Climate change: The hurricane myth

NOAA: Hurricane Katrina was about the last major hurricane to make U.S. landfall nearly nine years ago

Austin, June 1, 2014 — Today, June 1st, marks the beginning of the 2014 hurricane season. It therefore seems appropriate to discuss the granddaddy of all “extreme weather” myths; the one that says human-caused, anthropomorphic global warming (AGW) is generating more intense hurricanes and in greater numbers – the “hurricane myth”.

The IPCC, the UN body designed to support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), abandoned that persistent myth back in 2007. It reinforced that conclusion again in the newest AR5 report released last September. It’s right there, plain as a cool Texas Gulf Coast breeze, in Table SPM.1 on Page 5.

If this were 2005, AGW theorists would be right. The number of more intense hurricanes were increasing back then, but a lot has changed in nine years. It’s been 3,142 days since the last major hurricane made landfall in the United States.

Supporting the IPCC AR5 conclusions, the hurricane myth will be refuted using these data:

  • Total energy released by hurricanes
  • Total number of intense hurricanes
  • Total number of days between major hurricanes

Total energy release

According to the hurricane myth, the total amount of energy released by hurricanes is supposed to be increasing.

After all, more warming leads to more heat energy everywhere. Hurricanes love heat, so they suck it up and grow stronger. It makes perfectly logical sense, except for one tiny, little thing – it isn’t happening anymore! It hasn’t been for over 15 years.

Dr. Ryan Maue: Through March 2014, total global hurricane energy has decreased 38 percent since 1998

Dr. Ryan N. Maue is a meteorologist and atmospheric research scientist at Weather Bell Models. He’s calculated and tallied the total global energy released by all of earth’s hurricanes and typhoons since 1972.

The above chart shows his most current results as of March 31, 2014. It shows an increase in cyclonic energy of a whopping 38 percent from the early 1970s to 1998.

However, the data show total hurricane energy has dropped off even faster in the last 15 years. Human-caused atmospheric CO2 has increased roughly 25 percent in that same amount of time.

So much for human-caused global warming generating more intense hurricanes.

Maue has also tallied the global total number of all hurricanes of any size and plotted them by year. That recordkeeping goes back to 1978. It shows that the total number of hurricanes and total number of major hurricanes have both decreased by 30 percent since 1997.

Numbers of intense hurricanes

According to the hurricane myth, the number of intense hurricanes is also supposed to be increasing.

NOAA data/Author graph: Intense hurricanes tallied over the last 130 years

An intense hurricane is defined as a category 3 or stronger hurricane. Those are the nasty ones AGW theorists say are increasing.

NOAA has recorded all those hurricanes and maintains a publicly accessible database. The above chart plots their numbers over the last 130 years, and sports a software calculated trend line.

Since 1883, the trend shows the number of intense hurricanes has decreased slightly.

If not for the last eight seasons when there were no landfalls, the trend line would be roughly flat.

Most important, these results are consistent with Maue’s total global energy calculations shown above and his global hurricane counts.

Justifiably, AGW theorists can say the above chart is only a regional result that doesn’t reflect the global trend. Valid point!

Maue’s results, however, suggest charting the whole planet will produce a similar finding.

For now, so much for human-caused global warming generating more intense (Cat 3+) hurricanes than there were in the past.

Number of days between major hurricanes

Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr: Displays the number of days between major U.S. hurricanes tallied since 1900

This last graph plots regional results applied only to the United States, rather than global results. As such, this evidence is not as strong as the Maue and NOAA data.

Further, the trend-line is skewed upward by the phenomenal, record-setting 3,142 days since the last major hurricane struck the United States!

Outside the North Atlantic, the Western Pacific is the other major area on earth subjected to many hurricane strength storms. If Pacific storms were included, then the numbers above would be quite different. Perhaps an AGW theorist will chose to do that graph.

What the graph does have in its favor is that it, too, is consistent with the other data presented above and, as such, adds further evidence that hurricanes are not becoming more intense, nor more numerous.

IPCC speaks on “extreme weather” hurricane events

Table SPM.1 shows the IPCC assessment for “Increases in intense tropical cyclone activity” (hurricanes).

IPCC AR5 Report: Summarizes hurricane threat assessment from IPCC Table SPM.1

There is a lukewarm belief that human activity will increase hurricane activity sometime in the 2nd half of this century.

The IPCC assessment that increases in intense hurricanes is “virtually certain in North America since 1970” is based on exactly one 4-page paper that examines only one year, 2005. It’s titled, “Atlantic hurricanes and natural variability in 2005” by Trenberth, et al.

