Hurricane landfalls have caused an increasing amount of damage over the last century, according to a new study, but it’s not because of man-made global warming.
That’s because while storm landfalls show no significant trends in the U.S., but damages have been increasing primarily due to the fact that more people and valuables are located in regions prone to devastating storms.
“Growth in coastal population and regional wealth are the overwhelming drivers of observed increases in hurricane-related damage,” according to a new study by disaster and hurricane experts published Tuesday.
Last year’s Atlantic hurricane season was the most active since 2005, with three major hurricanes making landfall in U.S. territory in the span of two months. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which hit Texas and Florida, caused $125 billion in damages.
The sheer amount of damage had some scientists and environmental activists linking the storms to man-made global warming.
But “since 1900 neither observed CONUS landfalling hurricane frequency nor intensity show significant trends, including the devastating 2017 season,” reads the study, led by Colorado State University meteorologist Philip Klotzbach.
Klotzbach and his colleagues argue economic and population growth are the main factors behind rising hurricane damage costs.
“Growth in coastal population and exposure is likely to continue in the future, and when hurricane landfalls do occur, this will likely lead to greater damage costs than previously seen,” reads the study.
“The very active 2017 Atlantic hurricane season saw damaging US landfalls ending an 11-year ‘major hurricane drought,'” Ryan Maue, an atmospheric scientist with the libertarian Cato Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The powerful storms hit the U.S. after an 11-year “drought” in major hurricane landfalls.
Study co-author Roger Pielke, Jr., a University of Colorado professor, has long argued the hurricane “drought” could lull the U.S. into a state of unreadiness for major storms.
For his new study, Pielke pointed to two charts on Twitter showing the slightly declining, though not significant, trend in hurricane landfalls.
Here are 2 figures from our paper, there are lots more pic.twitter.com/dA6taKNz8P
— Roger Pielke Jr. (@RogerPielkeJr) February 5, 2018
“The authors include this recent data in their climate calculations and conclusively show that there are no long term significant trends in the frequency or intensity of landfalling CONUS hurricanes since 1900,” said Maue, who was not part of the study but did carefully review the results.
“However, the authors do warn that because of increased population, wealth and economic growth, hurricane-prone regions continue to be threatened by any storm of the future regardless of expected climate change impacts toward the end of the 21st Century,” said Maue.
Scientists are actively debating whether or not man-made warming is currently having an impact on today’s weather.
As for hurricanes, however, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) comprehensive assessment found it’s “premature to conclude that human activities … have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global tropical cyclone activity.”
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