Get the Facts: Hurricanes and Global Warming

by on
Share:

Abstract

Hurricanes, like Harvey and Irma, are not evidence of global warming, but their effects are exaggerated by alarmists. The Houston flooding was due to the hurricane being slow moving and the fact that Houston is easily flooded. This is supported by statements from atmospheric scientists. The latest observational statistics on global warming show that man’s contribution to global warming has been slight. We must look at all the facts on environmental issues.

At-a-Glance

  • Climate change alarmists exaggerate the effects of hurricanes.
  • Houston is especially prone to flooding.
  • Hurricane Harvey was very slow moving.
  • Observations show that global warming has been slight so far.
  • The climate simulations are too sensitive for a doubling of carbon dioxide.
  • We are stewards of the earth, but we need to gather all the facts first.

Hurricanes are presently being used as the poster child for global warming, now called “climate change,” largely because hurricanes are extremely destructive and grab global attention. Like all other recent weather disasters, hurricanes are touted as proof the climate is changing because of our love affair with oil and coal. Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas coast producing up to 50 inches of rain. Hurricane Irma followed, soon after destroying homes, land, and businesses in the northern Caribbean and Florida. The storms shocked the sensibilities of the American people who are vulnerable to the incessant propaganda that the devastation is a result of people (especially our politicians) not caring about the environment.

Global Warming Hysteria

There is almost no end to the global warming propaganda that has ensued from Harvey and Irma. In Politico Magazine, Eric Holthaus headlines his article “Harvey Is What Climate Change Looks Like.”1 Even Pope Francis jumped on the bandwagon of global warming and vented his wrath on “climate change deniers,” saying, “If we don’t turn back, we will go down. . . . You can see the effects of climate change and scientists have clearly said what path we have to follow.” He urged world leaders to “listen to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor, who suffer most because of the unbalanced ecology.”2 It is unfortunate he uses his position to favor controversial secular ideas supported by dubious science.

Global warming alarmists focused especially on Houston because of the extensive flooding. Unmentioned is the fact that Houston is very prone to flooding. It is built on extraordinarily flat ground, and “most local waterways are slow-moving creeks and bayous that wind their way through town and eventually trickle into the shallow, marshy Trinity bay.”3 The city of Houston floods regularly, “but such propagandists don’t know much, or anything, about the Houston floods of 1837, 1841, 1853, 1875, 1879, 1887, 1913, 1929, 1932, 1935, and so forth.”4 Floods of late are more devastating than those in the past because the population of Houston has soared to over six million. Many of the homes are built on flood plains. Parking lots, sidewalks, and roads conspire to reduce the amount of floodwater that can be absorbed into the soil.

Climate Scientists Respond

Bill Nye, who believes any anomalous weather is a sign of climate change, also jumped on the bandwagon, but fortunately a reporter for TheBlaze checked what some real climate scientists had to say.5 Dr. Ryan Maue, a Florida-based research meteorologist, reiterated the caution expressed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) when he said on Twitter that Nye’s comments about the hurricanes were plain wrong. Dr. Clifford Mass, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Washington went even further and was quoted as saying,

Hurricane Harvey developed in an environment in which temperatures were near normal in the atmosphere and slightly above normal in the Gulf. . . . The clear implications: global warming could not have contributed very much to the storm. . . . There is no evidence that global warming is influencing Texas coastal precipitation in the long term and little evidence that warmer than normal temperatures had any real impact on the precipitation intensity from this storm.6

Dr. Neil Frank knows hurricanes better than anyone else. He was a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Florida for 25 years and its director from 1974 to 1987. He is now retired and lives 40 miles outside Houston, where he had a close-up view of the flooding from Hurricane Harvey. In an interview reported in World by Jamie Dean, Frank points out many of the previous devastating hurricanes for Florida and the Gulf Coast, beginning in 1886 when a record number of seven major hurricanes struck the United States. A powerful hurricane swamped Galveston, Texas, killing at least 6,000 people in 1900. These and many other disasters occurred before major emissions of carbon dioxide. He goes on to mention Hurricane Claudette in 1979 which stalled near Houston and dumped 42 inches of rain at Alvin, Texas, in one day, which was (and still is) the record amount of 24 hour precipitation for any location in the United States. This is close to the totals from Hurricane Harvey which occurred in 3 to 4 days.7 With the exception of Hurricane Sandy, the 12-year hiatus between hurricanes Katrina and Rita, both of which blasted the Gulf Coast in 2005, is significant. How would this hiatus be explained by alarmists? Hurricane Sandy was an anomaly in that it connected with a mid-latitude upper low as it hit the northeast United States.

