In quiet hurricane season, pundits make fools of themselves in effort to pin major storm on climate change
It has been one of the quietest starts to a hurricane season in the modern era, which makes it even more ridiculous that a major media outlet attempts to make the climate change link
“Exacerbated by climate change, Hurricane Fiona pummels Puerto Rico,” the Salon headline raged.
It wasn’t just click-bait. Salon’s story about Fiona, authored by staff writer Matthew Rozsa, lede off with a flashback to a January 2017 warning from the EPA about climate change in Puerto Rico, and a significant portion of the story was devoted to how climate change is causing devastating hurricanes.
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“Five years later, history appears to be repeating itself as the tiny Caribbean island — which has yet to recover from the battering and neglect it received in 2017 — is being pummeled by Hurricane Fiona,” Rozsa wrote. “Experts who spoke to Salon are once again saying there is ample scientific evidence that the massive natural disaster caused by this hurricane is exacerbated by the effects of man-made climate change.”
He goes on to quote Ali S. Akanda, a professor at the University of Rhode Island, who says “Although climate change cannot be directly linked to increased hurricane intensity (yet) there are definitely more and more hurricanes, typhoons or cyclones storms in many parts of the world.”
My question: Who the hell do these people think they’re kidding?
It has been an unusually quiet start to the hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean. The National Hurricane Center names storms alphabetically, meaning that Hurricane Fiona is just the sixth named tropical storm of the 2022 hurricane season, which began June 1.
In an average year, there have been 10 named storms by now, including four hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
Last year, there had been 18 named tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean by this point in September. In 2020, there had been 20 named tropical storms in the Atlantic by this point. In 2019, there had been 11 named storms by this point.
The last time the Atlantic hurricane season started as quietly as this one was 1988. This marked the first time in 25 years — and just the third time since 1950 — that there wasn’t a single named storm that formed in the month of August, which is the peak of the hurricane season.
Salon is far from the only media outlet to blame Hurricane Fiona — which left more than a million people in Puerto Rico without power and killed at least five people in the Caribbean — on climate change, but it is perhaps the boldest.
But this is the nutshell version of Salon’s approach: 2022 has been one of the quietest hurricane seasons — thus far; activity is likely to pick up in October — of the modern era. And when a hurricane finally does form, crusading journalists rush to blame it on climate change.
Again I ask: Who the hell do they think they’re kidding? Certainly not anyone who is paying attention.
Sadly, blaming weather events and phenomena on climate change is nothing new for the agenda-driven media. I wrote a piece for the New York Post on this very subject in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which was retweeted by future U.S. President Donald Trump. It might be one of the only times Trump and I have agreed on anything.
Given the climate change alarmists’ penchant for wringing their hands every time there’s a severe weather event, is it any wonder that so many people refuse to believe the science of climate change?
I’m far from a climate change denier. I’m certainly skeptical that humanity is influencing climate change, though I wouldn’t dismiss the notion out-of-hand. And I’m not convinced that the climate change we’re seeing isn’t cyclical — part of ever-changing decadal weather patterns that have been occurring since the beginning of time. But only a fool would look at the evidence and deny that the climate isn’t warming ever so slightly as we speak.
The problem is those who advocate for policy change based on climate change, and their overzealous attempt to convince skeptics and naysayers by constantly linking weather events to climate. Ironically, it is these same climate alarmists who are quick to crow “weather isn’t climate!” when the climate change skeptics latch on to cold winters or cooler-than-average summers to prove their point.
Weather isn’t climate, of course, and that applies whether we’re talking about an arctic wave in January that dumps a couple of inches of snow in Atlanta, or an early fall hurricane that inundates a Caribbean island nation with a couple of feet of rain.
Unfortunately, the efforts of these journalists and pundits have only intensified in the decade since Hurricane Sandy. At least Sandy was unusual — particularly in regard to its impact on the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions. There’s nothing at all unusual about a September hurricane that impacts Puerto Rico.
Nor will there be anything unusual about a late September tropical storm that impacts the Gulf of Mexico, if and when that happens late next week, as some weather models suggest. The only thing that’s unusual is that it has taken this long into the season before a tropical storm threatens the Gulf of Mexico.
In the aftermath of the intensely active 2005 hurricane season, which featured Hurricane Katrina and 27 other named tropical storms, killing a total of more than 3,900 people and causing more than $172 billion in damages, it became a common refrain for climate change alarmists to tell us that super-active hurricane seasons would be the new norm … thanks to, of course, global warming.
Then in 2006 there were just 10 named tropical storms, and most of the next decade also featured below-average tropical activity in the Atlantic basin. In 2009, there were a total of just nine named storms.
The mantra changed. Everyone stopped talking about how climate change was going to keep causing more hurricanes, and the talking about became how climate change will cause fewer but more intense hurricanes.
But that talking point has also struggled for validation. In 2013, there wasn’t a single major hurricane, which is defined as any hurricane that reaches Category 3 strength of greater on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, requiring sustained winds in excess of 110 mph. In 2012, 2014 and 2015 there were just two major hurricanes each year. For the past 10 years, including 2022, there have been a total of 30 major hurricanes — or an average of three major hurricanes per year.
In case you’re wondering, the long-term average for major hurricanes in the Atlantic basin is three per year — meaning there has not been an increase in major hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean in the past decade.
Throwing more cold water on the “climate change causes super-charged tropical storms” argument is the ACE statistic. It stands for Accumulated Cyclone Energy, a metric that measures the energy released over the lifetime of a tropical cyclone and is one of the best ways to sum up the activity of a hurricane season.
The most ACE on record? Not surprisingly, 2005 ranks close to the top — coming in at second-most. Also ranking highly is 2014, at sixth-most, and 2017, at seventh-most.
But most of the rest of the top years in terms of accumulated cyclone energy are from the distant past, starting with 1933, and including the years 1893, 1926, 1995, 1950, 1961, 1998, 1887 and 1878. Of the 25 years with the most ACE, only five have occurred since the turn of the century.
It makes you wonder whether outlets like Salon believe that readers are simply going to take everything they spew out at face-value, without questioning it. Actually, and sadly, that is probably exactly where they’re staking their bets, and they’re probably right to do so.
But it cheapens the climate change debate because it deepens the divide between the believers and the non-believers. As long as the argument hinges on politics — and, let’s face it, it hinges almost exclusively on politics — liberals are going to tend to wholeheartedly endorse the theories of man-made climate change, while conservatives are going to tend to reject them wholesale. Every silly article like Salon’s, which makes a sophomoric effort to pin a major hurricane in an abnormally quiet hurricane season on global warming, hardens the resolve of those who don’t believe in the science of climate change. Let’s assume, for a moment, that climate change really is influenced by humanity, really can be reversed or at least slowed, and we have a limited amount of time to save the planet.
It would make much more sense, then, to bolster your efforts to convince the naysayers and fence-sitters of the dangers facing our world than to chop your own argument off at the knees with wild and refutable claims that are paper-thin in their legitimacy. Because while polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe global warming is happening, a 2021 Yale survey found that fewer than half of people in the U.S. believes global warming will impact them personally. Good luck getting people to make sacrifices if they don’t believe there’s a clear and present danger to their way of life.
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