Sandy and Global Warming

The other day I linked my Forbes column that showed that there was no upward trend in global hurricane number and strength, the number of US hurricane strikes, or the number of October hurricanes.  Given these trends, anyone who wants to claim Sandy is proof of global warming is forced to extrapolate from a single data point.

Since I wrote that, Bob Tisdale had an interesting article on Sandy.  The theoretical link between global warming and more and stronger Atlantic hurricanes has not been fully proven, but the theory says that warmer waters will provide energy for more and larger storms (like Sandy).  Thus the theory is that global warming has heated up the waters through which hurricanes pass and that feed these hurricanes' strength.

Bob Tisdale took a look at the historical trends in sea surface temperatures in the area bounded by Sandy's storm track.  These are the temperature trends for the waters that fueled Sandy.  This is what he got:

If he has done the analysis right, this means there is no warming trend over the last 60+ years in the ocean waters that fed Sandy.  This means that the unusually warm seas that fed Sandy's growth were simply a random event, an outlier which appears from this chart to be unrelated to any long-term temperature trend.

Update:  I challenge you to find any article arguing that Sandy was caused by anthropogenic global warming that actually includes a long term trend chart (other than global temperatures) in the article.  The only one I have seen is a hurricane strike chart that is cut off in the 1950's (despite data that goes back over 100 years) because this is the only cherry-picked cut off point that delivers an upward trend.  If you find one, email me the link, I would like to see it.


  1. Bob Tisdale:

    You wrote, " This means that the unusually warm seas that fed Sandy's growth were simply a random event, an outlier which appears from this chart to be unrelated to any long-term temperature trend."
    You've made a tremendous assumption with the "unusually warm seas".

  2. DavidR:

    Just a quick note here...I hope Barack 0bama calls Gary Johnson up personally, and thanks Johnson for all the help in giving him Florida, and ultimately, the election. Don't worry, Johnson voters, you didn't throw your vote away, you just threw the country away.

  3. Gil:

    Actually, that chart does show the most recent years are warmer than around the 1940 period. On the other hand, the issue isn't "AGW caused Sandy" but "would hurricanes become progressively stronger with a higher global temperature". I believe the strength of hurricane derive from the difference in hot and cold air - the greater the difference the stronger the storm.

  4. obloodyhell:

    Actually, for northern storms this is accurate... the kind Sandy was. But tropical hurricanes don't build from air temp difference. They feed off the energy in water temp. If you go looking into this you'll find it's readily available information. There's even some recent commentary in the media (not a lot) about how Sandy switched as it went northward, from tropical (water) sources to temperature differential drivers.

  5. obloodyhell:

    This is one thing that's been missing from the discussion.

    Think about it. I put an inch of water at the bottom of a bottle. Then I slowly heat up the air in the bottle. What happens to the water?

    Right, the temperature of the water rises. You can't have any real longer-term global warming without sea temperature changes, because water is a literally PHENOMENAL heat sink.

    Yet the sea temperatures -- most importantly, the deep-water temperatures which would show that the WHOLE ocean, not just the surface waters -- are not rising at all.

    Ergo and QED -- global warming is very limited if it's happening at all. :-S

  6. obloodyhell:

    It does appear that Johnson voters gave both Florida and Virginia to Obama, assuming they would have voted for Romney instead. I think this is valid but one might argue against it. A lot of the youth vote, for example, went to Johnson, and it historically goes Democratic, since usually young == dumb.

  7. Sean Wise:

    I keep pointing out and Bob Tisdale who was on the east coast during the storm can attest, this was a cold storm, more like a nor'easter, that got fed by the low pressure system of the hurricane. It is still cold as another nor'easter passes by today and tomorrow. I'm sure NOAA will issue a report in 6 months confirming these conclusions when no one is looking.

  8. Bob Tisdale:

    Warren, I've just posted a look at the October 2012 sea surface temperatures and anomalies along Sandy's path, which supports my post from a few days ago:

    October 2012 sea surface temperatures along Sandy's track were not unusually warm.


  9. Russ R.:

    Sorry DavidR, but the numbers don't support your conclusion, even if you assume that every single Johnson vote would have gone to Romney.

    FL General Election
    100% reporting (6089/6089)

    Obama: 4,151,300 votes (49.9%)
    Romney: 4,093,807 votes (49.3%)
    Johnson: 43,615 votes (0.5%)

    Romney + Johnson 4,137,422 votes (49.8%)

  10. Brotio:

    About 2-million fewer people voted for Romney than voted for McCain. Depending on where those voters live, and the impact on the Electoral College, that seems to be a bigger issue. I suspect Romney's religion and Evangelicals had more to do with it than McCain being more attractive to libertarians.