Gustav, Hanna, Ike and Josephine are all lining up to strike record devastation upon US coastlines–another sure sign of God’s wrath toward our country, the onward march of global warming and the impending doom of humanity. Storms are getting increasingly frequent and violent, leading to greater havoc upon our cities and lives.
Or so it would seem.
But, in Why Disasters Are Getting Worse, TIME magazine suggests it isn’t the storms that are changing, it’s us.
If climate change is having an effect on the intensities of storms, it’s not obvious in the historical weather data. And whatever effect it is having is much, much smaller than the effect of development along coastlines. In fact, if you look at all storms from 1900 to 2005 and imagine today’s populations on the coasts, as Roger Pielke Jr., and his colleagues did in a 2008 Natural Hazards Review paper, you would see that the worst hurricane would have actually happened in 1926.
If it happened today, the Great Miami storm would have caused from $140 billion to $157 billion in damages. (Hurricane Katrina, the costliest storm in U.S. history, caused $100 billion in losses.) “There has been no trend in the number or intensity of storms at landfall since 1900,” says Pielke, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado. “The storms themselves haven’t changed.”