The Missing Link isn’t just bedeviling evolutionary theory, but could be a problem for those trying to connect increased hurricane activity with global warming. As this National Center article by David Ridenour describes, the global warming/hurricane link may just be hot air:
An August article in the San Francisco Chronicle warned, “As the United States experiences more… out-of-season hurricanes like this summer’s, more Americans will recognize what the rest of the world has long accepted: Global warming is here, it will get worse…”1
This analysis has a critical flaw: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says the hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.2
That would make summer hurricanes in-season, wouldn’t it?
And there’s another little problem with the Chronicle warning: Much of the global warming that occurred during the last century occurred from 1900-1940, followed by a cooling period that lasted from about 1940 to 1975.
A comparison of hurricane severity against the warming/cooling trends finds that we had an above average number of hurricanes in the 50s and 60s – when the Earth was cooling.
Hurricane severity is governed by a natural Atlantic Ocean temperature cycle that lasts decades. Following the identified pattern, Atlantic hurricanes were especially prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s, were less so from about 1970 to 1994, and, since 1995, have been prevalent again.3
Talk of a link between global warming and increased incidence of hurricanes is just hot air, nothing more.
As Christopher W. Landsea, a scientist with NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division, has noted, “It is highly unlikely that global warming has (or will) contribute to a drastic change in the number and intensity of hurricanes.”
Landsea found that the number of intense hurricanes (those reaching Saffir-Simpson scale ratings of 3, 4, or 5) actually decreased in the Atlantic during the 1970s and 1980s.4 And from 1991 to 1994, the Atlantic had fewer hurricanes than any four-year period on record, with an average of less than four hurricanes per year.5
The article shows that while there has been more activity the last couple of years, the most severe storms have been in the past. The most intense hurricanes according to barometric pressure were the Labor Day hurricane of 1935 and Hurricane Camille in 1969 (Katrina is third). If you go by wind speed at landfall, Camille, Andrew (1992) and the 1935 hurricane were the worst. In terms of lives lost, the Galveston Hurricane (1900) and Okeechobee Hurricane (1928) were more more devastating than Katrina (it could be argued on this count that there was less warning in the 1900 and 1928 hurricanes which may have contributed to higher death tolls; as Katrina showed, however, having plenty of warning may be of limited value).
There is also evidence that warmer weather may actually reduce hurricane activity.
Even if the planet does eventually warm, it’s not clear that either the incidence or intensity of hurricanes would increase.
Patrick Michaels, a research professor in environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, has noted, “Atlantic hurricanes are much more delicate than their destruction suggests. One thing they cannot tolerate is a west wind blowing into them because it wrecks their symmetry. As a result, their maximum winds decline.”9
These are precisely the conditions that exist during El Ninos – weather phenomena that some scientists believe increase with rising global temperatures.
If they are right, this would mean that global warming might be expected to result in less severe hurricanes.
Other studies suggest that higher global temperatures would also result in fewer hurricanes.
A 1990 study of temperature data by Drs. Robert Balling, Sherwood Idso and Randall Cerveny spanning 41 years found that the warmest years had fewer hurricane days, on average, than the coldest years.
These findings are consistent with the earlier historical record. The most severe storms in the North Sea, for example, occurred during the 15th and 16th centuries, after the onset of the Little Ice Age.10
Nature, not man-made global warming, causes hurricanes.
My father has been known to describe certain people as being “Windier than a sackful of…” well, I won’t use that kind of language on this blog. The description may be more than apt in describing the warming-mongers who may be more interested in “cause and elect” than “cause and effect.”