Global Warming Hurricane Scare Exposed as Hot Air

Published July 3, 2007

Two new studies of historical hurricane patterns have slammed the door on claims that global warming has caused unusually strong and frequent hurricanes during the past few years. The studies add to a growing body of research that is quietly discrediting global warming alarmism.

In the June 7 issue of Nature, scientists documented their reconstruction of Atlantic Ocean hurricane activity dating back 270 years. They found the 1970s and 1980s were periods of “anomalously low” hurricane activity compared with historical norms. The higher frequency and intensity of Atlantic Ocean hurricanes since then is not an unnatural surge of destruction due to global warming, but merely “a recovery to normal hurricane activity …”

The scientists further discovered that warm temperatures have never been associated with elevated hurricane activity. Analyzing the six periods of elevated hurricane activity during the 270-year record, the scientists observed that in each of these periods, air and sea temperatures were notably lower than they are today.

The common denominator of elevated hurricane activity was not warmer air and sea temperatures, but periods when vertical wind shear was at a minimum. Importantly, a team of scientists documented in the April 18 issue of Geophysical Research Letters that global warming will enhance wind shear, and thus limit future hurricane activity.

The finding that air and sea temperatures are, at best, minor factors in hurricane activity was supported by yet another team of scientists reporting in the May 24 issue of Nature. Scientists reconstructed a 5,000-year history of major hurricane strikes in the Atlantic basin, finding that long-term trends in the El Niño/Southern Oscillation and West African monsoons were far more predictive of frequent and intense hurricane seasons than were air and sea temperatures. Dramatic fluctuations in hurricane activity were shown to be a common and natural occurrence, linked quite closely to periods when El Niño was weak and West African monsoons were strong.

The discrediting of a link between global warming and hurricanes should not come as a surprise. While the media trumpets each newly asserted global warming scare with a doom-and-gloom reminiscent of Dante’s descent into Inferno, sound science has quietly yet conclusively refuted nearly every one of these scares.

For example, the World Wildlife Fund on March 14, 2005 issued a report claiming “Himalayan glaciers are among the fastest retreating glaciers globally due to the effects of global warming.” Yet the September 2006 issue of the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate reported, “Glaciers are growing in the Himalayan Mountains, confounding global warming alarmists who have recently claimed the glaciers were shrinking and that global warming was to blame.”

The Reuter’s News Agency reported on November 6, 2001 that “Africa’s highest mountain might lose its all-year ice cap and snow by 2015 due to climate changes threatening to worsen an already tight water supply, the environmental group Greenpeace said Tuesday.” Yet according to the November 23, 2003 issue of Nature magazine, “Although it’s tempting to blame the ice loss on global warming, researchers think that deforestation of the mountain’s foothills is the more likely culprit.”

Earthjustice asserted in a 2006 policy brief, “The contracting winter sea-ice around the Antarctic Peninsula due to the earth’s warming trend is responsible for the dramatic decrease in Adelie Penguin populations on the Antarctic Peninsula.” Yet the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted in February of this year that Antarctic ice mass is growing rather than shrinking, and will continue to do so for at least the next full century.

BBC News Online asserted on June 7, 2002 that from 1996 to 1999 Greenland’s ice sheet experienced accelerated melting due to global warming. However, researchers at the Danish Meteorological Institute reported that the 1980s and 1990s were Greenland’s coldest decades since the 1910s.

The latest hurricane fears prove once again that global warming scares will come and go with the wind, but science will stand the test of time.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute.