FACT CHECK: No, There Isn’t Evidence Supporting Climate Change’s Role in Hurricane Sandy

For the second debate in a row last Thursday, Save Jerseyans, Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, preemptively positioning herself to the Left in anticipation of a blue state general election contest with Phil Murphy (D-Goldman Sachs), said some things with which your Blogger-in-Chief feels compelled to take issue. [Remember: this isn’t a “GOP” blog. We’re here to support these politicians when they’re right and, yes, let them know when they’ve gone astray without pulling any punches.]

The most notable leftward pivot: after endorsing a return to RGGI, when the Monmouth Beach resident (twice!) suggested some sort of undefined but inarguable correlation between the devastation wrought by October 2012’s Hurricane Sandy and global climate change.

“As a lieutenant governor who lived through Sandy, I have some very firm ideas on climate change,” she said at NJTV’s Newark studios. “I have seen the devastation Sandy brought.”

Oof. I could go on (and on) about why I don’t think a Republican running “green” is the way to win hearts and minds in the Garden State. Maybe I will in another post. 

For now, let’s unpack the Sandy subject…

Is global warming making hurricanes worse?

Verdict: uncertain, and unknowable.

Scientists (even if you’re only looking at the reports of agencies fully supportive of anthropocentric climate change theory) aren’t in full agreement. Not at all.

Seaside Heights, Post-Sandy

For example, a 2015 study trumpeted by The Washington Post as finding “Global warming fueling fewer but stronger hurricanes,” also conceded how, “…in practice, the connection between hurricanes and climate change has been a hard nut to crack because of an equally simple caveat — we just don’t have enough years of good historical data to predict how hurricanes intensity or frequency might change in our warming future.”

Not enough data.

Then there’s the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — hardly a reserved and cautious force on the climate change front — that recently concluded “it is likely that the global frequency of tropical cyclones will either decrease or remain essentially unchanged, concurrent with a likely increase in both global mean tropical cyclone maximum wind speed and rain rates,” and “future changes in storms are likely to be small compared to natural interannual variability,” which means it’s premature for scientists to conclude the impact of global warming on storm activity.

There’s even one study that contemplates more storms tracking out at sea instead of hitting the U.S. East Coast regardless of how strong or frequent they might be.

The bottom line: there simply isn’t enough data to definitely conclude what impact, if any, warming seas are having on the frequency or intensity of hurricanes, if any. But there is plenty of evidence contradicting the general but popular claim that global warming is leading us towards some story of ‘Day After Tomorrow’ hurricane apocalypse. Future storms might be stronger, but they also might be far less frequent. We just don’t know. Anyone who says they know isn’t being honest. 

But wasn’t Sandy unusually strong? 

Verdict: nope.

See above. What’s more, Sandy’s devastating impact had far less to do with its intensity (it was “only” a category one when it made landfall in New Jersey) and almost everything to do with its extremely rare trajectory, and full-moon induced high tides, that combined to maximize storm surge activity in Ocean and Monmouth counties.

To quote the United States Geological Survey? Location matters, and hurricanes making landfall in New Jersey hasn’t become more common in recent decades.

Btw – How rare was Sandy’s “perfect strike” model? 

A LiveScience report put the odds at 1-in-700 (the same chances of being born with a cleft lip or palate).

Our conclusion: Sandy was a “perfect” storm. There’s absolutely no evidence supporting the proposition that it had anything to do with warmer seas or some other species of climate change-induced variables.

So what’s going on here?

Phil Murphy is running FAR to the Left on environmental issues — including endorsing ridiculous windmill technology — and the LG is clearly electing to avoid a fight by attempting to neutralize the inevitable “Republicans hate clean air and war” attacks coming over the next several months.

Is that sound political strategy? We’ll find out in November if she wins this June! Again, I could (and might) say more about it as times grinds on. My inclination is that “pro-science” yuppies in Hoboken and Jersey City who feed their babies vegan diets and refuse to vaccinate them aren’t going to decide Election 2017; working class voters in places like Middlesex, Bergen and Gloucester counties will. Do they care more about wig nut climate theories? Or the jobs which Phil Murphy’s goofy policies will inevitably destroy?

Is the LG’s answer rooted in any verifiable fact? No. There’s no support for the LG’s chosen position that Sandy is somehow evidence of the existence of a imminent and serious weather threat posed by climate change. Period, end of sentence.

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