Earlier this month, Matt Drudge, proprietor of the highly trafficked Drudge Report, drew widespread criticism when he irresponsibly alleged that the federal government’s National Hurricane Center (NHC) was “lying” about the strength of Hurricane Matthew in order to “make [an] exaggerated point on climate [change].” The storm ultimately killed over 1,000 people, but Drudge is still sticking to his conspiracy theory, even as two hurricane experts provided a detailed explanation of why he was wrong to dispute government data relating to Matthew’s wind speeds.
In an October 26 column for The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang blog, University of Miami senior research associate Brian McNoldy and Colorado State meteorologist Phil Klotzbach dissected Drudge’s claims. In particular, McNoldy and Klotzbach noted that Drudge had questioned the NHC’s statement that Hurricane Matthew had produced 165 mph gusts. In an October 6 tweet, Drudge declared: “Nassau ground measurements DID NOT match statements!” (emphasis original).
In response to that claim, McNoldy and Klotzbach wrote:
Drudge argued the point based on data from Caribbean weather stations and buoys that were not reporting winds as strong as what the National Hurricane Center used in its advisories. But the National Hurricane Center uses a lot of different methods to determine a hurricane’s actual peak intensity, and there are some serious issues with relying simply on weather stations and buoys.
McNoldy and Klotzbach went on to explain some of the “serious issues” that cause buoys and weather stations to underestimate hurricane wind speeds. These include that buoys use a longer “wind averaging time” than NHC measurement devices; buoys are “sheltered from the strongest winds” when they are in the trough of a wave; weather stations often “wash away” before the strongest winds come ashore; and the “small region” of a storm containing its strongest winds will not typically reach a weather station.
McNoldy and Klotzbach concluded: “Matthew’s strongest winds would likely not have been measured by a weather station. The National Hurricane Center provides the best analysis that science can offer.”
The best analysis science can offer, however, is apparently not good enough to convince Drudge. On October 27, the front page of the Drudge Report included the following headlines:
Both headlines linked to the Post column by McNoldy and Klotzbach.
So even though two actual hurricane experts say surface stations are not adequate to measure the maximum wind speeds of a hurricane, self-styled hurricane expert Matt Drudge begs to differ.