Out of Control Policy Blog

Hurricane Hogwash

Now that summer is upon us, hurricane season is ramping up, as well as the predictable hysteria about global warming's influence. After the quadruple pounding that Florida recieved last year, it didn't take long for the Chicken Little crowd to start crowing that climate change MUST be responsible for the increasing hurricane frequency, despite a mountain of scientific evidence to the contrary.

So the ever-helpful Reuters, apparently interested in getting a jump start on the inevitable hurricane hysteria, runs this piece on the global warming/hurricanes debate:

    If hurricanes again pound the United States this summer, their roar is likely to be accompanied by the din of another storm -- an angry debate among U.S. scientists over the impact of global warming.

    Last season's $45 billion devastation, when 15 tropical storms spawned nine hurricanes in the Atlantic and Caribbean, prompted climatologists to warn of a link to warming temperatures.

    But hurricane experts say the unusual series of hurricanes, four of which slammed into Florida in a six-week period, was the result of a natural 15- to 40-year cycle in Atlantic cyclone activity.

    After a lull between 1970 and the mid-1990s, the number of storms picked up dramatically from 1995 and higher-than-normal activity is expected for the next five to 30 years as a phenomenon known as the "Atlantic multidecadal mode" holds sway.

    "Really, for the folks that are doing work on hurricanes, there isn't a debate (about global warming)," said Chris Landsea of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's hurricane research division in Miami.

    Many climatologists disagree [...] "Global climate change is happening. The environment in which these hurricanes form is clearly changing," said Kevin Trenberth, a climatologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado. He is also a lead author of the next major U.N. report on climate change, due in 2007.

    Landsea withdrew from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this year after accusing Trenberth of linking current heightened hurricane activity too closely to global warming.

See my post from earlier this year on Chris Landsea's resignation from IPCC. I was frankly surprised to see that he got a prominent voice in this article, given the pro-enviro bent of the mainstream media. In fact, the article gave much more ink to the skeptical argument, which is a refreshing change from standard climate reporting.

But the author couldn't resist the ubiquitous shot at the Prez:

    The public clash highlighted the sensitivity of the climate debate in the United States, which under President Bush dismayed environmentalists by rejecting the Kyoto pact on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Hmmmm. Let's see...it is certainly true that enviros are dismayed by practically everything Bush has done, but were they not also dismayed when the U.S. Senate rejected Kyoto by a devastating 95-0 margin in 1997 during the Clinton administration (here's a refresher)? It's funny how history gets constantly rewritten amid the passions and vitriol of the politics du jour.

Back to the hurricane story, I'm going to place my bets now. I'm betting (solely on gut instinct) on a normal hurricane season in which we'll hear barely a whimper on the global warming issue. But if I'm wrong and we have another whopper of a season, then I'm betting that we get the first Chicken Little, enviro-hysteria article within 36 hours of the second landfall.

But of course, there is a third option...it would be just priceless if we had a below-average hurricane season and then started seeing articles about how global warming was the cause of the lack of hurricanes. Given the abrupt switch from fears of global cooling to global warming in the late 1970's, this idea isn't that far fetched.

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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