Expect Fewer, Milder Tropical Storms as Weather Warms
June 14, 2002
by Dennis T. Avery
The “sky is falling” alarmists—eco-activists, politicized government scientists and, of course, Al Gore—are willing to attribute any extreme bit of weather to man’s infinitely small role in the Earth’s slight global warming.
The World Wildlife Fund says “superhurricanes could become more commonplace unless governments do more to combat global warming.” The U.S. government’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory says, “The strongest hurricanes in the present climate may be upstaged by even more intense hurricanes over the next century as the earth’s climate is warmed by increasing levels of greenhouse gases.”
The laboratory brags that the hurricane prediction is an “example of the use of high performance computing to provide important new information regarding the potential impact of global climate change.”
But the government lab’s prediction is a statistical guess. It’s from a computer model, just like the global warming predictions themselves. And Al Gore, who emerged from more than a year of low-profile exile on Earth Day to vilify the Bush Administration’s environmental policies is back in form. Gore, you’ll recall, made the cover of Newsweek in 1998 by asserting that the devastation wrought by Hurricane Mitch on Central America was a result of man-made global warming.
So what does the real scientific world—the one where they produce studies that can be verified because they can be replicated—have to say?
Researchers recently examined 122 years of data on tropical hurricanes in the North Indian Ocean. During the period since 1877, while the earth was warming back up from the Little Ice Age, the frequency of hurricanes declined slightly. The North Indian Ocean now averages about one less hurricane per year than it did in the cooler years of the 19th century. Data from the Bay of Bengal show the number of tropical cyclone dropped during the months when the storms were most likely to be intense (November and May) during the century-long warming.
Over in the Atlantic, the story is the same. Numerous studies show that Atlantic hurricanes have generally been less frequent and less intense as the earth’s climate warmed for El Nino years, and more frequent as it moved toward the cooler La Nina years.
These real-world observations—recorded during the supposedly “unprecedented” global warming of the past century—indicate that if global warming does occur, we’re likely to have fewer and less intense tropical storms. That makes sense, since storms are driven by the temperature difference between the Poles and the equator. What about the rising damage tolls from such recent hurricanes as Andrew, which struck Florida so disastrously in 1992? There’s been a steady increase in the cost of U.S. hurricane damage over recent years. However, that’s entirely due to our recent tendency to build air-conditioned homes and offices in warm coastal locations like Miami and Savannah, where tropical storms are likely to hit. Fewer hurricanes have actually been hitting our shores in the years since 1944. There have also been fewer intense hurricanes landfalling since 1944.
That doesn’t mean hurricanes won’t hit us in the future, and perhaps very intense ones. But the number of severe hurricanes has been declining as the planet has warmed slightly.
This information flies directly in the face of the computer modeling.
Just remember that we’ve also had far less warming in the past 100 years than the computerized global weather models predicted we would get—and none at all since 1940, while the amount of greenhouse gases has soared.
Instead, we have seabed cores from the North Atlantic indicating we’ve had nine moderate global warmings and nine global coolings in the last 12,000 years—coinciding exactly with a known cycle in the magnetic activity of the sun.
You have to decide for yourself whether to believe a computer model put together by some wizzo in the back office, or the history of weather recorded in the real world.
Dennis T. Avery is based in Churchville, VA, and is director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues.