See if you can detect a theme being pushed by CNSNews.com, mostly by reporter Barbara Hollingsworth, over the past year or so:
- Obama: First President in 122 Years Without a Major Hurricane During His Term
- NOAA Says It’s a Record: No Major Hurricane Has Struck U.S. Mainland in 10 Years
- NOAA: Record 117-Month Major Hurricane Drought Continues
- NOAA: Hurricane Drought Hits Record 118 Months
- NOAA: Hurricane Drought Hits Record 119 Months
- Joaquin Veers Offshore, Leaving Major Hurricane Drought Record Intact at 3,633 Days
- New NOAA Record: 10 Years Since Major Hurricane Has Struck US
- NOAA: Record 121 Months Since Last Major Hurricane Hit U.S.
- Season Approaches: U.S. Hits Record 127 Months Since Major Hurricane Strike
- U.S. Hits Record 129 Months Since Last Major Hurricane Strike
- NOAA: U.S. Completes Record 11 Straight Years Without Major Hurricane Strike
Hollingsworth has to qualify by not only insisting on it being a "major hurricane" -- that is, category 3 and above -- but that it also has to make U.S. landfall at that strength. The recent Hurricane Matthew doesn't count, she insists in that last article, because "Matthew had weakened to a Category 1 by the time it made landfall near McClellanville, S.C. on October 8th with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph." Nor does thte storm best know as Superstorm Sandy, because "Hurricane Sandy had been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone by the time it made landfall in New Jersey on Oct. 29, 2012." She does concede those storm caused substantial damage in the U.S., though.
Since CNS is not normally interested in weather, there has to be a right-wing political angle to this. And there is, as Hollingsworth explains in that last article: "Many climate scientists have predicted that anthropogenic global warming caused by an increase of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere would result in an increase in the number and intensity of hurricanes."
What Hollingsworth is much less likely to promote: the "hurricane drought" doesn't really mean anything. As Jason Samenow. the Washington Post Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist, explains:
The major-hurricane metric both leaves out significant storms because of its narrow definition and is misleading as an overall indicator of storm activity.
Climate-change doubters point to the lack of major-hurricane landfalls as evidence that global warming is not affecting the storms. But, in reality, nine of the last 11 Atlantic hurricane seasons have produced more storms than normal. It’s just that those with the strongest winds have remained over the ocean — something researchers have ascribed to dumb luck.
The major-hurricane-landfall drought is an interesting statistic, and that’s about it. It is a fine metric to track and report as a curiosity, but it cannot be used to say anything useful about how hurricanes are affecting society or how their behavior may or may not be changing over time.
Hollingsworth tried to play gotcha with a couple of climate scientists in that last article, but they both did a fact-slap on her:
“You and many other climate scientists have predicted an increase in hurricane activity due to anthropogenic global warming. But with carbon dioxide levels at a record high, why are we now seeing the longest major hurricane drought on record here in the U.S.?” CNSNews asked [MIT atmospheric science professor Kerry] Emanuel.
“One must be aware that the North Atlantic has only 11 percent of the world’s hurricanes, and that we do not expect the global warming signal to be seen in global statistics for several decades,” he replied. “By the time one drills down to major U.S. landfalls, a tiny percentage of total activity, it may be decades to detect a signal.
“As you know, Matthew was a very near miss. That would have ended the drought, but not solved the problem of trying to detect a climate signal in a very tiny subset of global hurricane activity,” Emanuel said.
CNSNews posed the same question to oceanographer and Climate Progress founding editor Joe Romm, who also predicted an increase in hurricane activity due to climate change, and who recently wrote that “Hurricane Matthew is super strong – because of climate change.”
“You have fallen into a mostly semantic trap,” he replied, referring to an article he wrote for ClimateProgress arguing that NOAA’s criteria for defining a major hurricane is flawed.
“The media should be reporting that in a world where storm surge is causing most of the devastation for the most destructive hurricanes, defining a ‘major’ hurricane around its wind speed (at landfall) is archaic at best and wildly misleading at worst,” Romm wrote.
For balance, Hollingsworth called in climate denier and non-scientist (and former CNS reporter) Marc Morano to assert that, in her words, "those who predicted more major hurricane activity due to climate change now want to change the definition of a major hurricane because their predictions have fallen short of reality."