Wrong, Phys.org, Atmospheric Rivers and Hurricanes are Not Getting Worse

From ClimateREALISM

A recent article at Phys.org, originally published by the Chicago Tribune, says that climate change is behind the recent atmospheric river events in California, as well as an alleged increase in Category 4 and 5 hurricanes. This is false. Atmospheric rivers are a natural part of the West coast’s climate, and and neither historic data, nor recent trend data, indicate that the frequency or severity of those events are increasing. Likewise, there has been no increase in major hurricanes over the past hundred years of global warming.

In “Climate change is fueling extreme weather. How do we make a difference?,” writer Barbara Willard makes several false claims regarding climate change and extreme weather, the most immediately egregious being that recent atmospheric rivers are being fueled by climate change, and that deadly hurricanes are becoming more common. Single weather events, or even seasons of bad weather, can’t be used to measure climate change, which is measured as at least a 30-year trend of regional weather.

Willard gives credit to “extreme event attribution” science by the National Academy of Sciences for promoting the narrative that weather is worsened by climate change, but she misses the reason why this is a poor scientific standard. Attribution scientists begin with the assumption that carbon dioxide has a significant impact on climate, and that the modest warming of the past hundred-plus years is fueling, at least in part, extreme weather. It is an paradigm example of confirmation bias. They run multiple computer models, some that are fictional recreations of what they assume the climate might like be if humans didn’t exist on the planet, and some scenarios including humans but based on flawed emissions and temperature assumptions.

The misleading nature of attribution science has been pointed out multiple times at Climate Realism, for example, herehere, and here,  as the accuracy of a computer models are only as accurate as the input of data and the assumptions concerning interactions and feedback mechanisms built into the models. None of these models have been confirmed to accurately portray recorded climate conditions. Since we can’t tap into a parallel universe where a storm was more or less extreme, there is inherent uncertainty, that makes these kinds of computer models interesting from a theoretical perspective, but not much more.

Real world weather data is available and improving, so the prognostications of attribution modelers can be checked over time. So far, when actual data is compared to computer models projections, the evidence undermines the “climate catastrophe” theory.

Regarding atmospheric rivers, Willard says climate change “fueled” the recent “precipitation episodes” in California. However, even scientists and publications who normally support alarmist messaging have admitted that recent California weather is not historically unusual. A senior hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Los Angeles told a Los Angeles Times writer that the recent atmospheric river events were “nothing as big as what we’ve gone through before.”

Indeed, there is a long history, both recorded by humans and indicated by paleontological proxy data, of major swings between drought and deluge in California. Willard writes that there is “broad scientific consensus that climate change increases water vapor in the atmosphere,” but recent studies have found no evidence of this occurring in the regions where west coast atmospheric rivers originate.

As for hurricanes, Willard’s claims are easily refuted with the most recent hurricane data. Major hurricanes, or those ranked as a Category 3 and above, have seen no increase over the past decades, and the past year has seen some of the lowest major hurricane counts since the 1980s. (See figure below)

Figure 1 From Dr. Ryan Maue, at https://climatlas.com/tropical/

As discussed in Climate at a Glance: Hurricanes, the IPCC claims only low confidence “for the attribution of any detectable changes in tropical cyclone activity to anthropogenic influences.” As recently as 2017 saw the end of the longest period without a major hurricane landfall in the United States in recorded history, a nearly 12-year period with no major hurricanes. The gap is seen in the figure below, showing major landfalling hurricanes in the United States through 2020.

Figure 2: Number of continental United States landfalling hurricanes 1900–2019. Left, all hurricanes, right, major hurricanes (category 3 and above), with (insignificant) regression lines, (Klotzbach et al., 2018), with 2018–20 updated from personal communication by Anthony Watts with lead authors.

2022 ended with the weakest storm levels in 42 years, despite predictions of an extreme hurricane season early on, as discussed in detail, here.

Willard ends the article with a call to climate action, including personal lifestyle changes like vegetarianism and traveling less, as well as political lobbying and proselytizing to your community. What she neglected, however, is looking into weather data and fact-checking political sources of climate alarm. When even the most basic research is conducted, climate change ceases to look so catastrophic.

Linnea Luekin

Linnea Lueken


Linnea Lueken is a Research Fellow with the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy. While she was an intern with The Heartland Institute in 2018, she co-authored a Heartland Institute Policy Brief “Debunking Four Persistent Myths About Hydraulic Fracturing.”

5 22 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
February 13, 2023 10:22 pm

Atmospheric rivers are a natural part of the West coast’s climate, 

Agreed, and we had one come through Santa Cruz in 1955 which made the recent one look like an amateur. Drowned nine, forced the permanent abandonment of parts of downtown, and the San Lorenzo River rose considerably higher.

Curious George
Reply to  insufficientlysensitive
February 14, 2023 8:18 am

Climate change was at its worst in 1862.

February 13, 2023 11:15 pm

There is a characteristic pattern of reasoning in all the culture wars matters.

— False claims about frequency of some events.
— False claims about causes of these events.
— Urging of action which will have no effect on the events or causes.

So we see it here:
— Atmospheric rivers and weather events caused by them are increasing in intensity
— This is due global warming caused by human CO2 emissions
— Therefore “personal lifestyle changes like vegetarianism and traveling less’

Even were the first two true, which they are obviously not, personal lifestyle changes cannot have any effect on them.

