Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:16 PM GMT on April 01, 2008
A stunning new breakthrough in hurricane research has conclusively settled the matter: global warming is making Atlantic hurricanes and tropical storms more frequent. The new research, accepted for publication later this millennium in The Journal of Irreproducible Results, offers incontrovertible proof that global warming has increased Atlantic named storms by 57-67% over the past century. Using the pioneering new techniques of cyclopsychic storm detection and psychomortorodentiatempestology, the researchers, Professors Peter Webcaster and Judith Flurryfury of the Georgia Institute of Technophobia, and Dr. Greg Hallmonitor of the Colorado Association for Research and Modeling of the Atmosphere (CARMA), showed unequivocally that the lack of satellite measurements and aircraft reconnaissance in the early part of the hurricane record led to only a modest undercount of Atlantic tropical storms. Thus, more than half of the observed increase in named storms in the past century can be attributed to global warming.
"It's well-known that the number of Atlantic named storms has risen from 7-9 per year 100 years ago to 14-15 per year during the present active hurricane period that began in 1995," commented Professor Webcaster in an interview today. "Some MEEAT-loving hurricane researchers (Measure Everything, Everywhere, All the Time) have claimed that this rise was not real, since satellites and reconnaissance aircraft were not around to detect storms early in the hurricane record. We've made efforts in the past to quantify the number of 'missed' historical Atlantic storms using estimates of historical shipping traffic density, and computer regression models that compare recent well-observed storm activity to past storm activity. However, these studies have been pooh-poohed by the MEEAT men, who refuse to believe any science that comes out of a model. So, I began thinking about how we could actually go about observing historical Atlantic storms that were 'missed'. I began thinking the problem in a new light after watching my favorite episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Timescape", where subspace entity mistakenly lays her eggs in the warp core singularity of a Romulan warship, creating a temporal anomaly that forces time to flow backwards. This inspired me to think outside the box, and it occurred to me that paranormal methods might offer a way to see back in time and make actual observations of past storms--and offer a technophobic solution to the problem, as encouraged by the charter of my university, the Georgia Institute of Technophobia."
Figure 1. Cyclopsychic observations of "missing" Atlantic tropical storms during the 20th century. All observations were performed by trained cyclopsychic Madame Cyclotropia. Note the significant drop in "missed" storms beginning in the 1940s, corresponding to the advent of aircraft reconnaissance, and in the 1970s, when satellite coverage of the Atlantic Ocean began.
Webcaster teamed with Hallmonitor and Flurryfury to experiment with a variety of paranormal techniques to make actual observations of past "missing" storms, using Ouija Boards, crystal ball gazing, the Magic Eight Ball, and channeling of restless dead spirits. Initial experiments proved discouraging, though, when the researchers attempted to perform the study themselves. "We were feeling depressed about how the research was going, having just stayed up late one Friday night in Greg's lab in Boulder trying to get the dang Magic Eight Ball to say something other than just REPLY HAZY, TRY AGAIN LATER," related Dr. Webcaster. "So, we decided to give up for the night and down a few shots of grape jello spiked with grain alcohol and delve into Greg's extensive collection of Zippy the Pinhead comic books. After a few jello shots and Zippy comics, we got feeling pretty loose, and, Yow! Decided to trek down to Pearl Street to check out the weekend psychic fair. Well, we got to staggering around the tents of the psychic fair, belting out the sorrowful lyrics of our own version of "Somewhere over the rainbow" we made up:
Somewhere, over the ocean
Back in time
Cyclones formed and decayed
Unseen by humankind
Somehow, we'll find out how many
Before we die
But it doesn't look good
'Cause the Magic Eight Ball lies!
Suddenly, we saw a mysterious shadowy figure beckoning to us from the entrance of a nearby tent, which was emblazoned with the words, Madame Cyclotropia: Psychic Readings for Troubled Atmospheric Scientists. 'I can help you find your missing storms', the seer in the shadows croaked, 'for I know much that is hidden. Come into my lair, and I will reveal the key to unlocking the mysteries of storms long past'. Greg and I looked at each other, shrugged, walked in her tent, and the rest is history."
