Rhetorical Analysis of Varying writing styles in regards to The Trend of Increasing Tropical Storm Destructiveness

Throughout history, natural disasters have always been a cause for concern among all nations. Currently, the world has been experiencing more typhoons and hurricanes than ever before. Greg Laden of the popular website scienceblogs.com uses the research from Kelly Emanuel’s “Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years” to demonstrate how the severity and destructiveness of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines had been significantly increased by the changes in sea surface temperatures and increase temperatures at lower depths. Both Emanuel and Laden state that global warming accounts for the increase in frequency and magnitude of tropical storms. Laden uses this as evidence to support his theory that global warming is playing a vital factor in both the deadliness of storms and that global warming is also a key factor in past storms such as Hurricane Katrina and may be the cause of soon to come “megastorms” (Laden). Both authors have vastly different exigencies and purposes and in order to address their appropriate audience and illicit vastly different responses, they write very differently.  Laden and Emanuel both write with different goals in mind while still being on the subject of natural disaster intensity and frequency

.Hurricane Haiyland

The article on scienceblogs.com serves two main purposes: inform the general public to a trend that seems to explain how global warming in in fact a very real factor in the deadliness of storms and the second is a call to action for the acknowledgment of this factor and to have people take a stand against it. In order to do this, Laden utilizes a various set of approaches from statistics, visual representations, to taking a persuasive tone in convincing people that “changes to our climate can kill thousands of people at a time.”

Laden’s article begins by briefly mentioning the different factors that are taken into account when determining the intensity of a tropical storm but emphasizes the significance of one factor in particular- sea surface temperatures.  All the graphs from Emanuel’s work support the theory that the temperatures in the Pacific index are proportional to the destructive capabilities of tropical storms. Laden goes on to say that “sea surface temperatures that was almost certainly caused by global warming, as part of a general warming of the ocean.” Kerry Emanuel’s research does accredit this upturn to “to global warming, suggesting that the upward turned in tropical cyclone PDI values is at least partially anthropogenic.”  To make the topic more understandable to the younger or less scientifically informed audience, Laden uses the analogy of a “working downtown population” growing hungrier. In order to further make the research understandable, the piece also incorporates a set of maps showing the temperatures of waters in the Pacific area. Laden also continues to highlight how global warming is the source of the increase in storms. The focus of the work eventually sees a shift from “one of the most powerful tropical cyclones” to “it is time for action.”  Thus, Laden’s main exegiance for the piece is the need to take action and refute “climate science denialists” by taking action.

Kerry Emanuel’s Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years goes in depth on the fundamentals mentioned in Laden’s piece and further extrapolates from a scientific standpoint as to how these storms can be mathematically derived and the functionality of these formulas. In addition, to address Emanuel’s audience, Emanuel explains in great detail each of her graphs and relays them back to her initial thesis that “Theory and modellin2 predict that hurricane intensity should increase with increasing global mean temperature… results suggest that future warming may lead to an upward trend in tropical cyclone destructive potential, and—taking into account an increasing coastal population—a substantial increase in hurricane-related losses in the twenty- first century.”

Although similar in topic, Emanuel’s work focuses on the mathematical and statistical component of how SST or sea surface temperature has been a factor in the increase of the occurrence of storms as well as the intensity of these occurrences in the past thirty years. In order to do this, Emanuel centers the work on the data taken and derives the following formula to show the “PD” or “power dissipated by a storm over its life

Hurricane Equation

Using similar equations and graphs, the work demonstrates precautions taken to limit the variability of said presented equations. Essentially, this work documents and records the trend of how global warming increases the storms, their yearly frequency, and overall damage done. However, contrary to Laden’s title about a possible trend, Emanuel’s work states that “Global climate model predictions of the influence of global warming on storm frequency are highly inconsistent, and there is no detectable trend in the global annual frequency of tropical cyclones in historical tropical cyclone data.” Thus, it is hard to say if Laden’s article really does a suitable job in explaining to the public of how these disasters function.

Both the article and the paper focus on the destructiveness and the frequency of storms, but both works offer very different information. Laden’s post suggests that there is a possible trend but makes no real correlation between the two besides the fact that global warming is a major factor in the issue. In contrast, Emanuel’s paper does as the title is stated and elaborates on how data supports the theory that storm destructiveness has increased over the last thirty years and is bound to increase- just not in any “trend” or predictable fashion. In addition, Laden tries to state that the main source of for changes in hurricane/typhoon intensity is the sea surface temperature whereas Emanuel states that “Tropical cyclones do not respond directly to SST, however, and the appropriate measure of their thermodynamic environment is the potential intensity, which depends not only on surface temperature but on the whole temperature profile of the troposphere.” Both pieces do agree on one key issue though: this matter does require attention. Laden feels it is time to “take action” against global warming while Emanuel takes a much more well-rounded approach and concludes that “Whatever the cause, the near doubling of power dissipation over the period of record should be a matter of some concern, as it is a measure of the destructive potential of tropical cyclones.”

Laden and Emanuel are writing for two vastly different audiences and this is evident through many different facets of their writing. The diction being utilized, their credibility as writers, and their methods of grabbing attention are vastly different. For example, Laden’s use of phrases such as “kill thousands of people at a time” addresses the readers’ pathos and creates a sense of urgency around the issue. Similarly, he also addresses the ethos of the work by using various maps and graphs from other scientific writings. In contrast, Emanuel uses simple raw facts that appeal to both logos and ethos; however, as far as addressing immediate concern, Laden’s work wins out, but, Emanuel’s research better informs the reader of the semantics and key underlying points of the issue. Thus, each work serves it’s vastly different purpose, but if you wanted straight facts, then the research paper would be a more suitable choice.

Both Emanuel and Laden’s work serve to inform the world to the destructiveness of storms, but only one actively provides evidence to the destructive forces and supports the theory that storms will become more frequent and even more disastrous. However, Landen simply gives a brief synopsis of the topic and simply assigns most of the blame to global warming, which is not an accurate claim in comparison to Emanuel’s research. Academic works and popular pieces vary significantly in diction, limitations, and factual information relayed. Although popular works are generally released to a very large audience, they merely capture the reader’s attention to the subject, such is the case with Laden’s piece. It explains briefly the very complex nature of natural disasters as it relates to the recent events of Typhoon Haiyan but doesn’t full extrapolate upon how the scientific aspect functions. Emanuel’s piece on the other hand, is an academic work that attracts a smaller audience but is much more factual and is a much more valuable resource to those who show a keen interest in the subject. With research from Emanuel and the driving desire for immediate action, it is conceivable that people will be better equipped when it comes to tropical storms. It is necessary for people to understand the importance of storms and how learning their capabilities and even be able to some extent predict storm behavior is key to saving lives from such natural disasters.

Works Cited:

Emanuel, Kerry Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years, ftp://texmex.mit.edu/pub/emanuel/PAPERS/NATURE03906.pdf, August 4th, 2005

Laden, Greg “Why Was Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda So Powerful, and is this a trend?” http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2013/11/11/why-was-typhoon-haiyanyolanda-so-powerful-and-is-this-a-trend/, November 11th, 2013

(All images are taken from google. No copyright infringement intended.)


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