thing, strange as it sounds,) checks out such rumors before the fact.
    The worst flooding happens is in the bays that face south in New England. Even though Bob in 1991 was not “The Big One,” it piled a mighty impressive surge up into Buzzard’s Bay.
    One interesting thing that seems to happen as the bigger storms rush north is that the surge weakens less quickly than the winds. I recall reading that when Katrina hit it had force-3 winds but force-5 tides. I think this was one thing that made the 1938 storm so bad. It was huge, and may have been force-five to the south, and it brought that huge surge north with it.
  59. Robert Cherba I’m another engineer — retired — who read and loved this article. In addition to putting the lie to the overuse of “unprecedented” by warmists, it does an excellent job of explaining what engineers do.
    My wife used to kid me about always using words like “might,” “could,” “maybe,” “should,” etc., but it didn’t take many years in the real world to find out that few of our ideas work out exactly as planned, and that some of the most brilliant ideas don’t work at all.
  60. Myron Mesecke It makes me feel sorry for McKibben, for he got stuck in the rarified armchairs of Harvard and the New Yorker Magazine, and seemingly missed meeting the real salt-of-the-earth people who have been on boats in the bowels of a hurricane, or have fought the floods, or have battled to survive the jackstraw aftermaths. It is from such first-hand-accounts you learn the most, and see the precedent that has been set, and know something of what to expect.
    Central Texas doesn’t experience those type of conditions but I still think it important to listen to the first hand accounts of anyone that has lived in one area for a long period of time. All of my 50 years in the same city. What I can say about the last 30 years is that central Texas has not experienced the dust storms that were common during my first 20 years of life. Those cooler 20 years. I would not be surprised if dust storms were to return soon.
  61. Brian D Finch #Doug Proctor: ‘For McKibben CAGW is a fact, as witchcraft was for James Ist of Scotland.’
    Er…James 6th of Scotland [Jamie Saxt], 1st of England.
  62. David L. Excellent essay. I loved every line and was only disappointed that it ended too soon. I sent links to all my friends. Well written with many excellent points!
  63. Bryant MacDonald My mother who was about 10 when this storm hit West Hartford, Connecticut used to tell me about seeing people’s prized furniture floating down the street. Growing up in the area even 20 years later you could still see debris from the remains of homes washed into the woods. That newsreel really brought to life the memories she related to me.
  64. H.R. Both thumbs up from another engineer, Caleb.
    I’d cut and paste my favorite parts of your essay but it’s considered bad form to copy and paste entire articles in a comment thread ;o)

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ARCTIC SEA-ICE –Intentionally Sooting Sea-Ice–

While I am working on a post about the 2018 minimum, I am not all that interested in the subject, as the “Death Spiral” was disproved several years ago, and this year just does it again. To prove the same thing over and over is about as exciting as catching a fish, letting out line and allowing the fish swim away still securely hooked, and then catching the same fish again.

The only reason people get caught up in proving the same thing over and over is because the “Death Spiral” crowd insist on proving the wrong thing over and over again. I suspect that, for some, politics is involved and it is their version of telling “The Big Lie.” However in terms of scientific discover it is yawningly dull. I’d far prefer to move on to fresh discovery.

I started thinking about sooting sea-ice not because the Death Spiral Crowd talks about controlling sea-ice by buying curly light bulbs, but rather because Joe Bastardi was talking about seeding hurricanes. He was venturing that it might be possible to destabilize storms by weakening a section of the eyewall.

Joe has carefully examined every hurricane and typhoon he’s been able to, since he first became fascinated as a boy over fifty years ago, and his study has poured through history books to study storms before he was born, and he has noticed things have to be perfect to keep a hurricane mighty, and sometimes small things can cause a storm to lose its punch.  For example, Hurricane Katrina, though mighty, decreased from a Cat 5 to a Cat 3 storm as it approached land. Though awful, it could have been worse. Joe’s knowledge has been proven by his ability to foresee the strengthening and weakening of storms. He is mulling over how we might lessen damage by seeding storms as they approached land.

This idea is not new. Men flew into storms to test the idea of weakening them by seeding clouds back in 1947.  It was called “Project Cirrus”. A hurricane was chosen that appeared to be headed out to sea, but it began a turn even as planes flew out to seed it, and after being seeded, it continued to turn and headed straight for Savannah, and clobbered Georgia. Lawyer’s eyes lit up, there was all sorts of litigation, and meteorologists decided maybe they wouldn’t continue with the experiments.

However the idea wouldn’t die, and Hurricane Esther was seeded in 1961. Some were worried because Esther performed a remarkable loop. However it did weaken.


From the “success” of seeding Esther was born “Project Stormfury”. Here’s a picture of the crew in 1966:


The first hurricane Stormfury seeded was Beulah in 1963. The first days flights missed their targets, and the second day’s flight hit them. They looked to see if the expected results occurred.

Beulah’s inner eyewall fell apart and a larger eyewall formed, and it’s winds slowed by 20%. You can see why the fellows were encouraged. But was it man-caused, or was it what we now call natural “eyewall replacement”? They didn’t know about eyewall replacement back then. They were actually gathering data that both proved their theory and led to their theory’s demise.

They cancelled the seeding of Betsy in 1965 but forgot to tell the media, which reported the storm had been seeded. There was an uproar when Betsy smashed into Florida, and congress very nearly cut off their funding.

The final storm seeded was Ginger in 1971. I don’t know when it was seeded, but suspect they were blamed for the storms zany track, even if they seeded it after it performed its looping and backtracking.

They continued to exist as an entity for a decade longer, but did most of their study in their minds, marveling at the increasingly wonderful pictures made available by the swiftly improving satellites. But it doesn’t matter what you do, some people are bound to be suspicious. A “Chemtrails” crowd existed even back then, and Fidel Castro insisted that Stormfury was an attempt to “weaponize” hurricanes. A plan to move the project to the Pacific was torpedoed by outcries from both China and Japan. Maintaining the airplanes was expensive, and Stormfury eventually died a quiet death due to Reagan’s push for budget cuts and also because the researchers themselves were becoming aware that eyewall replacement could be normal and natural, and not due to seeding.

Two things become apparent looking at Stormfury. First, that scientists can take a hard look at data and disprove their own theories. Second, that people who know next to nothing about the data can raise an almighty fuss even when you don’t do anything (as was the case with Betsy.)

Suppose I leaked out that I’d sent a fireworks rocket I made at home and it exploded confetti in the middle of Hurricane Florence a couple of weeks ago, and claimed my confetti had diminished the storm from a Cat 4 to a Cat 1 at landfall. Rather than any praise I can bet you a hundred lawyers would now be knocking at my door, half to sue me for flooding in North Carolina, and half to sue me because Florence unexpectedly turned south into South Carolina. And not a single one of them would know a thing about hurricanes.

I far prefer the studious attitude of Joe Bastardi. He watched Florence with a fierce concentration, bringing fifty years of knowledge to bear but also displaying the obvious delight and wonder of a child when he saw something he had not noticed before. He is not too old to be constantly learning.

That is science as science should be. Before seeding a hurricane there should be concentration on what is to be expected, and awareness there may be unexpected consequences. (There will be the usual outcry from tree-huggers, who complain shooting polar bears is evil, until the bear is looking in the window of their child’s daycare.) Only after a careful assessment,  involving much input, should the experiment be undertaken. Then their should be careful observations of what occurs, and a follow-up assessment of results.

This is not the case in much of the fuss about sea-ice. Largely for political reasons an amazing amount of money has been poured into research about sea-ice, and we know far more than we did, and things the equivalent to “eyewall replacement” are  becoming evident, but the “Death Spiral” crowd stubbornly refuse to see anything but a Death Spiral. It would be as if the Stormfury scientists refused to see that anything, besides their seeding, could influence a hurricane’s eyewall.

For example, we are now far more aware the sea-ice has greater mobility than some initially assumed, and at times is far more mobile than other times when it is far more static. Rather than any sort of focus on how such fluctuation might effect sea extent levels (and therefore effect albedo and other effects, which would have further effects),   the Death Spiral crowd claims CO2 is the culprit. That’s their story and they are sticking to it, as stubborn as mules.

This is especially exasperating when they refuse to use the resources provided by history. Where Joe Bastardi is always eager to read about what hurricanes did before he was born, the Death Spiral crowd seem determined to “erase the Medieval Warm Period”, and anything else that disagrees with what their model was programed to produce, which is basically that the Arctic Sea was wall-to-wall ice until just recently.

This is tantamount to a willful blindness, a refusal to see that which is marvelous and wonderful, that which can teach us much about how sea-ice behaves, and that which can teach us whether we would benefit by covering a large amount of the ice with black soot.

I’ll end with a comment I posted at WUWT. We were wondering if icebreakers might influence how able the sea-ice is to be flushed out of the arctic, or be melted in other ways, but I like my comment because it also describes how wrong scientific opinion can be, and how actual observation can correct errors:

“As an example (of how sea-ice can be relatively static and then very mobile) I’d like to point out the history of the good ship Jeanette, which set out for the North Pole from San Francisco in 1879. They were buoyed by three false hopes.

1.) They believed the North Pole could not be covered by ice, because salt water behaves differently than fresh water. The coldest fresh water rises, and therefore the surface of ponds freeze, but the addition of salt causes the coldest salt water to sink. This is scientific fact. Therefore the waters of the Arctic Sea could never freeze, (unless from the bottom up) for such waters would sink as they cooled, and be replaced by warmer waters rising from below.

2.) Sea ice was tested and found to be fresh water. Therefore it could not originate from salt water, and must be due to inflows of fresh water from rivers along arctic coasts. Therefore all sea-ice would be concentrated along arctic coasts, and if you could penetrate that sea-ice you’d find open water off shore

3.) Some whalers had reported landing on Wrangel Island with a lot of open water around, and therefore it seemed Wrangel Island might be a doorway to the open seas beyond.

Wrong. The Jennette was trapped by sea ice short of Wrangle Island, near Herald Island. The sea-ice had increased since the whalers found open seas, and during the following 21 months the sea-ice erratically took them barely a degree longitude per month to the west. (During this time an icebreaker would have been handy).

But then the sea-ice situation changed radically. The ice began to shift, and the Jeannette was crushed. The 33 members of the crew headed southwest, making it to the New Siberian Islands on ice, but facing open water as they headed to the swamps of the Lena Delta. (Only 13 made it out alive.)

Meanwhile two ships following behind, looking for the lost Jeannette, did not find the Jeannette because they (including the Naturalist John Muir) were able to land upon both Herald Island and Wrangel Island and dilly-dally about surveying both islands. They failed to find the Jeannette but found lots of open water, because the sea-ice was in motion, and moving far faster than it had formally moved.

We know how fast the sea-ice moved, because the crushed Jeannette didn’t sink (though parts of it likely sunk, being iron,) and instead moved, in the next 36 months, more than halfway around the earth, in terms of longitude. The sea-ice the crushed beams and planks were squeezed by moved west along the entire north coasts of Russia and Scandinavia, likely north of Svalbard, and took a left through Fram Strait and then down the entire east coast of Greenland, and then took a sharp right around Cape Farewell and were found nearly three years to the day of when the ship was abandoned, in Baffin Bay off Julianehåb. Miles? You figure it out for me, but the ship was abandoned at 77° 15′ north and 154°59′ east, and the wreckage was found at around 60° 70′ north and 46° 05′ WEST.


This incredible movement of sea-ice in 36 months is what gave Nansen the idea he could park the Fram in Sea Ice in East Siberia and drift across the Pole.

But me? I lack Nansen’s ambition. Instead I sit back and say, “Yowza!” I see that, once sea-ice takes it into its head to move, tremendous forces are involved, and the entire fleet of Russian icebreakers can’t matter much more than fifteen mice standing before an avalanche with stop signs.

