FEMA Director: Frequency of Tornadoes Cyclical, Won't Say If Global Warming Involved

By Fred Lucas | May 31, 2012 | 5:49 AM EDT

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate testified before a House Homeland Security subcommittee on Tuesday, April 27, 2010. (CNSNew.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Fugate said the frequency of tornadoes and hurricanes is cyclical, and he doesn’t know if global warming has anything to do with it.

“If you look back for the amount information we have going back to about 1850s, you’ll see a cycle, and it’s over decades of increased activity and decreased activity,” Fugate said. “And so that cycle has been there. As far anything driving that, I’d really defer to climate scientists.”

Fugate spoke Wednesday at a White House press briefing on the 2012 hurricane season that begins June 1.

Liberal talk radio host Bill Press asked, “Mr. Director, it seems there’s a lot more tornado activity in a lot more places. Do you see increased activity -- looking historically -- to hurricanes today? And do you attribute any of that to global warming?”

“Well, I’m not a meteorologist. I’m not a climate scientist, and hurricanes are cyclic,” Fugate responded. “I do know history, and if you look at history and you look at hurricane activity, there are periods of increased and decreased activity that occurs over decades,” Fugate said. “Throughout the ‘60s, ‘70s, early ‘80s, up until about ’95, the Atlantic was actually in a period of below-average activity, even though you had significant storms like Andrew, Frederic, and David.”

“Beginning about 1995, we saw an uptick in activity that has been sustained, and about the only variation is whether or not we’ve had El Niños or La Niñas, depending upon that for a factor,” Fugate continued. “But if you look back for the amount information we have going back to about 1850s, you’ll see a cycle, and it’s over decades of increased activity and decreased activity. And so that cycle has been there. As far anything driving that, I’d really defer to climate scientists.”

“But the reality is the history says we’ve had this period of activity, we’ve had a period of quiet,” Fugate said. “We’ve had a period of activity; we’ve had a period of quiet. And so what we’ve seen is not what we -- we’ve seen this in history before.”

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted last week that this year's Atlantic hurricane season would produce 9-15 tropical storms, with as many as four to eight of them becoming hurricanes. That’s about normal.

The seasonal average is 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. The 2011 hurricane season, one of the busiest on record with 19 named storms, produced Irene, one of the costliest storms in U.S. history.

No major hurricane has made a U.S. landfall in the last six years, since Hurricane Wilma cut across South Florida in 2005.

The hurricane season runs from June through November.

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