What Happened to All the Hurricanes, Al?

In his movie An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore said global warming caused Katrina. Although Katrina was a devastating hurricane, it was not the most powerful to hit the United States. Hurricane Andrew struck extreme south Florida on August 24, 1992, as a Category 5, with maximum sustained winds of 165 miles per hour. The Okeechobee hurricane of 1928 struck Palm Beach as a Category 4, and was more powerful than Katrina. The Galveston hurricane of September 8, 1900, struck the Texas coast as a Category 4. There are many other examples.

Mr. Gore does not know the difference between weather and climate. It is not possible to say that any single weather event can be the result of a long, slow climate trend. There is simply far too much year-to-year variability in weather to attribute a single hurricane or any other weather event to a climate trend.

Not to be outdone, another massive hurricane named Rita struck the upper Texas coast on September 24, 2005. Rita had also been a Category 5 storm over the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but struck Texas as a Category 3. Hurricane Wilma became another super storm in the western Caribbean on October 19 -- that day, Wilma had maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour! The storm crossed the northeastern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula on the 22nd, and then tracked to the northeast. Hurricane Wilma made landfall on the southwest Florida coast on October 24 as a Category 3 storm. The hurricane did extensive damage across portions of Florida before moving off into the Atlantic.

At this point, many in Florida had seen enough and moved out. Three hurricanes in south Florida in two years was more than some could take. A friend of mine in West Palm Beach said to me as the 2006 season began: “I feel like I’m looking down the barrel of a gun.” Another friend of mine in Boca Raton just gave up and moved away. He couldn’t sell the house, because it was on a canal and would flood if another hurricane hit. But at least he was far from the coast and the worst of the storms. He could sleep better.

By the spring of 2006 people were wondering if it was going to be what Al Gore said it would be. Global warming was going to make more hurricanes, and more powerful hurricanes. After what happened in 2004 and 2005, people were beginning to believe it. Well ... at least some people did. A review of hurricane history showed that the amazing season of 2005 was a rare event. Since the mid-1880s there have only been two other seasons like it -- 1887 and 1933.

By May of 2006 there was great anticipation as the next hurricane season approached. Private weather companies made predictions that the northeastern part of the country was at “high risk” of being hit by a hurricane. Some were predicting five hurricanes would hit the U.S. in 2006. But the hurricane season of 2006 was quiet. Very quiet. There were five hurricanes, but they were far at sea and none came close to hitting the U.S. mainland.

As the 2007 season approached, the forecasts were again for an active to very active season. The 2007 season was more active, but the total of 6 hurricanes was only the long-term average number. It was not active or very active at all. There were two Category 5 hurricanes: one of them struck Mexico, and the other Central America. One Category 1 hurricane, Humberto, hit the upper Texas coast on the evening of September 12, but did little significant damage.