And if the mighty Russian ships matter so little before such power, how stupid it is for silly people to think buying curly light bulbs and all other forms of virtue-signaling will have the slightest effect?

Not that we shouldn’t consider ways we might deflect disasters when they are apparent. We should consider spreading black soot on sea-ice the same way we consider seeding hurricanes. However such actions involve at least a basic understanding of the forces we are attempting to influence.

Sad to say, politics has utterly polluted the understanding of many, concerning sea-ice. Unless and until we remove this rot, the subject of sea-ice cannot even reach the level of a basic understanding. Politics is like taking a stupid-pill. It might be screamingly obvious that all mankind would benefit if we spread soot and reduced sea-ice, but political correctness would shout more ice was better.”



LOCAL VIEW –Hurricane Heights Demonstrated–

Schooner 1 03_1

Last week I talked about the old captains of coastal schooners, and the way they studied the sky for signs of “Hurricane Heights”.

Before railways were built in the mid 1800’s the main way to ship things was by boat, (which is why we speak of “shipping” things, even when we use trucks.) New York City was so big and growing so fast it had an insatiable appetite for lumber, and not all could be supplied by barging it down the Hudson River. Good money could be made “schooning” lumber down from Maine, but, before the Cape Cod Canal was built in 1914 (and widened to its current size 1935-1940)  the route south was nearly 150 miles longer, and involved going outside Cape Cod, which was that much closer to the hurricanes people on shore hardly noticed because they had “gone out to sea.” Even when the hurricanes’s winds were to the east huge waves traveled outwards, and when they reached the shoals off the elbow of Cape Cod they could turn waters a ship could ordinarily navigate over into a landscape of breaking waves, huge combers far from a beach,  with troughs so deep a keel could hit sand. Therefore a wise captain kept “an eye to the sky”.

This was done in a manner we can’t imagine. If we tried to force ourselves to study the sky we would soon start to fidget. Our minds would wander, and before long we’d get up and go to see what was happening elsewhere. However the old captains were stuck at the tiller or helm, and couldn’t go anywhere any faster than the boat was going. They studied the sky for hours upon hours.

One thing was very important to know, and that was whether the wind was going to back or veer. This was especially important when heading upwind. Without engines a ship had to tack to and fro, and (for example) a north-bound ship’s course could be made shorter if you knew beforehand whether the the headwind was going to shift to the northeast (veer) or to the northwest (back).

A rough idea where the nearest storm was located was to face the wind and stick out your right arm and point. You were pointing at the storm. But what direction was it moving? To guess at that you would look up at the high clouds, which moved with upper air winds that “steered” the storms. Then, by having a rough idea of whether the storm was approaching or departing or moving parallel to the ship, the captain would have a rough idea whether the winds would pick up or die down, and how they might back or veer.  On dull days this merely shortened the route and number of tacks necessary, and on more exciting voyages it might be the difference between successfully reaching safe haven, or shipwreck and death.

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Few would bother study the sky to this degree now. What would be the point? Now, if a captain wants to go upwind, he just takes down the sails and turns on the engine. There are a lot fewer shipwrecks now, but modern captains are dimwits compared to the captains of yore, when it comes to eyeing the sky with understanding. The need is no longer there to sharpen wits to that degree, and in fact if anyone now spent that much time studying the sky we might call them “obsessive”.

Personally I feel a certain amount of obsession is necessary, if you want to ever be really good at something. One person who seems really good, concerning the understanding and prediction of hurricanes, is Joe Bastardi, and he quite freely confesses he obsessed on weather maps so much when young that he was in some ways a nerd. But it paid off in terms of genius. Some years ago he looked at a tropical depression off the coast of Africa and said, “Houston, we have a problem”, which some say is one of the best long-range forecasts ever made.

Last Monday he said it looked like we could have frontal remnants becoming a storm like Brenda in 1960. I said, “La-la-la! I’m not listening”. Why? Because I want to pretend I’m an old schooner captain, and trying to see signs of storm only using my eyes and a barometer. (Of course I did hear Bastardi, but I can pretend I didn’t.)

Friday the skies were as blue as they get, and the air refreshing and cool, which is a reprieve but also a reason to be on guard.

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The passage of a Canadian high-pressure is often a prelude to trouble brewing to the south. (Bastardi calls high-pressure to the north “A ridge over troubled waters.”[Hat tip, Simon and Garfunkle.]) Not that you want to spoil your summer by worrying every time it’s sunny, but you watch for the return of clouds and the southerly flow behind the high pressure. And sure enough, when I awoke Saturday morning the newspaper had arrived, not on my doorstep, but in the sky straight overhead.

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What would such a newspaper tell an old schooner captain? I see two clues he’d see in the scene below, plus a clue he wouldn’t see.

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First, just over the pines to the lower left is a bit of low cumulus, so low you could almost call it scud.

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Right off the bat, his farsighted eyes squint to determine what direction those low clouds are moving. If they are moving to the right and approaching then the wind is southwest. That would be a benign wind, as the storm would be to the northwest, and likely a summertime Alberta Clipper. At worst, if it was hot and muggy, a Clipper might swing down a cold front and bring thunder,  but the air is still refreshing and the sky is still deep blue and Canadian, so thunder is unlikely. But, because the captain has time to watch the sky, he notes the low clouds are not approaching; they are moving to the right and retreating. The wind is not from the southwest, but from the southeast.

A southeast wind is a whole different kettle of fish. It means a storm is to the southwest. Something may be coming up the coast. A certain wariness awakes. (I should note more than eyes were used by schooner captains. Like a dog (whose morning newspaper may be a fire hydrant) he sniffs the air, as a southwest land breeze has a completely different smell from a southeast sea breeze. He also likely runs his fingers through his hair, for hair tells you a lot about humidity. All his senses are involved; the sea is a sensual experience.)

Lastly he is very aware if the wind is backing or veering, and this southeast wind has veered all the way from the northwest through the northeast . For reasons I don’t understand, this is different from a wind that backs 180 degrees the other way, although it winds up blowing from the same direction.

Then his eyes lift a bit higher to the left, over the cherry tree, to the cirrus (which he would call a “mare’s tail”).

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Cirrus is high clouds snowing into slower wind beneath. To the captain this is more reassuring than cirrocumulus, which is indicative of warmer air aloft and more inclined to be associated with hurricanes. Also the cirrus is still approaching from north of due west, which should “steer” a storm out to sea. However a rumple of concern appears on his brow, for he notices the high cloud’s movement is not as much from the north as it was. Indeed the high clouds are backing, even as the low clouds veer. Knowing nothing of upper air maps,  heedless of upper air ridges or trofs, the wheels in his head start whirring. If the high clouds back, and especially if they back with speed, look out.

However I have one clue he doesn’t.  There were no jets back then, and I can squint at contrails, and spot one over the trees in the center.

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When contrails quickly evaporate behind a jet, it is a sign of descending and drying air aloft, and a sign of fair weather. When, as is the case with the contrail above, the contrail expands into a cloud, as if part of a cloud-seeding experiment, it is a sign of moisture aloft and rising air, and a sign of increasing clouds and approaching storms. (It doesn’t say what kind of storm: Gentle rain or hurricane or the squalls of a thundering front.)

Even without contrails the old schooner captains were likely observing whether high clouds were growing or evaporating. Where modern yachtsmen can set a “self-sailor” and be buried in a book, the skippers of yore would only “lash the helm” when there was a lot of other work to do. They liked the feel of the helm, and likely, by making subtle responses to each passing swell, could shave an hour or two off the length of a cruise.

When I was young I attempted to have spiritual experiences by closing my eyes, sitting cross-legged, and gazing up at the inside of my forehead.  I never lasted very long. Rather than sacred subjects my my mind gravitated towards how divine pizza or a woman’s body was. But at the helm of a sailboat without a self-sailor I was forced to pay attention or the boat might luff or jibe, and paying-attention became a sort of yoga leading to an altered state of consciousness. This divine intoxication is the reason some people are fanatics about sailing, while those who haven’t imbibed the wine cannot see the good of it, or why anyone in their right mind would willingly suffer seasickness.

How many modern people, with their short attention spans and craving for constant stimulation, can sit and watch a cloud as it passes from one side of the sky to the other? The so-called boredom would drive many nuts, and perhaps there is an element of craziness in being at sea. However it has its own constant stimulation, in the rocking of the waves and passing of the swells, the ruffling of sails and the ringing of rigging, the hypnotic slosh and thud and gurgling of waters, and it all combines to enter one into a different dimension, a different relationship with reality, with sea and sky. Call it “obsessive” if you will, but it includes the wisdom of the weather-wise.

Just looking at the clouds I’ve pictured above, the old schooner captains would have known “something was brewing” to the south. Would they have set sail?  Well, that was up to them to decide, and they did know how to handle a moderate storm. All business involves an element called “risk”.

And how do they compare with modern computers? Well, the billion dollar GFS Model never caught onto the coastal development until Saturday morning, right about the time an old captain would have tasted the first hints of a wind-shift to the southeast.

Others models did better, but how is one to chose? Even a single model can have fifty “runs” that all differ. Which one is right?

The answer seems to be obsessive, like Joe Bastardi. In order to be good at anything you need to in some ways over-do it. But Mr. Bastardi does amaze me. Last Monday he said that by Saturday a storm “like Brenda in 1960” could appear on the coast.  He also forecast that the weather bureau likely wouldn’t call it a hurricane, despite tropical characteristics. Then, on Saturday , there it was, looking all the world like a dying hurricane, though it had never officially been a hurricane and therefore could not officially be a dying one.

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The weather bureau can bicker all it wants about whether things are “official”. I think they may be jealous if Joe’s ability, even to the mean level of not calling an event “tropical” because to do so might make Joe look better than they. But we are not suppose to become irrational, and envy is irrational. The simple fact of the matter is that Mr. Bastardi kicked their butts. And, when faced with superiority, the smart thing to do is sit at the feet of the master, and inquire, “How the heck did you do it?”

Let’s face it: If you had plans on the water off the coast of New Jersey or Long Island on Saturday, wouldn’t you like a heads-up that storm-force gusts like the feeder-bands of a hurricane could be coming north?



A final clue that this storm was “tropical” was shown by how quickly it is weakened once it cut inland.

What are we to conclude from all this? Perhaps we should conclude this: The next time we are called “obsessive”, we should respond, “Thank you very much.”

LOCAL VIEW –Hurricane Heights (and heat)–

I have seen summers in these hills when we never make it above 90°F: Gray, rainy summers where we were hard pressed to ever make it above 80°F,  when east winds off the cold Gulf of Maine could even keep temperatures below 60°F. Such summers always left me feeling cheated, for I grew up down on the flatland’s west of Boston where it was far warmer. A true heatwave of three days topping 90° is rare in these hills, and therefore I was pleasantly surprised to see this forecast for the start of July:

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I love hot weather, even though I don’t get to kick back and watch the corn grow as much as I’d like.  Perhaps it just reminds me of being young and spoiled. I can recall laying on my back on a hot day as a boy, holding a Popsicle up in the air and letting it melt drop by drop into my mouth,  and feeling perfectly content. Or, perhaps there was a sort of unrest, but it was the unrest of peace, of listening to a symphony.  There was no to-do list.

I’ve had some heart-to-heart talks with God recently about whether it might not be wise to spoil me in that manner again. How is it I am not worth spoiling, now? Certainly I am as perishable, if not more so.  Yet now, if I tried out laying on my back and letting a Popsicle drip into my mouth, I’d get “the look” from my wife. When I try to watch the corn grow, I see the weeds grow instead. Rather than relaxed, summer becomes hurry-hurry, worry-worry, scurry-scurry.