Its common in climate opinion pieces, but examples of the same reasoning pattern are also common in opinion pieces on race and gender and are quite frequent in the case of climate not only in opinion pieces, but in attempts to justify important policies.

David Dibbell
Reply to  michel
February 14, 2023 3:13 am

“There is a characteristic pattern of reasoning in all the culture wars matters.”
Yes, and many otherwise sensible people have become susceptible to these forms of persuasion through social conditioning.

Reply to  michel
February 14, 2023 8:32 am

She must know she is LYING because the evidence against her claims is easy to find and from the official sources too which this article shows clearly.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  michel
February 14, 2023 9:23 am

That is also true in the gun control debate.

Bill Parsons
February 13, 2023 11:42 pm

Current snow water equivalent of the Colorado Rockies is at 121% of median.


I guess the experts at WaPa can tease out whether this is a terrible thing or not.

February 13, 2023 11:56 pm

“”2022 ended with the weakest storm levels in 42 years””

So, cry me a river…

Reply to  Richard Greene
February 14, 2023 9:08 am

Thanks Richard, enjoyed that.

Steve Case
February 14, 2023 12:22 am

“A recent article at Phys.org,…says that climate change is behind …an alleged increase in Category 4 and 5 hurricanes.”

Here’s the LINK to NOAA’s page: 
Continental United States Hurricane Impacts/Landfalls 1851-2021
Graphed out to show individual hurricanes by year and category, here’s what that looks likecomment image

Hurricanes Year and Category.gif
Steve Case
Reply to  Steve Case
February 14, 2023 12:55 am

That graph needs a little work to label the “Y” axis “Hurricane category” and remove category 0 and 6 Like THIS sorry about that.

Captain Climate
February 14, 2023 4:27 am

California drought? Climate change
Atmospheric rivers breaking drought? Climate change

No matter the question, climate change is the answer

February 14, 2023 5:29 am

We are on the eve of destruction….the climate emergency crisis is upon us….oceans boiling….billions of refugees…..Oh! the humanity! Here comes another rain bomb!

Dr. Bob
February 14, 2023 6:09 am

” …as the accuracy of a computer models are only as accurate as the input of data and the assumptions concerning interactions and feedback mechanisms built into the models. “

I would prefer stating that computer models can never be more accurate than the input data allows. Model assumptions and data manipulation may degrade the accuracy of the analysis depending on a multitude of factors.

Tom Halla
February 14, 2023 6:12 am

Well, Jerry Falwell blamed Katrina hitting New Orleans on the sinful behavior of the residents. There is about as much evidence of fossil fuels causing hurricanes as there was for God’s wrath.

February 14, 2023 7:23 am

Complaints about weather and climate probably originated when humans had a vocabulary of a dozen words. So they built little huts, learned to produce fire and performed rites designed to bring or deter rainfall. These rites, just as their language, have become more complex and now involve meetings of the concerned from all over the world where discussions by a priestly class are meant to convince others of the dangers that only their ideas can remedy. There has been little change in thousands of years.

February 14, 2023 7:31 am

Publishing with ChatGPT is fun and you can make money from home.

Mumbles McGuirck
February 14, 2023 7:57 am

That this was originally published in the Chicago Tribune is not surprising, but that it was picked up by Phys.Org is very discouraging. It is like the Lancet deciding to republish an article about COVID originally run in Highlights magazine.

February 14, 2023 8:34 am

Linnea Lueken has taken over what used to be an excellent H. Sterling Burnett column and after a few months has been doing an equally good job, and that is a big complement. I recommended this article on my Climate Science and Energy Blog yesterday, at:
Honest Climate Science and Energy

I had also recommended the following two excellent Roger Pielke, Jr. Ph.D. articles that should interest readers of this article:

Just the Facts on Global Hurricanes (substack.com)

What the media won’t tell you about . . . Tornadoes (substack.com)

Last edited 3 months ago by Richard Greene
February 14, 2023 8:43 am

How is atmospheric science going to advance when the USA is shooting its own weather balloons (based on jet stream tracking of their flight paths)?

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Hatter Eggburn
February 14, 2023 10:34 am

Good question. I heard at least one report that said one of the objects might have been a weather balloon. Maybe that’s why Biden is hiden.

February 14, 2023 9:57 am

Nothing is normal when it can be leveraged to scare people. I grew up in Ventura County 1959-1965 Wonderful place to live when the Santa Anna winds don’t blow, or it’s it’s fog bound at 59 degrees in July, or it’s hot and dry 104 for weeks on, or when there are fires in the hills you’re breathing smoke for days walking to school, or when the the ground isn’t shaking all the pictures off the wall and wrecking the old TV or when it rains like no tomorrow for weeks and what was almost dessert fills up with flood waters and you can’t walk to school.

I feel much freer, safer and more secure in PA Appalachia. The last challenging weather events were Sandy, and the perfect storm of 1993…… the August 2011 VA 5.6 earthquake, shook our 210 year old stone house pretty hard….. lot’s of plaster work and had to reset a few windows.

February 14, 2023 1:31 pm

Willard should be made to take counseling from Linnea.

February 15, 2023 2:22 pm

The false claim that “climate change” is changing weather ignores cause and effect. Climate is defined as 30 years of weather. So the weather changes the climate, not vice-versa.

%d bloggers like this:
Verified by MonsterInsights