Hurricane Harvey was also an anomaly. It did not have particularly strong winds and it weakened upon hitting land, but it was caught in a very light steering current aloft for three to four days. So, as it first hit the southwest coast of Texas, it meandered very slowly with heavy rain east-northeast up the coast and inundated the southeast coast, especially the city of Houston.

Global Warming Has Been Slight

Global warming is a fact. It is supported by warmer temperatures recorded over most of the globe, the shrinkage of practically all mountain glaciers, and the decrease in sea ice on the Arctic Ocean since about 1980. However, it is important to note the amount of warming has been slight, officially about 1.6°F since 1880.8 Another thing to keep in mind is that the temperature records themselves have many biases toward warmth, and there are data-sparse regions. So it is possible to whittle about 30% of the warming off these numbers.9 Regardless, the slight effect adds up to some fairly dramatic changes, especially in the Arctic region where the effect of global warming is about double. This is due to what are called “positive feedbacks.” One positive feedback results from less snow and ice cover causing more solar radiation absorption, which reinforces the warming. A second one is the growth of “watermelon snow,” caused by algae that turn the snow red. The red color results in more solar radiation absorption and is estimated to account for 1/6th of the Arctic warming.10

Global warming is a fact.

This slight global warming has had no detectable effect on any severe weather phenomenon. Statistics show that there has been no change in hurricane landfalls, droughts, floods, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, East Coast winter storms, heat waves, or cold spells.11

Climate Simulations Much Too Sensitive to Increased Carbon Dioxide

Global warming has been slight, so why are alarmists so worried? It is probable that their hysteria stems from computer simulations of climate, which alarmists take literally. Many of these simulations are done by different organizations. To work the simulations, the operator doubles the amount of carbon dioxide, the prime greenhouse gas culprit, and leaves all other variables the same. When equilibrium is reestablished, he examines the temperature increase in the simulation output. The output results of all these simulations show an increase ranging from 3 to 8°F with a few even up to 11°F. If these are accurate forecasts, it would indeed be frightening.

These climate simulations are flawed because they are unable to take into account the vast number of variables that contribute to our climate.

However, these climate simulations are flawed because they are unable to take into account the vast number of variables that contribute to our climate. Just the range of possible temperatures from these models should tip us off that the simulations are imperfect. The simulations have great difficulty incorporating cloud effects, which can be variable depending upon the type, height, and amount of cloud cover. This is probably the most serious flaw in the simulations. The simulations also have difficulty incorporating accurate effects of the oceans, such as sea surface temperature and ocean circulation, which are major climate components. The models also have difficulty applying the snow aging effect. Snow is highly reflective when fresh, but with time the reflectivity decreases and the snow absorbs more solar radiation.

Observations Should Be Our Guide

We have observations to guide us. First, there are natural processes of climate change, including the amount of sulfuric acid in the stratosphere from volcanic eruptions, oceanic oscillations, and effects of the sun. El Niño causes global warming for a few years. Based on correlations of solar radiation, the increase in carbon dioxide, and the yearly average global temperatures of the 20th century, it appears that natural processes can account for 69% of the global warming.12 Since these results are controversial, I have been more conservative by estimating about half the global warming is due to natural processes, while man adding carbon dioxide to the air can account for the other half.13 There are also significant long-term temperature changes, unrelated to carbon dioxide, such as the Little Ice Age which took place between about 1500 and 1850 and the Medieval Warm Period from about 900 to 1300.

The climate simulations are much too sensitive to the effects of greenhouse gases.

Observations can tell us even more. The greenhouse effect of increasing carbon dioxide, as of 2016, has increased 50% since the industrial revolution.14 Also, other greenhouse gases, such as methane, nitrous oxide, etc., have increased the greenhouse effect 34% more for a total of 84%. The global average increase in temperature, as of 2017, is now 1.6°F. So, for a doubling of greenhouse gases, the temperature would rise by 1.9°F. But if half of this is due to natural process, man’s contribution to greenhouse warming is only 1°F. Therefore, the climate simulations are much too sensitive to the effects of greenhouse gases. Even the lowest increase in the simulations, 3°F, is three times too high. And if one did not believe there were any natural effects, the total rise of 1.9°F would all be attributed to greenhouse gases, but this is still two-thirds the lowest estimate of temperature, 3°F, from the climate simulations.

