Debunked Claim: Early Season Hurricanes Increasing Because of Climate Change

Guest Post by Bob Vislocky, Ph.D.

Figures it wouldn’t take very long into the 2019 hurricane season for journalists to start screaming climate change. In this recent New Republic article by Eric Holthaus, the claim is made in the subtitle that “early season hurricanes is a sign of things to come for our warming world”.

https://newrepublic.com/article/154449/new-orleans-barry-storm-one-two-weather-punch

Further into the article the author, who is a meteorologist, makes the claim that “as the Gulf of Mexico waters warm because of climate change, early-season hurricanes like proto-Barry could become more common.” Let’s investigate that assertion further using actual historical data.

The chart below displays the number of early season (June/July) landfalling hurricanes to strike the U.S. by decade ending in the year shown. Results show that despite 150+ years of global warming the frequency of early season hurricanes has actually declined by a small (but probably insignificant) amount, as evidenced by the dashed blue least-squares trend line. Certainly there is no clear evidence to support the author’s claim that they’re becoming more common.

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However, what’s more infuriating is the blatant cherry picking and misrepresentation that also appears in his column. Specifically, Holthaus states that “in the 168 years of hurricane records, a July hurricane in Louisiana has only happened three times, and all of those occurrences have been within the past 40 years.” On the surface this statement is factually correct, but the implication is that climate change is causing the early-season July hurricanes since they all happened in just the last 40 years. However, let’s dig a little deeper, but instead of focusing solely on July hurricanes that hit Louisiana, let’s count ALL early-season hurricanes to strike Louisiana. Here’s the list:

(1) June 1886 (Unnamed, Cat 2)

(2) June 1934 (Unnamed, Cat 2)

(3) June 1957 (Audrey, Cat 3)

(4) July 1979 (Bob, Cat 1)

(5) July 1997 (Danny, Cat 1)

(6) July 2005 (Cindy, Cat 1)

Now the painting shows a completely different picture with half of all early-season hurricanes to strike Louisiana occurring before 1960, which is expected given no overall trend in June/July hurricanes. However, by purposefully omitting the June early-season hurricanes from his analysis the author is guilty of cherry-picking data in the least and more likely guilty of fraudulent reporting to promote an agenda. As a meteorologist, Holthaus should be embarrassed by his research. Guess he figured nobody would fact-check his work.

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84 thoughts on “Debunked Claim: Early Season Hurricanes Increasing Because of Climate Change

  1. Hm. Looks to me like things are getting better as far as early season hurricanes go. The earliest hurricane to hit Louisiana used to be June… but in the past 40 years it’s only happening in July.

      • “as the Gulf of Mexico waters warm because of climate change, early-season hurricanes like proto-Barry could become more common.”

        as climate changes because of climate change, X “could” happen.

        This is the typical kind meaningless, condition, non-statement which the staple of this kind of climate alarmist junk. The casual reader gets the impression “OMG, it’s happening and it’s happening now !” but when you look at what he actually said it means nothing.

        Come in ten years when it doesn’t happen and he will say “well, I only said it could happen, which was true. It could have but didn’t. Oh zute!”

        Guess he figured nobody would fact-check his work.

        He does not give a damn because he knows his alarmist propaganda will already have been spread by the alarmist media and any rebuttal will get near zero coverage and there will be no accountability or comeback on his false claims.

  2. Thank you for that last paragraphs. It’s past time to take the gloves of with these fraudsters.

  3. It is not that Hothaus worried or even cared that anyone would fact check his article that was the point; he didn’t care if someone knowledgeable did so. Anyone fact checking would not have an article the New Republic. He was not writing for people that might check his work. He was just producing more propaganda to feed the CAGW narrative. There is a propaganda machine today which goes beyond the mainstream media; can’t call it news media any longer.

    Speaking of early seasons, remember they named Andrea well before official hurricane season. Andrea really wasn’t tropical in origin but naming the storm adds to the narrative of normal no longer being normal but catastrophic.

    • Amen …. I think we should reclassify them as Political Action Committees and govern them accordingly. No more hiding behind the first amendment to push a leftist agenda as if they are telling fact and truth.

