NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

1998 Weather Didn't Show Global Warming

January 4, 1999

Global warming theory advocates were quick to seize on last summer's heat waves and the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch as evidence of global warming. But analysts point out that milder temperatures this winter saved consumers on heating bills, and mild weather can no more be credited to global warming than severe weather events like hurricanes can be blamed on it.

  • In November declining demand for heating fuel resulted in a 12 percent drop in spot gas prices.
  • Recent mild weather is more likely linked to La Niña, the large-scale drop in sea surface temperatures across the central and eastern tropical Pacific, than global warming.
  • According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), La Niñas are characterized by warmer than normal winters in the Southeast and colder than normal winters in the Northwest.

Proponents of the global warming theory assume the high death toll from Hurricane Mitch -- estimated at 11,000 -- is evidence of global warming effects. NOAA scientists recently announced Mitch was the deadliest hurricane in the Atlantic basin since 1780, when a hurricane that struck Martinique, St. Eustatius and Barbados killed 22,000 people.

  • But the 1780 Caribbean hurricane occurred during the Little Ice Age, when the planet was close to 1° F cooler than it is today.
  • Also, even with the much higher population density, casualties were only half as much from Hurricane Mitch and may have also been exceeded in the 1900 Galveston, Texas, hurricane that killed 8,000 to 12,000 people.

This year's hot weather didn't even set records -- for instance, North America's record high was reached on July 10, 1913, when Death Valley hit a sweltering 134° F.

Source: David A. Ridenour, "Global Warming Not Responsible for 1998's Unusual Weather," National Policy Analysis Paper No. 228, January 1998, National Center for Public Policy Research, 777 North Capitol Street, N.E. Suite 803, Washington, D.C. 20002, (202) 371-1400.


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