Global Warming Hurricane Crisis Fails to Materialize

Published October 12, 2006

The article below is by James M. Taylor, The Heartland Institute’s senior fellow for environmental affairs and managing editor of Environment & Climate News. To interview Mr. Taylor, contact Michael Van Winkle at 312/377-4000.

2006 Season Casts Doubt on Warming

James M. Taylor

As the 2006 hurricane season passed its midpoint, hurricane and tropical storm activity was below normal, and forecasters predicted below-normal activity for the rest of the year as well. The 2006 season cast doubt on prior assertions that a recent spike in Atlantic hurricanes was tied to global warming.

“Information obtained through 31 August 2006 shows that we have so far experienced only 18 percent of the average full season Net Tropical Cyclone (NTC) activity,” reported hurricane experts William Gray and Phil Klotzbach of the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project in their updated hurricane forecast, published September 1.

“We significantly over-estimated August activity,” Gray and Klotzbach reported. “In an average year, 33 percent of the seasonal average NTC of 100 occurs before the end of August.”

Gray and Klotzbach predicted lower-than-normal Atlantic hurricane activity through the rest of 2006.

The lower-than-normal activity in the Atlantic Ocean this year puts it back in line with the normal activity that has persisted in the Pacific, which had not experienced the hurricane spike seen in the Atlantic in recent years.

Technology Detects More Storms

Throwing further cold water on the asserted link between global warming and the past few hurricane seasons is a study published in the July 28 issue of Science, which concluded modern technology is enabling us to locate and measure the full strength of hurricanes that would have escaped detection prior to advanced satellite and radar technology.

The study noted hurricane seasons in the past were likely much more eventful and ferocious than had been documented, and that the past few hurricane seasons have not been as remarkable as global warming alarmists claim.

The study’s author, National Hurricane Center research meteorologist Chris Landsea, pointed out many storms that would be measured as Category 4 or 5 major hurricanes today were not even designated as hurricanes just a few decades ago.

As an example, Landsea noted a 1970 storm that killed 300,000 people in Bangladesh is “not even being counted as a hurricane” because of a lack of technology available at the time. That storm would likely be documented as a Category 4 or 5 major hurricane if it hit today.

“If you miss that one, it shouldn’t be shocking if you’re missing a whole bunch of others that didn’t even hit land,” Landsea told the July 27 Miami Herald.

More Storms Found, Measured

Landsea pointed out that today’s technology finds and measures hurricanes all over the globe that were not even tracked a few decades ago. Only two geostationary satellites tracked hurricanes in 1975; eight substantially more powerful geostationary satellites track and measure hurricanes today.

The new technology not only locates more hurricanes out at sea that would have been missed in the past, but also is able to pry deeper into the hurricanes themselves to measure maximum wind speeds that escaped detection in the past.

As a result, hurricanes measured at Level 3 a few decades ago will now be measured at Level 5 in many cases today.

“More satellites with improved imagery mean that you get ‘stronger’ hurricanes without the hurricanes changing at all,” said Landsea.

This story will appear in the November 2006 issue of Environment and Climate News.