Right Opinion

Pure Political Theater, Based on an Agenda

Joe Bastardi · Jun. 1, 2016

The Weatherbell.com seasonal hurricane forecast first went out in late March. And with the 2016 hurricane season underway, it’s worth taking a look at what we settled on in mid-May.

We are calling for a slightly above normal number of storms — including majors — and “ACE” index, which is an attempt at quantifying the amount of energy in a given season. The normal is around 104. We are forecasting between 105 and 135. The big worry this year is not the total number but rather the threat of storms developing and intensifying rapidly in close to land. I came about all this because of long standing forecast techniques I have used over the years. Our map is not meant to scare people or hype tropical concerns. It’s an attempt at helping our clients out with the obstacles they may be facing from the upcoming hurricane season, and then showing the public what we are doing.

You can read the full discussion here.

I have written numerous times on hurricanes and how an ill-informed public is being fed a bill of goods by people trying to claim that CO2-driven hurricanes are going to be worse than ever. Of course, just like the Macy’s Parade is the predictable open of the holiday season, the warnings about the dire consequences that face us are coming fast and furious on June 1, the opening of the hurricane season. This week President Obama had this to say:

“All of us have seen the heartbreak, the damage and, in some case, the loss of life that hurricanes can cause. And as climate continues to change, hurricanes are only going to become more powerful and more devastating.”

The climate continues to change. What, back where it was before?

There is a common ground between the president and myself with his first line. But the political theater starts when he makes a baffling comment by inserting the climate change issue: “more powerful and more devastating.” Like what has already occurred before, when CO2 was much lower? For the record, 100% of the facts show that major hurricanes hitting the U.S. in the 1930s-1950s were worse than any other 30-year period. That is to say: If the hurricanes are as bad as what I am worried about this year or in the coming years, it will just be a return to where we were in the 1930s, ‘40s and '50s.

Look closely at the Carolinas in the 1950s. Between 1954 and 1960, there were seven major impact storms, five of them in 1954 and 1955 alone! And New England — home of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who apparently doesn’t know how bad his state was devastated in '38, '44, '54 and '60 by major hurricanes since he says it’s worse than ever now — was hit by three majors in seven years.

Since I am a man that has an open mind, I will assume the people pushing this have not seen this. I am assuming the president can understand there is common ground to be found among people who love their beaches and have put so much in harm’s way and worry that a return to what hurricanes did in previous decades would be devastating. But that has nothing to do with climate change unless you are saying the climate will change back to where it was when these hurricanes were pounding the U.S. It also has nothing to do with CO2, since it was lower. So the climate change part is political theater and is not called for.

After all, why would they say it’s going to be worse than ever if they are just saying it’s going to return to levels that were not seen in 50 years? If it happened before, why is it now because of CO2? The answer: It’s not. It’s because of long known physical drivers that set the pattern up that are conducive for an enhanced threat. I for one am marveling at how there have not been more. I actually have a theory that the natural warming we have seen the last 30-40 years could impede tropical cyclones by changing the large scale pressure and wind patterns in the Northern Hemisphere to disturb the mechanisms needed for the severe seasons. But that is another story, one best reserved for weather geeks like me, which is where the whole CO2 debate should be. It should be a discussion searching for an answer, not something being pushed as a doomsday machine on a nation facing far bigger challenges far quicker.


Joe Bastardi is chief forecaster at WeatherBELL Analytics, a meteorological consulting firm.

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