By Sean Carroll | August 29, 2005 10:27 am

Hurricane Katrina has weakened slightly, but is still extremely powerful as it heads towards New Orleans. (Current forecast here.) The city is extremely vulnerable to this kind of storm, as Chris Mooney pointed out a few months ago. See also Roger Pielke.

Our wishes are with everyone on the Gulf Coast affected by this storm. Consider donating to the Red Cross to help.

  • http://iso42.blogspot.com iso42

    Unfortunately, the hurricane season lasts another 2-3 months and I wonder what else is on store …

  • http://www.livejournal.com/~quantoken Quantoken


    I was thinking about writting a ridiculing comment that some global warming theorists would probably jump in and claim that Global Warming is responsible for causing Katrina, just like some jumped in to claim Global Warming caused the Indian Ocean Earthquate and Tsunami last year. But before I could find time to write up my comments, this already shows up on CNN and TIME:

    Is Global Warming Fueling Katrina?

    Another clear indication that there is NO lack of crackpotists in the establishment camps. It’s all craps.


  • Adam

    Quantoken, did global warming theorists really claim that last year’s tsunami, which was caused by undersea movement, was caused by global warming? I mean, sure, there will always be ill-informed loons making lunatic claims on this internerd of Gore’s*, but I must have missed anyone serious making such a bizarre claim. Do you have a link?

    The idea that higher energies in the atmosphere might cause an increase in ‘extreme weather events’ isn’t so crazy, however, but you’d need to investigate correlations formally (and presumably your conclusions will inevitably be coloured by the model that you used in order to pick and manipulate your variables).

    *Nothing personal

  • http://www.livejournal.com/~quantoken Quantoken


    I gave the link to today’s TIME article and you can check. If they are so quick to jump in and connect Global Warming with Katrina, would it surprised you at all that they did jump in and claimed a connection between Global Warming and last year’s Tsunami?

    I saw they make that claim on the TV news right after the Tsunami, not on the web search. But you can find plenty of links by searching “Global Warming” + “Indian Ocean Tsunami”. It is only because the idea was too obviously silly that it did not get widespread. But the “experts” did make the silly claims to start with. And today you see it again on Katrina.


  • Adam


    Yes, it would certainly surprise me if anyone serious connected the earthquake that caused the tsunami with global warming, because I can’t think of a model that would relate them (if, of course, a sensible model does exist, then hey, is my face red). A model relating global warming (and associated increased atmospheric energy, at least in the climatically important volume of atmosphere) with increased occurence of ‘extreme weather events’ would appear to be rather saner, from my perspective of limited expertise, however.

    I am aware that I can use google to find any number of insane theories; I was just wondering if you had an actual link that I could read, to judge how respectable the ‘global warming theorists’ that you are talking about are (although, of course, it’s not easy for a non-expert such as myself to judge. I may have to restrict myself to looking for people who are employed to research in that area at respectable universities, for example), against those in recent global warming/hurrican articles.

  • Arun

    The most “serious” person I found who said that global warming caused/contributed to the tsunami is a Russian politician.

    But here is the more typical kind of comment, and so I think Quantoken is raising a strawman.

    I will say I spent an unhappy-ish Sunday contemplating the idea of a massive looming disaster which is unstoppable (the Scientific American in October 2001 had an article that a hurricane could kill as many as 100,000 people in New Orleans), and so even the remote possibility of global warming disasters of a similar scale make me want to do something now.

    A wide range of individuals and organizations have used the tsunami disaster as an example of how “global warming” can affect the planet.

    The Discovery Channel website posted an article on Wednesday, explaining that “global warming” can act as a trigger for the root causes of tsunamis and quoting tsunami scientist Neal Driscoll from the University of California at San Diego.

    “Even global warming could theoretically play a role in weakening undersea slopes if frozen gas hydrates locked in deep-sea slopes are warmed enough to shift from solid to gas state,” stated Driscoll. “That shift of the abundant deep-sea deposits could bloat slopes with gas and cause them to collapse, sending tsunami-generating pulses all the way to the surface,” the Discovery Channel article explained.

    Sir David King, the chief scientific adviser for the government of the United Kingdom, said he believes that the recent tsunami served as a warming of what was yet to come through human-caused climate change.

    “What is happening in the Indian Ocean underlines the importance of the earth’s system to our ability to live safely,” King told BBC radio last week. “And what we are talking about in terms of climate change is something that is really driven by our own use of fossil fuels, so this is something we can manage.”

