CNN Facts First

I thought that I would take a look at the CNN politics Facts First article regarding what Vice President of the United States Mike Pence had said about hurricanes.

“With regard to hurricanes, the National Oceanic Administration tells us that actually, and as difficult as they are, there are no more hurricanes today than there were 100 years ago.”

Mike Pence

On this matter the CNN article said that he was correct “based on the limited data we have on storms from that period”. I agree with CNN that the many nascent hurricanes certainly before the dawn of the satellite age may have gone undetected and skewed any results you might find in this data. These days a forensic watch is maintained by the NHC (formed in 1965) on each tropical depression as it develops being watched intently from both satellite and aircraft. The HURDAT2 database of tropical cyclones has been painstakingly compiled and is as complete a record of tropical cyclones that occurred in the 20th century as we are ever going to see and that does show a 2.3 increase a year in the number of North Atlantic hurricanes since 1920. So in my opinion, Pence and CNN were wrong using the latest HURDAT2 data we have, but I can see how you could easily argue that the small 2.3 increase could be too high because either hurricanes were wrongly identified as just a tropical storms or just plain missed. Even these days the distinction between the two is more that a little subjective if you follow the NHC six hourly discussion.

In my opinion Jen Christensen was also incorrect in the second point that she makes in the statement “Researchers have found that the probability of storms reaching major hurricane status has increased decade after decade” . Below is a bar chart of all decades since 1851 with the count of all major hurricanes in each decade. Major hurricanes are classed as category three and above and as you can see from the chart below, the total for the last full decade 2010-2019 was six lower than in the previous decade of 2000-2009. So it’s not true that major North Atlantic Hurricanes have increased in number decade after decade.

In conclusion

So be careful what you might read on the internet, even fact checking articles which seem to be all the rage at the moment especially on the BBC News, might not be correct.

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