  4. Storm strength matters as well. Barry would probably never have been classified as a Hurricane without modern instantaneous measurements. No hurricane strength sustained winds were measured on land even though it was technically a Cat1 for a few hours just before landfall, apparently just reaching the 75 mph threshold.

    Is is my imagination or does it seem that recent storms all seem to be just at the edge of the next highest category?

    • Yup, great point. Hagan & Landsea showed that only 2 of the last 10 Cat 5 hurricanes would have been classified as Cat 5’s if they had occurred in the 1940s because of advanced observation capabilities for detecting these intense hurricanes.
      https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/full/10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00420.1

      So yeah, Barry likely would have never been a hurricane 40+ years ago, and I share your suspicion that lately the possession arrow always points to the higher category when the wind is borderline.

        • It also allows for higher ACE values in the upgraded storms to try to reverse the trend in declining ACE. Let’s see them upgrade hurricanes from pre-1950 like they do on today’s like they did with Hurricane Michael and now Barry.

          • There is an on-going reanalysis of the hurricane database which is doing just that. They are re-examining previous storms using contemporary understanding about tropical cyclones to evaluate storm strength. They have gotten to 1960 in what has been accepted by NHC’s Reanalysis Committee. This might worry people here that NOAA is again revising the past, so efforts are made to be transparent about the changes made and why. See here :
            https://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/hurdat/Data_Storm.html

      • They also emphasize the worst case, which for Barry, wasn’t even close to materializing. I get that the presumed rationalization is to prepare people for the worst, but like the case of the little boy who cried wolf, such deception for attention leads to ignoring real threats. It’s bad enough that the politics supporting climate alarmism has followers who ignore real threats while obsessing about imaginary threats.

        • I will give them (or at least James Spann) credit for Harvey, the final outcome was just about as bad as predicted at 48 hrs before landfall. The 4 days before landfall forecast I’m afraid might have downplayed the potential scope of the potential disaster. I lived in Humble, TX when TS Allison retrogressed and then stalled over the Houston Medical Center, I had seen what 19” of rain in 24 hrs could do. I still have never seen what 57” of rain in 96 hrs can do, not in person anyway. (I didn’t look up the final numbers for either Allison or Harvey, someone help me out here.)

  5. “The chart below displays the number of early season (June/July) landfalling hurricanes to strike the U.S. by decade ending in the year shown. Results show that despite 150+ years of global warming the frequency of early season hurricanes has actually declined by a small (but probably insignificant) amount, as evidenced by the dashed blue least-squares trend line. Certainly there is no clear evidence to support the author’s claim that they’re becoming more common.”

    Why only count landfalling hurricanes? Is there some particular reasoning behind that?

    • I’m guessing it’s because before satellite observation an unknown number of hurricanes wandered around and were not counted (except when the ship was overdue and everyone wondered what the?). So landfalling hurricanes were most reliably counted.

    • Ron Long nailed it. The landfalling hurricane database is good back to the late 1800s because the US was populated enough that a hurricane would be less likely to be missed. Unfortunately, without weather satellites before the early 1970s the number of non-landfalling hurricanes in the open waters is under-represented in the database, especially those that were only a hurricane for a very short time (1-2 days), so a long-term trend of these would not be representative in formulating a trend.

    • Before aircraft non-landfalling hurricanes were only reported if a ship encountered it and survived and before satellites only if a ship or aircraft encountered it and survived. And sometimes not even then.

      Ever read “The Caine Mutiny”? It is based on a real hurricane. The Third Fleet inadvertently and calamitously blundered straight into the path of “Halsey’s Typhoon” in November 1944, and this at a time when there were literally many thousands of US ships, aircraft and land bases reporting weather all over the Pacific. The typhoon had even been scouted by an army B-24 from Guam (that had to be scrapped after the flight).

      By the way that hurricane was a category 3, or possibly a weak 4.

  6. Great News!! So that means earlier hurricanes will kill off all the VIKA-carrying mosquitos that are migrating north due to global warming. See! The earth is a self-regulating mechanism. Awesome news!

  7. fact checking doesn’t matter….