The ironic aspect to the frenetic pace of running a farm-childcare is that I, in some unspoken ways, seek to spoil the kids. I want them to catch what I caught from being spoiled by my own Depression-era parents, who experienced too much poverty and toil and war, and wanted a better life for me. Therefore I fight my losing battle with weeds so they might munch edible-podded peas at their leisure, and teach them the old maxim, “Plant peas on Patriot’s Day (April 19) and pick ’em on Independence Day (July 4).”

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And I struggle with cords and pumps and chemicals and filters, because there’s nothing like splashing in a pool to make a heat-wave bearable. (Our local ponds are OK, as long as you don’t mind leeches.)

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And then there’s the exasperation of fishing, of teaching how to put a worm on, and take a fish off, a hook; of tangle after tangle after tangle after tangle; of casting that is flailing and shoots hooks into shrubbery or another child’s hair or puts my life in danger, all for the dubious honor of seeing a child catch a first fish that isn’t virtual.

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And then there’s the modern, liberated, young suffragettes. Back in my day, girls didn’t even want to go fishing, and thought fish and worms were icky, and they certainly didn’t gross out their guide by kissing fish.

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Kiss frogs? Maybe, because a frog might turn into a prince. But I don’t want to see what sort of prince a fish turns into, and sure as heck don’t want him hanging around young girls at my Childcare.

But I digress. The point I was making was that all sorts of effort goes into making an idyll, all sorts of hurry-hurry, worry-worry, scurry-scurry, all sorts of exasperation and irritation….and then all is redeemed. A light descends and softens a child’s eyes, and just the way they look around at God’s green creation tells me that they “get it”, and that I have successfully passed the baton I received from Depression-era parents on to a new generation.

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The mistake people (including myself) seem to make is to visualize the descent of the Light as being conditional. After all, the Depression-era was a brutal time, yet people who went through it seemed to grasp that Light could be found in small things, even in simply sitting, whereas Baby-Boomers who were spared the brutality and were pampered strangely knew thirst and discontent. The attempt to exclude brutality at times led to exclusiveness, to a sort of gated-community of “the elite” which, rather than an ivory tower, became a vacuum, devoid of the very air that hearts need most.

To me the escape from this conditional exclusiveness seems to be to cultivate the attitude of a little child: Children accept the cards as dealt, while the grown-ups attempt to bully and bribe the dealer. It is the grown-ups who scramble to come up with four hundred dollars a month to pay for an air conditioner. For a child, when it’s hot, it’s hot, and when it’s not, it’s not.

I love the warm mornings, (all too few
This far north), when I can sit on the stoop
And watch the dawn grow last webbed drops of dew
Before the day bakes, and watch last bats loop
And dart, and hear first birds sing, and not put
On a shirt.
                       It’s like I’m a boy again,
Though I’ll confess I wince walking barefoot
                Once I lost shoes in June, and then, when
I looked again for those shoes, it was fall
And they didn’t fit. I could tread over
Sharp stones and barnacles, and I recall
Broken glass didn’t phase me.
                                                           Now clover
Is what my feet prefer to tread upon,
But still I love the feel of summer dawn. 

One reason I was able to be content as a child was the sense the Depression-era grown-ups were taking care of things. True, there would be occasional shadows, times I intuitively sensed all was not well,  but for the most part I was blissfully ignorant about things such as divorce, mother’s-little-helper pills, and the Vietcong. I was nearly eleven before the assassination of John Kennedy first deeply shook my faith. Before then I had a sort of heedless and thoughtless faith.

Now my faith is more thought-out. Now I am the Baby-Boom-era grown-up, taking care of things. It doesn’t matter how inadequate I feel; it is my turn to be the elder. My faith allows me to  sit back and enjoy warmth that is rare in northern lands, but my contentment is not complete, for I am always on the lookout for trouble. When it’s hot I keep peering west for the purple skies of thunderstorms, and to the high clouds, for hints of a hurricane.

Many of my ancestors were involved with trade and sailing ships, and were  forever scanning the skies. A hurricane could turn a fat profit into a total loss, and therefore they were always on the lookout for “hurricane heights.”

What were “hurricane heights”? I can’t say. A lot of that wisdom was lost with the last captain of the last coastal schooner. All I can say is that they studied the sky in a way we cannot imagine. I know nothing of the nuances they knew, but do know they noticed high clouds don’t move the same direction low clouds move.

Modern meteorologists know about such differences through studying surface maps, which show the direction low clouds move, and comparing them with upper-air maps, which show the direction high clouds move. They have a huge advantage over the captains of coastal schooners, because they not only know how the high clouds are moving far to the west, and far to the east, but at times, when the sky is completely overcast, they know what high clouds are doing directly overhead, which the captains of schooners might not know.

But the captains of schooners had an advantage over modern meteorologists. When modern meteorologists blow a forecast they suffer embarrassment, yet seldom lose their jobs, but when the captains of schooners blew a forecast they lost their lives, or, if they crawled ashore, they had lost their cargo and therefore their livelihood.  Therefore what those old timers knew about high clouds involved an immediacy, urgency, and focus which modern meteorologists can’t imagine.

Also the captains of coastal schooners were not reading tickertape from a distant buoy or squinting at a satellite’s picture; they were right on the interface between sea and sky. They were right there, and there’s no buoy or satellite than can substitute for a man’s skin and hair. I often wonder if the most amazing discoveries concerning insights gleaned from the movements of high clouds were made by captains who died ten minutes later. Those sailing ships were not designed to handle hundred knot winds. Yet amazingly some captains survived hurricanes, in ships completely demasted yet controlled by a storm jib on a bowsprit. And when these crippled ships limped back to port their captains brought weather-data you do not learn in colleges, but can hear echoes of to this day, in taverns by the sea.

Me? I’m in awe of both the bygone oldsters and the modern meteorologists. What I know about “hurricane heights” is but crumbs a mouse gathers from a banquet. And what I gather is this:

Hot spells in New England tend to end with thunder, and also with a change in the movement of high clouds. When it was hot high clouds came from the southwest, but after the thunder they come from the northwest. Then it is delightfully cooler, with northwest winds. And upper air maps shows a “trof” (meteorologist spelling) crossing  New England. It is like a the dent a schoolgirl makes in a jump-rope, when lifting it up and down, and will be followed by the bump in the jump-rope, called an upper air  “ridge” (ordinary spelling).

As this upper air ridge approaches the refreshing northwest breezes die, and winds shift to the southwest, and people await the next summer hot spell. However worry-warts like me me get anxious, and start scanning the sunrise sky for hurricane heights.

Joe Bastardi called such ridges, “a ridge over troubled waters,” (a pun on an old Simon and Garfunkle song). Old schooner captains also worried when summer ridges past. They searched south for hurricanes. And true to form, as a hot ridge recently passed over New England, tropical storm Chris formed just off the Carolina coast, to the south.

20180709 satsfc

Such a hurricane shouldn’t trouble me, for they nearly always are steered out to sea by the upper-air “trof” following the upper-air “ridge”. Maybe such storms only concerned the captains of coastal schooners, because they too went “out to sea”, right where the hurricanes went,  and then those captains confronted conditions lubbers can’t imagine. (There was no Cape Cod Canal, and in order for New York City to build its tenements Maine lumber had to be shipped far “out to sea” to get around Cape Cod.)

Even people who stay ashore on the coast face high surf and rip tides, as such hurricanes go “out to sea”. But my farm is inland, up in the hills. Barring an unimaginable earthquake, these hills aren’t going “out to sea” any time soon.  Why should I care?

It is because the upper atmosphere does not always behave like waves going up and down on a schoolgirl’s jump-rope. A school-girl’s jump-rope never breaks off a bump into a circle that gets bigger and bigger and becomes a hurricane, boring from the surface right up into the upper atmosphere.

Once such a circle appears on meteorological maps they become an entity that has a life of its own. Usually they are steered by the steering currents, but they are also an impediment to the flow, like a boulder in a river, and therefore they have an uncanny capacity to alter the steering current. They can even steer the steering current. They impede the steering current to such a degree that upper-air winds are deflected. With a hurricane in the way, rather than aiming northeast the steering currents may be deflected north, or even, on very rare occasions, northwest.

Meteorologists who are wiser than I describe this as a “positively-tilted trof” being replaced by a “negatively tilted trof”, with the result being that a hurricane that ordinarily would go out to sea curves north or, very rarely, northwest.

Even when the hurricanes come north they tend to weaken over the cold shelf waters, and to suck dry air in from land, and have the most intense winds by the “eye-wall” collapse. Also they tend to curve away northeast at the end, which keeps the strongest winds east of my hills. Thus all the storms of my lifetime have been breezy and warm summer rains,  with some branches and rotted trees falling (and perhaps knocking the power out for a few hours). The next day’s news has pictures of surf and banged-up boats down on Cape Cod and in Buzzard’s Bay, and there can be flooding due to torrential rains, but the news  is never as bad as I know it could have been. In a sense I’ve spent a lifetime scanning the skies for hurricane heights I’ve never seen.

And what is this worst case scenario I envision? It is a hurricane that doesn’t dawdle over a colder shelf waters, but rather accelerates up the coast, cutting northwest as it plows inland, putting my hills to the east of the eye-wall. The blow-down of trees would be unimaginable to people now alive.

Actually I can’t say such a storm has never occurred in my lifetime, for Hurricane Carol took that track when I was one year old. I don’t remember it, but do recall being shown the fallen trees in the woods as a boy. They were trunks all laying the same way, on scrubby hillsides, and as we hiked I heard my Dad talk with other grown-ups about the older, mossier trunks being from an earlier hurricane (1938), and my grandfather commenting one summer was wetter (I can’t recall which summer) and that meant one hurricane uprooted trees and the other hurricane snapped them off.

To my boyish mind  it seemed such hurricanes must happen fairly often, but here it is 64 years later and we haven’t seen anything like them since. The scrubby hillside is now reforested with 64-year-old trees, and the fallen trunks have been melted down by rot and are mere green stripes of moss on the forest floor, with peculiar piles of stones at the ends, showing where the ripped-up bottoms once thrust tangles of earth and stones and writhing roots, and my grandfather said I should look for exposed arrowheads. Where the Depression-era elders saw two such storms in sixteen years we have been spared, but perhaps, just as the tree trunks have faded, so has the public’s memory of what can happen.

The sensationalist media is so eager to hurry on to the next headline it seems to have amnesia, like a person with dementia, only a person with dementia at least has some long-term-recall, even when they can’t remember where they put their car keys. The media is worse, with a forgetfulness more like a person who has smoked way, way too much marijuana, who cannot even remeber what car keys are for.

The media doesn’t even seem to fact-check any more, crowing a single day of hundred degrees is a big deal the Great Plains, where it once was over 110°F, day after day after day after burning day, during the nigh-intolerable Dust Bowl summer of 1936. Then, on July 13, 1954, it touched 120°F in Kansas, there were 100 degree temperatures noted in places from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and when you took all the high temperatures from all the station across the USA, north and south and east and west, the average was 95°F. (See post at .

When the media ignores this striking past to sensationalize the more modest present, they not only make people less respectful towards what our forebears endured, but also make people unaware of what might happen again, (because it happened before). I have concluded that, in a strange way, the media generates a discontent where people once knew contentment despite hard times, and fosters a foolishness where people once were wise.

I refuse to be that way, so I sit and scan the summer’s warm dawn skies for hurricane heights, seeking high scarlet feathers and dappled intricacies from the southeast, at peace, but ever watchful.

But still I love the feel of summer dawn
Though I know her ways. She can’t disguise her
Devilish tricks. Her smiling lips won’t stay upon
My smile. She’ll leave. I’m older, wiser,
But still her kisses are reminding me of
A place I hope to return, after death:
The land before birth; a landscape of Love;
A time without time that takes away your breath.
Most have amnesia, and forget the breast
That fed them, and the peace before that time.
The work-a-day world puts all to the test
Like hamsters in wheels, or lemmings that climb
In a terrible rush to get to the top,
When the way to be wise is to stop.

