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Hurricanes and Global Warming



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We’re endlessly told that damage from hurricanes has been going up and that this is all the fault of global warming. Tosh of course, damage from hurricanes has been going up because more people are building more expensive things in areas where hurricanes strike.

The next round of the argument seems to be that ah, yes, but we will have more hurricanes of greater intensity from global warming. Something which David Friedman doesn’t think is true

Consider first the physics. A hurricane is a heat engine; it converts thermal energy into work in the form of swirling winds. In principle one could use windmills to turn the hurricane into, say, electrical power, although I doubt it is a practical project. A heat engine that simply turns heat into work is a perpetual motion machine of the second kind, impossible because it violates the second law of thermodynamics. Actual heat engines take heat from a hot source, convert some of it into work, and dump some of it into a colder sink. They run not off the absolute temperature of the source but off the temperature difference between source and sink.

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 Global warming, however, as the second commenter pointed out, affects both air and sea. There is no reason to expect it to change the difference between air and sea temperature, so the evidence that warm seasons generate hurricanes is irrelevant to the question of whether global warming would.

An interesting point don’t you think? Also worth pointing out that David Friedman is indeed a trained physicist .  



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