Rifkind’s litany of American sins is predictably tedious: too many SUV’s, too much oil consumption, not enough taxes, not enough Kyoto, yadda, yadda, yadda. We’ve heard it all before, endlessly, and it is too boring to sustain my attention long enough to even critique it. However, Rifkind also promotes the equally predictable “global warming as cause of Katrina/Rita” meme, and this is worth taking a look at.
Rifkind cites a new report in Science Magazine in which, according to Rifkind:
Scientists report that the number of major - category four and five - hurricanes has nearly doubled in the past 35 years. Tropical storms, say the scientists, draw their energy from warm ocean water. As the global rise in temperature heats the world's oceans, the intensity of hurricanes increases.This is odd, especially in light of the National Hurricane Center’s chart on US hurricane strikes per decade, which shows that the number of category 4 or 5 hurricanes to strike the US peaked in the 1950’s, with 3. Since then, no decade has had more than 2 such hurricanes. And, in terms of what the Hurricane Center defines as major hurricanes, ie category 3 and higher, there has been a clear trend downward from a peak of 10 in the 1940s. The most recent full decade, the 1990’s, had only half that amount.
Now, it certainly does appear that the current decade, with the addition of Katrina and possibly Rita, is on pace to outnumber the previous decade. But if global warming is the cause of that, what is the explanation for the high number in the 1940’s, and the steady decline for the rest of the 20th century?
As for the rises in water temperature accounting for this year’s hurricane activity, Tim Worstall has some facts and figures.