Global Warming or Natural Cycles?

Well, this should let the wind out the the sails of some of the more hysterical ignorami (e.g. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Katie Couric, and Kevin), but probably not.

WASHINGTON—The current period of above-average hurricane activity could last another 20 years or even longer, according to the director of the National Hurricane Center.

“The 1940s through the 1960s experienced an above-average number of major hurricanes, while the 1970s into the mid-1990s averaged fewer hurricanes,” said NHC Director Max Mayfield on Tuesday.

“The current period of heightened activity could last another 10 to 20 years or more. This increased activity is due to natural cycles of hurricane activity, driven by the Atlantic Ocean itself along with the atmosphere above it,” he told the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s Subcommittee on Disaster Prevention and Prediction.

With regards to more severe storms, you’ll note that the recent research starts in the 1970’s and runs to the present. Again, this is a problem with data that exhibits cycles and there is too short of a time period. You could end up with a spurious trend.

Here is another interesting bit of information.

Dr. Gray disagrees with other experts who said the power of these storms is related to global warming. He said there is simply no proof of that.

He said 1933 was a very active season, similar to this year’s season. There were 21 named storms in 1933.–emphasis added

In other words, this level of hurricane activity is not unprecedented.

FILED UNDER: Natural Disasters, Science & Technology
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    And had anyone noticed the headlines about record sunspots just the day before yesterday… and the planetary warming being recorded on Mars?

  2. ken says:

    Since it is impossible to ignore the fact that global warming is taking place and that the strength of hurricanes appears to run in cycles there is nothing inconsistent with suggesting that global warming, which we know contributes to the factors that cause hurricanes, may also contribute to the overall intensity of the hurricanes.

  3. Steve Verdon says:

    Since it is impossible to ignore the fact that global warming is taking place and that the strength of hurricanes appears to run in cycles there is nothing inconsistent with suggesting that global warming, which we know contributes to the factors that cause hurricanes, may also contribute to the overall intensity of the hurricanes.

    In other words, you don’t have any data so you are making crap up.

  4. ken says:

    Steve, what is it that you are ignorant of and in need of an education about?

    Global warming or hurricane cycles?

    Whichever it is, I suggest you spend a few minutes on some research before launching such a hostile retort to something as commen sense as my last observation.

    If you don’t think it there is any relationship between global warming and any one hurricane in this cycle of hurricanes, you may be right. But you would be a fool to bet money on it.

  5. Ashley Tate says:

    Bush: Rita is New Orleans Mop-Up Operation

    NEW ORLEANS – President Bush announced today that Hurricane Rita, likely to make catastrophic landfall near Houston, was his “mop-up operation to finish exterminating poor and black New Orlinians who fled to Texas.”

    Read more

  6. bryan says:

    In other words, this level of hurricane activity is not unprecedented.

    To paraphrase a noted spanish nobleman, “they keep using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means.”

  7. bryan says:

    Since it is impossible to ignore the fact that global warming is taking place and that the strength of hurricanes appears to run in cycles there is nothing inconsistent with suggesting that global warming, which we know contributes to the factors that cause hurricanes, may also contribute to the overall intensity of the hurricanes.

    This is a huge leap to make to the blaring headlines in most news reports. Correlation/causation and all that, Ken. You might want to study up on those topics before throwing out generalizations.

  8. Boyd says:

    Ken, present a shred of evidence to support your thesis.

    Or to put bryan’s statement in programmer-speak…

    Correlation != Causation

    Throw enough crap against the wall and even folks who are only slightly gullible will begin to believe you.

  9. anjin-san says:

    Lets just keep pouring more toxins into the enviorment. Hell, a little poison never hurt anyone, right?

  10. ken says:

    boyd, do you think weather patterns are the result of what? … magic?

    My ‘thesis’ as you call it is perfectly consistent with the known facts and science of meteorology. This is not a radically difficult concept to understand: since global warming affects the factors that create weather patterns, factors such as temperatures of air and water masses, it is likely that this has an impact on our weather.