    King, who in 2004, said the threat of “global warming” was greater than any threat from terrorism, believes the only solution to catastrophic climate change is to change the world’s “energy industry – in other words, to move away from fossil fuels.”

    University of California professor Naomi Oreskes, a member of the university’s Department of History and Science Studies Program, also linked climate change to tsunamis this week.

    “I wouldn’t want to exaggerate the interrelationship to the tsunami. It doesn’t have anything to do with global warming, it has to do with earthquakes,” Oreskes told Voice of America on Monday.

    But Oreskes said global climate changes, which she believes are impending, will have tsunami-like effects.

    “As sea levels begin to rise, things like coastal flooding will become more and more common and it will be some of the poorest and most vulnerable people of the world that will be most severely effected by that,” Oreskes said, predicting future greenhouse gas caused climate changes.

  • Arun
  • http://www.livejournal.com/~quantoken Quantoken

    The global warming theory is completely wrong and ground-less. We know the earth had experienced CO2 many orders of magnitude higher than today and there was never a problem. All the fossil fuels were of biological origin and was CO2 prior to being absorbed by ancient plantation and be buried and turned into fossil fuel. So we are just releasing them right back into the atmosphere. Prior to occurance of life, the earth is an oxygen-free environment, and instead of Oxygen it was all CO2. And the temperature was still nice enough to allow life to originate. So what’s the problem with a few percentage more CO2 today.

    I am all for reducing fossil fuel consumption. But the real danger is not some percentage increase of the atmospheric CO2. The real danger, is that we simply do NOT have any more fossil fuel! The oil has PEAKED. We are running out of oil. And it is a plainly obvious and painful fact that no one can dispute. And clearly, once the oil is gone, there will be a catastrophic total collapse of modern human civilization.

    And no one talks about that clearly inpending disaster that is almost unescapeable. I wonder what kind of low intelligence would continue to ignore the real crisis, and continue to talk the none-exist danger a few percentage extra CO2 could cause.

    The problem is NOT too much CO2. The problem is we don’t have any more oil!!!


  • Adam

    Quantoken: I’ll be watching for you to find a serious attempt to link the tsunami and global warming, as you were talking about. Until then, I’ll treat your definitive claims with an increased dose of salt.

    Arun: thanks for that, very interesting. Perhaps some people had been confused into thinking that the recent Indian Ocean tsunami had itself been claimed as a global warming effect, which your paste makes clear is not the case (from those individuals, at least).

  • http://www.livejournal.com/~quantoken Quantoken


    I am NOT making the claim that GW and Tsunami are connected. I am making the claim that SOME ONE makes the claim that GW and Tsunami are connected. There are plenty of evidences that SOME ONE did make that ridiculous claim. It was on TV. Who are those people who make those claims? You would reasonable think that since this deal with GW, it must be some one who is in the GW camp, who made this claim. Or do you think it could be by a string theorist called Kaku, since he goes to the TV very often :-)

    Of course Tsunami is old news. Now there is some one jump out making the claim that GW and Katrina is connected. It’s fresh news and it seems just as silly as the tsunami one. So you might be interested in digging out which respected “expert” is making the claim you see now on the CNN link.


  • Adam

    There is no news that some people think just about any ridiculous nonsense you care to name. You, however, put together claims of hurricane frequency/global warming links with the Indian Ocean Tsunami/global warming links, in order to discredit the former. The onus is on you to demonstrate that the core of both groups that might claim such links is the same or substantially similar, if you wish to include such links in your attacks on those suggesting that global warming will, has or can cause an increase in hurricane frequency. I would suggest that you are no closer to achieving that than I am to being elected as the next Pope.

  • http://www.livejournal.com/~quantoken Quantoken


    OK, you insisted on getting links on the Tsunami affair. Here is one. Names are named, claims are claim. Say whatever you want to say after you read this.

    I do not consider any Global Warming Theorists respectable, BTW. They are talking about taxing cows for farting and burping, because bullshits caused global warming, seriously.

  • Adam

    Quantoken: That link doesn’t support your claims. You would appear to be guilty of the same misreading of the statements as the author of the article; the global warming types were shamelessly piggybacking on the tsunami, sure, but claiming that global warming caused it? No.

    If I strain my ears, I can hear the College of Cardinals calling my name.


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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .


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