climate change, education, mathematics, weather

On Misrepresenting Hurricane Statistics (H. Michael Mogil, CCM, CBM, NWA-DS*)

There’s data and there’s statistics. There’s also the misrepresentation of these.

We all know that statistics themselves don’t lie, but the people who use statistics may intentionally or unintentionally do so. A Tweet late yesterday by Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) was the most recent example to catch my eye. With the Atlantic Ocean region bustling with intense hurricanes at this time, it would be easy for some people to draw an incorrect conclusion from Holthaus’ data (Fig. 1) – i.e., that intense hurricane activity is escalating. But that’s not necessarily what is happening.

While Holthaus’ initial post was misleading (and implied that NOAA data supported the trend line), it is important to recognize that the hurdat (hurricane data) values are the “best” historical hurricane data that scientists may have. However, hurdat contains known errors and omissions and is only as good as the observations that were used to generate the data set. Holthaus continued with additional comments and a link to the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) suggesting that climate change was either the culprit now or would soon be the culprit – “Additional context: There was likely undercounting pre-1960. We expect more Cat 5’s in the future, if not already.”

First, research conducted by some scientists (e.g., Ryan Maue, Matt Bolton, and myself) indicates that the long-term global hurricane trend is “steady” and that hurricanes are not becoming more intense. Then, one must recognize that there has been a dramatic change in global observing and forecasting systems since the mid 19th century.

In fact, it wasn’t until the latter part of the 1800’s that hurricane warning offices were established and it wasn’t until the mid 20th century before the National Hurricane Center was created. Hurricane hunter aircraft were not employed until the 1940’s and the first weather satellite didn’t arrive on the scene until 1960. Since 1960, satellite observation systems have evolved to be highly powerful, high frequency, and high resolution observing tools (Fig. 2). These satellites can now see entire ocean basins; in earlier years, point ship and island reports were all that meteorologists had available. To say that “There was likely undercounting pre-1960,” would be an understatement.

The bottom line is that the data table and reference links offered by Eric Holthaus are misleading. Such data and associated statistics need to be viewed with a consistent (or at least a clearly stated discussion of the) data and how it was obtained. Apples must be compared to apples!

© 2017 H. Michael Mogil

Originally posted 9/19/17

* The National Weather Association Digital Seal (NWA-DS) is awarded to individuals who pass stringent meteorological testing and evaluation of written weather content. H. Michael Mogil was awarded the second such seal and is a strong advocate for its use by weather bloggers.

mathematics, weather

THEWEATHERMOGIL:: NOAA completes major supercomputer upgrade

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced today the completion of a major upgrade of its weather and climate supercomputer capabilities. The two supercomputers involved in this upgrade – called Luna and Surge (and built by IBM and Cray Computing) – are located at computing centers in Reston, VA and Orlando, FL. They are now running at 2.89 petaflops each for a new total of 5.78 petaflops of operational computing capacity, up from 776 teraflops of processing power per system last year. According to, FLOPS, “is a computing term used to define the number of FLoating point Operations a computer processor can perform Per Second.” Teraflops involve trillions of operations per second. Petaflops are equal to one thousand teraflops or a quadrillion FLOPS.

Now running at record speed, the overall system has the capacity to process and analyze earth observations and to support weather, water and climate forecast models at never before realized speeds. This investment to advance the field of meteorology and improve global forecasts secures the U.S. reputation as a world leader in atmospheric and water prediction sciences and services.

“This significant investment in our operational supercomputers equips us to handle the tidal wave of data that new observing platforms will generate and allows us to push our science and operations into exciting new territory,” said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., NOAA’s administrator. “The faster runs and better spatial and temporal resolution that Luna and Surge provide will allow NOAA to improve our environmental intelligence dramatically…and to support the nation’s physical safety and economic security.” This system upgrade is linked closely with NOAA’s efforts to create a “WEATHER READY NATION (Fig. 1).”


The increase in supercomputing strength will allow NOAA to roll out a series operational model upgrades throughout 2016. These include:

  • Upgrades to the High Resolution Rapid Refresh Model (HRRR). This will help meteorologists predict the amount, timing and type of precipitation in winter storms and the timing location and structure severe thunderstorms.
  • Implementation of the Weather Research and Forecasting Hydrologic Modeling System (WRF-Hydro). This will expand the National Weather Service’s current water quantity forecasts to include forecasts of flow, soil moisture, snow water equivalent, evapotranspiration, runoff and other parameters in a much higher density forecast output.
  • Upgrades to the Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting Model (HWRF). This will, for the first time, allow NOAA models to allow direct connections between the air, ocean and waves to improve forecasts of hurricane tracks and intensity. This upgrade will increase the number of storms NOAA can forecast for at any given time to eight.

About sixty percent of the funding for this computer upgrade was provided through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, related to the impacts associated with Hurricane Sandy.

© 2016 H. Michael Mogil

Originally published 1/11/16

"Life", education, learning, mathematics, organization

Date-time organization and ordering

Ever since my computer science instructor at Florida State University (circa 1970) explained how best to handle organizing/ordering date-time information, I have been the poster child of sharing that approach. As we get close to changing from 2014 to 2015, the issue has resurfaced. So, I’m taking a few moments…To read the entire feature, click here.

Originally published 11/29/14

mathematics, weather

Cold frontal passage cycle continues across Southwest Florida

If you thought October and November were chilly months in Collier and Lee Counties, you were mostly right. Starting around Oct. 4, 2014, the first in a series of cold fronts pushed through southwest Florida. Then, just about every eight days another front followed (Fig, 1). In fact, for the 52-day period ending Nov. 21, 2014…To read the entire feature, click here.

Originally published 11/22/14

education, learning, mathematics

Ten commandments that support higher scoring on SAT, ACT and other math tests

Last year, I wrote an article about how to use the full grading options on the SAT and ACT to help a student improve his/her test scores. The idea was to obtain a full test workup (including the test booklet, student answers and correct answers). This allows a student (or tutor) an opportunity…To read the entire feature, click here.

Originally published 10/25/14