LORE OF THE LINE STORM (Hurricane Jose–Updated)

Irma 1 peakofseason(8)

In the lore of New England the “line storm” was a storm expected to occur near the equinox. Because, as the above graph shows, the first peak in hurricanes occurs ten days too early, and the second, minor peak doesn’t occur until October, people who never get outside, and instead dither about indoors looking at graphs, can scorn the idea of the “line storm” as being a mere superstition.

But….(cue the twilight zone music)….I once didn’t dither about indoors as I do now. I once was young and went out on the water. To be blunt, those who haven’t been out on the water, (even in a small boat on a lake), when the winds start to rise and the sky darkens and life laughs at insurance adjusters, are missing something.

We would laugh at a person who thought he had a grasp of the weather who had never heard of a thermometer. A thermometer is vital, we think. But stepping outside?

Do not tell me you are wise when only
Books advise your eyes. Action speaks louder
Than words, and an island standing lonely
Needs another, if it is to proudly
Utter truths about Love. You must get out
Into the wind to know about weather.
Otherwise our intellect struts about
Like a peacock with a lone tail feather.
Even a small child, who hasn’t yet learned
The sky talks back, goes out and faces sky
And his face is lit up, with shadows spurned
As poetry fills each innocent eye.
Children worship best: They look up and lack
The ways we argue when skies talk back.

Americans once knew far more about the out of doors. More than half owned a farm and worked the soil, and a lot of the others sailed seas on small craft that would make OSHA cringe. To go to sea and never be heard of again was not all that uncommon, and, considering we all must eventually die, I’m not entirely sure I would not have preferred to die going “Yeee-Ha!” as my craft met a mighty wave, to surviving and eventually festering in a bed with tubes in my arms, with cancer, which we call “progress.”

I wasn’t too smart at age 18, and headed out to sea in 1971 on a voyage from Boston to Jamaica (don’t ask what for). In 1971 the “line storm” happened to be a hurricane called Ginger, which also headed out to sea, way out onto the mid Atlantic. And if you had studied books at that time you knew no storm so far out to sea could ever represent a threat to Cape Hatteras. But…

Hurricane Ginger 1971 220px-Ginger_1971_track

As chief (and only) meteorologist on the small craft I am proud to state we hesitated to the north and avoided Ginger, however a cold front absorbed what was left, and then that front just lay along the coast. I advocated further hesitation, fearing a nor’easter might brew up on the stationary front, but the captain was sick and tired of hesitation, and so we sailed south, smack dab into the nor’easter that brewed up.

Nor’easters are also considered “line storms”. After the summer quiet, when seas tend to be slack in New England, they first start to brew up when the first chilly cold-fronts come south in September. You would have to include them in your data, along with hurricanes, before you could accurately determine “line storms” were “superstition”. (Also you would have to narrow your focus to the waters near New England, where the lore was focused.)

In any case, at age 18 I experienced a reality that is somewhat different than what you experience indoors at computers. Entitlement? Yes, I was entitled to die, if I didn’t make an effort to do otherwise, (though I was so seasick the prospect of death wasn’t entirely unappealing.)

I’m not sure the nor’easter was particularly bad, but the small yacht was forty miles out to sea, and both the mainsail and jib halyards broke. Sails crashed flapping to the deck, and the engine quit, and we had no radio, and GPS hadn’t been invented. In other words, we were in the position which was not all that uncommon to find yourself in, back before engines and radios, in the age of sail. My ancestors likely would have gone, “Ho hum. Get the storm jib up.” I was disgracefully and utterly freaked out, and only functioning because I didn’t want to die.  Besides doing things I had no idea I was capable of, (such as climbing a whipping mast to thread a new halyard in the pulley atop a mast when the craft isn’t quiet in a harbor,) I also took meteorological observations. After all, once you’ve fixed what you can fix, there’s nothing to do but go up and up and up a big swell, and down and down and down the other side, over and over and over, so what else are you suppose to do at the helm, but observe? However those observations are through eyes that see differently than you see at a computer. (You are going to have to trust me about this, if you think virtual sailing’s the same.) For one thing, you can’t click to a new site when you get bored. You must observe, and observe, and observe…

For me this was a once in a lifetime experience. However for my ancestors it was far more everyday. It makes their lore a bit more credible, as, if they lived long enough, their experience included something scientists make a big deal about, called “replication.”

One interesting thing about the line-storm lore is that such storms were not seen as markers of the solstice. Heck, any calendar could do that. Rather they gave clues about the weather of the following autumn.  One was suppose to pay attention to how the line-storm ended. If it ended with warm weather it meant a different autumn lay ahead than if it ended with crisp, cold breezes from the north.

To some this might indicate they were sensible to storm tracks and weather patterns, in their own way. But to others it is just superstition.

In any case, with September 20 approaching a superstition named Jose is creeping towards New England.

11:00 PM AST Thu Sep 14
Location: 25.5°N 68.0°W
Moving: WNW at 8 mph
Min pressure: 989 mb
Max sustained: 70 mph

Hurricane Jose 1 025306_wind_historyHurricane Jose 2 025306

Hurricane Jose 3 vis0-lalo

5:00 AM AST Fri Sep 15
Location: 25.9°N 68.7°W
Moving: WNW at 8 mph
Min pressure: 989 mb
Max sustained: 70 mph

Hurricane Jose 4 vis0-lalo

11:00 PM EDT Fri Sep 15
Location: 27.4°N 71.0°W
Moving: NW at 9 mph
Min pressure: 983 mb
Max sustained: 80 mph

Hurricane Jose 5 vis0-lalo

I am having some sort of problem with WordPress wherein it fails to keep my updates. This is a test to see if it happens again.

8:00 AM EDT Mon Sep 18
Location: 33.5°N 71.2°W
Moving: N at 9 mph
Min pressure: 976 mb
Max sustained: 85 mph

Hurricane Jose 11 vis0-lalo

HURRICANE MATTHEW –Updated Sunday Night– Concluded

When I went to bed last night the various experts seemed certain Hurricane Matthew would head out to sea south of New England late next week, which is just fine with me.

When I was younger I was eager to see a storm bring ruin, because I could show off my prowess with a chainsaw afterwards, and make a heap of money, and also get a lot of free firewood. Now I’m 63, and my aspirations are more modest. I’d rather sit in a chair and think about hard work. Or perhaps watch a young man stack the wood I had delivered, (rather than cutting it for myself), and I am a bit grumpy that I am not yet fabulously wealthy, and have to stack the darn stuff myself.


I would have put off even starting the job, but the old friend who delivered the wood let it spill into the neighbor’s drive a little, when he unloaded his dump truck, so I had to hustle out and get cracking. When I was younger I enjoyed the way my muscles felt when I worked hard. Now…not so much, but at least the pile is started.


It seems a bit amazing to me that I actually pay $250.00/cord for wood I once only paid for with sweat, however there is nothing like the radiance of a wood-stove in January. Heat coming up through the floor registers just doesn’t match it.  Also I like the way I am not paying Arabs for my heat, (beyond, perhaps, a bit for the gas and oil in a chain saw). Also there is an old saw (pun) about how firewood “warms you twice.” There is many a winter scene I might have missed, if I didn’t need to go out and get more firewood. Lastly, it keeps you in shape.

If a hurricane hits us, it will seem foolish to  have paid for wood, for trees will be down all over the place. Chainsaws will be going nonstop for weeks. People in New England have no idea of what a huge mess it will make, because the last powerful hurricane to bisect New Hampshire was Carol in 1954. (Donna in 1960 was further east.) Carol pretty much flattened all the trees on the hilltops around here, but since Carol 62 years have passed, and a sapling can get pretty tall in 62 years. Our streets are lined with lovely trees that all could become lovely roadblocks.

I was pretty certain that, when the AMO moved into its “warm” phase again around 1990, we would see a return to the situation that gave New England so many hurricanes between 1930 and 1960.  I tried to alert people who seemed to be unaware, and be building or buying homes in unwise places. I saw myself as a sort of Paul Revere, but have been a sort of Chicken Little, for no really bad hurricanes have ever hit us.

Still, I figured people should at least be educated to what “might” happen. One effort was printed by Eliot Abrams in his blog, back in June of 2006:

I always found it a bit annoying that there wasn’t a disaster, after I predicted one, but 2006 was particularly annoying, for that was the year Bill McKibben made big money publishing in National Geographic , warning about hurricanes, but rather than saying what-happened-before-could-happen again,  he spoke a lot of hoopla about how the hurricanes would be “unprecedented” and caused by “Global Warming.” He was every bit as wrong as I was, but he got all sorts of press, and likely could pay someone else to stack his wood.

Call it envy if you will, but I grumbled a lot to myself as year followed year with no hurricanes, and I got only abuse, as McKibben got richer and richer. Finally, in August, 2012, I ventilated and had my rant published on Watts Up With That.

Hurricane Warning; McKibben Alert

In Many ways I think this is my best effort, when it comes to being a Chicken Little about hurricanes, and, if “The Big One” ever does hit New England, my rant will make me look  like a Paul Revere. It began:

I would like to venture two predictions which I believe have a, (as they say,) “high degree of probability” of proving true.

The first is that a terrible hurricane, as bad as the ferocious 1938 “Long Island Express,” will roar north and bisect New England. True, it might not happen for over a hundred years, but it also might happen this September. The fact is, 1938 showed us what could happen. 1938 set the precedent.

My second prediction is that if such a storm happens this September, it will not matter if it a Xerox copy of the 1938 storm; Bill McKibben will call it “Unprecedented.”

It really makes me wonder: Why on earth would such a seemingly smart person want to make such a total fool of himself? How can McKibben call so many events “unprecedented’ when all you need to do is open a history book, and you can see so many other prior storms set precedents?”

The post is worth reading, if you want to read about the history of past storms, and also about what a storm similar to the 1938 hurricane might do the the structures we have built since 1938, especially in Boston.

However I’ve been there and done that, and have to stack wood. I simply haven’t the time to write the whole danged thing all over again. Anyway, after being wrong so many years, who the heck would listen?  It has been something like 4000 days since a major hurricane has hit the mainland of the USA. Both McKibben and myself look like total jokes. Therefore I was glad to go to bed, and not feel I had to warn anyone. Then, when I got up  this morning, to my dismay I see the GFS computer is producing this track:


Oh bleep. Right over Boston. So I do have to dust off my Chicken Little outfit and run around squawking, after all.

Well, consider it done.

The storm is still a week away, and there are many things that could knock it off track or weaken it, so I’m only raising an eyebrow slightly, at this point. But I will keep watching, and update this post if things become exciting. Expect a lot of hoopla, even if it goes out to sea.

It’s the first major hurricane we’ve seen in a while, and is over very warm water that should keep it well fed:


It’s eye-wall looks like it is going through some sort of reformation phase, which has weaken it to a strong force 4 from a weak force 5, but that is still one heck of a storm.  Steady winds of 155 mph is something we can’t imagine. A sky-diver falling in a belly-down position is experiencing winds of 125 mph. Therefore 155 mph winds could pick you up and blow you away like a leaf.



The European model takes it safely out to sea:


But the GFS has it clobbering Cape Cod


The Hurricane itself? It has no idea what to do, with so much advice, so it currently is being very indecisive and wobbling in a small circle like a spinning top. (I now realize this animation below automatically updates. The wobble no longer shows.)



