Thursday, September 05, 2013

Near Record Low Hurricane Activity


As of this writing (September 5th) not one hurricane has developed in the Atlantic Ocean. Only 7 Tropical Storms as of September 5th.

Since 1960, there have only been 5 years with no Atlantic hurricanes before September 1st.  This season now makes only the 6th year in which no hurricanes have formed up till now. Interestingly, each of those years which include 1967, 1984, 1988, 2001 and 2002 all eventually became very active.  Prior to satellites, the latest first hurricane on record occurred in 1941. During that year, the first detected tropical storm formed on Sept. 11th.  It was not until a second tropical storm strengthened, on Sept. 18 to a hurricane. Several other reports have sited September 16th as the latest date in 1941.  The National Hurricane Center database shows development on the 18th in this graphic.  Either way, we are heading into uncharted territory should we make it through the end of next week without a hurricane.

Storm #2 - 9-18-1941 - Cat 1 - winds 80

The dates of the latest first hurricanes and the final hurricane numbers:

Gustav 9-11-2002 - Cat 2 - winds 85 - 3 Hurricanes - One hit US/Louisiana
Erin  9-8-2001 - Cat3 - winds 105 - 8 Hurricanes - None hit US
Debby 9-2-1988 - Cat1 - winds 65 - 5 Hurricanes - None hit US
Diana 9-10-1984 - Cat4 - winds 115 - 4 Hurricanes - Diana hit Carolina coast
Arlene 9-2-1967 - Cat1 - winds 75 - 6 Hurricanes - one hit US/southern Texas
Storm #2 - 9-18-1941 - Cat 1 - winds 80 - 4 Hurricanes - two hit US/Florida and Texas

Gustav 9-11-2002 - Cat 2 - winds 85 mph

Erin  9-8-2001 - Cat3 - winds 105 mph

Debby 9-2-1988 - Cat1 - winds 65 mph


Diana 9-10-1984 - Cat4 - winds 115 mph

Arlene 9-2-1967 - Cat1 - winds 75 mph

Storm #2 - 9-18-1941 - Cat 1 - winds 80 mph

A few tropical waves could develop in the next week but nothing significant as of right now.

Could we go the entire season WITHOUT a hurricane? Highly unlikely.  Its only happened twice,  1907 and 1914. The data from the early part of the century is a bit suspect so its possible that one  developed in the open ocean without being noticed.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Syria Chess Game: The US and its Intervention History

What always strikes me after reading many books (Games Nations Play is a start) on the US entanglements since WWII is that geopolitical events ALWAYS involve a complicated, intricate chess game between more than two countries. Since WWII, the US has been the de facto peace maker because no other country was in a position to do it after Europe and Asia was decimated.  The US was in a great position to accept this role economically and militarily. However, in retrospect, our attitude was strongly adolescent. To illustrate this, let's compare the geopolitical landscape from World War II to the present to a hornet's nest: 

One or two hornet's nests are easier to manage. The US saw the Soviet Union as that ONE nest along with maybe China.  (Remember that Europe was not a player post World War II although we rebuilt that "nest" via the Marshall Plan)  The zero sum game of the Cold War prevented the US and Russia from shaking their proverbial nests.  The status quo was better than all out Nuclear War.

Korea and Vietnam showed that there were other nests out there worth watching except that we shook those nests thinking that we could squash the hornets.  We grossly underestimated the consequences of those actions.  Korean War lasted only a few years but the Vietnam War last almost 15 years if you count our military advisor presence starting in the late 50s/early 60s prior to the late 60s escalation.  A little over a month after the end of the Korean War, the CIA and MI6 (United Kingdom) overthrew Iranian government after they nationalized their oil industry in an operation called AJAX. It wasn't until 2000 and 2001 in a New York times article that this operation finally came to light.  Last month, the remaining CIA documents were finally made public. Yet another nest with communist infiltration was in Afghanistan. In the late 70s and 80s we funded Afghanistan rebels (Mujahideen) called Operation Cyclone in response to the Soviet-backed Afghan government.  When the Soviets retreated, our financial support stopped.  The consequences lead directly to a more heavily concentrated Anti-American movement which gave rise to Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.  Our covert actions in Afghanistan in the late 70s and early 80s (unbeknownst to us at the time) influenced the Middle East landscape in a non-favorable way for the US decades later. 

I mentioned these specific events not to criticize the decision making of that era.  Hindsight is always 20/20.  Reality is that these policing actions rarely tempers one or two nests. If anything, it creates more smaller nest that grow that grow over time.  Any attempt to quiet one nest increases the probability of aggravating the others. Once that happens, you have a much bigger problem as is the case today.