    I made of point of saying you can claim that global warming has not had an impact on this seasons hurricane frequency or intensity, and you may in fact be right, this season; but I wouldn’t put any money on it.

  11. ken says:

    James Joyner

    Having two once-in-a-generation storms hitting the same part of the country within a month is incredible.

    Steve Verdon

    In other words, this level of hurricane activity is not unprecedented.

    Ouch.

  12. Boyd says:

    Weather patterns that have existed for centuries probably have little to do with anything humans have done.

    And I probably jumped a little fast in my earlier response, since it’s often worthwhile to try to see what effects our actions may be having on the world around us. But the counterpoint still remains: correlation doesn’t yield causation. Similar with global warming in general: if average temperatures trend upward during a period of increasing industrialization and all it entails, that doesn’t prove that those human acts were the cause of the rising temperatures. More information is needed.

  13. odograph says:

    You are right Steve, that no one can conclusively prove if current hurricanes are influenced by global warming, or to what extent if they are (5%, 20%, …).

    On the other hand, I want to share a vision with you. I see a couple scrawny old men in a dry dusty room. They’re clutching warm Budweisers. It is hot and winds howl outside the broken-down tract home. One says “Nobody can PROVE this is global warming” and the other replies “Right! Damn environmentalist-wackos would have us believe anything!”

  14. McGehee says:

    Odo, is your vision more or less fanciful than this one:

    I see a couple scrawny old men shivering in a room. They’re clutching mugs of cold soup. It is frigid and winds howl outside the broken-down tract home. One says “Nobody can PROVE this isn’t global warming!”

  15. odograph says:

    Oh equally, for sure. No matter what happens to climate there will be a “reserve” in the population who will stick to what they first believed.

    Since I’ve changed my mind a few times already on GW I don’t count myself in this calcified contingent of course 😉

  16. Herb says:

    Steve:

    Ken it an excellent example of this.

    “You can always tell a kid,

    But, you can’t tell him much”

    And, of course you will always hear from the EV wackos. They seem to have only one thing in mind, “Save the environment” but destroy the economy and National defense and society as well.

  17. odograph says:

    The problem with guys like you Herb, is that your “environmental wackos” thing is stuck so firmly between your ears that you con’t think about what are real threats and what are not.

    I think it becomes misanthropic at some point. You’ll help ruin your grandchildren’s world, as a point of your “politics.”

  18. Herb says:

    Hey Odo,

    At least I have something stuck between my ears, but the space between your ears is empty just like your gas tank will be if you have your environmental way.

    Guys like you are all the same, your one sighted, self serving, and selfish ways show everyone that you are indeed wacko.

    And don’t confuse politics with the absolute stupidity that is the trademark of the environmentalist. Politics have nothing to do with it, but, the EV’s are hell bent to destroy our economy, our National Defense, and our Society to satisfy their offbeat egos.

  19. Steve Verdon says:

    boyd, do you think weather patterns are the result of what? … magic?

    Ken are you really this stupid? If so, somebody should take away your internet connection to put you out of our misery. For crying outloud, even if AGW is real, weather patterns have been around a heck of a lot longer.

    My ‘thesis’ as you call it is perfectly consistent with the known facts and science of meteorology. This is not a radically difficult concept to understand: since global warming affects the factors that create weather patterns, factors such as temperatures of air and water masses, it is likely that this has an impact on our weather.

    In the North Atlantic we also have a regularly occuring event that also affects these things and drives hurricanes in a cyclic pattern. So is it the cyclic pattern, global warming, or both and if the latter to what degree?

    James Joyner

    Having two once-in-a-generation storms hitting the same part of the country within a month is incredible.

    Steve Verdon

    In other words, this level of hurricane activity is not unprecedented.

