Hurricane Florence is ‘nature’s business,’ not global warming, scientist says

By Michael Bastasch

As with every major hurricane, the media is scrambling to connect the storm to man-made global warming, but one scientist says such storms are “nature’s business as usual.”

“Major hurricanes are business as usual for nature, just uncommon,” Roy Spencer wrote in a blog post published Monday. Spencer is a climate scientist at the University of Alabama-Huntsville.

Spencer wanted to head off inevitable claims that Hurricane Florence was made stronger by global warming, or that Florence is a harbinger of what’s to come as the planet warms. Spencer disagrees.

“But it’s curious how there hasn’t been a statistically significant increase in major hurricane strikes in the Carolinas,” Spencer wrote.

“The 1950s was the stand-out decade for major hurricane strikes in the Carolinas, with Hurricane Hazel in 1954 doing major damage, even as far north as Toronto,” he added. “Hazel’s destruction of Myrtle Beach, [South Carolina] led to a massive rebuilding effort that transformed that community forever.”

However, Spencer was a little too late to head off claims in the media, linking Florence to man-made warming.

Kristy Dahl, a climate scientist at the left-wing Union of Concerned Scientists, said conditions in the Atlantic and Pacific are “consistent with climate change.”

“We do know these changes are happening,” Dahl told NBC News. “There is at least a hypothetical connection between hurricanes and warming ocean temperatures.”

Florence is one of three hurricanes churning in the Atlantic Ocean, two of which threaten to make landfall in the Americas. Florence is expected to smash into the Carolinas by Friday, and Hurricane Isaac is forecast to roll over the Lesser Antilles this week.

The governors of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia have declared states of emergency. North Carolina began evacuating coastal residents Monday. Florence is expected to bring heavy rainfall, high winds and damaging storm surge.

It sounds ominous, but is it global warming? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported in 2017 it’s “premature” to say global warming has affected hurricanes.

Likewise, University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke Jr. has collected data on hurricane landfalls in the Carolinas. What he found was that neither North Carolina nor South Carolina have had a major hurricane landfall since 1996.

The most damaging hurricane to hit the Carolinas was Hurricane Hazel in 1954. That storm did more than $36 billion in damages in today’s dollars, according to Pielke.

“For sure, there has been an increase in hurricane damages over time, as infrastructure along the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic coasts has increased dramatically,” Spencer wrote in his blog. “There is simply more stuff for Mother Nature to destroy.”

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Image courtesy of NASA