2007 Hurricane Update: Have Records Been Broken?

Putting the 2007 hurricane season in proper context, in light of environmentalist and newsmedia hype, is the focus of this post by David Ridenour:

Hurricane Felix was the second category 5 hurricane this season. The newsmedia and global warming alarmists were quick to label Felix as an “unprecedented” and “record-breaking” event.

Record-breaking, perhaps. Unprecedented, not likely.

While two category 5s in a single season may literally break “records,” that doesn’t mean there have never been two such hurricanes in a year.

Weather monitoring capabilities have improved dramatically in recent decades and may explain most, if any, increases in hurricane frequency.

As Dr. Christopher Landsea, science and operations officer at the National Hurricane Center, has noted: “What chance is there that [Chantal, the tropical storm in July that existed fewer than 18 hours] would have been monitored before satellites in 1966? Our ways of observing storms have improved dramatically in the last few decades.”

Government records are therefore of limited value in determining long-term storm trends.

Even if hurricane records didn’t understate the activity in past decades – which is unlikely – the 2007 hurricane season is fairly unremarkable so far.

In the Atlantic basin, hurricane overall activity is currently below the 60-year average. By September 10, the average number of hurricanes is three and there have been just two as of today. We are, however, about two weeks ahead of schedule for major hurricanes (category 3 and above) with two so far instead of one.

Nonetheless, those who get their hurricane-related news from the mainstream media or from environmental alarmist groups and websites may be forgiven for believing that hurricane activity is especially frequent this year, as the ratings-hungry newsmedia seems intent on tantalizing the public with the possibility that every storm satellites spot is one news alert away from becoming a second Hurricane Katrina.

On September 5, for example, cable news channels reported as “breaking news” that satellites had detected a storm system near Bermuda that could develop into a hurricane that could hit New York City and New England. They then reported that hurricane hunter aircraft had been dispatched to the area. Twelve hours later, there were no reports whasoever about the system.

One hundred years ago, the system wouldn’t have been detected, wouldn’t have been covered by television and there would have been no hurricane hunter aircraft to dispatch.

If a city doubled the number of police officers on the street to provide additional security and criminal prosecutions subsequently rose by 25 percent, no rational person would say there had been an alarming rise in crime (as evidenced by the prosecutions). Yet, that’s akin to what we see with hurricane reporting.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) acknowledges that the number of hurricanes in past decades were likely undercounted because detection capabilities were not the same as today. So it is puzzling that the agency issues hurricane outlooks that base “average” and “above average” forecasts in part on inaccurate data from the past without noting its shortcomings.

It should stick with science, not political science.

Pay no attention to the sensationalism: It contains more spin than hurricanes.

To contact author David Ridenour directly, write him at [email protected]


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