How do hurricanes relate to climate change?

STORM 1Forty years ago, Kerry Emanuel became a registered Republican in the United States.  He thinks highly of conservative icons, like Ronald Reagan, and typically votes Republican.  Dr. Emanuel also happens to be the Cecil & Ida Green Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT.  He is a leading expert in the field of hurricane research.  He frequently receives email threats from other conservatives because Emanuel doesn’t just study hurricanes.  He studies the ways in which human-caused global warming can affect hurricanes in a warmer world.

How did a conservative undergraduate become a leading figure in the study of global warming’s impact on hurricanes? He looked to the science. The science of rising sea levels, heavier rains, stronger winds, warmer ocean water, and related hurricanes will grow stronger as we warm the planet.  

One of the most damaging effects of hurricanes is their storm surge. Hurricanes’ powerful winds produce enormous volumes of water. The low pressure of the center of hurricanes lets the ocean level rise higher.  Together, they create a towering supply of water. Waves ride on top of this surge.  In a world without climate change, hurricanes still produce storm surges. But as we continue to heat up the planet, we cause sea levels to rise. This increase in the underlying sea level makes the storm surge from hurricanes even larger in a warming world. That means storm surges can do more damage over the same area, and reach areas even further inland than before.

A recent report by Lloyd’s of London, an insurance firm, looked into the effects of sea level rises with respect to Hurricane Sandy.  They estimated that the – relatively small – amount of sea level rise we’ve had increased Sandy’s damages by 30% which translates to $8 billion USD in New York alone.

In addition to storm surge, hurricanes produce torrential rains. The warm, moist air they pull up from the ocean cools and condenses as it rises, causing massive rainfall. As we warm the planet, the heavy rains from hurricanes are expected to become even heavier.  These rains drench coastal areas, which combines with the storm surge to create massive flooding.

Hurricanes are also destructive because of their fierce winds. As we continue to warm the planet, the maximum wind speeds of hurricanes are expected to get even faster.  Hurricanes form in the tropics for a reason. They depend on hot ocean temperatures relative to the coolness of the air above. As we warm the climate, this can provide more fuel for hurricanes, making them more powerful. Studies looking at this question using many different methods have begun to converge on agreement about this. A warmer world, however, will have stronger but fewer storms – not all of the changes to hurricanes in a warming world may make them worse.

If ocean temperatures are hurricane fuel, wind shear is hurricane kryptonite. Wind shear is just the difference in wind speed at different heights in the atmosphere. When wind speed is pretty much the same down low as it is higher up, hurricanes can grow strong. When wind shear is high, that is, when wind speeds are different, hurricanes get ripped apart. As humans warm the planet, some places where hurricanes form may see an increase in wind shear. That means that for those areas, hurricanes may grow more intense, but also break up more often as they try to form. So we may see somewhat fewer, but more powerful storms overall.  Hurricanes are also pushed around the ocean by prevailing winds.

Climate skeptics deny even the most solid links between climate change and hurricanes.  They say that hurricanes have always happened and point to the devastating storms that have occurred in the past, when human influence on the climate was smaller than it is today. They point to short periods without major hurricane strikes as evidence that nothing is changing.  They are sure there is no link between global warming and hurricanes.  A closer look at skeptics’ claims reveals that they don’t actually challenge the scientific links between warming and hurricanes at all.  Rather, their claims rely on a number of fallacies common to scientific denial. One of the most pervasive is oversimplification.

Hurricanes, even terrifically powerful ones, have happened in the past when greenhouse gas levels were much lower than they are today.   However, hurricanes are affected by a number of environmental factors. One of the strongest being ocean temperature.  Looking back over hundreds of years, it is evident that hurricanes have grown stronger in response to natural increases in ocean temperature.  That strengthens our confidence that hurricanes will get stronger as humans warm the ocean relative to the atmosphere. It doesn’t weaken it.  This is a common science denial tactic called cherry-picking; they point out that in recent years the North Atlantic has not had as many dramatic storms as the mid-2000s. However, the overall picture since we’ve had accurate observations points to an increase in hurricane activity and that this increase is strongly tied to warming ocean temperatures.  

When we reconstruct storm activity over hundreds of years, we see a similarly close relationship.  During his research, Kerry Emanuel has flown into the eye of a real world hurricane.  Although his findings have put him in the middle of a political storm, the science does not care about politics.  How hurricanes will change in a warming climate is an area of active research, but we now see the link that as humans warm the planet, rising sea levels, heavier rains, stronger winds, and warmer ocean water will increase the destructive potential of these massive storms.

What does it really mean to be intelligent?

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”


Have you ever wondered what is meant when someone calls you smart? What goes through your mind when you subconsciously regard an individual as intelligent?

More specifically, what is intelligence? And how do our perspectives affect our definition of intelligence?

It seems there isn’t a consensus as to what constitutes intelligence.

In 1904, Charles Spearman proposed that there are multiple types of intelligence.  However, he argued that they are all correlated.  In other words, he predicted that those who tend do well on some sections of an IQ test, will tend to do well on all of them.  Spearman argued for a general intelligence factor called “g,” which has remained controversial to this day.  Decades later, Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner revised this notion with his ‘Theory of Multiple Intelligences,’ which put forth eight distinct types of intelligence.  Gardner claimed that there was no correlation among them; arguing that a person could possess strong emotional intelligence without being gifted analytically.  Later in 1985, Robert Sternberg, the former dean of Tufts, put forth his, “Triarchic Theory of Intelligence,” which argued that previous definitions of intelligence are too narrow because they are based solely on intelligences that can be assessed in an IQ test.  Alternately, Sternberg believed that types of intelligence must be broken down into three subunits: analytic, creative, and practical.

It was Einstein who said, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”  The more you learn, the more you should realize what you didn’t know. If you learn things that do not make you realize how much you didn’t know, or if learning doesn’t make you realize how much is still left to know, then did you learn anything valuable or relevant? It seems that wisdom does not come with age, but rather from from learning.  If learning does not increase your understanding of yourself and the world around youis it learning? Or is that just memorizing? Arguably, ten people can experience the same thing but each take out something different.

Socrates once stated, “I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.”  To say that you are educated does not mean that you are competent, intelligent, or even fully aware of yourself and the world around you.  The amount of knowledge or schooling one has does not guarantee that they are smarter than you.  Typically, it comes down to who has the right information at the right time, and if you are doing more harm than good. So don’t ever underestimate your value, and don’t ever underestimate the value of learning, because the more you know the better your odds will be at making better decisions. So choose what to learn and when to learn it wisely.

Understanding is to know and comprehend the nature or meaning ofto become aware of through the senses; characterized by understanding based on comprehension and discernment and empathy.  It is to perceive an idea or situation mentally.  It is the trait of judging wisely and objectively.   Knowledge should be assessed through someone’s actions, yet so often we deem people superior to ourselves intellectually and then watch them make crude statements, poor decisions, and commit illegal actions.

So when you call someone smartthink.