    It’s already out there for the spoon fed masses

    only making it a crime and sending them to jail would stop it

  8. Again, numbers/labels are the first/easiest things the lefties corrupt. As pointed out, in this case, omitting months-before-July storms. Why, because it’s so easy & usually they get away w/it.

  9. “…However, by purposefully omitting the June early-season hurricanes from his analysis the author is guilty of cherry-picking data in the least and more likely guilty of fraudulent reporting to promote an agenda. As a meteorologist, Holthaus should be embarrassed by his research. Guess he figured nobody would fact-check his work…”

    Yes, Holthaus is either an incompetent boob who was unaware that hurricanes could strike before July, a deceitful fraud who chose to hide/ignore the June events, or both.

    I also can’t help but notice that those distant-past June events were Cat 2 and 3, while the more recent July events were only Cat 1.

  10. That is called fraud. Check the 1900-1950 then check 1950-2000. The first 50 is higher.

    • No matter how you slice the data, you can’t even come close to a statistically significant increase in any kind of tropical storm activity

  11. A new phenomenon has started happening annually in the equatorial Atlantic is a huge mat of seaweed extending from the Caribbean Sargasso Sea all the way across the ocean to west Africa:

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190704191408.htm

    One of the reasons for this is fertiliser discharge from the Amazon.

    Another is cooling – not warming – of the ocean.

    And a third reason not mentioned in the research report, but likely significant, is atmospheric CO2 fertilisation.

      • How do these blooms affect tropical storm formation, if they do? Because of their sheer weight they dampen the waves and hold on humidity –> less cloud formation.

    • Might also be more dust from Sahara. This contains a lot of iron which is usually the limiting micronutrient in the ocean.

  12. This sort of data mining is reminiscent of the battle over electromagnetic eavesdropping of the U.S. embassy causing cancer among the U.S. embassy staff. When one pointed out that the aggregate group didn’t suffer cancer rates any different than the U.S. population as a whole, the activists would reply, “but what about this little cluster of cancers on the 3rd and 4th floors between the years of 1964 and 1967?”

    There is no way to shut up statistics spouting imbeciles who sort through data, nor provide any rational counter weight to influence their superstitious followers.

  13. Hurricane Djokovic, category five just landed at the Wimbledon final.
    Congratulations on the fifth Wimbledon title!
    Vukcevic

  14. What happened last night to the New York electricity supply might be something people need to get used to.

      • might be something people need to get used to.

        Transformer fires I believe. Possibly old and lack of maintenance.

        Yup, get used to it … under De Blasio.
        RIMSHOT

  15. NPR’s Rebecca Hersher writes an ignorance filed piece here:

    “Climate Change Fuels Wetter Storms — Storms Like Barry”
    – July 13, 201912:02 PM ET
    https://www.npr.org/2019/07/13/741324506/climate-change-fuels-wetter-storms-storms-like-barry

    She starts right off the bat with this statement:
    “The storm called Barry formed over hotter-than-usual water in the Gulf of Mexico, and that helped it gain strength and pick up moisture. ”

    Her “hotter-than-usual” statement is hyper-text linked to this NOAA web page:
    tabular data of eastern GoM water temps at https://www.nodc.noaa.gov/dsdt/cwtg/egof.html
    A cursory examination clearly shows that the temperatures are in “below average’. So right off the bat her main argument is factually wrong. And then it gets worse from there.

    She makes a number of Well Duh” level statements like:
    1. “hurricanes, as well as other storms, have found that warm water and warm air both contribute to deadly flooding. ”
    – Yep, not too many hurricanes in the Arctic Ocean.

    2. “Another study found that the amount of rain that fell on the Houston area during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 was equal to the amount of water that evaporated from the Gulf into the storm as it formed. “
    – Yep, it’s called mass balance. That line hyperlinks to a Trenberth quote, as an Appeal to Authority to try and make her argument seem valid. It is actually a non-sequitur, it doesn’t apply to what she wants her reader to believe, she just throws it in to give an appearance of “authority”. Every drop that comes down as rain, must have gone up as evaporation – a simple mass balance. No one “denies” that.

