Climate at a Glance: Hurricanes

Hurricane Florence Nears the East Coast September 12, 2018. Image: NOAA

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Bullet-Point Summary:

  • There has been no increase in hurricanes as the planet has modestly warmed.
  • Even the U.N. IPCC agrees, finding no increase in the frequency or severity of hurricanes.
  • The United States recently went through its longest period in recorded history without a major hurricane strike.
  • The United States recently experienced its fewest total hurricanes in any eight-year period.
  • Florida, America’s most hurricane-prone state, recently underwent its longest period in recorded history without any hurricanes.

Short Summary: Devastating hurricanes occurred long before the invention of SUVs and coal-fired power plants. Real-world hurricane activity shows little or no impact from global warming. Even the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2018 “Interim Report” observes there is “only low confidence for the attribution of any detectable changes in tropical cyclone activity to anthropogenic influences.” The U.N. observation reflects hurricane and tropical storm data in Figure 1, below.

U.S. Impacts: Hurricane impacts on the United States are at an all-time low. The United States recently went more than a decade (2005 through 2017) without a major hurricane measuring Category 3 or higher, which is the longest such period in recorded history. The United States also recently experienced the fewest number of hurricane strikes in any eight-year period (2009 through 2017) in recorded history. Additionally, America’s most vulnerable state, Florida, recently concluded an 11-year period (2005 through 2016) without a landfalling hurricane of any size—the longest such period in recorded history. The Gulf of Mexico also recently) benefited from its longest hurricane-free period in recorded history (2013 through 2016).

More Wind Shear Negates Warmer Oceans: Whenever a hurricane forms, global warming activists claim modestly warmer global ocean temperatures are allegedly “supercharging” the storms. However, warm ocean water is just one factor in the formation and intensification of hurricanes. Wind shear inhibits strong storms from forming and rips apart storms that have already formed. Scientists have learned that global warming is likely to cause more wind shear in places where hurricanes form and intensify. That is one reason why even the U.N. IPCC admits there has been no increase in the frequency or severity of hurricanes. It is misleading to discuss one factor in hurricane formation (warmer oceans) while failing to discuss an equally important factor (wind shear) that diminishes hurricane formation and intensification.

Figure 1: Graph showing global hurricane frequency since 1970

Figure 1: This figure shows global hurricane and tropical cyclone activity are not increasing. Source: Global Tropical Cyclone Activity, Dr. Ryan N. Maue, accessed March 3, 2020, http://climatlas.com/tropical/frequency_12months.png.

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