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BBC, Tim Palmer & Cyclone Pam

March 17, 2015

By Paul Homewood


h/t Glenwaytown




Christopher Booker has alerted me to a piece on yesterday’s BBC Today programme, in which John Humphrys interviewed Oxford professor Tim Palmer to discuss Cyclone Pam.

Palmer is a Royal Society Research Professor in Climate Physics, interested in the predictability and dynamics of weather and climate, and is one of the gang often wheeled out when climate change is discussed on the BBC.

According to Booker, the piece, at around 8.38am, went something like this:


It began with a news update on Vanuatu and extracts from a recorded interview with the country’s president (quite widely reported elsewhere), saying that the cause of the disaster was climate change – rising sea levels etc.

    John Humphrys then asked ‘what do the scientists think?’ and interviewed Oxford professor Tim Palmer (a Royal Society Research Fellow), “in charge of modelling and climate change”. 

     The key quotes were that he said of the recent “incredibly intense” cyclones in Vanuatu and Haiyan in the Philippines that “these are producing record breaking winds and it’s exactly this type of extreme cyclone that is predicted by the climate models to increase under climate change, under global warming”.

    When Humphrys suggested that we have always had cyclones, Palmer said that these latest ones have seen “wind gusts that have never been measured before, 200-plus mile an hour winds“. When Humphrys pressed him on this, asking him to confirm that they are quite unprecedented, Palmer repeated that “these things have never been seen“.

    When Humphrys suggested that climate models have not always been right, Palmer momentarily seemed to be a bit taken aback, but then said that “models are approximations of reality”, and that if only we had more powerful computers, they would give us a clearer picture.


Palmer was dishonestly conflating Pam with Haiyan, presumably to exaggerate the former’s strength. So it is important that we look at each separately.



Cyclone Pam


Let’s start with the claim that it was “incredibly intense”.

Pam’s atmospheric pressure is claimed to have dropped to 896mb. This is certainly low by South Pacific standards, though not as low as Cyclone Zoe that hit the Solomons and Vanuatu in 2002, registering 890mb.

In terms of the Pacific as a whole though, cyclones dropping below 900mb are actually quite common. In the Western Pacific alone, there have been at least 37 since the 1950’s, with Typhoon Tip claiming the record of 870mb in 1979. Fortunately, the vast majority of these never hit land.


Then we get on to the claim of “record breaking winds, wind gusts that have never been measured before, 200mph plus winds”.


As I showed in yesterday’s post, this is drivel. In the South Pacific alone, there have been four other cyclones as strong or stronger since 1989, in other words an event that comes along every 5 years or so.

The 1-minute maximum sustained wind speed for Pam was recorded at 165mph, well below the 180mph speeds recorded for Orson, Zoe and Monica.

There have been no official estimate of wind gusts (usually recorded over 3-seconds).


According to Weather Underground, there have been ten Category 5 cyclones in the part of the South Pacific to the east of Australia alone since 1970.



Figure 3. Track of all Category 5 storms in the South Pacific (east of 135°E) since satellite records began in 1970. Pam is one of only ten Category 5 storms ever recorded in the basin since satellite records began in 1970. The strongest tropical cyclones in the Joint Typhoon Warning Center’s records are Zoe (2002/2003) and Monica (2006), which topped out with 180 mph winds (thanks go to Phil Klotzbach of CSU for this stat.) Image credit: Michael Lowry, TWC.



Typhoon Haiyan


Although Haiyan, or Yolanda as the Philippines call it, was a much more powerful storm, as we already know, it was not exceptional.


1) Atmospheric pressure was measured as 895mb. As already mentioned, this is the sort of storm that comes along every year or so in the Western Pacific.

2) According to the Philippines Met Agency, PAGASA, wind speeds were much lower than originally claimed, probably around 145mph for 10-minute sustained speeds. This would equate to about 170mph for 1-minute speeds. (The highest gust recorded by PAGASA was only 171mph).

Typhoon Tip recorded 10-minute speeds of 160mph in 1979, with 1-minute speeds of 190mph.

Other storms such as Typhoons Grace, Vera and Sarah, and Hurricane Allen all had 1-minute speeds of 190mph, but none could match Hurricane Camille, which hit Mississippi and Louisiana in 1969 with 200mph plus winds.



Palmer also claims that “it’s exactly this type of extreme cyclone that is predicted by the climate models to increase under climate change, under global warming”.

It is, of course, highly inconvenient for those models that none of this has happened yet.

The global Accumulated Cyclone Energy shows no trend, since satellite monitoring began in the 1970’s, and the frequency of major hurricanes is not increasing.







PAGASA find no trends in typhoons in the Philippines either, saying:

Analysis of trends of tropical cyclone occurrence or passage within the so-called Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) show that an average of 20 tropical cyclones form and/or cross the PAR per year. The trend shows a high variability over the decades but there is no indication of increase in the frequency. However, there is a very slight increase in the number of tropical cyclones with maximum sustained winds of greater than 150kph and above (typhoon category) being exhibited during El Nino event (See Fig.10).





Even the IPCC admits there is no evidence that intense cyclones have been increasing.



