Washington, D.C. 11/29/06 -
As the 2006 hurricane season comes to a close, the failure of forecasters to accurately predict the frequency and intensity of this year's hurricanes should remind Americans that climatology is an uncertain science. It should also cause Americans to question the reliability of definitive claims made by prominent environmental activists that global warming is increasing the intensity of hurricanes.
Today marks the official end of the 2006 hurricane season. The number of hurricanes was 38 percent below the number originally forecast by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The number of hurricanes that qualified as "major" - category 3 or above - fell 50 percent below NOAA forecasts. Not a single hurricane made landfall.
"If we can't depend on hurricane forecasts made one to six months ahead of time, how can we expect to depend on predictions about the behavior of hurricanes decades from now," asked David Ridenour, vice president of The National Center for Public Policy Research. "Those who claim that rising global temperatures would definitely lead to more intense hurricanes appear to be relying upon political science, not climate science."
Forecasters say their projections this year were off the mark, in part due to a late-developing El Nino, which produced wind sheers that destabilized developing hurricanes.
El Ninos are a phenomena that some climate scientists believe would increase in frequency if average global temperatures rise.
"If increasing global temperatures increases the frequency and duration of El Ninos as these scientists suggest, global warming could result in less intense hurricanes," said Ridenour. "That is exactly the opposite of what Albert Gore and other often-quoted advocates of immediate action on climate change have been saying."
With uncertainty surrounding the actual effects of planetary warming, The National Center contends that catastrophic scenarios are frequently raised to make the case for action more compelling.
"When it comes to hurricanes and global warming, the rhetoric was only thing that grew in intensity in 2006. It is now at such a fevered pitch that even those who believe action on climate change is needed are growing uncomfortable with the shrill nature of the discourse on climate change," said Ridenour. "Mike Hulme, one of Britain's top climate scientists, and a man who believes climate change is underway, probably put it best: 'The language of catastrophe is not the language of science.'"
The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-partisan, non-profit educational foundation established in 1982 and based in Washington, D.C. Contact: David Ridenour at (202) 543-4110 or firstname.lastname@example.org