An Overblown Link Between Hurricanes and Global Warming

By Ed Feulner | October 19, 2016 | 11:56am EDT
Hurricane Matthew (AP Photo/NOAA)

Hurricane Matthew proved to be a dangerous storm that killed hundreds, and caused floods and property damage from Haiti to the Carolinas. Thanks a lot, global warming.

That, at least, is what some alarmists would have us believe.

“Hurricane Matthew, a record-shattering storm that is unusual for October, is a reminder of climate change’s potential to turn seasonal weather events into extreme, year-round threats,” warned Huffington Post reporter Lydia O’Connor. Adds John Romm, ThinkProgress’s climate editor, “Matthew has already set a number of records — and global warming is giving it a boost.”

But scratch a bit below the surface of these and other stern pronouncements that climate change and hurricane activity are linked, and you find words like “probably” and “likely.” When you look at the data, hurricane activity doesn’t match up with either CO2 levels or world temperatures. So even “probably” and “likely” aren’t relevant.

Yet some fans of Al Gore, with a facts-be-damned attitude, aren’t about to let a moment like this pass without using it to promote one of their pet causes.

Consider how NBC’s Ron Allen reported from the White House on Oct. 5, when President Obama spoke to reporters about the Paris climate-change agreement:

“It’s very interesting that this is happening on a day when there’s a hurricane bearing down on the United States and in the Caribbean, because these severe storms, beach erosions, intense-weather episodes that we’ve had are perhaps the most practical example of what the president was talking about as the threat that the planet faces, and this is what this whole climate agreement signed by 190 nations and now ratified by 60 or so is designed to stop.”

But merely drawing a link isn’t enough. Is Mr. Allen aware that when it comes to the most serious hurricanes (Categories 4 and 5), things were actually worse nearly a century ago?

For the 44 years from 1926 through 1969, 14 of these most powerful storms made landfall, as environmental expert David Kreutzer recently pointed out. In the 46 years since? Only three.

In fact, the data show that for the last 10 years, we have had an unusual drought of major hurricanes (Category 3 and higher) making landfall on the continental U.S. “That’s right, no major hurricanes have made landfall for over a decade,” Mr. Kreutzer notes. “This is the longest such drought on record.”

The pattern over the last century or so shows, well, no real pattern at all. It’s all over the place. Data from the Environmental Protection Agency show the number of hurricanes in the North Atlantic spiking in the 1880s, the 1940s and the 1990s. The data also show ebbs in the 1920s, the 1980s and the past 10 years.

I’m not saying this proves that climate change or any warming that’s taking place plays absolutely no factor whatsoever in hurricane activity. If Mr. Allen and others are to be believed, though, we should be seeing a clear spike in hurricane activity over the last decade. But we haven’t.

“A lot of it is luck,” Mr. Kreutzer writes. “There have been major hurricanes in the Atlantic whose paths have not taken them onshore. However, there has not been the steady increase in hurricane activity that the doom-and-gloomers predicted following a swarm of major hurricanes in 2005. Yes, there is a lot of change from year to year, but there is no worrisome trend.”

That’s right: “no worrisome trend.” Those who preach the gospel of global warming surely don’t like hearing that. But that’s the, ahem, inconvenient truth.

Ed Feulner is the founder of the Heritage Foundation (


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