Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh cooked up a conspiracy suggesting that because eleven years passed between Katrina and Matthew, climate change was not to blame for hurricanes.

He assured that since Hurricane Katrina no hurricane had stricken U.S. soil, which was noted by Limbaugh as thesis-shattering for “the whole climate change argument.” The last large hurricane to hit the U.S. was Wilma in 2005 until Hurricane Patricia, which hit Mexico and took its place as the strongest hurricane reported to date.

Rush Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh. Image Credit: Jeff Malet/

But it appears that Limbaugh just tried to politicize the issue, since Dave Nolan, a professor at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science assured that hurricane occurrence cannot be linked to climate change.

It is also clear that Limbaugh only thinks in U.S. terms, as Hurricane Patricia and Typhoon Haiyan in Asia were catastrophic and occurred in 2013 and 2015 respectively.

“This has nothing at all to do with climate change. Hurricanes are extreme events with a lot of variability from year to year, so they can’t be used to indicate long-term trends about climate,” Nolan stated in response.

Is there a link between hurricanes and climate change?

Research does suggest that climate change will result in more intense hurricanes due to the heating of the oceans. Although there has been no clear indication of this theory, scientists do not discard the possibility that humanmade global warming can produce deadly tropical storms.

Limbaugh did not hesitate to blame the media for “playing games” by causing false alarms and leading people to be aware of climate change. Because no major tropical storm has hit U.S. ground in 10 years, he is sure that left-wing politicians are unable to abuse this rhetorical loophole. But the truth is that Hurricanes Sandy and Irene were also very damaging for U.S. residents and did not need the size or magnitude of Matthew or Katrina.

Standing in front of his skateboard, a man takes a long look at the Atlantic Ocean from a damaged section of the State Road A1A in Flagler Beach, Florida, USA, 08 October 2016, after the passage of Hurricane Matthew. Image Credit: EFE/EPA/Willie J. Allen Jr.

The notable radio host put the blame on Al Gore, who assured that deadlier storms would be hitting the country years after his term ended. But Al Gore at no point claimed that hurricanes would be as frequent as Limbaugh wants people to believe. The former vice president emphasized that warmer oceans would make average hurricanes stronger and more lasting.

2015 was the year with the warmest oceans to date, which would be in line with the theories of hurricane intensity being increased, since the strongest hurricanes ever in both Earth hemispheres occurred on 2015.

The only evidence is warmer oceans

Conservatives focus on the lack of binding evidence that hurricanes increase in power due to climate change, which is why they have rallied up to defend their ideals against the claims issued by the government and many professors and scientists.

But even if this sector cannot prove that hurricanes have become worse due to the warming of the Earth’s oceans, conservatives cannot disprove it either because they also lack evidence other than what Limbaugh coined, as climate change affects the entirety of the world and not only the United States, as he led his listeners to believe.

Hurricane Matthew
Hurricane Matthew on Oct. 7 at 2:30 p.m. EDT. Image credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project.

Conservative blogs and columnists have not failed to cite the mainstream media’s statements and contrast them with the actual scientific claims, but in doing so they are acknowledging that, although there can be a link between climate change and hurricanes, the 2015 hurricane occurrence and intensity is actually in line with what is being proposed.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a study where it assures that there is no factual evidence linking human activity to hurricane intensity.

“It is premature to conclude that human activities — and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming — have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global tropical cyclone activity,” the report reads.

But NOAA also points out that there is a high possibility of an increase in the destructive potential of following storms.

Anthropogenic warming by the end of the 21st century will likely cause tropical cyclones globally to be more intense on average. This change would imply an even larger percentage increase in the destructive potential per storm, assuming no reduction in storm size.”

Previous studies have confirmed that an Atlantic hurricane’s power dissipation is linked with the temperature of the Atlantic sea surface temperatures and other factors. But the observations regarding a theoretical increase in temperature of oceanic waters should also increase hurricane activity in the 21st century, which follows most climate model projections for the tropics, even if climate change is not made the main issue of the study.

When analyzing hurricane occurrence since 1878, the NOAA determined that there was a slight but noticeable upward trend. In the case of hurricanes hitting U.S. ground, the trend even appeared to be negative, which would partially confirm Limbaugh’s remarks.

In essence, Rush Limbaugh pointed out the facts and turned them to his advantage, but by ignoring the whole picture he was able to divert his listeners and the conservative media, managing to point out the lack of evidence of a theory that may eventually be proven right, because ocean waters are indeed getting warmer.

Source: The Huffington Post