Carbon dioxide is a minor greenhouse gas, accounting for around 2–10% (the exact amount is unknown) of the greenhouse effect. The main greenhouse gas is water vapor, which accounts for around 85–95% of the greenhouse effect—a good thing, for without it the earth would be around 60°F colder.

We Are Stewards of the Earth

Much more can be said about the subject of global warming, such as the likely hidden agendas of some alarmists who are willing to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to “fight” global warming. This extravagant effort will do little to change global temperatures. Restricting the use of carbon dioxide-increasing energy in third-world counties will inhibit their development and result in more poverty.15

However, I want to end on a positive note. The Bible says we are to be stewards of God’s creation: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). We should care about the earth’s environment and monitor the effects of man’s actions. We should be studying and learning about environmental issues. But it is important to get all the facts first.

Getting back to hurricanes, tens of thousands of volunteers and many Christian organizations have been mobilized to aid in disaster relief. Though natural disasters are a consequence of the sin-cursed world we live in, God can still use them to encourage us to minister to one another and spread the gospel. In addition, he has given us the ability to study the atmosphere, understand its many properties, and be able to make weather simulations that can predict the track and intensity of hurricanes, as well as other natural disasters. In fact, the weather models, different from the climate models, forecasted hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and even Sandy extremely well, days in advance. The advance warning greatly mitigated the loss of life.

Answers in Depth

2017 Volume 12

Footnotes

  1. Eric Holthaus, “Harvey Is What Climate Change Looks Like,” Politico, August 28, 2017, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/08/28/climate-change-hurricane-harvey-215547.
  2. L. Mowat, “Pope Francis Huge Rant on Hurricane Irma: History Will Judge the Climate Change Deniers,” Express, September 11, 2017, http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/852663/Pope-Francis-Hurricane-Irma-climate-change-deniers-latest-news
  3. M. Olasky, “Wonderful World,” World, 32, no. 18 (September 30, 2017): 7.
  4. Ibid.
  5. C. Enlow, “Bill Nye Blames Powerful Hurricanes on Climate Change—Then a Real Scientist Shuts Him Down,” TheBlaze, September 10, 2017, http://www.theblaze.com/news/2017/09/10/bill-nye-blames-powerful-hurricanes-on-climate-change-then-a-real-scientist-shuts-him-down/.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Jamie Dean, “Inherit the Wind,” World 32, no. 19 (October 14, 2017): 38–41.
  8. “Temperature,” CRUData, United Kingdom, http://crudata.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature (accessed October 10, 2017).
  9. R. C. Balling Jr., “Observational Surface Temperature Records Versus Model Predictions,” in P. J. Michaels, Shattered Consensus: The True State of Global Warming (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005), 50–71.
  10. Gerard Ganey, Michael Loso, Annie Burgess, and Roman Dial, “The Role of Microbes in Snowmelt and Radiative Forcing on an Alaskan Icefield,” Nature Geoscience 10 (October 2017): 754–759; and Laurel Hamers, “Now We Know How Much Glacial Melting ‘Watermelon Snow’ Causes,” Science News, September 18, 2017, https://www.sciencenews.org/article/now-we-know-how-much-glacial-melting-watermelon-snow-can-cause.
  11. R. Pielke Jr., The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell You about Global Warming, (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2010).
  12. Nicola Scafetta and Bruce West, “Is Climate Sensitive to Solar Variability?” Physics Today 61, No. 3 (2008): 50–51.
  13. M. Oard, Wonders of Creation: The New Weather Book (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2015), 82–91.
  14. Gunnar Myhre, Catharine Lund Myhre, Piers Foster, and Keith Shine, “Halfway to Doubling of CO2 Radiative Forcing,” Nature Geoscience 10 (October 2017): 710–711.
  15. David Legates and G. van Kooten, “A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor 2014: the Case Against Harmful Climate Policies Gets Stronger,” Cornwall Alliance, 2014, http://www.cornwallalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/A-Call-to-Truth-Prudence-and-Protection-of-the-Poor-2014-The-Case-Against-Harmful-Climate-Policies-Gets-Stronger.pdf.

Newsletter

Get the latest answers emailed to you or sign up for our free print newsletter.

I agree to the current Privacy Policy.

Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Learn more

  • Customer Service 800.778.3390