The Hurricane Patricia Debacle: Politics, not Science, Drove Predictions

What happened with Hurricane Patricia is a classic example of misinformation and false assumptions, all supported by supposedly credible scientific authorities.

A good illustration is revealed in Samantha Larson’s article, “How Hurricane Patricia Grew Into a Record-Breaking Storm,” published on the social activist Website, ATT:

While Hurricane Patricia may have been more influenced by El Niño than climate change, scientists fear that in the future the two phenomena could build on top of each other. Global warming means warmer sea surface temperatures, whether it’s an El Niño year or not.

Larson cited Michael Mann, a climate researcher at Penn State University, who told the Washington Post:

As ocean temperatures continue to warm [sic] as a result of human-caused climate change, we expect hurricanes to intensify, and we expect to cross new thresholds. Hurricane Patricia and her unprecedented 200 mile-per-hour sustained winds, appears to be one of them now, unfortunately.

It is important to recall that Mann is the scientist who produced the now discredited “hockey stick” graph that literally rewrote history by claiming the Medieval Warm Period from 900 to 1300 AD did not occur. It was apparently done to support the false claim that temperatures are higher today than ever before. A revealing expose is laid out well in Mark Steyn’s new book A Disgrace To The Profession: The World's Scientists - In Their Own Words - On Michael E Mann, His Hockey Stick And Their Damage To Science.

Regardless, note the use of the words, "may," "could" and "appears to be" when Mann and Larson speak about fears for the future. They are clearly just speculating since no one knows the degree to which Patricia was influenced by El Nino or what the future trend of hurricanes will be. Climate activists do this all the time in an attempt to make a link between global warming, supposedly caused by carbon dioxide emissions from human activities, and tropical cyclones such as Patricia.

But it is unsubstantiated propaganda.

In 2012 the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that a relationship between global warming and wildfires, rainfall, storms, hurricanes, and other extreme weather events has not been demonstrated. In their latest assessment report (2013), IPCC scientists concluded that they had only “low confidence” that “damaging increases will occur in either drought or tropical cyclone activity” as a result of global warming.

The 2013 report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) concluded the same, asserting that “in no case has a convincing relationship been established between warming over the past 100 years and increases in any of these extreme events.”

Global warming can mean warmer sea surface temperatures, of course, and that is one of the many factors that work to intensify tropical cyclones. But there has been no global warming for over 19 years. Besides, there are no surface temperature stations for most of the oceans, the regions where tropical cyclones start, that cover about 70% of the Earth’s surface.

In assessing Mann's expectation that hurricanes will intensify, it is important to recognize that such forecasts were also made decades ago, but, as illustrated in Figure 1, it has not come about despite modest warming during this period.


IPCC supporters respond that global warming will soon take off like a rocket, causing more, and more intense, tropical cyclones, dooming us all. But, again, we need to consider how IPCC forecasts have fared to date. The comparison between predictions and reality shown in Figure 2 does not inspire confidence.