    NPR is just hyping a stupid belief for its Liberal idiot audience. A belief that says that climate change accounts for T/S Barry bringing lots of rain. Like that never happened before we started driving SUVs and burning coal.

    • And why are conservative taxpayers still forced to subsidize PBS?

      The Socialist lefties already have NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, BBC, NY Times, LA TIMES, and the now nearly totally corrupted VOA (Voice of America, which used to be pro-Western Civilization).

      Try to picture a world where a Conservative/Libertarian taxpayer-supported Public Broadcasting System existed.

      The Federl Courts would be packed full of liberal public interest cases to get rid of public supported bias (and they would be right). Where are the legal cases for “broadcasting fairness” from the right?

      • Romney tried that “defund Big Bird” argument in 2012. The Left excoriated and abused him unmercifully for it, even though he was factually correct in everything he said about why PBS/NPR no longer needs public funding.

        It’s all politics and perception 24/7/365.

      • There are none since the political right still believes in freedom of the press and is more willing to agree to disagree while the political left has become the my way or the highway party who shop for courts biased in their favor, like the 9’th circuit, to enforce their intolerance.

    • “Yep, not too many hurricanes in the Arctic Ocean.”

      No tropical hurricanes you mean. Hurricane winds are not that rare at high latitudes. I have personally twice experienced hurricane winds in the Southern Ocean. Admittedly only Cat. 1, but still rather nasty with temperatures near freezing and snow. And it happens in the Arctic as well.

      • And there are fewer mid latitude and arctic storms now that have hurricane-type winds. Baroclinicity has been reduced due to disproportionate arctic warming. This has produced “smaller and weaker” storms but I doubt you heard that on NPR. This has been quantified in the journals. I don’t have the data off top of my head. Anybody seen this?

  16. The Alarmists are always looking for the “unprecedented” angle. They want to find a weather event that has never happened before and blame it on human-caused CO2.

    The problem they have is history shows there isn’t much in our weather than is unprecedented. We seem to always be able to find a similar weather event in the past that was as bad or worse than the current weather event.

    So Alarmists cherry-pick the record in novel ways trying to create an unprecedented weather event because history is not their friend.

    The Alarmists have been reduced to pointing at weather events to try to make a case for CAGW and the good news is all these weather event claims by CAGW advocates can be disproven using the historical record. As was done here in the article.

    The Alarmists should give it up because these “unprecedented weather” claims can be easily refuted. But they won’t give it up because it is all they have left to use to try to scare people into believing CAGW is real.

  17. Vislocky “150+ years of global warming”
    Glad to see you’re actually concurring with the science.

    Holthaus said “early-season hurricanes like proto-Barry COULD become more common”, thats not an “assertion” its an educated guess and probably accurate. That gets morphed into a “CLAIM that they’re becoming more common.” Its not a claim either. Stop making things up.
    Confected frothing and spittle-flecking.

    • If that’s the ONLY thing mentioned in Holthaus’s article you’d have a point. However right in the subtitle it says “early-season hurricanes is a sign of things to come for our warming world.” I take that as an assertion or statement of fact. On top of that the author tried to double-down and provide observational evidence in a vein attempt to validate the claim but got his hand caught in the cherry-picking cookie jar.

    • So you picked an instance where he said “could” but ignored stuff like, “The storm’s timing is unique: In 168 years of hurricane records, a July hurricane in Louisiana has only happened three times, and all of those occurrences have been within the past 40 years.”

      Article is full of over-the-top claims, suggestions, fears, and links to global warming/climate change. But you’re going to rely on “could” as an out.

      BTW who doesn’t believe the earth has warmed over the past 150+ years? Come on.

    • Holthaus constantly claims hurricanes are “made worse by climate change”. His viewpoint is completely compromised by intense political bias. He once tweeted that the most important thing we can do about climate change “is support reproductive justice in women’s health and education”.

  18. Stop It!
    From the article:

    The dual threat of late-season river flooding and early-season hurricanes is a sign of things to come for our warming world.

    in Mozambique, which in the span of a month endured two of the worst cyclones ever to hit the Southern Hemisphere, [……] If New Orleans’ levees hold this week, it will be because we were lucky. But the more carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere, the sooner our luck will run out.

