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Bill McKibben needs a climate history lesson.

By: hcubed , 12:26 AM GMT on November 12, 2012

Once again, we recall the paraphrase of an old line: "...Those who forget historical extreme weather events are doomed to proclaim current extreme weather events are unprecedented".

Bill McKibben’s claims about Sandy in this LA Times story were just a LITTLE off:

"...Sandy was off-the-charts terrible, a storm that broke every record in the books: for storm surge, for barometric pressure, for sheer size..."

The reality of historical extreme weather events blows his “off-the-charts terrible” claims right out of the water:

First: "...a storm that broke every record in the books..."

Well, not every record - for example, the Great Bhola Cyclone, Bangladesh 1970 (Bay of Bengal) was credited with 500,000 deaths.

One down. Maybe he'll have better luck with the other claims.

Second: "...for storm surge...".

Source: Link

"...The Bathurst Bay Cyclone, also known as Tropical Cyclone Mahina, which struck Bathurst Bay, Australia on March 5, 1899, is generally credited with the world record for storm surge. The cyclone's storm surge is variously listed at 13 - 14.6 meters (43 - 48 feet). The Category 5 cyclone was a monster--with sustained winds in excess of 175 mph and a central pressure between 880 and 914 mb. Mahina killed at least 307 people, mostly on pearling ships, and was the deadliest cyclone in Australian history..." From Dr. Masters, PhD, Director of Meteorology, Weather Underground, Inc.

Missed out on the storm surge.

Third: "...for barometric pressure..."

Depends on whether or not he means Atlantic or worldwide. Either way, he's wrong:

Source: wiki

"...In the available records, a total of 70 tropical cyclones attained a pressure of less than 900 hPa (mbar) (26.56 inHg), most of which occurred in the Western North Pacific Ocean. The strongest tropical cyclone recorded worldwide, as measured by minimum central pressure, was Typhoon Tip, which reached a pressure of 870 hPa (25.69 inHg) on October 12, 1979..."

Ok, not worldwide. Maybe Atlantic?

Hurricane Sandy had the lowest pressure ever recorded for any storm north of North Carolina at 943 millibars just before it came in from the sea and hit the New Jersey coast.

But in the full Atlantic? Wilma, 2005 (882/26.0). Also the last Major to make US landfall.

So in a small sub-set of a small subset of the world (N Atlantic, East coast of the US and north of North Carolina), there's the record. But Sandy was in no way the lowest pressure ever.

And last, "...for sheer size..."

Well, let's start worldwide again.


"...After passing Guam, it rapidly intensified and reached peak winds of 305 km/h (190 mph) and a worldwide record low sea-level pressure of 870 mbar (870.0 hPa; 25.69 inHg) on October 12. At its peak strength, it was also the largest tropical cyclone on record with a wind diameter of 2,220 km (1,380 mi)..."

Seems like Tip (1979) beat Sandy on two counts.

Surely somewhere, there is a sub-set of a sub-set that Sandy comes in first.

Well, yes - the Atlantic - using data from the satellite record (and TIROS1, launched in 1960).

Sandy, 2012 - 945mi, 1,520km.
Tip, 1979 - 1380mi, 2,220 km.

So this one is probable, Atlantic only, and during the satellite record.

But did Sandy break ALL records?

No way.

It's telling that Hurricane Sandy gets a portion of it's wiki writeup about "Relation to global warming", while the most intense storm recorded, Tip, doesn't get that mention.

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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2. tressae
1:12 AM GMT on November 18, 2012
I am so glad I found this. I have been looking for days for someone who knew the answer to the question of the biggest hurricane, cyclone, or typhoon by area. I never could get an answer until I found this. You answered every question I had. I knew Sandy was huge, but I couldn't find a comparison of it to Tip and Wilma, which I knew were also very large. This is great!!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
7:04 AM GMT on November 13, 2012
hcubed has created a new entry.

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About hcubed

Living in Biloxi MS, have been here since '85 (first Hurricane was Elena).

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