SUNDAY MORNING YIKES UPDATE   (Or, pick your poison)

The thing about computer models a week away is that they can jump about quite a bit from run to run. Last night’s GFS 0000z run had Matthew safely out to sea:


But this morning’s 0600z run? Yowsa!  New York City gets clobbered!


If you allow your emotions to be swayed by all these various runs you will become a nervous wreak, a mere shadow of your normal confident and happy self. If I were you I’d take it easy, and maybe check out your generator, if you have one. Don’t rush out and buy one, like I did around 20 years ago when Eduard (?) was suppose to hit Boston, and then swerved a hundred miles out to sea. (I couldn’t afford it. If you can afford it, buy one.)

Me? Well, personally, I am going to party like mad all week, for at this time next week I could be dead.

(By the way, this is a really good time to go to the Weatherbell Site and sign up for their one week free-trial. Most of the above maps are from that site. And Joe Bastardi is quite good, tackling the unpredictable whims of such storms, while Joseph D’Aleo is a brilliant teacher.)


The models continue to show a lot of options for route Matthew will take.


These models can be roughly divided into two camps, the “faster” and the “slower”.  The faster models have Matthew hook up with a trough to the north, and the trough whisks it nicely out to sea. The Canadian “JEM” model typifies this idea, with the storm on its way out by Sunday, and the focus of people returning to football.


The slower models have Matthew miss the connection with the trough to the north, and instead of zipping out to sea the storm just stalls and prowls about off the south Carolina coast. While the above map shows the storm heading out on October 9, the below “European” map shows it still hanging back on October 13.


One interesting possibility is shown by  the small storm to the north of Matthew in the above map, which would be a second tropical low sucked into the first.

In essence, my take is that even a chronic worrier like myself can kick back at least until Sunday, by which point we will know if the storm is going to be “faster” or “slower”.

But if you really need to worry, I won’t deprive you. The computer runs we see tend to be an average of many runs, and there are always a few runs, called “outliers”, that stray from the mainstream and march to a different drummer. The GFS may be suggesting Matthew will head out to sea, but check out the outliers. A few crash right into Massachusetts, and one very much resembles the 1938 hurricane (but slower).


Nearly exactly a year ago Hurricane Joaquin was threatening, and then the predicted path went from freaking out New York City to being a fish-storm.

This has happened so many times it is a bit like the “Boy Crying Wolf” to warn people. However, as I said last year after Joaquin turned out to be a false alarm, “I stand by my guns, when it comes to the fact that one of these days one of these storms will look all the world like it is going out to sea, and then will swerve back northwest and shatter the windows of Boston’s skyscrapers while ripping just west of town, heading north at 50 mph. However even a blind squirrel can find a nut. I will be wrong 99 times before I am right once…”

(A storm taking the path of the left hand map above would completely flood New York City’s subways. They have had countless close calls and warnings, (including Hurricane Irene in 2011) but they only use the warnings to collect taxes. Then they spend all the money on “administration”, and never fix the subways with better pumps and better protection.)

I hope I keep on being wrong, and when the one time in a hundred arrives, I am long gone. I’ve done my job, which is to be a Chicken Little. I deserve a break, so I’m just going to calm down.



Looks like Matthew is swerving NNE a little. Pray for the people of Haiti. They are poor on a good day, and have a couple bad ones ahead.


My gorge has risen this morning, as first thing I read this morning (on another site) was a somewhat sneering comment about the people of Haiti being “those permanent victims”. Unspoken was the idea they deserve what they get. Admittedly they are poor, and that poverty extends to poor government, but I don’t subscribe to the mind-set that seemingly wants to “reduce overpopulation” by keeping poor countries poor. It seems a sign you are one of the so-called “elite”, when you  smack your lips eating cherries while watching misery in the Third World on TV.

There are many problems with the concept of “nation building”, but that is no reason to not try to help others help themselves. My little church sent a group of seven teenagers to Haiti back in the late 1990’s and they actually had a wonderful time. The main project was to build a strong structure of cinder blocks in a neighborhood where most homes were made of flimsy tin sheeting. I can’t help but think a cinder block structure will now be where people flee, if winds get over 100 mph.  Sheets of tin will be but flying guillotines.

Stewart Pid alerted me to this remark over at WUWT. “The NHC estimates winds speeds using aircraft. There was a NDBC discus buoy that recorded surface sustained winds at 67 knots maximum. Category 1 hurricane threshold is 64 knots. Mathew was barely a category 1 hurricane when it passed directly over buoy number 42058. The NHC has been doing this for years, making wind speed claims greatly in excess of actual recorded surface winds.”

If it is true winds are not as bad as the NHC reports, I’ll call it an answered prayer. Because that is all I can do, at this point: Pray. I have none of the power of the “elite”. I have enough trouble using my waning strength to help people in my own small corner of the planet, and the only worldly power I have is the power of a single vote. So it only natural (if you own a thing called a “heart”) to turn to otherworldly power, and to pray for brothers and sisters in Haiti.


(Talk about other worldly… A fellow named Frankie Lucena was aboard a hurricane hunter above Hurricane Matthew last night, and got some pictures of electricity discharging in the upper atmosphere above the storm. I guess you could call it “lightning”, and it is known as “sprites”. We didn’t even know this sort of lightning existed, when I was young.)



Hurricane Matthew has smashed through the east of Haiti, and our vaunted media reports 5 deaths. Does not compute. Complications arise, which any competent media, with even the most elementary educations, would wrestle with. What are the complications? Well, either the government’s Hurricane Center is completely inept, and the storm is much weaker than they say, or our government’s reports about the conditions in Haiti are completely inept, and the poverty Haitians purportedly endure does not exist.

The simple fact of the matter is that around 60,000 in Haiti are so down-in-their-luck they are living in tents. (I know about that. I lived in a tent and slept in my car for long periods, when I was younger, and down-in-my-luck.) Others live in flimsy houses made of sheets of metal nailed to 2-by-4’s.  None of this stands up well to 125 mile/hour winds.

My gut feeling is that those people have been through sheer hell, if the winds were as high as the Hurricane Center proclaimed. Sheet metal is not nice stuff, when it is blowing about at 125 miles an hour. 5 deaths?  A foot of rain on hills stripped of vegetation can turn a dry brook into a brown torrent carrying trees, cars and houses. 5 deaths? A storm surge of ten feet, with twenty foot waves on top, is hard on people in Florida with comfortable cars and interstates to flee upon, but Haitians have nowhere to flee. 5 deaths?

My gut feeling is that our media is utterly inept. They have no on-the-scene reporters in Haiti. They are so bankrupt they can’t afford it. Anyway, any reporter with the guts to take on such a dangerous assignment  would also have long ago had the guts to tell their editors to take their job and shove it. Their remaining workers are timid souls, who believe “news is reporting what you are told to report”. Most news they get they obtain through social media, because they are too timid to go out and see things for themselves. Why should I heed them? I can obtain stuff through social media myself. I know the waters were chest deep in the Main Street of a small town in the southeast Haiti, because I read the “tweet”.

Why should I care? Well, I suppose it is because my little church cared for Haiti a quarter century ago, and, after our teens joined other teens from other small churches to go south and build some cinder-block structures, and we felt all warm and cozy about what a good thing we had done, some lady from Haiti came north to thank us (and, of course, to seek more help). In the process of thanking us she sort of punctured our self-righteousness,  because in the process of saying why she was thankful she described the reasons, and this involved describing the brutality of the reality. For me it was a real eye-opener.

After she spoke to our church, I sought the woman out and asked the sort of questions our wimpy media is too spineless to ask, and she seemed downright relieved.  I asked politically incorrect questions, but never with malice. We had a talk that was full of laughter and understanding, and which the “elite” think cannot happen between a conservative, white-skinned bumpkin from New Hampshire and a very-dark skinned social-worker from Haiti.

The result was that my world became larger. I cared for people beyond my horizons. If I ride a taxi in Boston, and the driver is Haitian, I want the “news from home”.

Our president could care less. He thinks that, because his skin is dark and mine is whitish, people from Haiti will automatically flock to him. But my family has more experience of the agony  of slavery than he can imagine. (Look up Robert Gould Shaw, who died with his black troops in the American Civil War.)  Our president’s black skin has no knowledge of slavery, and in fact he of the “elite”, too high and mighty to sink to such lows. What do the “elite” really care about a nation of slaves that rebelled from their masters, like Haiti?

I personally think the suffering in Haiti at the moment is more than “5 deaths”, but it might make our president look bad if, after 8 years of his leadership, our close neighbors had not even the slightest improvements, as he spent billions on wind turbines and solar panels that are failures. Therefore the media, as meek and timid souls, does not dare report the actual suffering in Haiti that is actually happening.

I could be wrong.  Maybe it is the Hurricane Center that is wrong, and Matthew passed through Haiti with breezes and showers. If that is the case, how are we to trust government scientists about Global Warming? If they can’t get today right, how can we trust their ideas about tomorrow?

That is only the first complication I have to report.

The second involves a glitch in the confidence Matthew will move as predicted. The glitch is a second tropical storm to the east-northeast  of Matthew, named “Nicole”.  In the map below, Matthew is the big storm between Cuba and Haiti, and Nicole is the small blob of clouds way out in the Atlantic, to the east-northeast .


The glitch is this:  When two tropical storms exist in close proximity something called the Fujiwhara Effect occurs. In theory this would whip the eastern storm (Nichole) forward,  but cause the western storm (Matthew) to slow, or even stall.

No computer model sees this yet. All seem to see the “faster” option, (which I mentioned earlier) which whisks Matthew out to sea, only brushing the east coast of the USA.

No model sees the “slower” option, wherein the Fujiwhara  effect stalls Matthew, and causes us a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Personally, I hope this coming Sunday sees Matthew whisking out to sea, and our focus on football, and Haiti.  The last thing I want to see is Haiti’s trouble happening here. But at least the hurricane is past those people, and winds are dying down in Haiti.




Cuba’s mountains have weakened the hurricane slightly, as it passed through the Windward Passage.  Waters are warm and the storm will likely intensify as it moves away from the mountains. The Bahamas have no high peaks.


The only Tweets and Facebook  posts I have seen come from far from the center. Port-au-Prince only received strong breezes and heavy rains.


Hurricane Matthew is back out over water and the eye has reappeared, and likely it will strengthen as it moves northwest through the Bahamas towards Florida. (Notice the second tropical storm, Nichole, to the right.)


All attention will look ahead to Florida now, as Haiti is forgotten. However the “Drudge Report” had an apt picture from space of a skull-like Matthew hitting Haiti.


The death toll is not being released; government officials are simply stating “We don’t know,” which is the truth, for the bridges are washed out and the roads flooded and all phone and cell-phone connections seem lost. The tweets we do get show rains were extreme even far from the center over by Port-au-Prince, and people may be having trouble recharging their phones.


The further toward the track one traveled the more extreme the damage would be, but to get any idea of how incredible such winds and tides are it is helpful to look at Westernmost Cuba, where the buildings were far more sturdy.


This demonstrates the winds were as strong as hurricane hunter aircraft suggested, at ground level. However Matthew was “weakened” by the time it hit western Cuba. The storm surge was around nine feet. As Matthew hit Southwest Haiti the winds were 20 mph higher and the storm surge was likely over ten feet. People were camped on flat-lands by the sea, in tents and in tin sheds, and afraid of leaving their few belongings, and basically stayed and prayed.  Unless some leader rose, who got a great many people to head for the local highlands, I fear the death-toll must be in the thousands.

I find the media silence peculiar. Perhaps they fear causing a panic in Florida. However the survivors in southwest Haiti likely need help now, not tomorrow. We do have an aircraft carrier and hospital ship headed down that way,  but they have a hurricane to avoid.

Continue to pray for them, because most of us cannot help in any other way.