    If those are not assertions, I don’t know what are.

  19. I’m not sure I would agree that Barry was a hurrican. I was so stunned when I read the NCH’s discussion of Barry on their site when they annointed it a hurrican, I copied the relevant sentence:

    “Based on these data and the possibility that the strongest winds were not sampled, it is estimated that Barry became a hurricane around 11-12Z despite its less than classical appearance in satellite imagery.”

    Excuse me? When did the possibility that you did not capture data you expected become a valid resson to include it as actual data? Is this the methodology of the past? Is this the methodolgy of science by anyone’s definition?

    How about: Based on the data of finding organic molecules, water, carbon, and an acceptable atmosphere, and the possibility that the most likely areas were not sampled, we estimate that there is life on Mars. Would that be acceptable in this ‘new science’?

    • jtom
      July 14, 2019 at 1:46 pm

      That’s a pretty shocking quotation. Thanks for digging it up. This is “science” in the 21st century!

    • I know how to spell hurricane. I’ve been around many if thrm. Even saw Camille from a plane.. I could understand not hitting the final ‘e’ once, but twice? I need to hire a good proofreader!

    • The full quote is even better. Measured sustained winds were only 71 mph (62 kt).

      “Between 11-12Z, the National Ocean Service station at Eugene
      Island, Louisiana, reported sustained winds of 62 kt
      and a peak
      gust of 74 kt at an elevation of about 10 m. Doppler radar winds
      from the Slidell WSR-88D suggested surface winds of 60-65 kt as
      well. In addition, an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft
      reported SFMR wind estimates of 60-63 kt near Eugene Island, and
      850-mb flight-level winds of 72 kt. Based on these data and the
      possibility that the strongest winds were not sampled, it is
      estimated that Barry became a hurricane around 11-12Z despite its
      less than classical appearance in satellite imagery. It should be
      noted that hurricane-force winds are limited to a small area east of
      the center, and that the upgrade to a hurricane means little in
      terms of the overall impacts from Barry.”

  20. Everything the liberal press reports is a lie (or is so politically slanted as to qualify as an outright lie). They can’t even report the weather without lying.

    Where is the “opposition press” POINTING OUT these lies….EVERY FRIGGIN hour of every DAY in the market of ideas… in order to gain more market share. Fox has the most to gain, but they aren’t even trying to penetrate the market FOR ANYONE INTERESTED IN THE TRUTH. They could be a lot more persuasive to the average normal pro-American citizen than they currently are.

    Makes me wanna hurl when walking through EVERY AIRPORT AND every BAR IN THE WORLD…and see the ugly lying faces of CNN correspondents churning out the day’s socialist propaganda.

    • I think CNN pays the airports a fee in order to be the featured channel the airports show on their airport terminal tv screens.

    • The “Press” competes for the same advertising $s and government monies for its livelihood. The left has done a tremendous job of convincing advertisers that Fox appeals to the “alt Right” (formally known as Nazis).

      Watch the advertisements on Fox vs the others. It’s just a matter of time before Fox moves to the left.

      Hat tip to the No Agenda podcast for this idea.

      • You are absolutely wrong about Fox News. Mike Lindel and William Devane will save us.

        😉

  21. Hurricane Audrey was at the very end of June, almost July. Hurricane Celia (Texas) became an official storm on August 1. I was in an unnamed depression (storm) on the Mississippi Delta on June 11, 1985, put some water over low islands wiping out nests. It became a stormy year. Juan, famous for T-shirt. “I survived Juan three times!”

    In case anybody doubts floods and hurricanes meeting in Louisiana in September, 1915 a late season flood and hurricane caused a high river in New Orleans, and a reverse river flow, with a 15 foot rise greeted the new settlers there in 1722. Spanish ships ran into these storms since the mid-16th century while circling up to the northern Gulf leaving Vera Cruz to avoid the trade winds. Maybe we should take these guys and put them into looking at old dusty log books.

    • Might yield interesting results. I remember reading that researchers going through old Royal Navy logs had even found a hurricane that hit southern Spain in the 1700’s. Very unusual and has only happened once since then.