It appears that making up numbers as you go along, and making claims that are negated by a few simple checks, have become the norm for climate scientists.

Humphrys seemed to suspect that he was being lied to, but was so poorly briefed that he was unable to effectively challenge Palmer.

Honest scientists must be pulling their hair out at the damage being done to their good name.

  1. Bloke down the pub permalink
    March 17, 2015 4:33 pm

    It’d be nice to think that Humphrys would get to see this post, though I suspect that’s a wish too far.

  2. March 17, 2015 4:40 pm

    You can always send it to him at the “Today” email address:

    I have already sent an e-mail on the subject.

    • March 17, 2015 5:53 pm

      I am guessing they have global spam rules to bin anything mentioning climate. Would make an interesting FOI request though.

      • March 17, 2015 5:58 pm

        Mine wasn’t binned and it had two links in it.
        Although I addressed it to Humphrys, I couldn’t say whether he got it.
        The automatic reply was:

        “Thank you for your email, if it is a complaint about the Today Programme please re-submit your concerns using the following email address:”

      • March 17, 2015 5:59 pm

        Looking forward to seeing what response you get!

  3. March 17, 2015 4:47 pm

    The sad thing is that the “man in the street” heard another learned professor saying that we are doomed if we do not fix the climate. While you have demonstrated clearly that this is nonsense and the professor is a charlatan exploiting his professional credentials, the poor old “m in the s” only hears one voice.

    John Humphreys has probably been told-off by the BBC for questioning the “proven science” or at least showing some scepticism.

    • March 17, 2015 5:08 pm

      Actually, I think it is a “token gesture” made with the full approval of the BBC to give the impression of balance.
      OTOH may just be being cynical.

      • March 17, 2015 5:09 pm

        OTOH I may just be being cynical.

    • michael hart permalink
      March 18, 2015 5:31 pm

      Fortunately I think the “man in the street” does know that he’s heard it all before, many times. The Met Office also promised him a ‘Mediterranean climate’, and it still shows no sign of arriving.

      And a lot of people do know that terrible weather events have always occurred in many parts of the world, long before the BBC was ever given the resources to go and report on every single one.

  4. Sonja A Boehmer-Christiansen permalink
    March 17, 2015 5:34 pm

    Thanks, heard it and agree that the Prof tried hard to exaggerate. In fact very few people got killed and the measurements???who made them? I see all of thas a part of getting us ready for Paris..we will hear more such stories this year…
    Sonja B-C

    Dr.Sonja A.Boehmer-Christiansen
    Reader Emeritus, Department of Geography
    Hull University
    Editor, Energy&Environment
    Multi-Science (
    HULL HU6 7RX
    Phone:(0044)1482 465421/465385
    Fax: (0044) 1482 466340

    • John Francis permalink
      March 19, 2015 11:12 pm

      I find it revealing that many critical commentators have Emeritus in their title. Retired myself, I too have no career to worry about. What a dreadful situation that intelligent people with jobs are cowed by political advocates and fools.

  5. March 17, 2015 6:01 pm

    Reblogged this on Tallbloke's Talkshop.

  6. emsnews permalink
    March 17, 2015 7:42 pm

    A total of SIX people were killed in this cyclone of tremendous danger.

    90% of the damage was due to extremely poor hut construction mostly using palm fronds. Those were flattened but rebuilt in a few hours effort.

    Meanwhile, all the many people who died in blizzards this winter are never mentioned by the head of the UN or our media.

  7. Daniel permalink
    March 17, 2015 8:03 pm

    we should form a network (with watts up with that and the rest) and email the culprits when they depart from impartial consideration of the news

  8. March 17, 2015 8:06 pm

    Reblogged this on the WeatherAction News Blog.

  9. tom0mason permalink
    March 17, 2015 9:50 pm

    Yes the BBC finds yet another Royal Society nutty professor willing to bleat nonscientific alarmist advocacy Krap with fake authority.

    Next item Maurice Chevalier and “I love Paris In The Springtime” — does it cause global warming?

  10. marchesarosa permalink
    March 17, 2015 10:57 pm

    Click to access VUT_TC_1847_1994.pdf

    Tiny islands in a huge ocean are bound to be affected regularly by cyclones. There may be near misses or they may be flattened, as on this occasion. It’s certainly not “climate change rather “more of the same” and they were just very unlucky this time, I would suggest.

    • tom0mason permalink
      March 18, 2015 12:41 am

      From your link, I wonder how the alarmist Professor would compare and contrast Pam to what happen at the beginning of 1985–

      ERIC (Hurricane) 13 – 20 January 1985
      NIGEL (Hurricane) 14 – 28 January 1985
      ODETTE (Hurricane) 16 – 21 January 1985
      Between 14 and 21 January three Hurricane Force cyclones affected the south west pacific. Fiji and Vanuatu were particularly affected by all three. On 17/18 January a minimum pressure of 987.9mb and winds gusting to over 85knots were experienced on Santo. ERIC and NIGEL followed almost identical easterly tracks across the south of Santo within 48 hours of each other. ODETTE passed further to the south over Erromango. Considerable damage was inflicted to most of the northern islands and to Erromango

      GAVIN (Storm ) 2 – 8 March 1985 GAVIN was named as a tropical cyclone some 150 miles east of Efate but quickly movedaway from Vanuatu southeastwards reaching storm force winds over the sea well south of Fiji. – No damage reported

      HINA (Hurricane) 10 – 20 March 1985 HINA marginally affected Vanuatu while its winds were still of gale force. A maximum wind of 32 knots being reported on the 12th at Santo whilst a minimum pressure of 994.6m b reported at Sola on the 15th.