Wednesday Night  –Fujiwhara Craziness–

I just watched some young fool on the Weather Channel say Matthew’s winds have weakened because it is disorganized. Total Nonsense. Compare it with the picture above. It is quite obviously better organized. It’s central pressure is even lower. The drop in wind-speed is some glitch caused by needing to take the pulse from a distance. There are times one needs to use the eyes God gave us, but the young fellow on the Weather Channel is displaying a surprising respect of authority. (Maybe that’s what got him his job.)

Now our concern should be the Bahamas. I visited those islands back when I was eighteen and very disrespectful of authority, aboard a “borrowed” sailboat. The isles are largely low, coral islands, and no place you want to be when the ocean rises ten feet, with huge waves and high winds. I am praying for the inhabitants, who were very kind to a forlorn object like myself, cast upon their shores, with the captain of my ship so violently ill I thought he might die.

I am also praying for the engineers behind the building of the hotels in Nassau. They likely are not sleeping well. No engineer wants to see his structure blown down, but they are also under unreal pressure to “keep costs low.”  It is somewhat amazing how much the costs rise, if you engineer a hotel to withstand 130 mph winds, compared to what they are when you engineer a hotel to withstand 110 mph winds. The one thing about Nassau is that, unlike Haiti, we likely will get swift pictures of what has happened. It looks like the eye might go right over the capital.

As far as Florida is concerned, I think they are doing the right thing to evacuate the coast. It is better to be safe than sorry.


Notice tropical storm Nichole, to the right of the map. This, and the young meteorologist Tom Downs over on the Weatherbell site, may actually succeed in getting the word “Fujiwhara” into the vocabulary of the mainstream media. (If so, it will be fun to watch, as puffed people attempt to pontificate, like they know what “Fujiwhara” means.)

We don’t even know if Matthew will hit Florida, or stay just off-shore. That seems work enough. However, looking beyond, some models are showing Matthew pulling a loop, swinging out to sea only to curve back around and hit Florida again, due to the Fujiwhara effect.

I’m not worried about that. After all, I don’t live down there. What I am worried about is stuff that is above my head, in the upper atmosphere. I don’t understand the workings of that world, up there. But it does seem that, when these hurricanes create massive updrafts, it does some destabilizing that needs to be rectified, and you see these odd, very-fast streamers of high clouds heading north around the edges of hurricanes. I suppose, guessing greatly, that they are a sort of jet stream. I have never seen one “steer” a storm, but then, I have never seen what brings certain hurricanes north to New England at unheard of speeds of between 50-60 mph. I just see it has happened in the past.

I am worried about something that the models are not showing. They have produced an incredible number or tracks, all over kingdom come, over a few short days, but not one is mine.

Because the upper atmosphere’s jet streams are a subject miles above my head, there is no way I can talk about the subject scientifically, and therefore the best option is to talk about it facetiously:

You young whippersnappers can’t forecast like the oldsters could. Heck, back when me and George Washington used to chop down cherry trees together, we thought nothing of forecasting storms years in advance. Why, as late as 1868 a Limey named Lieutenant Stephen Martin Saxby published a forecast, on Christmas, in the “Standard of London”, and it began…“I now beg leave to the state, with regard to 1869, that at seven a.m., on October 5, the moon will be at that part of her orbit which is nearest to the earth…”

Now I reckon you so-called scientists got your noses in the air, because you can’t figure out how to read the moon, but Saxby nailed his forecast. You fellows keep changing yours, every time your computer goes “urp.”

Up in the Bay of Funday the fog burned off on October 4, 1869, and it was a surprisingly warm day for October, even called “oppressive” by some. Then the south winds began to pick up, and the skies to the south grew dark and threatening, and by sunset it was raining and the winds were starting to howl. The tides were high, due to the new moon, but once the dark fell the wind went mad. In Moncton some farmers headed out to the flats to get their livestock in the dark, and then the thirty-foot-tall dykes protecting those lowlands were topped by a storm surge like none ever seen before, and sea waters came roaring across the flats, drowning lots of livestock, and farmers as well, though one fellow survived by riding a haystack that slowly got more and more waterlogged, sinking lower and lower until the fellow thought he was a goner, because not only was the stack sinking but the outgoing tide was sucking him out to sea, but luckily the stack sunk so low it grounded on the submerged top of the dyke, and there he stayed as the waters drained away, revealing a shattered landscape. Over in the state of Maine, entire forests were flattened, and the floods were so bad not a bridge survived in the north.

Now, when you young fellows can forecast a storm like that, ten months in advance, come back and maybe we’ll talk about naming a storm after you.

(On a side note, the hurricanes that clobber New England don’t dawdle on their way north, for in such cases cold waters weaken them swiftly. The ones to watch out for accelerate to amazing forward speeds of 50-60 mph, (and some nit-pickers might say they are no longer truly and purely “tropical”, but they have unholy power at their cores). So forecasters to the north should be wary of swiftly developing jets, that can suddenly suck a storm north.)


This graphic says it all. More later.


Picture from Haiti. Still no reports from southwest, but a helicopter view was not pretty. Likely no clean water, which can lead to cholera in a hurry.


Church will be at the usual time.


In westernmost Cuba, they do have their cellphone service back.


On the Weatherbell site Joe D’Aleo posted this cool satellite view of Matthew over the Bahamas, Nichole to the east, and, down in the lower right corner, the new kid on the block?



Besides salvaging belongings, one task seems to be to dry things out, as everything is drenched. It is important to boil all water, but hard to start a fire.


THURSDAY EVENING  -Honing In On Florida




FRIDAY MORNING REPORT  –EYEWALL OFF-SHORE (So Far).  Haiti Death-toll “jumps” to 253.

The inner eye-wall of Matthew looks like it fell apart and the out eye-wall looks like it is contracting, which is a sign of a strengthening storm. If the eye-wall gets over land the winds turn from gales to crazy. It is the eye-wall winds that have nasty vortexes sort of like sideways tornadoes, and do the worst damage.  So far the eye-wall hasn’t made an on shore appearance, and all the hoopla looks laughable. Fine with me, though I do not like the weather service to get laughed at when they gave the proper warnings. Pictures from Haiti and Cuba should alert people to the “worst-case-scenario,” which we pray stays off shore.

We are starting to get a few reports from the cut off parts of Haiti, and Time magazine reports the death toll “jumped to” 253. No, fellows. The death toll didn’t “jump”, you just didn’t report it, just like you are still not reporting how many died.

Haiti Hurricane Matthew

The body of a man who perished during Hurricane Matthew lies on a piece of wood as survivors prepare to place his body in a coffin, in Cavaillon, Haiti. Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. Haitian officials on Thursday dramatically raised the known death toll from Matthew as they finally began to reach corners of the country that had been cut off by the rampaging storm. Interior Minister Francois Anick Joseph announced that at least 108 had died, up from a previous count of 23. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

The pictures we get are still from the edges, and from wealthier neighborhoods with sturdier structures.  The slums are only viewed from helicopters. People are drying drenched laundry and waiting for water. Water is so expensive some can’t afford food, as the ocean’s salt water flooded the fresh-water wells.

People walk on a street next to destroyed houses after Hurricane Matthew hit Jeremie

People walk on a street next to destroyed houses after Hurricane Matthew hit Jeremie, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

If you want to become angry at the UN, please consider the following:  People catch cholera from water made dirty by sewerage that contains the germs from people called “cholera-carriers.” There was no cholera in Haiti. If the UN had wanted to keep Cholera from being a problem, all they needed to do was screen its workers, and make sure they sent no cholera-carriers. They did the opposite, and sent workers from Nepal, where cholera is rife. It seems so stupid I have the paranoid sense it must have been intentional, to “reduce over-population.”  Cholera currently represents a threat of killing more people than the hurricane.


SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE  –We lucked out; Haiti didn’t.

Hurricane Matthew did give the coasts of Georgia and South and North Carolina strong winds and very heavy rains (over a foot in places) but the worst of the storm surge dissipated out to sea and never brought its full brunt to the USA coast. This is of small  consolation to those who have suffered, but the fact of the matter is that things could have been much, much worse, especially in Florida. Now most of the storms energy has been expended in rain to its north, and though still a formidable gale, especially on its west side, it has been dubbed “Post Tropical.”  The actually center has little activity with it, in the second map below.



Tom Downs has a very good post at the Weatherbell site explaining what a huge difference even a fifty mile change in the track of the storm to the west would have made, and why the governors did the right thing to evacuate the coasts, though many are laughing at them now. You can’t always trust on luck, as Haiti knows.

The death toll in Haiti rose, as I expected, to 877, and now silence has again descended. I have the sense the officials involved are hiding the true nature of the disaster, likely out of shame. Some of the poor were not even aware the storm was coming, so inadequate were the preparations.

This is not due to a failure on the part of people to send money. The failure rests squarely on the shoulders of the leaders in charge of investing the money wisely. In the case of the World Bank, they may not have invested unwisely, and rather did not invest it at all.

I find these figures hard to believe, but will put them down:

After the disastrous 2010 earthquake the World Bank collected and oversaw a account holding 351 million, called the Haiti Reconstruction Fund. How much of that fund has been utilized? Out of 351 million, slightly less than 17 million.

I find this totally disgusting. For one thing, I am sure the officials didn’t dawdle, when it came to making certain their own  salaries were paid. Secondly, there is no shortage of cheap labor in Haiti. The average person subsists on a dollar a day, and I’m certain you could get some good work-crews together paying the men ten dollars a day. Even using primitive methods, carrying dirt in baskets, the people of India built a decent system of flood control dams. Tall dykes could have been built to protect the southern cities from storm surges, as was done in Galveston after it was destroyed.  Now it is all 20-20 hindsight.


There are some who suggest the actual intent of the UN and the World Bank is not to help such people, but rather to “reduce over population.” That is a terrible thing to suggest, tantamount to genocide, but I can’t say they are doing a very good job of defusing the suggestion they are evil. You cannot blame the leaders of Haiti, for how they use the money is so largely dependent on the overseers. (One thing I heard was the Haitian officials were not allowed to use the aid on anything but things directly related to earthquakes.)  In any case, a human disaster is occurring, and the press is silent.

I expect the Haiti Reconstruction Fund records may soon be “accidentally deleted.”

SUNDAY AFTERNOON –Matthew Fades–Haitian Horror Continues–

I did a bit more study of the history of Haiti this Sunday, and it seems to me that the nation has had more than it’s fair share of oppression, brutal dictators, outside exploiters, and ill-advised spiritual “authorities”. In some ways it seems Haitians are a people with a chip on their shoulder, who have every reason to have a chip on their shoulder, but who draw abuse by asking for it. It is a most exasperating sort of history to read about, and one Evangelist even suggested Haitians had made a deal with the devil, and were reaping the consequences. I doubt they are any worse than the rest of us, in that respect, and in a sense they remind me of the rest of us, only they make our shortcomings more obvious.

However as this started out a study of hurricanes and not Haiti, I think I’ll save the rest of my thinking for a Halloween post.  For some of Haiti’s horror is like that, and a warning to the rest of the world of what we could make our lives be like.

Speaking of which, I guess I’ll settle back for a presidential debate between a couple of Halloween characters.

The real danger is humans, not hurricanes. (Though we do have Irene waiting in the wings.)




LOCAL VIEW –First Frost–

We have had a summery fall, with a few summer-like waves of refreshing Canadian air, welcome because they push out the heat and humidity, but the southern warmth quickly pushed back north, hot and muggy but usually dry, until at long last a southern surge  brought us some rain, which our parched landscape accepted with a deep sigh of gratitude.


