Climatologist Tries to Justify 11-year Hurricane Drought in New York Times Op-Ed

hurricaneThe New York Times ran an op-ed today by Adam Sobel, an “atmospheric scientist at Columbia.” The gist of Sobel’s article: Since 2005, the United States has been experiencing a hurricane “drought” (i.e., no category 3 or higher hurricane has made landfall in 11 years.) But don’t worry, Sobel says, there will be more hurricanes soon, and the fact that they will be coming is proof of man-made climate change.

Yes, that’s what he’s saying.

The question is whether Sobel is writing the op-ed to buck himself up, or hoping to cheerlead the rest of the alarmist crowd. After all, the computer models that have predicted global warming have also predicted more hurricanes. But real-life observations continue to diverge from what computer models have actually predicted.

It’s somewhat baffling that the New York Times would publish such an essentially meaningless opinion. But the mainstream media have long since thrown in its lot with the alarmist crowd.

Regardless, there are problems with Sobel’s op-ed…

Sobel says that “significant global warming, over a degree and a half Fahrenheit, has already occurred since preindustrial days.” That’s essentially accurate. The Earth has warmed by roughly 0.8 degrees Celsius since the late 1800s. But whether one views it as “significant” depends on context. Given the accumulating evidence of global climate changes over the past few thousand years, such a net increase over a span of roughly 130 years seems relatively mild—and typical of the climate variations seen during the latter part of the current interglacial epoch.

There’s also the greater issue of cause. Sobel naturally assumes that this increase in temperatures is driven entirely by increased emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). But many climate skeptics would argue that this mild uptick is the result of a large-scale increase in solar output over the past 130 years. And while solar irradiance has increased in that time, it is the associated variations in solar winds and the solar magnetic field that contribute significantly to changes in global climate, thanks to their influence on atmospheric ionization and cloud formation.

Putting aside the issue of cause, however, it’s important to note that Sobel is basing his views on what he predicts may happen. Essentially, he is saying “The computer models tell us…” And that’s the crux of his argument, and his problem.

Since the start of the 21st century, the computer models predicting large-scale man-made warming have diverged further and further from actual, observed temperature measurements. Despite this, Sobel and company continue to insist on the validity of their thesis. The problem is that they can’t explain why their predictions aren’t matching the flatlining of temperatures seen since 2000.

Ironically, solar advocates can offer a valid hypothesis: since solar activity began falling off, there’s been an ensuing leveling off of temperatures. Equally significant is that atmospheric CO2 has reached 400 parts per million (0.04 percent), and is essentially “saturated.” Thus, its greenhouse potential is maxed out, making additional heat-trapping less likely.

It’s interesting to note that Sobel couches his statements with a series of disclaimers. Of hurricanes and climate, he says the “knowledge is far from perfect.” And he cites the arguments of his opponents to make a few safe caveats—he blames “natural variability” for the current hurricane drought.

Overall, Sobel explains that studies of weather are uncertain: “While there is debate about the drought’s significance, there is little doubt that its primary cause is dumb luck, and that won’t continue forever…The best science doesn’t, in fact, predict that the future will hold more hurricanes; most of our best models predict there may be fewer. But these predictions of changes in the number of hurricanes are quite uncertain…” So why is Sobel predicting a glut of future hurricanes?

Again, it’s somewhat embarrassing that the New York Times would publish an op-ed that essentially says: ‘We haven’t seen any major hurricanes for 11 years, we don’t really know why, our climate science is uncertain, our predictive computer models are limited, but we’re certain we’ll see more frequent and intense hurricanes soon because of increased CO2 emissions.’

But this is the contemporary face of climate science and willful alarmism. It’s the same crowd of environmental elites who gleefully disparage those who question any tenet of man-made global warming, who aim to silence dissent and debate, who advocate for massive fossil fuel reductions that will hurt millions of struggling American families, and who choose to deny much-needed infrastructure and power generation to Third World countries. All this certitude for an agenda based on question mark after question mark.

Sobel and his ilk should stop basing their predictions on failed computer models and start looking at the real world consequences of their imperfect science. Insisting that disastrous hurricanes are on their way in order to prove one’s ‘consensus science’ is a troubling indicator of where climatology is headed.

Comments (3)

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    Powerball lottery has been experiencing a winners drought for several weeks, but don’t worry, there will be a winner sometime in the future. That will be proof government lotteries are fair and equitable. Would suggest Adam Sobel start buying lottery tickets, the climate gravy train is heading toward derailment.

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    Bill Marsh


    “And while solar irradiance has increased in that time, it is the associated variations in solar winds and the solar magnetic field that contribute significantly to changes in global climate, thanks to their influence on atmospheric ionization and cloud formation.”

    I’m sorry you’re dangerously close to endorsing Dr Svensmark’s theories. This cannot be allowed even tho the experiments at CERN have established beyond reasonable doubt that the mechanism he proposes is valid.

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    Sam Pyeatte


    Warning, extreme bloviating in effort to talk back the original prediction of increased hurricane activity due to human activity.

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