2013 is not a world featuring Russia and the US from the cold war days. This is a multi-polar world in which ALL of the moving parts must be sized up BEFORE any action is taken. In the case of Syria, the players are RUSSIA, EUROPE and the entire MIDDLE EAST especially IRAN and ISRAEL and NORTH AFRICA from the Suez Canal to Morocco not to mention NORTH KOREA. The unintended consequences of a Syrian intervention could cascade into other regions creating further destabilization. Long term, this might remove any trump card we have with Russia, Iran and North Korea should another situation arise..

All of that said, the US cannot look weak. If any bluff is called, it will strengthen the positions of NORTH KOREA, IRAN and SYRIA among others. They will test the US again and again pushing the envelop further. The chess game is a power play for which the US is a major player.  The difference over the years has been the number of players.  Now, China, Russia, Iran, multiple Middle East counties, Great Britain, Israel, Germany, France, the EU and the US are the biggest players.  Add the newer nuclear powers of North Korea, India and Pakistan and your task of balancing out the needs of one with the needs of many becomes herculean.  I don't envy an President Democrat or Republican who has to make this decision.

Early this morning, we heard from many people who wish that the US become an isolationist country. "Let the rest of the world solve their own problems!"  These cries are thunderous. But remember that we have never been a strictly isolationist county. In the late 1800s and early 1900s we had multiple interventions in Central America along with a short-lived occupation of the Philippines.  Many will argue that our influence in these counties didn't have the far reaching aftershocks vis-a-vis today's extremist ideals and terrorism both domestically and abroad.  Make no mistake, our presence ultimately shaped our relationship with these Latin American countries years later.  Some for the better, others not so much.

2013 is a multi-polar world with emerging powers both militarily and economically.  Unlike the late 1800s and early 1900s where an ocean provided a huge geographic obstacle in exercising influence, today we have no such restrictions. The advent of satellite communications, super-sonic flight, Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, Nuclear Powered Battleships and Submarines in conjunction with high speed computing and virtually instantaneous remote operations bridge any geographic gap.   Technology has dramatically altered the foreign policy landscape for everyone.  Everywhere is in the present and is fair game. 

As much as we want the US to return to our quasi-isolationist days  that we enjoyed from the earliest days of the republic through the early 20th century up until World War II (not counting the Spanish American War), a world with the United States in total isolation free from using foreign military interference both directly and indirectly no matter how benign is next to impossible. Our problem is that we continue to try to over and over again to tame the worst hornets nest while ignoring the others.  We claim to have a big picture mentality yet we start a methodical inward push away from the periphery. Our surgical policing actions ultimately operate in a vacuum. Its never worked.  It always has unintended consequences in the short and long term.  Politics aside, whether its chemical weapons, nuclear warheads or extremists, we need to learn from our mistakes and utilize our power with more caution.

I remember this part of Thomas Jefferson's inauguration speech in 1801 said. He said, "...peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none." I wonder how the Founding Fathers would look upon our tumultuous history of "entangled alliances".

Monday, September 02, 2013

Where Does this Summer's Temperatures/Rainfall Rank? Final Summer Numbers

We had a lot of afternoons like this in northern Ohio this summer!
I still can't believe most of summer is behind us.  What a summer it was....or wasn't. Daytime temps were much "cooler" than in recent summers.  We only had two distinct bouts of heat. The first was in mid-July, the second was in late August.

Was this summer as "cool" as what we believe? Let's look at the chart comparing this summer's average high temperature to the summers of the recent and distant past. The first chart shows each summer since 1871. This summer is circled in BLUE.  Bear with me here. I have a lot to cover so take your time.

Let's clean up the chart a bit by only showing the last 50 summers (since 1963) helping this summer stand out a bit more. It clearly shows that this summer was "cooler" than recent summers (2012, 11, 10).


 When we average in the overnight lows AND the high temperatures, we get a more complete picture of the summer temps as a whole (day and night). First, we start with each summer since record keeping began in 1871. This shows a warming trend since the late 1950s...

Shrinking the graph inside 50 years reveals a slight increase in overall temperature in Cleveland with plenty of "cooler" summers versus this summer.

In fact, 35 of the last 50 summers were COOLER OVERALL than 2013!

What about 90 degree days? We only had 6 days above 90 this year.

What years had equal or less 90 degree days in recent memory?  How about 2009, 2008, 2006, 2004 and 2000 (no 90 degree days that year)

This next chart really tells the story of this summer.  I added up the days we had high temperatures below 75. While not a record, this summer was comparable to 2009 with 26 days with highs at or below 75. 

Notice some of the years in the not-so-distant past:  2004, 2000, 1997, 1992, 1990 & 1985. These summers had far more "cooler" days than 2013

Were the nights abnormally warmer this summer?   

It looks like it. Over the last 40 years, only 10 summers had WARMER OVERNIGHTS. 

The other huge element to the summer was the abundant rainfall not only in Cleveland but across all of northern Ohio.   

Only 7 summers in the last 143 years of record keeping had more rain than this summer!

Akron and Mansfield also ranked very high...