Hurricane Hype Clouds Warming Debate

     In 1975, Bob Dylan sang about being given “shelter from the storm.” In 2006, the media warned us that was what everyone would need facing another devastating hurricane season.

     Americans braced back in May as the media belted out another Dylan classic, predicting “A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall.” ABC’s Jeffrey Kofman sounded the alarm about storms so bad scientists “are now considering adding a fearsome category 6. That's hurricanes of more than 175 miles an hour. Something no one would want to meet head-on.”

     No one did. Category 6 wasn’t even added, and the chorus of media hype about another deadly season of storms turned into so much hot air.

     That’s right – forecasts for the 2006 hurricane season, which ends November 30, have proven entirely wrong. Instead of 17 tropical storms and hurricanes, we got only nine.

     Who gets the credit for such an off-key prediction?

     There’s a lot of blame to go around. Back in May, AccuWeather gave us its 2006 hurricane season forecast. “An active hurricane season appears imminent, which could have major repercussions for the U.S. economy and the one in six Americans who live on the Eastern Seaboard or along the western Gulf of Mexico,” we were told.

     Respected forecaster Dr. William Gray predicted “an 81 percent chance of at least one major storm making landfall in the United States,” according to an NBC report.

     But even though meteorologists sing for their supper predicting the weather, no one should expect them to always be right. Gray downgraded his predictions twice during the year, but the media that loved him for his originally dour forecast all-but-ignored the less ominous predictions.

     On July 30, CBS played Chicken Little and warned about a “long overdue Northeast hurricane.” In late September, CBS anchor Katie Couric reminded viewers of the potential dangers of “another Katrina whipping through the Gulf” and the threat to energy prices.

     The far bigger problem was how the media and the left made beautiful music together by convincing Americans that hurricane season was getting worse – thanks, of course, to global warming. Last year, after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, journalists were quick to advance the supposed connection.     

     NBC’s Chief Science Correspondent Robert Bazell did a one-sided piece on a study that claimed to show a link between the two. He emphasized the study’s conclusion was about “a worrisome trend.”

      This year was more of the same. “Good Morning America” featured two previews: one of the hurricane season and one of Al Gore’s global warming movie, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Diane Sawyer began the May 23 bit saying, “And of course, there are a lot of people who believe that global warming is in fact to blame, in part, for this surge in hurricanes. One of them, former Vice President Al Gore, who has re-emerged, leading a kind of call to action.”

      Gore used images of Hurricane Katrina in his film and claims that climate change is causing “more powerful hurricanes.” Where are the reporters asking Gore if he intends to change his tune now that we had an almost non-existent hurricane season?

     Gore had lots of back-up singers. CBS’s Hannah Storm – an appropriate choice for hurricane hype – interviewed author Mike Tidwell back in August about his claims of a connection between warming and hurricanes. As Storm explained, “it's been three years since author Mike Tidwell predicted that a storm like Katrina would devastate New Orleans. In his new book, ‘The Ravaging Tide,’ he says that we'll see more catastrophic hurricanes thanks to global warming.”

     Tidwell sang the song the media wanted to hear, connecting the dots between climate change and hurricanes. “So you're going to have cities that’re below sea level because the seas rose because of global warming. And on top of that, hurricanes are becoming more intense. We know that.”

     Gore, Tidwell, eco-alarmist Laurie David and the rest of the uber-left might think they found all their answers “Blowin’ in the Wind,” but Mother Nature has proven they were wrong.

     If liberals and the media – not that those two are all that different – want to find the answers to all of life’s ills in the songs of the flower children, then they ought to look to Dylan for one more bit of wisdom.

     “You don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows,” he told us in 1965. Apparently even the weathermen don’t know. Yet we’re supposed to think that people who can’t predict tomorrow’s weather can be sure how the world climate will change 100 years from now? Even Al Gore can’t be that stupid.


    Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow and director of the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute.