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Hurricanes, Katrina, and Facts

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Hurricanes, Katrina, and Facts

August 31, 2015

It was as predictable as sunrise that climate advocates would use the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina for propaganda purposes. And true to form, they did, including President Obama, even though he was asked by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal not to do so.

Climate advocates use sea surface temperature increases to claim that hurricane activity in the Atlantic is bad and is going to get worse. Most of these predictions are based on models. Since we have learned, especially in the climate change debate, models can be manipulated to prove anything. So, instead of parsing through model equations and assumptions, someone interested in hurricanes could start with the data.

Professor William Gray, one of foremost experts on hurricanes, has demonstrated through his work that surface temperature is a factor but not the controlling factor. He demonstrated this conclusion by analyzing two fifty-year periods when average surface temperatures rose 0.4 degrees C. He found that fewer named hurricanes made landfall during the 1956-2005 period that during the 1900-1949 period. Research on hurricanes also indicates that there is a 60-year cycle in hurricane frequency—30 years above average frequency and 30 years below.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has compiled data on hurricane making landfall in the United States going all of the way back to 1851. On the 10th anniversary of the 2005 hurricane season, NOAA stated, “Wilma is also the last major hurricane to strike the U.S.--an unprecedented stretch that could unfortunately lead to ‘hurricane amnesia’ for the destruction such a hurricane can cause.” The second longest stretch without a major hurricane hitting the United States was between 1860 and 1869, according to NOAA records. 

In addition, the National Hurricane Center has stated, “storms are no more intense or frequent worldwide than they have been since 1850. … Constant 24-7 media coverage of every significant storm worldwide just makes it seem that way.” Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which advocates turn to for support, concluded in its last report that “No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin.”

The contradiction between the rhetoric of those who are pursuing an environmental agenda and empirical data brings to mind John Adams’ admonition, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

Although advocates assert that the evidence is compelling, science and empirical evidence do not provide strong support. There has been no real warming since 1998, and more scientists are beginning to express concern that there could be an extended period of global cooling. The facts about CO2 show that it is a nutrient and that its warming potential is nonlinear, which means that its warming effect is diminishing. 

In its annual report on Federal Climate Change expenditures, the Obama Administration reports over $21 billion in expenditures for FY 2014. That is a lot of money to direct to reinforcing conventional wisdom, demonizing CO2, and suppressing fossil fuel use. As a nation, our economic well-being would be best served by a hard-headed look at climate facts and science and abandoning agendas driven by fear and ideology.

William O'Keefe is CEO of the George C. Marshall Institute. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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