Sir Isaac Newton was asked why he was able to achieve so much in science, he
simply replied it was because he stood on the shoulders of the giants before
him! Indeed, the history of the growth of science is a history of standing on
the shoulders of giants. That is why we can say that Einstein’s relativity
theory is a restructuring of Newton’s theory of universal gravitation in a way
which brought about new knowledge or growth of knowledge.
intention of this article is not to seek to restructure or re-order the current
meteorological paradigm which make predictions about hurricanes. I would be naïve
to entertain that type of wishful thinking. But I would be happy if I could
stand on the shoulders of hurricane forecasting giants and see a little further
ahead as my contribution to that area. The bottom line is hurricanes are a
threat to me personally and to my little island – a massive threat of which we have booth been victims - and sometimes I say to myself that “I wish I could do
something to help in the attenuation of hurricanes”. And I know that there are
so many people who think like me in this regard.
is against this background that I have penned this article which I hope will in
a small way at least contribute to the store of knowledge and perhaps remotely
to the growth of knowledge in that area.
major forecasters have released their predictions for this year’s hurricane
season and there appears to be much consensus among them. The table summarises
No of storms
No of hurricanes
those predictions turn out to be right, then the Caribbean may be in serious
can we or should we trust those predictions? They may have high levels of
statistical confidence, but the major questions is: how much of the “statistical
variance” have they explained? A model can have a 99% “confidence level” but may
only explain 25% of “the variance”, leaving a massive 75% of unexplained
variance. Is that the case of the predictive models for Atlantic hurricanes?
the past, I have argued that meteorological predictions are derived from “scientific
measurements”, but because of the dynamic and unpredictable nature of weather,
they are largely imprecise and in many cases seemingly “pseudo-scientific”. Weather
behaviour tends to be like human behaviour. It is multi-plastic, multidimensional and multivariate and these introduce a wide margin of error
in measurements and predictions.
look at the variables that generally constitute a prediction model. They are:
El Nino phenomenon, wind shear and changes in heat. Meteorologists postulate that
the presence of those three factors can significantly inhibit or undermine the
formation of a tropical cyclone. Indeed, they do so and do so very well; but
the big question is: are they the only variables in the equation? Obviously,
they are not! That is why the models are never fool-proof! So then, what are the
if the meteorologists lived in the Caribbean on a day to day basis, they might
have considered changing their research paradigm from a largely armchair “positivistic”
one to a more realistic “post-positivistic” one. What do I mean?
is at the heart of scientific research. Inductivists tell us that scientific practitioners
use the tested “scientific method” – which they refer to as the calculus of
discovery - to make observations and predictions about natural phenomena.
However, many post-positivist philosophers of science (like Karl Popper, Imre
Lakatos and Peter Medawar) have challenged that notion, claiming that inductivism
is an intellectually dishonest “blank mind” philosophy of science.
it may be that “blank mind” philosophy that may have guided the meteorological
research on Atlantic storms. Let me explain!
believe that if the meteorologists and climatologists “lived” in the Caribbean
and made “real” observations about the weather, then their predictions would perchance
have much greater reliability and relevance. Overtime, Caribbean people have
amassed a universe of historical and anecdotal data about their weather patterns
and factoring that input into the existing prediction blueprints would only to
enhance the validity of “scientific” predictions.
from that existing “universe of data” suggest there may be three broad variables
that may have a definite moderating impact on storm formation, at least in the Caribbean.
Crudely, they are “off-hurricane season” winds which moderate temperatures in
the “dry season”, off-season rain and local thermodynamic variables. The
combined effect of those factors significantly moderate heat levels in the tropical
Atlantic and therefore significantly reduce the direction, frequency and
intensity of hurricanes in the Caribbean. Most importantly, these factors are all
rooted in thermodynamic theory which provide a sound theoretical platform for
explanations of hurricane phenomena.
discussion is not to discount the existing models; but rather to advise that
the local thermodynamic variables as well as the naturalistic element of
research should have a greater profile in the prediction models. Indeed, the
existing models are very relevant in the sense that they raise our alert levels
of preparedness; and for that alone, we must respect them.
based on my theoretically crude considerations, what is my hypothesis based
on what I believe to be "operationally true" for 2013 hurricane season? If the
early April sprinklings persist, the salubrious trade winds continue their
moderating influence and the atmospheric conditions continue to remain generally
as “cool” as they are, then the number and intensity of hurricane affecting the
Caribbean will also reduce!
you! My hypothesis does not translate to the belief that there will be no
hurricanes in the Caribbean in 2013.
start getting your act together for the hurricane season which begins on June
1. We will talk about my hypothesis again in November!
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