Jordan Candler / September 13, 2018

WaPo Fires First Shots in Hurricane Florence Blame Game

“Another hurricane is about to batter our coast,” the Post says, and “Trump is complicit.”

University of Georgia science professor and 2013 American Meteorological Society President Dr. Marshall Shepherd isn’t sheepish about his notions of man-made global warming. Yet as Hurricane Florence chugs toward the southeast coast, even he is warning against throwing caution to the wind. “I keep getting questions about climate change and #HurricaneFlorence,” he recently tweeted. “Let’s have that conversation another time.” Dr. Shepherd went on to say that while he’s “happy to have” a subsequent dialogue, “this week we need to focus on this significant weather threats, impacts, keeping people updated, and getting them prepared.” This is a very level-headed sentiment. Sadly, though, the Washington Post editorial board didn’t get the memo.

In fact, the Post might as well proceed to renaming this storm Hurricane Donald based on what the editors insinuate in their despicable editorial headline: “Another hurricane is about to batter our coast. Trump is complicit.” Florence hasn’t even made landfall yet (the forecast is still evolving, by the way), and already the Post laments that “when it comes to extreme weather, Mr. Trump is complicit. He plays down humans’ role in increasing the risks, and he continues to dismantle efforts to address those risks.”

“If the Category 4 hurricane does, indeed, hit the Carolinas this week,” the authors write, “it will be the strongest storm on record to land so far north.” That’s true, though it appears increasingly unlikely — the storm has dropped to a Category 2 as of this morning, with some restrengthening possible. (Importantly for those in its path, the effects will be severe regardless of wind strength at landfall). Either way, how does a strong storm unequivocally prove that humans are the culprit? “It is hard to attribute any single weather event to climate change,” the editorial ironically cautions. “But there is no reasonable doubt that humans are priming the Earth’s systems to produce disasters.” Yet to outlets like The Washington Post, every disaster is attributed to climate change.

The Post continues: “Kevin Trenberth, a climate researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, co-wrote a May paper showing that [Hurricane] Harvey’s cataclysmic wetness came from the unusually hot Gulf of Mexico water that fed the hurricane before it slammed into Texas. … Now Florence is feasting on warm Atlantic Ocean water. … Scientists also warn that climate change may be slowing the wind currents that guide hurricanes, making storms more sluggish and, therefore, apt to linger longer over disaster zones.”

Actually, as meteorologist Joe Bastardi explained last year, “Harvey got trapped not by an expansive subtropical ridge … but by an abnormally large-scale trough over the eastern U.S.” Yes, the atmospheric setup is different this time, but the point is that most media are selective about which variables they chose to include. In other words, the variables must help to promote the prevailing narrative, which includes, in the Post’s telling, that “the president has cemented the GOP’s legacy as one of reaction and reality denial.”

In reality, denialists are those who pretend the recent decade-long major hurricane drought never happened. Or that the 1930s, ‘40s, and '50s hurricane apex is fictitious. The climate pendulum is always swinging. And no amount of revisionist history will stop it. It’s almost like, ahem, Resistance is futile.

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