Fox News figures have cast Hurricane Sandy as an event that “has nothing to do with global warming.” But climate scientists agree that global warming has exacerbated the flooding from storms like Sandy, and is expected to increase the severity of hurricanes.
Climate Change Is Expected To Lead To More Intense Hurricanes
Many Uncertainties Remain About The Effects Of Climate Change On Hurricanes. A Special Report of Working Groups I and II of the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change noted that in contrast to certain extreme weather events like heat waves that are better understood, there is an “incomplete understanding” about how climate change has and will affect tropical cyclones (a term that includes hurricanes and typhoons). The IPCC report stated that it is “likely” that “average tropical cyclone wind speed” and “Heavy rainfalls associated with tropic cyclones” will increase on a warming earth, but that there is “low confidence” in any observed trends for tropical cyclones. The report further noted that “Attribution of single extreme events to anthropogenic climate change is challenging.” [Special Report of Working Groups I and II of the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change, 2012]
However, Hurricanes Are Expected To Become More Intense. An October 30 post on the New York Times Green blog by science reporter Justin Gillis noted that while little analysis has been done on hybrid storms like Hurricane Sandy, “Extensive computer modeling has suggested that the number of Atlantic hurricanes will stay the same or even decrease with global warming, but that the intensity of the storms that do occur is likely to increase.” [Green, The New York Times, 10/30/12]
AP: Experts Have Concluded That “As The Climate Warms,” Storms “Will Be Stronger And Wetter.” An October 30 Associated Press article said that climate scientists “have been warning about the risk for big storms and serious flooding in New York” for over a dozen years and added, “A 2000 federal report about global warming's effect on the United States warned specifically of that possibility.” The article also noted that “climate scientists and hurricane experts have concluded that as the climate warms,” there will be fewer hurricanes, but that they will “be stronger and wetter.” [Associated Press, 10/30/12]
Experts Agree Rising Sea Levels Have Exacerbated Flooding From Storms Including Sandy
Wash. Post's Wonkblog: Hurricane Sandy Highlights A “Major Reason To Worry About Climate Change: Rising Sea Levels.” In an October 29 post on The Washington Post's Wonkblog titled, “Yes, Hurricane Sandy is a good reason to worry about climate change,” Brad Plumer wrote that while there are many uncertainties in attributing hurricane patterns to climate change, “Hurricane Sandy does highlight at least one other major reason to worry about climate change: rising sea levels.” He noted that higher sea levels will magnify storm surges during large and small storms, leading to coastal flooding. The post concluded:
The endless debates about whether this or that particular hurricane can be blamed on global warming are fascinating. But they can also distract from the more basic fact that our cities and infrastructure are quite vulnerable to future temperature increases and sea-level rise. And Hurricane Sandy, unfortunately, is a grim reminder of that. [Wonkblog, The Washington Post, 10/29/12]
Climate Central: Higher Sea Levels, Which Are Connected To Global Warming, Produced Higher Tides For Sandy. In an October 29 Climate Central post titled “Sandy's Storm Surge Explained and Why It Matters,” Michael D. Lemonick described a storm surge as “the pulse of seawater pushed ashore by [a storm's] winds and low atmospheric pressure” and wrote that it “will almost certainly cause more concentrated damage than the hurricane's powerful surface winds, torrential rains and mountain snows.” He went on to put Sandy's storm surge into historical context:
Global sea level is now about 8 inches higher, on average, than it was in 1900, in connection with global warming. Sinking land has added several inches more of local sea level rise in the Mid-Atlantic. That means the storm tides from Sandy are that much higher than they would have been if the identical storm had come along back then.
And as sea level continues to rise in a warming world, a Sandy that arrives in 2100, when average sea level is likely to be about 3 feet higher than it is today, would be correspondingly more destructive. [Climate Central, 10/29/12]
NY Times' Green Blog: “The Biggest Problem Seen During Hurricane Sandy Will Become Worse In The Future: Storm Surge.” The New York Times Green blog also noted that “the biggest problem seen during Hurricane Sandy will become worse in the future: storm surge.” The post continued:
The ocean is rising relentlessly, and scientists say this is a direct consequence of global warming. Warm water expands, just as warm air does, and the warming of the ocean is one factor behind the rise. Another is that land ice the world over is starting to melt as the climate grows warmer, dumping extra water into the ocean.
Over all, the ocean rose about eight inches in the last century. The rate appears to have accelerated recently, to about a foot per century, and some scientists think it will accelerate further, so that the rise between now and the end of the century could exceed three feet. The problem will be exacerbated in places where land is also sinking, such as the mid-Atlantic region of the United States and southern Louisiana.
The likely effect, [climate scientist] Dr. [Kerry A.] Emanuel said, is that coastal flooding on a scale that once happened only once or twice per century -- the scale of Sandy, in other words -- will become much more commonplace within the coming decades. [Green, The New York Times, 10/30/12]
Yet Fox News Figures Claim Sandy “Has Nothing To Do With Global Warming”
Perino: “This Has Nothing To Do With Global Warming.” During the October 30 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Bob Beckel suggested that Hurricane Sandy -- along with a number of other indicators, such as the past decade being the hottest on record -- indicates that climate change is happening. Co-host Dana Perino responded, in part, “This has nothing to do with global warming.” [Fox News, The Five, 10/30/12]
Bolling: Sandy “Has Nothing To Do With Global Warming.” During the October 31 edition of Fox & Friends, Eric Bolling denied that climate change is related to Hurricane Sandy, saying: “Where is the proof? These global warming claims have been debunked time and time again. Look, it's weather. Weather changes. Things happen. It has nothing to do with global warming.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/31/12]
Fox Regular Bastardi: Potential Increase In Large Storms On Eastern Seaboard “Has Nothing To Do With Global Warming.” During the October 29 edition of Fox News' Hannity, frequent Fox News guest and weatherman Joe Bastardi discussed Hurricane Sandy. He predicted that the Eastern Seaboard will see more large storms over “the next five to 10 years,” but claimed that such a phenomenon “has nothing to do with global warming” and “has everything to do with nature.” [Fox News, Hannity, 10/29/12]