That single band of warm rain, bececting the southern border of New Hampshire, gave us more rain than we’d received in the entire month before. It was slightly less than three inches. So parched was our landscape that the brooks didn’t even rise. The land sucked it up like a sponge. The drought wasn’t ended. But at least the woods didn’t crisply crunch as I walked through them, after that extended torrent (between 4:00 and 8:00 AM), and I wasn’t searching the historical records for evidence of state-wide forest fires any more. Instead I worried southwards, about hurricanes. (Notice, in the map below, the ex-tropical storm off the Carolina coast.)

20160919-satsfc As the welcome wall of moisture swept north, a flimsy, poor-excuse-for-a-cold-front basically faded away over us, as we sank back into a tropical flow from the south. Up in that flow came a poor-excuse-for-a-hurricane. It had no rain, and no wind, but wonderfully strange skies. They were hurricane skies, without the hurricane.


When it really became obvious the skies were different was when the skies gave way to a hurricane sunset. When I was young, old-timers warned me to be wary of sunsets that were not just red in the west, but crimson wall-to-wall, from west all the way overhead and down to the east, especially at the time of the “line storm” (when the sun crosses the equator).  “Red at night, sailor’s delight” was not true for the “blood sun”.


In a sense it was as if a atmospheric gap passed over us with a sign on it, “This Space Is Reserved For A Hurricane”, but no hurricane chose to utilize its reservation.  I found it odd. It seemed especially odd because several tropical storms have milled about over warm waters without showing the slightest inclination towards the explosive development that sailors once dreaded. In like manner fronts have approached New England this summer, and had signs on them, “This Space Reserved For Severe Thunderstorms”, and we got not even a sprinkle nor a grumble.

Only a true Alarmist would gnaw their nails about no hurricanes and no severe thunderstorms. It is a blessing, (though we could have used a little more light rain). However I thought it was wonderful that, even though we did not get a “line storm” right at the solstice, (the time the terrible 1938 Hurricane passed though New England, completely changing the landscape in three hours), a sort of Space-reserved-for-hurricane passed over at the right time, with a hurricane sunset. It made the old-timers I once listened to seem less out-dated.

When I was knee high to a grasshopper, the old-timers I annoyed were all born in the 1800’s, and could remember when sailing ships were still common. Right up into the Great Depression men in New England made decent money shipping cargo up and down the coast on schooners. They lived lives Insurance Companies would now frown upon, and endured the whims of the weather, and therefore knew things about what the winds do that we have forgotten, now that we use satellites in outer space to tell us which ways the winds blow, and seldom step outside and wet a finger.

Now I’m the old-timer, but even though I’ve lived much more of my life outdoors than most modern people do, I’m not as smart as those old sailors were. Also, when it comes to satellites, I’m not as smart as the young. At times I think I epitomize the worst of both worlds. However perhaps I am a bridge between the two worlds.

One thing the old-timers knew about, back when more than half of all Americans lived on farms,  was that when the nights get longer the Canadian air-masses, so welcome during the summer, when the nights are too short to do damage, gain power. It is the power of longer nights, leading to frost. Frost does great damage to the productivity of a garden, and the old-timers would anxiously sniff the air on cool nights, even in August. By September they expected frost, and this was especially true when conditions were dry, (because moister and lusher foliage has a power to resist frost which drier foliage lacks.) Around here the first frost was expected around the solstice, and any extension of the growing season was deemed good luck.

However the modern forecasters, parked indoors by their computer screens, were completely blind-sided by our first frost this year, on September 26. This sort of surprised me, because usually those fellows will use the slightest excuse to puff their self-importance, setting off wailing warnings on weather-radios, and many’s the time I’ve been awoken at three AM by my weather-radio warning of the slight possibility of frost in mountains fifty miles north of here. This year there was no warning. Low temperatures were predicted to be around 40°F (+4.4°C).


If people with gardens actually depended on the government, they might be pissed off, because with adequate warning a sprinkler can be set out in the garden, and a slight spray of water can extend the growing season. (Not that things grow much more, as the sun gets lower and weaker. One year, close to the water on the coast of Maine, I managed to protect my garden nearly to Thanksgiving in November, and what amazed me was how stunted the growth was. It was nice to have things fresh from the garden, but I recall the Swiss Chard grew short, squat leaves, like triangles.)

The small scale farmers around here don’t need the government to tell them to expect frost in late September. Either they protected their tomatoes,  or else they said, “the heck with it.” When the frost came without an official warning, the really angry people, I expect, were the little old ladies who had their hot-house plants out on the patio, and saw them killed, because the weathermen didn’t warn them. And it is such ladies, and not farmers, that the weathermen should kowtow to, for such ladies have the big bucks and donate to PBS and the meteorology departments of colleges.

Me? I wasn’t angry. I expected frost. It happens. Heck if a change of government will change the date of the first frost. It happens. It really seems primitive and savage to me that some think anyone but the Creator controls the weather. I see little difference between savages who think throwing a virgin into a volcano can control nature, and those who think buying curly light-bulbs and separating green bottles from brown bottles can control nature.

I mean, if you believe in such stuff, shouldn’t you just go to the Creator, and say, “Begging your pardon, Creator, but could you please make it snow this Christmas, after folk have finished their shopping?” Isn’t it a little bit insulting to the Creator to think you can control Him? “Your attention please, Creator, I have purchased curly light bulbs, and henceforth You will do as I say!”

I was part of a generation that felt it could boss the Creator absurdly. “Your attention please, Creator, I have purchased a tablet of LSD, and henceforth you will expand my consciousness as I say!” (What a fiasco!) Therefore, now that I am an old-timer, I am less inclined to tell the Creator how to run the universe.

I am more inclined to attempt to emulate Abraham Lincoln. When asked if he wanted the Creator to be on “our side”, his polite, considerate (and, by modern standards, politically incorrect,) response was, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

In order to be like that, one has to be humble. One has to be able to confess they are not in control of all things. In such a situation one should heed little children, because they have no control whatsoever. Call it Karma or whatever-you-will, they have no control of the situation they are born into.

There actually was a Child-care philosophy that was all the rage, a while back,  that focused on giving children more of a sense they were “in control.” Rather than saying, “Get in the car”, you were suppose to say, “Would you like to get in the car?” The aim was to stimulate a child’s creativity (as if they needed any help with that!) The fear was that, by bossing children around, you were crushing their talents. What was discovered was that too much freedom made children feel abandoned. Walls were not seen by the child as being like a prison’s, but instead walls sponsored a cozy sense of safety. A child did not want the deep responsibility of being in control of everything. They wanted to trust those details to the grown-ups.  

The trust of children is quite amazing to witness, in cases where the parents have serious problems, and you might think a child would prefer foster care. Even when parents are heroin addicts and both are in jail, a little child will prefer them to  saintly foster care. Parents are a “given”, just as weather is a “given”.  Just as we don’t control the weather, children don’t control their fate, yet they are a heck of a lot more optimistic and cheerful than most adults. Like the captains of old schooners, they sail through situations that would turn an insurance adjuster a deathly shade of green. Therefore I watch children carefully, to see how they respond to a first frost.



Is that young man cursing Big Oil, or Big Green? Is he cursing Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? Or is he not cursing anyone at all, and instead just filled with wonder?

As I get older I get younger. Maybe it is because I have to deal with kids so much, or perhaps senility is creeping in. Increasingly, cursing seems stupid. Increasingly, wonder seems wise.

When I think back to the old-timers I knew in my youth, it seems they were less troubled by not being in control. Just think how anguished a modern insurance agent would be about a cargo vessel with no engine, dependent on the whims of the wind. Yet the old-timers simply accepted the whims of the wind as a given, and worked like mad responding. In like manner, a first frost got everyone working like crazy to save what they could from the garden.

Perhaps it is working with computers so much that makes people think they are in control. People have the sense that they only need to rewrite the program, and any glitch will be fixed. Before you know it people are attempting to create a reality that is “risk free”.

That is not how the Creator made the world. A “risk free” environment is a bed you can hide beneath, and even there you are mortal, and, after hiding for seventy years, you die.  At some point one wants to come out, and face the sky, and maybe even sail.



Now stand back, all you bankers of men’s hearts,
For I am going to stay the wheels of time
And command leaves stay green, when first frost starts
To spill paints across the hills. I’ll climb
The clouds and yank the slumping sun back north.
My hair will turn dark again, without dye.
I’ll again gush ardor, (whatever that’s worth),
And make fall’s maudlin poems be a lie.
I’m tired of autumn songs being so weepy
So I’ll derange the seasons with tulips
And wake poor bears just when they’re sleepy.
The only frost will involve my mint juleps.
And then, when asked why I’ve altered Creation,
I’ll just explain it’s my standing ovation.

LOCAL VIEW -Hurricane Joaquin-Updated Wednesday morning

It is hard to get properly alarmed about hurricanes any more. Sooner or later we will get clobbered, and no matter how much warning is done before hand, the storm will be reported as coming either “without warning” or “with little warning.”

For what it’s worth, here is a warning I wrote for WUWT in 2012, which contains quotes from an earlier warning I wrote for Accuweather in 2006:

After so many years of warning people, I feel like a hybrid cross between Chicken Little and The Boy Who Cried Wolf.  “The Chicken Who Cried Wolf”, perhaps.

I’m sick of it. I’m done with it. The simple fact of the matter is, it is too late. All you can do is rush out and buy some milk, along with all the other freaked-out people, if Hurricane Joaquin turns out to be “The Big One”.

It probably won’t. It will probably turn out to sea. Hurricane’s usually do, which is what breeds the sense of complacency, and even invulnerability.  Just before the 1938 hurricane completely trashed New England a college professor, professing to be an authority, announced that “hurricanes could not hit New England”, (for some reason it is best we forget). In that case a major hurricane hadn’t hit New England in over a hundred years. And, as it hasn’t been a hundred years since the 1938 hurricane, Joaquin probably won’t hit us.

If it does hit us, it will follow these three steps. One, it will mill about to our south, growing strong. Two, it will turn north and, still strengthening, start to take the characteristic accelerating path to the northeast and out to sea. And Three, “without warning” it will, accelerating even more, hook back to the northwest and clobber New England.

The amount of time the public will have between step 2 and step 3 will be around six hours. As you go to bed the late night news will be reporting the hurricane is heading out to sea, and when you awake the winds already will be rising. I’m convinced that, given the correct set of circumstances, not even the billions spent on satellites and computer models make all that much difference. (It might be interesting to plug the information we have concerning the 1938 hurricane, or Hurricane Carol in 1954, into our modern computers, and see if they recognized the threat 12 hours before New England got pummeled.)

When young I walked woods where all the rotting tree trunks lay in the same direction, and have seen those trunks slowly rot away, until now you can barely make out a long line of moss where the trunk once lay, and a low pile of stones where the roots once were torn from the earth. The forest is now full of pines over sixty years old. It is hard to believe the entire woods was flattened in a single hour, by Carol.

Some of those woods are now full of houses. I’m tired of coming across as an old crab, telling people their idyll is doomed. They worked long and hard to come up with the down-payment, and continue to work long and hard to come up with the mortgage payments, and the doom might not come in their lifetimes. Who needs some chicken crying wolf?

Of course, doom might come next Monday. But in that case it is likely too late to do much more than buy milk, ice, (and toilet paper. Don’t forget the toilet paper.)

I myself have a generator, plenty of containers that will hold plenty of gas, and a wood stove I can cook on, and firewood, and pigs and goats to feed the neighbors with, after their milk goes sour when their coolers run out of ice.  (But I’m not sharing my toilet paper. One has to draw the line somewhere.)

So I am just going to sit back and watch, to see if Joaquin heads out to sea or not. This post will contain updates, (and also poetry, which some flee from faster than they do hurricanes).

Hurricane Joaquin 2 HUIR(5)20151001 satsfc

(Click maps and pictures to clarify and enlarge.)

