Isaac prepares to strike Haiti, let us reflect on those "monsters of nature" called "hurricanes".
on Saturday, the storm was getting better organised and was packing winds of
nearly 110 km/h with higher gusts as it approached the country.
is noteworthy that approximately 400,000 Haitians still live in temporary tent
camps following the 2010 earthquake that killed 250,000 and levelled
Port-au-Prince, and they have nowhere to go.
streets grew empty on Saturday and only a few vehicles ventured out after dark.
Earlier, long lines formed outside supermarkets as people stocked up on
frequency of tropical cyclone formation over the Atlantic so far for this year
seems unusual. The early “scientific” predictions of a moderate season have
been largely falsified; in fact, the intensity of activity had to be revised
the very nature of weather forecasting or meteorology makes it an imprecise
science depending on the images captured by US, UK satellites and
"Hurricane Hunter" aircrafts provided by the US which penetrate "the
eye" of the weather system. The information therefrom is then used to generate
hypotheses using computer models. These models are based on different
assumptions and calculations, some utilizing statistics, some physics
calculations and others both.
the fact the predictions are based on models leaves much room for error. A
scientific model is only a tentative framework which helps us to give meaning
to natural/physical phenomena.
us use atomic theory as an example to illustrate the point.
theory tells us that the atom is the basic unit of all matter; however, the
atom is only a model - an invention by scientists - since nobody has ever seen
any atom. That is why, in scientific circles, we say that the atom was
"invented" (as opposed to "discovered") by scientists
because nobody has seen it. However, the fundamental fact remains that the
concept of the atom has enormous explanatory power – it helps us to explain so
many different types of phenomena – and nobody has scientifically refuted it.
fact, scientists have gone as far as "splitting" the atom into
sub-atomic particles (protons, neutrons, and electrons) and have used their findings
in that regard to explain, among other things, electrical and nuclear
phenomena. For example, they explain electricity in terms of the flow of
electrons through metals and nuclear energy as the result of the splitting of
the nucleus of the atom (nuclear fission)!
the natural sciences are imperfect “disciplines” driven by man’s pursuit for
interpretations of nature; and hurricanes are part of the cycle of nature.
hurricanes are destructive to life and property, they are essential to the maintaining
a “balance of nature” in the sense that they help regulate the thermal balance
of our planet and help fight global warming and related phenomena. In fact, pundits
equate them with “natural air conditioners” designed to cool down the earth.
They control global warming through a process known as “energy
inter-conversion”. They extract the “excess heat energy” from the sea and
convert it to “motion energy” and it is this motion energy that results in
destructive “hurricane force” winds, giant sea swells and flooding of
there is a need for hurricane scientist to start getting his “hurricane
science” right! A good scientific model predicts and leaves behind facts. Apparently,
the scientific model used for making hurricane predictions needs refinement in
that regard. It is too much like “Marxist” and “Freudian” pseudoscience having
to making post hoc modification
hypotheses to its original predictive models to bring them in line with the
the contention that the scientists working in that field do not seem have
factored all the variables in the “prediction” equation may be justifiable. I
suspect that they may not have comprehensively assessed the “heat variable” in
that equation; or perhaps there may be a reasonable degree of “unexplained
variance” which they have not paid much attention to. The source of the
variability may be in their dataset or it may be statistical and external to
the data set.
the information generated is real-time and critically important. The
predictions may not be accurate but the real-time tracking information helps to
save lives and property.
I believe that there’s a lot of work to be done by the authorities (Met Office,
NEMO and its allies) in educating the general public about tropical cyclones.
The education should not only be limited to the hurricane season and it should
include a focus on the nature of hurricane phenomena.
say this in the context of the surprised generated by the passage of Tropical
Storm Isaac. While several bulletins were issued for the same, I did not hear
the authorities disseminate certain basic but critical information about the
tropical weather system; and despite the proliferation of bulletins, the irony
is many persons and even businesses were caught unprepared. Why? Many persons
did not understand that – because the centre of the storm passed to the north
of us meant that the gusts and rain would hit us in the opposite direction
(that is from West to East).
understanding is that the guests at one of our prestigious hotels in the south
of the island suffered much discomfort because of the lack of this specific