Monday, September 05, 2005

Warm Waters

I've been hearing an interesting argument. Although some may argue the implications, this should not be a political issue. The issue is global warming. I saw Stanford Professor Steven Schneider on Bill Maher the other night, and he brought up some interesting points. First, he explained that hurricanes only happen during summer and fall- times when the water is warmer than usual. He said that warm water is the energy behind a hurricane. Last week, the temperature of the water in the gulf was about 2 degrees above normal, allowing Hurricane Katrina to maintain category 5 status until landfall. The warm water also led to a massive storm surge caused the immense destruction of the gulf coast. Professor Schneider explained that the increase in temperature could have been caused by our “use of the atmosphere as a dumpster for our fossil fuels.”

Now, let’s put this in perspective. Those of you who disagree, I did some research and it seems like there isn’t much hard evidence actually linking our pollution to the increase in temperature. However, it seems logical to me. So whether you believe the argument or not, can we agree that the issue should be explored? If anything, we should probably spend some time, and inherently some money, on studying the true effects of global warming.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cant believe people actually go around and advertise on this site. How pathetic.

11:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

advertisers suck. but onto the real comment ....

Interpreting global climate trends is a bigger task than most people realize. There are countless individual climate regions all over the globe, each with it's own special properties. The enormous number of data sets, compounded with the fact that every one is nowhere near an isolated system makes interpreting trends in them a very hard task. I agree that the basic theory of global warming does make a lot of sense, but it is hardly the gospel everyone treats it as. Some places on the earth are actually getting cooler instead of warmer as the theory would predict. Also, trying to interprets historical trends with only a hundred or so years of carbon dioxide data is like trying to predict who will win a baseball game on the first pitch. We have no way of knowing whether these trends are simple blip or the beginning of a trend. I agree, unusual conditions made Katrina a force to be reckoned with. However, there is no way of telling what would have happened had our influence been less. Hurricanes like this have happened before industrialization in the 19th as well as early 20th century. Imagine the devastation if we would have had no early warning system!

I agree that global warming as a theory still has a lot of study to be put into it, just as the entire climate of the earth does. However blaming Katrina's devastation on global warming is only looking at part of the picture. The risk of hurricanes is part of living on the gulf and atlantic coast, as my home in central florida witnessed last year, and my home in new orleans witnesses today. Just remember that they were here long before our city and will be here long afterward.

Sam Suarez
Tulane College '06 (one can still be hopeful, right?)

11:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not commenting on global warming... and I understand that living in the gulf does have inherent risks... but some of those risk of been inflated by society. The levee system (i know this is not a shocking revelation) was put in place to protect southeastern louisiana from flooding from the lake as well as the river by channelling the mississippi and not allowing it to have it's natural flood pattern because that was seasonally destructive. That natural flood pattern is what allows the river to redistribute sediments all through out the delta region and thus stabilizes the delth while it helps build up the coastal wetlands and barrier islands which are natural protection against storm surge.

The levee system though it might provide artificial protection from storm surge and flooding has destroyed our barrier islands by increasing the velocity of the mississippi and and slowly creating unnatural wave breaks and eating away at our coastal wetlands. It has been found that for every mile of vegetated wetlands, storm surge can be reduced by one foot. This was apparent in the wake of Hurricane Andrew. Louisiana's wetlands rather than the populated areas took the brunt of this storm as compared to Florida, which had no marshes to absorb the storm's energy.

I feel like if there is anywhere that we need to invest our time in rebuilding new orleans. I feel like not enough time and energy has been put towards marsh restoration. There needs to be away for the man made protection system and the natural ones to work together if New Orleans is going to be protected. I feel like right now they are at odds.
I wrote my senior paper at Tulane on this... and it ended with the hope that something would be reconciled before the big one hit. It breaks my heart ot see the state of city but I hope that when NOLA is rebuilt we learn from all of this.

5:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prof Schneider did have a pertinant comment, however, he managed to overlook two elements that led to Katrina's strength. One has already been adressed-that of the loss of wetlands-but the other cause of the warm water was clearly ignored in his analysis.

Water is cooled when it is disrupted. Hurricanes disrupt water. A major reason that the surface of the gulf was so warm was that there had not been a hurricane in there for almost five weeks. This means that the water on the surface is heated, allowing the next hurricane to become stronger. However, after Katrina, the water cooled significantly, creating a more hostile environment for hurricanes. This led to the weak formation of hurricne Lee. So, while the theory of global warming is a fun one to talk about with regards to any destructive weather pattern, we must also consider natural forces, not just the evils of humans ruining their environments.

7:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how can you study the effects of global warming if it isn't even agreed that global warming is actually happening. The earth heats and cools in cycles, this is a proven fact.

remember there was an ice age... now there's not. Do you think the world was better off during the ice age, or now?

Hurricanes are not new. They are a part of life when you live on the Southern Atlantic / Gulf coast. The Netherlands is below sea level, but I'm pretty sure they don't have to deal with hurricanes every year.

The issue of Katrina is not global warming, the issue is a massive failure at multiple levels of governments that cost many lives. New Orleans was CURRENTLY making a DVD about how residents will be left on their own if there was a huge storm. There was an article on it in late July. Check it: (has the full article quoted)

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

man made global warming is as much of a myth as unicorns and the tooth fairy. earth constantly goes through cycles of warming and cooling. there have been cores taken from the north pole which suggest that tens of thousands of years ago the arctic ocean was a mild 70 degrees. i doubt it was due to the cavemen driving hummers and suburbans. there was also the ice age. it may be warming now, but it will then cool again.

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hard to believe the level of scientific naiveté I am seeing here. Or maybe not, considering what I get back from my TU freshman exams...I have taught environmental bio for many years at Tulane, and have made a very thorough investigation of GW through many reputable academic sources. The facts are that the link between temp rises and CO2 emissions is virtually 100%, and is unprecedented, supported by multiple lines of evidence, and goes significantly beyond the normal cycles referred to in these posts.

I deal in BIG cycles, on the order of several hundred thousand years. The last 50 year warm-up goes well outside the normal envelope, and the actual annual temp rises since WW2 correlate astonishingly well with CO2 increases. CO2 and temp correlations are irrefutable, and I refer here to data going back over 800,000 years from oxygen isotope ratios, glacial cores, deep sea sediment cores, palynology etc. etc...The fact that some places are actually getting cooler actually supports these models. GW effects are not homogenous, some places get cooler, some hotter (like the Gulf), some wetter, some dryer. In fact the overall pattern of these seemingly unconnected changes is precisely what was predicted to happen with GW.

As for the ice age, believe it or not, the basic science behind "The Day After Tomorrow" is actually very sound, GW may well trigger the next Ice Age (ironic, wot?) though not with the rapidity depicted in the film (best guess from these models is ~20-100 years if the North Atlantic upwelling "switch" is turned off by an influx of fresh water from GW induced pack ice melt). The other joker in the deck is methane, which absorbs over 20 times as much heat per molecule as does CO2. Most of the planetary methane is locked in near shore ocean sediments and tundra soils as clathrates, kind of a liquid crystal lattice with water molecules and methane. If we raise the planetary temps to where these clathrates release their methane, feedback cycles will kick in that make our current temp increases seem trivial by comparison.

The only real source of the scientific uncertainty here is the Atlantic hurricane cycle itself, which waxes and wanes over ~20 year cycles for reasons we do not yet understand. However, the amplitude of these normal cycles is greatly increased by GW, to the point that we may have to invent a new category 6 for the mega-hurricanes we may start to see over the next decade.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe that someone with a college education relies on Bill Maher for news. That is sad.

Anyway, there are plenty of resources that explain why there should not even be a New Orleans, IF you really care about the environment. That is probably too disturbing a thought for some to handle.

Global warming is real; but, the proposition that it has a direct causal link to Katrina is as bogus as a three dollar bill. There have been big storms before, and there will be again.

1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

correlation =!= causation

hopefully when you teach in class you make it clear that there is no sound scientific evidence that says global warming is caused by people

5:36 PM  
Blogger dben9 said...

I am sorry that so many want to remain anonymous on the subject of global warming. The Tulane prof really sort of set the record straight when he said the correlation between human produced CO2 and global warming is 100%. The scientific evidence for this is incontrovertible. What is not known is exactly what the effects will be. But all reputable biologists, chemists, meteorologists,etc know that global warming due to human activites is a reality. People are confused becasue one of the possible effects of global warming is cooling in some places. It is a very complicated system we are messing with here. For a college educated person in this day and age to deny that, well, his/her daddy must work for an oil company.

8:48 PM  
Blogger TheDevilIsInTheDetails said...

For the next hurricane tracking map ; the easy way to keep going.

10:21 PM  

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