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#GettingWorse: Tropical cyclone edition

21 Feb 2024 | Science Notes

Alarmists like to claim that extreme weather is getting worse and worse. They drop the claim casually and repeatedly but never offer, um, any data to back it up. We’re just supposed to believe it because they say it over and over. So we’re going to run through the list of extreme weather types and see what the evidence says. Today we start with tropical cyclones, aka hurricanes. On his Substack channel Roger Pielke Jr. recently showed an updated count of global tropical cyclones making landfall from 1970 to the end of 2023. While the number of small cyclones hasn’t increased, there is an upward trend in the number of severe cyclones making landfall. But before you say “Aha!”, there’s a catch.

Here is the chart Pielke Jr. shows:

The red dashed line shows an increase in counts of Category 3-5 hurricanes hitting land. This chart starts at 1970 because many regions of the world don’t have data prior to that. But some do, namely the Western North Pacific and North Atlantic basins, which account for 67% of global hurricane landfalls. Matching the global record, from 1970 onward in these two basins there is a decline in Category 1&2 hurricanes and an increase in Category 3-5 hurricanes. But the records in these basins go back further, to 1950, and they show no overall increase in large hurricanes:

As you can see, there is no trend in small or large hurricane numbers from 1950 to 2023. Cherry-picking the post-1970 period would be bad statistical practice, deliberately turning an apparent cycle into an apparent secular trend. So the question is, if for two-thirds of the world we know the post-1970 increase in major hurricanes is just a recovery from a pre-1970 decrease, isn’t it possible that’s the case globally as well? Or indeed probable?

Another way of assessing hurricane data is to count the frequency of all types, not just landfalling ones. Here the record goes back to 1980 and the numbers show no upward trend:

Finally, while looking at the frequency of major hurricanes, Pielke Jr.’s colleague Ryan Maue made an interesting discovery: the three year running mean of hurricane frequency counts reached its lowest point in the historical record this past year:

Not what you’d expect in a system supposedly getting worse and worse. Pielke Jr.’s post also talks about a global index called the Accumulated Cyclone Energy which combines frequency and intensity and is computed at Colorado State University. Their record begins in 1980 and also shows no upward trend.

Putting it all together: the numbers clearly show hurricanes are not getting worse. Unlike the discussion about them.

3 comments on “#GettingWorse: Tropical cyclone edition”

  1. That last graph does show a cycle that would give us a peak next year or so. It's good to let people know about it in advance and that it's totally normal. Otherwise the climate alarmists are going to take the 1 or 2 major hurricanes that do a lot of damage as obvious proof, etc etc etc. Predicting stuff and letting people know about this in advance is what actual science can do, but what climate 'science' cannot.

  2. George Taylor ; did it better, frequency and strength of hurricanes decreasing since 1890 ; 1970 was a minimum- 1900 maximium( eg Galveston

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