Hurricanes have not grown in intensity. Nor are they bigger or stronger.
Though global warming activists will vehemently disagree, Roger Pielke, a faculty member at the University of Colorado since 2001 who teaches and writes about government issues related to science, cites climatological history and data showing that hurricanes have neither increased nor become stronger.
As hurricane season draws to a close Nov. 30, Mr. Pielke said a flawed paper published last week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) by a team of authors led by Asiak Grinsted, a scientist at the University of Copenhagen, claimed “the frequency of the very most damaging hurricanes has increased at a rate of 330% per century.”
Saying the paper flies in the face of decades of research and observation that over the past century and more there are no upwards trends in U.S. hurricane landfalls and no upwards trends in the strongest storms at landfall, Mr. Pielke said these conclusions are reinforced by the assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.S. National Climate Assessment and the World Meteorological Organization.
“The bottom line here is that a fatally flawed paper on climate science passed peer review at a significant journal, using a dataset found online that had not undergone peer review, much less any quality control,” said Mr. Pielke. “Loudly promoted by activist scientists and uncritical media, the result has been a pollution of our discussion of climate science and policy … and if we do not enforce basic standards of research quality along the way, we will make the battle much more difficult than it need be.”
Pointing out that the Associated Press passed along the incorrect information saying “247 hurricanes hit the U.S. since 1900,” Mr. Pielke said the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration said that from 1900 to 2017 “there were only 197 hurricanes that made 208 unique landfalls (nine storms had multiple landfalls).”
The underlying problem with the PNAS paper is it uses data on economic losses from hurricanes to arrive at conclusions about climate trends.
In 2018, the IPCC declared that we’re not seeing an increase in hurricanes. “Current datasets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century,” it said. But, said Bjorn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, “We are seeing an increase in hurricane costs “because more people with more wealth live in harm’s way.”
Noting the U.S. population rose four-fold over the past century, he said it climbed 50-fold in coastal areas. The area hit by Hurricane Florence had fewer than 800,000 homes in 1940. Now it’s 11.3 million — a 1,325% increase.
“Homes are bigger and hold many more expensive possessions,” he said. “Adjusted for population and wealth, U.S. hurricane damage has not increased since 1900. Global weather damage as a percent of global GDP actually fell from 1900 to 2017.”
Factoring in socio-economic demographics of the population on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts said Mr. Lomborg, damage by future hurricanes will only increase because the population is greater and wealthier. And there may be more deaths.
Saying vulnerability is the main hurricane problem facing the United States, he said, “We should not allow so many houses to be built on flood plains or coastlines. We should insist on higher building standards, and increase wetlands to handle flooding. We should stop federal insurance subsidies that encourage building in vulnerable areas.”
“Major storms are charismatic events. They afford great footage, which feeds a false sensation in viewers that storms have become more frequent and more powerful,” said Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins Jr. in September 2018. “Meanwhile, tragedies befall Americans every day for which the federal government does not shower them with aid because CNN is not present.”
“Where is Al Gore when you need him?” he continued. “Oh right, the climate crowd has become enamored of coastal development because it creates a constituency for doing something about climate change. Well, not exactly for doing something about climate change, but for throwing money at coastal dwellers and calling them ‘victims of climate change’ for the benefit of generating media coverage of climate politics.”
Connecting extreme weather to climate change to encourage carbon reduction is today’s false mantra.
Blaming global warming for hurricane damage, says Mr. Lomborg, “is tilting at windmills — posturing that does nothing do ameliorate hurricanes.”