    Ouch.

    ken when you grow up and go to college you will have an option of taking a course called probablity and statistics. I strongly recommend you take it.

    On the other hand, I want to share a vision with you. I see a couple scrawny old men in a dry dusty room. They’re clutching warm Budweisers. It is hot and winds howl outside the broken-down tract home. One says “Nobody can PROVE this is global warming” and the other replies “Right! Damn environmentalist-wackos would have us believe anything!”

    So are you denying that there is a cyclical nature to hurricanes?

    Oh equally, for sure. No matter what happens to climate there will be a “reserve” in the population who will stick to what they first believed.

    Since I’ve changed my mind a few times already on GW I don’t count myself in this calcified contingent of course 😉

    Don’t let your mind be so open that your brain falls out.

  20. odograph says:

    That doesn’t even make sense Herb. It is “selfish” to want the planet in good shape after I am gone? Maybe I have to just categorize you as a “reactionary wacko” and leave it be.

  21. odograph says:

    “So are you denying that there is a cyclical nature to hurricanes?”

    You know Steve sometimes you seem *almost* smart/honest enough.

    I’m sure you are bright enough to understand that both cyclical climate patterns and an ongoing climate change may be true at the same time.

    If you play the game that it is one or the other you just fall into the same trap you decry. You’re just the same as those who say it is *all* global warming.

  22. Steve Verdon says:

    You know Steve sometimes you seem almost smart/honest enough.

    I’m sure you are bright enough to understand that both cyclical climate patterns and an ongoing climate change may be true at the same time.

    Of course, I understand both at the same time. Based on your comment I have to wonder if you do. Further, there is the issue of trying to de-tangle the effect. Look at my post that looks at spurious trends and it should be obvious I’ve probably forgotten more about statistics than the ordinary guy (I’m not bragging, but statistics is a fundamental part of my job description…in fact it was the number one reason I got my job, on other topics I happily admit ignorance). But when you look at just about every report on this all we see is a trend and then the conclusion: Global Warming. I post cautionary posts about spurious trends and I see comments like yours. I’m sorry, but it is really hard not be engage in snide commentary at that point. But I’ll tell ya what, if you can tell me what is a good test to detect first order autocorrelation in times series I’ll lighten up on ya.

    If you play the game that it is one or the other you just fall into the same trap you decry. You’re just the same as those who say it is all global warming.

    Also, work on your reading comprehension (ooops there is that snideness I mentioned). I’m not saying it has to be one or the other, but there are a number of factors here that come into play. I saw one post that asked if increasing hurricane activity in different ocean basins is likely via random chance. Problem is that we expect the North Atlantic to display preiods of increasing trends and we have gone through a couple of decades of decline/no trend. So, is it simply random chance for the North Atlantic? No, probably not. What about the other ocean basins. How well are the oceanic currents and stuff understood in those areas. How good is the hurricane monitoring systems? For example, the Indian Ocean has gone from virtually none, to pretty high numbers of Cat 4 & 5 tropical cyclones. That seems suscipicious to me, maybe it isn’t, but could it be improvements in monitoring in that part of the world?

    These are minor details, but important ones. Look at the recent post on gasoline prices at Econbrowser. Prof. Hamilton notes that unlike LA, many of the refineries in the Houston Galveston area are above sea water. And this could make a big difference in getting plants back online. Without that bit of knowledge it is easy to sink into the pit of $6/gallon gasoline. Sometimes small details are important. I have little to no reason to assume that they have been addressed. Do you have any information indicating the contrary?

  23. odograph says:

    I’m sorry, what jumps out for me in texts like that is the cartoonish position that there is no proof without absolute proof.

    I’m interested in more rational risk assesment.

    It carries a little more weight with me that Gerald Galloway, former Army Corps brigadier general, lists global warming as one reason for increased US flood risk:

    http://www.eande.tv/main/?date=092205

  24. E. Carreras says:

    Rita is now a category 3 hurricane. The reduction must be due to global warming, everything else is!

