As I write, Hurricane Irma has reached Category 5, with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph. The National Hurricane Center calls it “the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic basin outside of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico in the NHC records” (emphasis added).
The NHC says Irma “will bring life-threatening wind, storm surge, and rainfall hazards to portions of the northeastern Leeward Islands beginning later today”; the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico beginning tomorrow, reaching the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the southeastern Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Thursday and Friday; and the remainder of the Bahamas, Cuba, the Florida Keys, and parts of mainland Florida (including where I live near Miami) later this week, possibly traveling up the Florida peninsula in ensuing days.
These graphics portray the NHC’s forecast of the probability of various areas’ experiencing tropical-storm-force (39–74 mph) or hurricane-force (74 mph or higher) winds by Sunday morning.
Millions of people live along Irma’s projected path, and especially in the Caribbean islands and Cuba many of them are poor and ill protected from Irma’s strong winds and heavy rains.
As we did when Hurricane Harvey was approaching the Texas coast two weeks ago, now we ask you to pray for all those at risk because of Hurricane Irma. Pray for their safety and that Irma might still turn north and either lose force before hitting any major population centers or avoid them completely. Pray not only for people’s safety but also that, confronted with the awesome power of this storm and considering their own mortality, those who have not yet been reconciled to God by faith in Christ would hear and believe the gospel. The worst suffering a hurricane can impose is nothing compared with eternity under God’s just judgment.
Last week we told of ways to help those harmed by Hurricane Harvey, and the same will hold true for those harmed by Irma. We would encourage extra giving to the poorest areas, such as Haiti, where the people are least able to help themselves and few have insurance.
As with Harvey, you’re likely to hear claims that global warming is making Irma worse than it otherwise would have been. We think that’s unlikely, as NASA award-winning climatologist and Cornwall Senior Fellow Dr. Roy W. Spencer explained last week in an article.
In his new book An Inconvenient Deception: How Al Gore Distorts Climate Science and Energy Policy (printed by the Cornwall Alliance and due in our offices shortly), Dr. Spencer dispenses with the widespread notion that global warming has caused an increase in the number and intensity of tropical cyclones (hurricanes in the Atlantic, typhoons in the Pacific):
After 26 named tropical storms, and several hurricane strikes in the U.S. in 2005, even the National Hurricane Center was expecting a new normal of hurricane activity, and Gore of course predicted that more and stronger hurricanes due to manmade global warming.
Then the bottom dropped out.
Literally as I write this, it has been exactly 4,300 days since a major hurricane (Category 3 or stronger) has struck the United States. Wilma in October 2005 was the last. Hurricane Sandy in 2012 doesn’t count because it was Category 1 at landfall, and technically no longer a tropical system anyway. Hurricane Ike hitting Texas in 2008 was Category 2 at landfall, and Matthew in 2016 was Category 1 at landfall.
I doubt that anyone would have predicted such a long hiatus in U.S. major hurricane strikes. This is the longest “drought” in landfalling major hurricanes since records started in 1850. According to NASA researchers, a ten-year gap is expected once every 270 years, on average. It goes to show just how variable nature is. But one might legitimately ask about global hurricane activity. The total number of tropical cyclones has been monitored since the early 1970s, and the following chart by hurricane researcher Ryan Maue shows that, while there have been huge fluctuations, there has been no obvious long-term trend in either hurricanes or their weaker cousins, tropical storms:
For those who persist in the claim, here’s a brief summary of why it’s unlikely:
All the CO2 mankind has added to the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution can be calculated from first principles to have reduced the overall climate system’s ability to cool itself (that is, to cast off heat received from the Sun) by 0.25–1.0%. Assuming a linear relationship between total climate system energy content and storm frequency and intensity, this implies that 99–99.75% of the storms that occur, and 99–99.75% of each storm’s intensity, would have occurred without that effect.
For example, this entails that of the 175 mph maximum sustained winds of Hurricane Irma today, 173.3–174.6 mph would have occurred anyway, and of the 50 inches of rainfall that came to some places from Hurricane Harvey, 49.5–49.9 inches would have fallen anyway.
(The degree of precision in these numbers is well beyond what’s justified in light of the chaotic nature of the climate system. But even rounded to the nearest whole number, or even the nearest multiple of 5, they indicate the comparative insignificance of human contribution to the frequency or intensity of hurricanes. It also may be more likely, on theory, that the relationship is logarithmic, that is, diminishing with each lost unit of cooling capacity, since net climate feedbacks are negative rather than positive. In that case, AGW’s contribution to the frequency and intensity of storms would be even less.)
In any case, hurricanes—even of Category 1 or 2—can be devastating. So pray, and be prepared to give to help those harmed. As you pray, keep in mind that God controls all storms:
5Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones! 6For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD? Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD, 7a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him? 8O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O LORD, with your faithfulness all around you? 9You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them. 10You crushed Rahab like a carcass; you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm. 11The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them. 12The north and the south, you have created them; Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name. 13You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high your right hand. 14Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you. (Psalm 89:5–14)