Don't Blame Sandy on Global Warming
In a one-hour special on Hurricane Sandy's toll, NBC News anchor Brian Williams called the storm "the new norm." That was a lead-in for Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel to launch the obligatory global-warming discussion as an explanation for the devastating storm.
Everyone from former Vice President Al Gore to Governor Cuomo has chimed in to blame climate change for Sandy. But calling a single, rogue super-storm "the new norm" is misleading, if not downright naīve.
Extreme weather events have plagued mankind for all of recorded history. We have records of massive hurricanes striking what's now New York as far back as the mid-13th century. The New England Hurricane of 1938 killed more than 700 people - 60 in New York alone. Hurricane Edna, in 1954, killed 29 and caused massive damage. Catastrophic hurricanes also hit in 1821 and 1894.
Yes, Sandy was the second tropical storm to impact New York in as many years, after Irene last August. But these storms don't even start to compare with the frequency of tropical storms that threatened New York in the mid-1950s.
In 1955, two hurricanes - Connie and Diane - struck in the same month, causing significant flooding in the city. And the frequency of tropical storms to make landfall at or near NYC in the 2000s wasn't as great as in the 1990s. New norm?
In New England, category five (5) hurricanes - top of the line on the Saffir-Simpson scale - struck in 1938 (New England Hurricane) and 1960 (Donna.) Category four (4) storms struck in 1944 (Great Atlantic Hurricane); 1961 (Esther); 1985 (Gloria) and 1999 (Floyd.) Category three (3) storms struck in 1954 (Carol and Edna); 1955 (Diane); 1966 (Alma); 1976 (Belle); 1991 (Bob) and 1996 (Bertha.)
On average, a major hurricane made landfall in New England every 3.5 years from 1938 to 1966. Since 1966, it's been just every 9.2 years - with none since 1999. New norm?
That list spells out what Williams and Cantore conveniently ignored: tropical storms were more frequent in the 1950s than at any previous point in the 20th century or at any point since. In fact, 10 major hurricanes struck the East Coast between North Carolina and New England from 1954 to 1960.
As hurricane expert Judith Curry of Georgia Tech points out on her website, and as meteorologist Joe Bastardi echoed in a Fox News interview, ocean temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere are now in the same cycle as in the 1950s.
The Atlantic is going through its warm cycle while the Pacific is going through its cold cycle - a perfectly normal pattern in the oceans' ebb and flow between warm and cool anomalies. The El Niņo and La Niņa, also matches the pattern in the '50s. As evidenced by the 1950s, this pattern tends to steer large tropical storms toward the eastern seaboard. In other words, it has everything to do with a natural cycles of Mother Nature and nothing to do with global warming.
Seven (7) years ago, we were told that Katrina's devastation of New Orleans was just the beginning. But Mother Nature didn't play along; the Atlantic Basin experienced unusually quiet hurricane seasons the better part of a decade - until earlier this week, when another devastating storm made it convenient to dust off the same lines used in Katrina's aftermath.
It would be nice if both sides of the climate-change argument could sit down to a nonpartisan, common-sense debate on the subject. The earth is warmer than it once was - we know this. Are these changes permanent? Man-made? Or are they cyclical, with little to no influence from humans and out extravagant lifestyles? Sadly, we'll never have that conversation so long as global-warming alarmists rush to use such hyperbolic descriptors as "the new norm" every time extreme weather strikes.
Ben Garrett is a journalist and blogger from East Tennessee. You may visit his website here: www.bengarrett.net.
Dr. Judith Curry - Educator at Georgia Tech; website: http://curry.eas.gatech.edu/.
< Weather & Climate > < Website Directory >