Record-Breaking Major U.S. Hurricane Landfall Drought Continues

by Marlo Lewis on October 9, 2015

in Blog

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While acknowledging in his landmark climate policy speech that “no single weather event is caused solely by climate change,” President Obama quickly added: “But we also know that in a world that’s warmer than it used to be, all weather events are affected by a warming planet.”

That’s a clever way to have one’s cake and eat it. Don’t claim “carbon pollution” is “solely” responsible for any “single” weather event, just link it to bad weather in general. Political implication: Blame the Koch Brothers!

What happens, though, when a nation experiences record-breaking good weather? How would Obama explain it? To what (or whom) would he impute responsibility?

Hall and Hereid (2015), a study published in Geophysical Research Letters and reviewed this week on CO2Science.Org, reports that “not since Hurricane Wilma in 2005 has a major [category 3 and larger] hurricane made U.S. landfall,” and that this nine-year major hurricane “drought” from 2006 to the end of the 2014 hurricane season is “unprecedented in the historical record,” which extends back to 1851. The current “drought” beats the previous record-holder, an eight-year period (1861-1868) with no major U.S. hurricane strikes.

We’re now more than four months into the 2015 hurricane season. If the drought persists through December, the nine-year record will become a 10-year record.

Using a climate model built on correlations of sea-surface temperature and El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) behavior with U.S. tropical cyclone data from 1950 to 2012, Hall and Hereid estimate that nine-year periods with no major U.S. hurricane landfall strikes happen, on average, only once every 177 years.

So at least in one important respect, the U.S. is enjoying an unusually-long streak of good weather. Hall and Hereid attribute the record-breaking absence of major hurricane landfalls to sheer dumb “luck” rather than climate change. Or, as most non-superstitious people once assumed before the Age of Global Warming, ‘weather happens,’ both good and bad.


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