Currently the stationary front would seemingly protect the east coast. The problem is that low off Florida. If that digs into the upper atmosphere it can change the “steering currents,” and a hurricane headed safely northeast out to sea can back to the northwest.

To the south again lurks the hurricane
Making mockery of idyllic palms,
Balming breezes, and sweet rum that calms pain
Served by babes in grass skirts. Instead a bomb’s
Hidden in the wrapping paper. The south
Holds no mercy for the north’s limping troops.
Poison brims the bloom sipped by the bee’s mouth.
Youth tastes time and grows gray and stoops.
Low moaning’s in the music, a background
Full of ominous portents of doom.

Is this then the harvest? The crop found
By one who bouquets the wrong sort of bloom?
Love we should sow, but the world is insane
And builds on a beach before a hurricane.


Hurricane Joaquin 1002 HUIR

500 AM EDT FRI OCT 02 2015


LOCATION...23.3N 74.7W

Hurricane Jiaquin 1002B uv900_swath_nest3__2_(1)

Notice how the model swings it back towards New England before curving it out to sea. That makes a fellow nervous.


It is still just sitting down there, nudging ever so slightly north. 20151002 satsfc

LOCATION...24.3N 74.3W

I’d hate to be holed up in the central Bahamas right now. Sustained winds of 125 mph, and Joaquin is only slowly crawling away. At least in New England a hurricane comes plowing through at top speed, and is in and out before you really know what has hit you.  The 1938 hurricane was moving at over 50 mph when it clouted New England, but Joaquin is only moving at 7 mph.  By the time it finally moves away they won’t have a palm tree left. God help them.

At least it is moving NE, away from land.



LOCATION...28.0N 68.9W

Now is when the hurricane starts to accelerate harmlessly  (unless you live on Bermuda) out to sea, and everyone goes to bed unsuspecting. The “Big One” will shock people with a very different forecast in the morning, but that only happens 1% of the time.  Sleep well.



LOCATION...30.4N 67.1W

Joaquin continues to head out to sea, but I’m not lowering my guard quite yet, as our steely gray skies and east wind have given way to blue skies with an east wind, which means the high pressure is coming down over us. This is great if it shunts the hurricane out to sea, but bad news if it manages to get in front of the hurricane. In the upper atmosphere map below you can see what the computer model imagines we will see tomorrow morning. (Dr. Ryan Maue map from Joseph D’Aleo’s site at Weatherbell.)Joaquin 4 ecmwf_z500a_noram_7

The above map shows the low pressure off Carolina and the high pressure ahead of Joaquin which, in a worst case scenario, could sling it northwest. Those much wiser than I are fairly certain it will “escape” northeast, though Joseph D’Aleo states those on Cape Cod shouldn’t entirely lower their guard quite yet, and they will get some good surf.

A weirder solution would have Joaquin slow and do a loop. One of the weirdest solutions I have seen occurred in 1971, when I was about to sail south on a teenager’s misadventure.  A hurricane named Ginger headed out to sea, and then stopped, and spent a solid week slowly backing west and making a mess of all sailor’s plans. But that is a story for another time. I’ll just say I’m glad I’m not out on a boat this October 4, in the waters of Buzzard’s Bay heading south, as I was that October 4. Sometimes being an old man looking at maps and satellite pictures isn’t all bad.

Joanquin 4 HUIR(7)



LOCATION...32.2N 66.4W

It is swerving slightly back towards land, but no one seems the slightest bit concerned, as the the westerlies are coming south to the north, and also the storm is weakening some.  


Winds shifting a little south of east, here in New Hampshire, with only the crescent moon and bright Venus able to shine through a thin layer of strato-cumulus coming inland from the sea. Some higher clouds remotely seen through this lower deck, coming from the southeast. I’d be more nervous if wiser men weren’t certain the remote possibility of a sneak-attack-hurricane has faded away.  Joaquin likely will curve east and make a beeline for the Azores, but it currently is swerving just a little towards the NNE to see if it can get me to flinch.


LOCATION...34.1N 65.2W


LOCATION...35.8N 64.0W



LOCATION...38.3N 59.6W

Today Joaquin made up its mind and hitched a ride on the Westerlies across the Atlantic towards England.

20151006 satsfcEven as Joaquin vanishes off the right margin of the map that describes New England’s world view, Old England sees it appear on the left margin of the UK Met map describing their world view:Surface pressure chart - Forecast T+12 - Issued at: 0800 on Tue 6 Oct 2015

The UK Met has what is left of Joaquin running along the north coast of Spain next Sunday, so I may update this post a few times more, though it isn’t really a “local view”

However at this point I should likely tip my hat to the forecasters who had the nerve to go out on a limb and guess where this dangerous storm was going to go, especially Joe Bastardi over at Weatherbell, who did the best I saw, even though he did adjust is forecast from up-the-coast to out-to-sea. He made his adjustments before others, and all in all did an amazingly good job of predicting what cannot be predicted.

I stand by my guns, when it comes to the fact that one of these days one of these storms will look all the world like it is going out to sea, and then will swerve back northwest and shatter the windows of Boston’s skyscrapers while ripping just west of town, heading north at 50 mph. However even a blind squirrel can find a nut. I will be wrong 99 times before I am right once, as a guy like Joe Bastardi is right 99 times before he is wrong once.

But when I’m finally right, won’t I ever get the spotlight!  Headlines written by idiots will suggest I’m a better forecaster than Mr. Bastardi.  And me?  Hopefully I’ll have the brains to milk my day in the sun, and wind up nicely tanned.

In which case you should tap me on the shoulder, and remind me I am just an Eeyore.Eeyore rsz_eeyore61_5881_5847


LOCATION...40.5N 49.4W



LOCATION...42.0N 37.0W

Surface pressure chart - Analysis - Issued at: 0800 on Wed 7 Oct 2015

Current forecasts show a greatly weakened Joaquin sliding along the north coast of Spain and then ducking south along the France-Spain border into the Mediterranean by next Monday.

LOCAL VIEW —Reading Leaves—Updated

Like the wild geese I too must fly away
And so I sniff the wind and read the leaves
Not in teacups or novels, but everyday
And green and sighing as sunshine deceives
The forest ceiling with endless summer dreams.

These woods were once a meadow flower-strewn
And like those blooms my time is brief, it seems;
In the sweeping millennium I’m one noon
Watching shadows shrink and then start to grow,
Reading the leaves that now want to be red,
Learning to lean on how little I know,
And how poems can speak what cannot be said,
As all around me a sun that isn’t seen
Makes a scarlet sunset of what was green.

The change in the seasons could be wild around here, as we are at the end of a very dry spell, yet have flood warnings. I had to drag a hose out to the pig stye, which as become a dust bath despite the fact I located the pen by a pasture spring, which is now spring-less. (What did I expect from autumn?)

The air is hot and muggy, like summer, and there is muttering on the weather blogs about possible hurricanes to our south. One computer has a storm hitting New Jersey next Sunday, and another has New England being hit next Monday. Drought to drown NJ Plot wind_nest_m(6) Drought to drown NE plot uv900_swath_nest3__2_

(Maps created by Dr. Ryan Maue, and lifted from Joseph D’Aleo’s blog at Weatherbell, where you can get the potential for these storms hitting various places discussed in great detail and depth.)

It is still so dry that the pasture grass has gone crunchy. My corn was stunted this summer. It seems absurd to hear flood watches announced on the weather radio, but there they are.

There is a lot of juice in the air, even without a hurricane hitting us, and a cold front bearing down will swing the south wind around to the raw northeast. Therefore I suppose it is time to resurrect my “Local View” posts for another winter. (And they could get interesting, if we do get a hurricane.)

My wife had a project for the children at the Childcare today that involved pressing leaves (and other stuff) between sheets of wax paper, and I got nabbed and sent out to collect leaves with a group of children. The trees are only just starting to change, but a sick maple by the road is ahead of the rest, so we headed to it. The odd thing was that there wasn’t a single colored leaf on the ground. The leaves that fell were completely brown. I assume it is so dry the trees aren’t going to let leaves fall without sucking them dry. I had to bend down a branch, so the kids could pluck colored leaves that still held a bit of moisture. What do I make of that, as a leaf reader?  Not flood watches, that’s for sure.

20150929 satsfc(Note the developing swirl east of Florida. Click to clarify and enlarge.)

UPDATE  —From drought to drenching—

A wall of water came through early this morning. I could hear the trees starting to sigh as I went to bed.  It was over 70° (21.1° C) as I headed off to work in the dark blue light of September dawn-dusk, and felt like Florida, and my mind was thinking of the early picture of Hurricane Joaquin brewing up to the south.Hurricane Joaquin 1 HUIR(4)

This is not a good situation, as hurricanes tend to move very slowly down there and make everyone complacent, and then start up the coast, and abruptly move very fast. In a sense they pounce like a cat, and mortals are mice taken by surprise.

With the weather warm and muggy and rain streaming down, it was easy for my imagination to envision tropical storms, however after drenching us with a third of a foot the streaming rain tapered off around noon, and, with a couple grumbles of thunder, moved away to the north. 20150930 rad_ne_640x480_0120150930B rad_ne_640x480_12

Now the wind has swung around to the north and stars twinkle in the evening sky, and its cooler. Hurricane? Complacency  is setting in.

However I’ll save worry for tomorrow, content in the knowledge my pigs are happy. They did not approve of dust baths.

LOCAL VIEW –Bermuda Dry—

We’ve switched from days with the high temperature around 45° to days with temperatures around 80°. (7° to 27° Celsius) It is quite a shock to the system, but the leaves are finally busting out on all the trees. This is important, as the duff is bone dry, and baked further by the hot sun.


Already forest fires are in the news, and yesterday, while buying hoses to water my dry garden with, at a hardware store several towns away, I noted fire trucks from a different town rushing past to help with a brush fire on the lower slopes of Mount Monadnock.

As soon as you get some shade these duff fires tend to stop, as the shade allows dampness to grow even as the ferns and other shade-loving plants spring up. Of course, a bit of rain helps as well, but there hasn’t been any. Today’s cold front swept past without a sprinkle.

Here’s the past three day’s maps:  (Click to clarify and enlarge)  (Open to new tabs to compare.)

 20150503 satsfc 20150504 satsfc 20150505 satsfc

You can see the Bermuda High appearing, which is a friend to New England as it brings us nice, warm winds from southwest. Usually the cold fronts that nudge south bring us showers, and wet the leaves, and create a nice, damp under-story in the shade, in the forest. However there has been no rain.

Over Florida you can see what may become Hurricane Ana starting to brew up.  That might bring us some drenching rains, if it came up the coast, however it is not fotrcast to do that.  Instead it is forecast to weaken (if it actually forms at all) and slide out to sea well south of us.

Not that all our south winds are rainy, or good. There are strange reports of “withering winds” in our New England lore. I dimly recall reading about a spring gale that imported hot, dry air all the way from Arizona’s deserts, just when all our trees were budding out and at their most tender. The trees were briefly blackened with withered new growth,  which caused the local population consternation because such a blasting of spring foliage seemed a rebuke from God. However the conditions then improved, (perhaps due to prayer and fasting.)

The only old record I can find of warm winds withering foliage involves some sort of hurricane in August, and can be found in the diary of Joshua Hempstead, August 20, 1713:

“A Hurrycane wch blew down Several Building & fruit trees Such as hath not  been known. It Blasted or withered ye Leaves & Like a frost, though warm wether.”

I wonder about this event, for there is no mention of rain in Joshua’s diary until the following day. Could the “hurrycane” have been strong winds associated with big storm’s bone-dry warm sector? Probably not, but they did not have satellite views in 1713, which leaves me scope for wonder.

I suppose that, if I really want to worry, I can pervert my wonder to fret, and worry about withering winds.  However I’m more inclined to merely be grumpy, about having to water when I want to plant.