The IPCC never actually went out and counted hurricanes or added up their total energy to back up that statement; hence, the assessment level of “low confidence“.


For the record, NOAA recorded that Superstorm Sandy in 2012 wasn’t a hurricane when it made landfall. It was a huge storm coming ashore at the worst possible place during high tide, which maximized storm surges in vulnerable population centers.

About one foot of Sandy’s 13 foot storm surge has been attributed to sea level rise in worst-case scenarios.

The IPCC doesn’t believe that Sandy, or any other hurricane for that matter, has been caused by human CO2 emissions; so why should anyone else?

Though the IPCC says “no” and the evidence is compelling, it’s likely that the news media will keep the hurricane myth alive and well for years to come.


About azleader

Learning to see life more clearly... one image at a time!

Posted on Jun 1, 2014, in Climate, climate change, Energy, environment, Government, IPCC, nature, news, Politics, science, Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. The ABC’s of Climategate:

    Click to access CHAOS_and_FEAR_August_1945.pdf

    A. On December 12, 1922 Aston gave a PROMISE and a WARNING of FRUITS of the SCIENTIfIC REVOLUTION.

    B. Immediately after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed, CHAOS and TERROR gripped the hearts of world leaders as their TOP SECRET A-BOMB plans became common knowledge.

    C. Being human and subject to error, they tried to HIDE THEIR SIN: Selfish use of the powerful source of energy (E) stored as mass (m) in CORES of heavy atoms, some planets, ordinary stars, galaxies and the expanding cosmos!

    Climategate emails and documents publicly exposed these omissions in late November 2009.

    UNCONDITIONAL FORGIVENESS is the quickest way forward from sixty-nine years (2014 – 1945 = 69 yrs) of public deception, disguised as Standard Models of Consensus Science.

  2. Susan Clipper

    As I mentioned in the other forum, there is a HUGE error is in the figure relating number of hurricanes with decades. You are making a BIG MISTAKE (like Christy and Spencer) by depending so heavily on software, where a little bit of thinking could help a lot. The x-axis represents decades, the y-axis represents the number of hurricanes in 10 year intervals. So the data points used in the figure are correct for every decade, except for the period 2010-2013. During that period you have only three years, and the number of hurricanes in three years is a lot smaller than those in 10 years. You have to wait until the decade is over to include that data point. When you include only three years of hurricanes at the end, and 10 years of hurricanes for all other data, you are introducing a HUGE bias showing the number of hurricanes are going down. If you want to plot using the data until 2013, you have to plot hurricanes for each year, rather than using decades.

    • I corrected the “HUGE error” you pointed out in the figure above. I think the new graph is prettier, don’t you?

      Talking with you reminds me of the movie version of the great Issac Asimov short story, “I, Robot”. In the movie version Detective Spooner (Will Smith) is trying to solve the murder of the old man who invented the three laws governing robot behavior.

      The old man left Spooner a hologram projection programmed to provide simple answers to questions he posed, but it only had limited responses.

      When Spooner asked a particularly important question, the hologram would respond, “That, detective, is the right question. Program terminated”.

      Unlike Detective Spooner, you have yet to ask the right question about the above graph.

  3. Susan Clipper

    Great so far. Now, if there is a correlation between global temperature and hurricanes, we cannot just count hurricanes that hit the U.S. We have to add all Atlantic hurricanes, Pacific hurricanes and all the other storm they call cyclones. Then only we can find a better grasp of the situation. You may want to look at the accuracy of this (I have not done that):

    • You are absolutely correct. The western Pacific gets more typhoons each year than the Atlantic gets hurricanes.

      Maue’s current global results for both numbers of and total energy released by hurricanes is a strong indicator the global Cat 4/5 results updated to 2013 from those in 2005 will closely match the U.S. landfalls shown above.

      As noted above in this article, a lot has changed since 2005! Back then, you were right about increases in hurricanes. But that is not true today.

      I will look forward to seeing the global results when you have them.

      Btw, I’m surprised you’d cite a paper that Judith Curry had anything to do with. I didn’t think she was your kind of scientist.

      • Susan Clipper

        I have nothing against Curry, nor against Spencer or you. Just trying my best to keep the conclusions to be consistent with the data. That is all.

      • Methinks, perhaps, your subconscious mind attempts to find any tiny nuances to supporting the AGW cause while ignoring the big picture. That’s just my opinion.

        I should be thanking you for attempting to tear down data-driven conclusions. Every time you do that, you manage to strengthen the case being made. Skepticism like yours is the fuel of progress.

Comments and questions are welcomed!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: