Post image for Scientists Find No Trend in 370 Years of Tropical Cyclone Data

With Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) citing Hurricane Sandy as a reason to have another go at climate legislation, to say nothing of the media spin depicting Sandy as punishment for our fuelish ways, it’s useful to look at some actual science.

In a study published in the journal Climatic Change, scientists Michael Chenoweth and Dmitry Divine analyze the history of tropical cyclone activity in the Lesser Antilles from 1638 to 2009. The Lesser Antilles are the string of islands lying along the eastern Caribbean Sea.

The Lesser Antilles intersect the “main development region” for Atlantic hurricane formation, making storm data there “our best source for historical variability of tropical cyclones in the tropical Atlantic in the past three centuries,” the researchers explain.

Using instrumental data on wind speeds going back to 1900 plus wind-force and wind-induced damage reports for earlier periods, Chenoweth and Divine estimate the Lesser Antilles Accumulated Cyclone Energy (LACE) for each year along the 61.5°W meridian from 18 to 25° N latitude.

Storms forming in this area include most that do or could make landfall in the U.S. In the researchers’ words: “About 60% of all tropical cyclones moving from waters off of Africa pass through 61.5°W south of 25.0°N, the remaining 40% either moving north of 25.0°N, dying out or re-curving to the east of 61.5°W.” Chenoweth and Divine note that LACE is “highly correlated” with Carribbean basin-wide Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) since 1899.

So what did they find? In their words: “Our record of tropical cyclone activity reveals no trends in LACE in the best-sampled regions for the past 320 years. Likewise, even in the incompletely sampled region north of the Lesser Antilles there is no trend in either numbers or LACE.” [click to continue…]

Post image for When Will Scientists Detect a Warming Signal in Hurricane Damages?

How long will scientists have to measure annual economic damages from hurricanes before they can confidently say that global warming is making storms stronger? In An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore claimed the evidence is already clear in the damage trends of the last several decades. But a new study finds that any warming-related increase in hurricane damages won’t be detectable for a century a more. [click to continue…]

Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth bombarded audiences with image after image of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, forest fires, and drought, creating the impression of a world in climate chaos. Gore blamed the alleged upsurge in extreme weather on global warming, that is, mankind’s sins of emission. One of Gore’s mighty pieces of evidence was a dramatic increase in insurance payments for weather-related damages. As he writes in his best-selling book of the same title:

Over the last three decades, insurance companies have seen a 15-fold increase in the amount of money paid to victims of extreme weather. Hurricanes, floods, drought, tornadoes, wildfires and other natural disasters have caused these losses [An Inconvenient Truth, p. 101].

Gore presented a chart similar to this one:

Seeing is believing, right? The problem, of course, is not merely that correlation (warmer weather/bigger losses) does not prove causation. More importantly, the economic data depicted in the chart have not been adjusted (“normalized”) to offset increases in population, wealth, and the consumer price index.

[click to continue…]