We are well into hurricane season with a dangerous storm lurking off the coast of Florida and now poised to make a run up the east coast of the United States. As happens every year at this time, the appearance of hurricanes provokes speculation about the role of climate change in the formation of these destructive storms.
Climate change theorists assert that warming ocean temperatures are increasing the number and strength of hurricanes that form and make landfall in the United States. As David Leonhardt writes this week in the New York Times, “The frequency of severe hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean has roughly doubled over the last two decades, and climate change appears to be the reason.” He cites some statistics to support this conclusion, though his review of the facts is far from thorough.
As he notes, the underlying science holds that hurricanes develop in warm ocean waters in late summer, so that over time rising ocean temperatures will generate rising numbers of hurricanes, and stronger ones as well. According to scientists, average ocean temperatures have increased by about one degree Fahrenheit over the past one hundred to a hundred and fifty years, a finding that provides a foundation for the “hurricane hypothesis.” Thus, we hear the refrain that global warming is causing more storms with higher wind speeds, and that these storms last longer, are more destructive, and make landfall more often than in the past.
James Piereson is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
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