Wyoming Public Media Caught Peddling Extreme Weather Tales

A Wyoming Public Media article, titled “NOAA Upgrades Forecasts As Climate Change Drives More Severe Storms,” falsely claims climate change is making extreme weather event worse. Scientific data, NOAA data, and even the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) dispute any claim that climate change “drives more severe storms,” as the article’s title asserts.

Initially, the article stuck to facts about NOAA’s new system.

“The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration upgraded the computer model that forecasters use to predict the weather one to two weeks in the future, called the Global Forecast System. The new model is better at predicting where hurricanes will form and how intense they will be as well as where and when snowstorms and rainstorms will occur, and how much precipitation will fall.”

Rather than proceeding to describe how NOAA’s new technology will work and why it is an improvement over forecasting technologies and methods currently in use, the article quickly strays into climate alarm.

“Climate change is driving more severe weather across the country,” claims the article. “In recent years, Americans have experienced record-breaking hurricanes, wildfires, heat waves, and rainstorms.”

Data show, contrary to Hersher’s claim, hurricanes are neither becoming more powerful nor more numerous. As meteorologist Anthony Watts noted in a recent Climate Realism post, even counting 2020, “the number of major landfalling U.S. hurricanes — the most reliable hurricane trend indicator — has not increased since 1900 (see Figure 1 below)

Figure 1. Number of continental United States landfalling hurricanes 1900–2019. Left, all hurricanes, right, major hurricanes (category 3 and above), with (insignificant) regression lines, (Klotzbach et al., 2018), with 2018–20 updated from personal communication with lead authors. Figure 1 was composed by Dr. Bjorn Lomborg in an update of his peer-reviewed paper Welfare in the 21st century: Increasing development, reducing inequality, the impact of climate change, and the cost of climate policies , posted on Facebook on January 3rd, 2021.

“Notice the complete absence of major hurricane landfalls in the U.S. from 2006 through 2016. That had never happened before in the U.S. hurricane record,” writes Watts.

Also, data from Meteorologist Dr. Ryan Maue show global tropical cyclone Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE), a measure of global hurricane power, has declined slightly over the past 30-years (see Figure 2 below)

Figure 2. Global Tropical Accumulated Cyclone Energy from 1989 to 2020. Graph by Dr. Ryan Maue.

Nor has drought increased globally or in the United States as the earth has modestly warmed. As documented in Climate at a Glance: Drought, the IPCC reports with “high confidence” that precipitation has increased over mid-latitude land areas of the Northern Hemisphere (including the United States) during the past 70 years. IPCC also has “low confidence” about any negative precipitation trends occurring globally.

Moreover, NOAA reports America is currently undergoing its longest period in recorded history with less than 40 percent of the country experiencing “very dry” conditions. In addition, in 2017 and 2019, the United States registered its smallest percentage of land area experiencing drought.

Data show Wyoming Public Media’s claim about heatwaves is also wrong. A recent summary of heatwave records, Climate at a Glance: U.S. Heatwaves, cites NOAA data which show heatwaves are far less severe in recent decades than was the case during the 1930s – nearly 100 years of global warming ago (See the figure below). Also, data show the majority of each state’s all-time high temperature records were set during the first half of the 20th century. The most accurate nationwide temperature station network, implemented in 2005, shows no sustained increase in daily high temperatures in the United States since at least 2005.

H. Sterling Burnett
H. Sterling Burnett
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is the Director of the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News. In addition to directing The Heartland Institute's Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy, Burett puts Environment & Climate News together, is the editor of Heartland's Climate Change Weekly email, and the host of the Environment & Climate News Podcast.

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