  25. Shhhh.... says:

    Ok, I’m in Middle school and doing a scientific-ish paper on hurricanes. I’ve chosen to write a persuasive essay on the fact it’s a natural cycle. Could anyone send me facts supporting/against this belief?

    GerardWay918@aol.com

  26. Seeker23 says:

    Since it is impossible to ignore the fact that global warming is taking place and that the strength of hurricanes appears to run in cycles there is nothing inconsistent with suggesting that global warming, which we know contributes to the factors that cause hurricanes, may also contribute to the overall intensity of the hurricanes

    Hmm how do you KNOW they contribute to these factors? Because the media says they do?

    Because environmental groups and extremists say they do? The SAME groups who did aerial photos of the interior of BC Canada, namely the Okanogan and Thompson valleys, which are semi-arid climates, have never had forests, and produced these as PROOF, to a gullible European audience of what CLEAR CUTTING looks like and can do to an area? And that is ONLY one example of the kind of duplicity these groups engage in. Why? Because they have found a cushy niche to develop into a career for themselves. Why bust your butt in traffic or get a real job when you can sit on your butt at home and make sh*t up and make a living from it? AND get funding to travel off over the world spreading your fairy tales to gullible people ..

    Study anthropology and you will see there is evidence of cyclical weather patterns, over millions of years. North America has seen drastic changes before man ever set foot on it. From Ice age to tropical seas to temperate climates – where did “Global Warming” come from at that time? Seeing as it is the “alleged culprit” in todays scenario.

    What DID kill those dinosaurs? And PLEASE dont respond with one of todays “popular theories”, because that is ALL THEY ARE. No one KNOWS for sure.

    People need someone to blame, someone to point a finger at when there is something going on that they dont understand, and cant control.

    One poster said (sarcastically) “is it magic?” If you want to call it that, yes, in a way nature and its power could be called “magic” because most people do NOT understand it, cant control it and dont WANT to learn anything about it, and PREFER to get their knowledge from media hype.

    A discussion such as this is much more valuable and interesting IF comments are based on FACT and RESEARCH and not on hysterical bleating.

    Pollution on the other hand is measurable, it is tangible, it is not a good thing. Does it contribute to “Global Warming” – no one knows for sure, but we DO know it is not a good thing. It can and does kill, people, plants, animals. It affects crop production and creates famines. Localized it causes all kinds of health problems, and we can ALL see the brown haze over areas. THIS is something we DO know about, and should be taking action against. We should be concentrating our efforts on using alternatives to fossil fuel, such as harnessing the energy of the wind, solar energy, hydro power etc.

    The Governments around the world should be looking at viable alternatives to private cars. They should be establishing viable public transit. However what do city buses run on? Fossil fuels.

    I would say “Global Warming Theories” could be compared to Religious beliefs, some people will DIE defending the beliefs they have, kill others who dont share those same beliefs, start wars, flatten countries, kill innocent children to defend and force their beliefs on others. Yet there is NOT one shred of Scientific fact that supports the existence of “God”. Whatever form he or she or it takes in your beliefs.

    In your gut you KNOW it is happening, in your gut you NEED to have something REAL and TANGIBLE that you can point to, identify with, understand, and from that you derive some small feeling of CONTROL from.

    IF I pray long enough, IF I dont drive as often I CAN control this force I dont understand – but WHERE is the proof? Where is the data? WHERE is the history that says it has never happened before?

    It isnt there, because it HAS happened before and will CONTINUE to happen and yes, this MAY very well be MAGIC. Depending on your definition of MAGIC.

  27. Hmm Dr Gray is quoted as saying

    “There were 21 named storms in 1933”

    That’s interesting because the process of naming storms did not start until 1953. Prior to that the U.S. National Weather Service used numbers.

    http://www.fema.gov/kids/hunames.htm