Once in Madame Cyclotropia's tent, the researchers quickly realized that their limited scientific training could not hope to allow them to conduct rigorous paranormal research. Only a true cyclopsychic with "The Gift" could see back into the dim mists of time to divine the existence of heretofore unknown tropical cyclones. Using her cyclopsychic gift, Madame Cyclotropia correctly divined the past tracks of numerous known storms the scientists challenged her with. However, when asked to divine the existence of "missing" Atlantic storms that had not made it into the official database, she prophesied that she would only be able to do so if the scientists would write her into their latest grant proposal. This grant proposal would surely get funded, she predicted. The scientists eagerly agreed, and headed back to the lab to work on the new proposal.
Webcaster, Hallmonitor, and Flurryfury's proposal, titled, "Using a Trained Cyclopsychic to Divine Past Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Activity", was submitted to the Foundation for Atmospheric Research for Science and Education (FARSE) in early 2007 and accepted later that year. After receiving their grant money, the scientists began spending long nights in Madame Cyclotropia's tent, documenting her revelations from the four primary cyclopsychic techniques: Ouija Board, crystal ball gazing, the Magic Eight Ball, and channeling of restless dead spirits. According to Dr. Hallmonitor, "We were thrilled when the first three techniques we tried all yielded virtually identical results, showing the robustness of our experimental methodology. The three techniques all showed a noticeable drop in the number of "missed" storms in the 1940s, when aircraft reconnaissance became available, and in the 1970s, when satellites coverage began over the Atlantic Ocean. However, when we tried to channel restless dead spirits, we ran into a roadblock. We couldn't find any restless dead spirits with an interest or knowledge of historical Atlantic hurricanes. We happily attributed this to the propensity of dead meteorologists to wind up inside Heaven's Pearly Gates, but were sad that our research would lack this crucial final proof of its validity. We were about to give up when Peter then hit upon the idea of contacting the spirits of groundhogs, who are known for their weather prognosticating ability. Some of these prognosticating rodents might have unfinished business that would keep their restless souls adrift in the ether, available for consultation on weather-related matters. We coined word psychomortorodentiatempestology to describe this exciting new branch of hurricane science, and set off in search of gifted groundhogs spirits with this special skill."
Figure 2. Wee Willy One and Chucky before their departure into the hereafter. Which rodent's spirit would you trust to get accurate weather information from?
Indeed, Madame Cyclotropia was able to contact the spirit of "Wee Willy One", a famed albino groundhog that had once burrowed under the fair gardens of Wiarton, Ontario, and provided weather forecasts each Groundhog's Day up until his death in 2006. Wee Willy One proved to be testy and uncooperative, though, deliberately delivering incorrect storm information. The researchers sought out help from cyclotherapy experts from the Center for Disease Control's Weather Related Illness Division to determine if cyclotherapy might help Wee Willy One overcome his bad attitude. Cyclotherapist Dr. Sandy Chirpchuckle diagnosed Wee Willy One as a cyclopath suffering from rare form of cyclopsychosis. Ordinarily, cyclopsychosis manifests itself only in hurricane scientists and weather enthusiasts during the long, dull months prior to hurricane season. The despondent victims of cyclopsychosis spend long hours in front of flickering computer monitors in dark, gloomy rooms, obsessively poring over maps and statistics of hurricanes long gone by. The victims tend to become highly antisocial but never violent, and can be successfully treated with cycloactive drugs. However, Dr. Chirpchuckle diagnosed Wee Willy One with an extremely rare case of "shadow" cyclopsychosis, brought on by the cyclological trauma being rudely hauled out of his burrow each February 2 so that a bunch of cockamaimie humans could see whether he saw his shadow or not. "Shadow" cyclopsychosis is incurable, both in this world and the hereafter, so Madame Cyclotropia was forced to seek out other groundhog spirits. After months of effort, she finally found the spirit of "Chucky", a friendly groundhog that had once burrowed under the gardens of Nashville, Tennessee. Chucky eagerly provided accurate information on the "missing" Atlantic tropical storms that was precisely in agreement with the data collected from the other cyclopsychic techniques. "We were ecstatic," exclaimed Dr. Hallmonitor. "More jello shots!"