  22. It sort of looks like a sine wave to me.

    Man made changes have made us more vulnerable to hurricanes. We like to live near vulnerable coastlines, and our coastal populations have exploded. Due to subsidence, some coastal cities (Miami and New Orleans come to mind) are seeing relative sea level increases. The more we do to stop beach loss, the more loss we get down stream. I could go on and on – I don’t see the global warming angle.

    I’m increasingly appalled by the amount of junk science being published and fake news promoting it!

  23. “As a meteorologist, Holthaus should be embarrassed by his research.”

    He should be, but apparently in his world it’s not necessary because everybody gets a trophy. Here’s an eye-opening example of someone with that mindset becoming offended because she was corrected for spelling hamster with a ‘p’ (hampster).

    Young woman: “But you don’t know that! I learned to spell it with a P in it so that’s how I spell it.”

    https://twitter.com/CarolBlymire/status/1149805563674583040

    • The “rejecting the dictionary as authority” on word spellings and meanings phenomenon has become more common among the young too, now. Now word spellings and meanings are “whatever men and my friends on the internet say they are, and if you show me I am wrong I cry ‘language drift’!”

  24. Always sad when you realize that certain people are rooting for devastating weather events to occur.

  25. It’s not really hard to find information about storms, the hurricane with the flood was listed here–
    LA (New Orleans) 1915 category 3, 275 deaths

    THE DEADLIEST, COSTLIEST, AND MOST INTENSE UNITED STATES TROPICAL CYCLONES FROM 1851 TO 2010 (AND OTHER FREQUENTLY REQUESTED HURRICANE FACTS) by Eric S. Blake and Christopher W. Landsea https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pdf/nws-nhc-6.pdf

  26. “…If New Orleans’ levees hold this week, it will be because we were lucky…”

    No scientific or engineering basis to make the claim, but he makes it anyways.

    • IMO it reflects a subconscious desire for the levees to fail, which in his mind, I suppose, would validate some bad life decisions.

    • I think he dropped out of grad school after getting religion at an Al Gore revival meeting.

  27. One thing they have been doing is naming storms they didn’t used to name, like “subtropical systems”, and then saying “there are more named storms!” We just went through Barry down here. One of my friends who is new to the area was scared ahead of time but afterward said she was unimpressed. It was a hurricane for about 5 minutes before making landfall.

    • This is quite dangerous because this hyping of every minor tropical low-pressure system will leave people unimpressed by what they have been told are hurricanes. Sooner or later a new 1780/Galveston/Labor Day-class hurricane will make landfall and surprise a lot of people, many unfortunately quite briefly.

  28. The record on debunkings around here is close to zero. The only fact-based case to be made is one where the picture is complete https://www.google.com/search?q=number+of+hurricanes+by+year+graph&client=opera&sa=X&biw=1253&bih=625&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=n-P5mvYBVv7HhM%253A%252CWHedLQTHCOTIeM%252C_&vet=1&usg=AI4_-kTnrmk6t_oUuqWRdmisVH4xDRoFIQ&ved=2ahUKEwjpl8Lc_LfjAhUEeKwKHbaICZEQ9QEwAnoECAcQCA#imgrc=n-P5mvYBVv7HhM: where ALL stinkin hurricanes are counted, which show what but an increase in frequency and severity… Try again, eh, or better yet, just give it up.

  29. I would be interested in following the line exposed by Holthaus’ proposition focusing on this narrow band of data, since two possible trends may indeed exist. The first is that June/July hurricanes have become weaker ‘as a result of climate change’ and that the hurricane season is becoming shorter (no June hurricanes hitting Louisiana in the last 60+ years) ‘as a result of climate change’.

    Of course neither proposition I mention is likely, but one should be careful when cherry picking that one doesn’t uncover cherry picking claims to embarrass their argument.

    On a slightly OT subject, why is NOAA still selling Barry on its Hurricane homepage? It’s down to 15mph and there doesn’t appear to be any reason for it based on GOES water vapor animation. In fact, its location appears to be clear skies to me.

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