NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Is The Weather Improving?

December 14, 1999

"The weather has been pretty weird," claims the National Environmental Trust, citing heat waves, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes and floods that have occurred lately. The cause, says the NET, is global warming: "It's making our weather more extreme."

It may be true that severe weather event costs in the 1990s were three times more than a decade ago; but that is due to inflation, economic growth and building in hurricane and flood zones, says analyst Michael Fumento.

Looking at fatalities, our weather seems to be improving:

  • While hurricane Andrew in 1992 took 76 lives, at least 6,000 were lost in the hurricane that swept Galveston, Texas, in 1900.
  • Tornadoes killed 189 Americans in 1998, compared with 689 deaths from a single U.S. tornado in 1925.
  • And the 1889 flood in Johnstown, Pa., killed 2,000 -- compared to relatively few flood deaths today.

Record weather events have occurred -- but there is no indication that extreme events are occurring more frequently in recent years. For instance,

  • The longest U.S. drought lasted from 1952 to 1957 in western Kansas.
  • The worse U.S. forest fire was in October 1871, destroying 1.3 million acres of Wisconsin forest and killing more than 1,500 people.
  • The worse U.S. heat wave killed 300 people in Detroit, Mich., in 1936.

Weather extremes are the norm, says Fumento, not evidence of climate change.

Source: Michael Fumento (Hudson Institute), "Weather Hype, Climate Tripe," Investor's Business Daily, December 14, 1999.


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