Hurricane experts world-wide are hailing the new findings. "These exciting results conclusively prove that even us blind squirrels can find some nuts," enthused renown hurricane expert, Dr. Kerry Readthemanual of the Massachusetts Institute of Technophobia. Dr. Readthemanual has been a leading proponent of the global warming/Atlantic hurricane link. Even former critics are praising the new findings. Dr. William Graymatter, Professor Über-Emeritus of Colorado State University's Center for Hurricane Observation, Measurement, and Prediction (CHOMP), said in an interview: "I've been in the hurricane business for 113 years, and I know good research when I see it. The findings of Webcaster, Hallmonitor, and Flurryfury are based on solid observational evidence and white magic. There's no black magic involved, such as the use of a computer model, so their results are impregnable."
Dr. Chris Blandsee, Chief Scientist of the Natural Hurricane Center's division of Global Warming Isn't Responsible for the Recent Upswing in Atlantic Hurricane Activity, and Even If It Was, We Wouldn't be Able to Tell, Since the Quality of the Atlantic Hurricane Database is Too Poor to Use for Such Purposes (NHC/GWIRRUAHAEIIWWWATSQAHDTPUSP), has also been critical of past research showing a link between hurricanes and global warming, maintaining that global warming isn't responsible for the recent upswing in Atlantic hurricane activity, and even if it was, we wouldn't be able to tell, since the quality of the Atlantic hurricane database is too poor to use for such purposes. It was his Congressional testimony, along with that of former NHC director Max Minefield, which inspired President Bushwhacker's administration to rename the National Hurricane Center the "Natural Hurricane Center" last year. (This action was also urged by the Government Anagram Accountability Office (GAAO), which found that the letters in "National Hurricane Center" could be rearranged to spell the ominous phrase, "Errant Herculean Inaction"--and also the disturbing, "Teenier Charlatan Unicorn", and the clearly unacceptable, "Inhale Cocaine, Errant Runt!", while the letters in "Natural Hurricane Center" could be rearranged to form phrases much more in harmony with the NHC mission, such as "Natural, Neater, Crunchier.")
Dr. Blandsee grudgingly gave ground in his comments today. "It looks like Webcaster, Hallmonitor, and Flurryfury (and don't try to say her name three times fast) have done some pretty rigorous scientific work," he conceded. "But they've written what is probably the longest and most excruciatingly dull hurricane science paper of all time. All those old storms and their analyzed tracks that they talk about, on and on and on, year by year by year. Ugh! A lot of good trees died to publish that paper. It was even duller than some of my clunkers!"
What's next for the pioneering researchers? "Well, CARMA and the Georgia Institute of Technophobia are collaborating on a grant proposal with Dr. Graymatter and Phil Flossblack of CHOMP to apply cyclopsychic methods in a new way--improvement of seasonal hurricane forecasts," said Dr. Flurryfury. "We've submitted a proposal to FARSE titled, 'Gray Magic: Using Cyclopsychic Methods to Improve Seasonal Hurricane Forecasts'. Lord knows, the forecast busts of the past two hurricane seasons have shown that Flossblack and Dr. Graymatter could use some supernatural help with their predictions."
Hallmonitor, G.J., and P.J. Webcaster, 2007, "Heightened tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic: natural variability or climate trend?" Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society A 365, Number 1860, 15 November 2007, Pages: 26952716 DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2007.2083
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