  11. WJohn permalink
    March 18, 2015 3:54 pm

    When he said it was “incredible” he was being literally “literal”.
    He is an educated man who also knows the meaning of “ultimate” and “unique”.

  12. Andy DC permalink
    March 20, 2015 3:33 am

    Every bad weather event anywhere in the world is now touted as “unprecedented”, “worst ever” and most definitely a result of “climate change”. But when anyone with an iota of intellectual curiosity checks the records, they can invariably find multiple worse examples.

  13. March 21, 2015 6:29 am

    Two weeks ago both BBC and Guardian lead with “Dozen’s feared dead”
    ..and now have moved onto hyping other scares
    …meanwhile Radio New Zealand just gave an update “The death toll has risen to 16, with fatalities being added to the tally as isolated small islands are reached in a delayed relief efforts.
    Our reporter, Koroi Hawkins, says Mataso, north of Efate, was only reached eight days after the storm struck, with the relief team being told that an injured woman died of her injuries yesterday.”

    (that’s out of a population of 130,000)
    – This so called “climate caused disaster” they spend years preparing for killed less than the Tunis terrorists !
    ..There is a real world ..and a fantasy world that the media help create in the minds of the public.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      March 21, 2015 9:35 pm

      When I asked my wife what the death was she didn’t know, so I said guess. She knows I wouldn’t have asked if it wasn’t relatively low. Her first guess was 500.

      It looks like that bit of BBC propaganda has worked very well.

      • March 22, 2015 11:10 am

        The death toll is now down to 11. Sorry to have misled you yesterday. Yes I have seen, “could be dozens”, then 26 then 24,then 16 and now Radio New Zealand that far from finding extra bodies on the islands , they have double counted some ..and included some none related hospital deaths.

      • March 23, 2015 9:31 am

        Ben might want to ask his wife “the final death toll” for Hurricane Haiyan/Yolanda 1.5 years ago ? Any guesses ?
        Bigger than their terrorist deaths or lower ?

        – of course the Wikipedia page was never updated PROPERLY from above 10K but actually the toll is 6,300 plus 1,061missing (by April14th 2014, when updates stopped being issued page uploaded Nov 2014)

        Click to access Effects_of_Typhoon_YOLANDA_(HAIYAN)_SitRep_No_108_03APR2014.pdf

        – When war broke out in Mindanao in the ’70s and up to the end of 2013, an estimated 120,000 Christians and Muslims, men, women and children, military and police and civilians caught in between, have been killed.
        yep15-20 times more people dead from terrorism in 40 years (call it 3,000 every single year)

        – I note the qualified words on the final UK DEC page
        – “If the figures from the Philippines government are correct then Haiyan WAS NOT the strongest tropical storm to ever make landfall but it WAS the deadliest Typhoon in the history of the Philippines, a country hit on average by more than 20 tropical storms a year and prone to both earthquakes and volcanoes.” (actually it seems that the September 1881 Typhoon was the deadliest Philippines typhoon at 20,000)

  14. cheshirered permalink
    March 22, 2015 12:12 pm

    They use weasel words as a matter of routine. ‘Exactly like’, ‘in keeping with’, etc. Note they’re not claiming a link so they’re not actually lying, but to the casual observer it sounds like the prof’ is claiming accuracy when in fact there is NO actual link between storms and CO2 whatsoever. In reality their models simply ‘project’ what happens anyway in order to claim accuracy. After all, what is a cyclone if not a low pressure storm? Summary: spin!

  15. Aard Knox permalink
    March 23, 2015 4:32 am

    An interesting newspaper report of a cyclone which devastated Vanuatu in 1893 begins:
    “March has a bad name in the hurricane regions of the Western Pacific. It seems always with a March cyclone that the energies of the elements are let loose among the islands with greater viciousness than at any other portion of the bad weather period.”
    You can read the rest of it here:
    It goes on to describe a steamer losing its steering and part of its cargo, 10,000 tons of nickel ore being washed into the ferocious sea, settlements swept away and huge damage from what was claimed to be the most destructive storm to visit the islands.
    No one sought to blame it on global warming back then; instead they blamed it on the calender.

  16. March 23, 2015 9:38 am

    The presenter on BBC News 24 last night said the winds were ‘300 kilometres per hour’ (186mph).

    • March 23, 2015 10:28 am

      I’ve already filed a complaint about the same claim last week!!

  17. March 24, 2015 1:55 pm

    There’s now a transcript of Tim Palmer’s March 16 interview on the Today programme, here:


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