Fact Check By: Craig Jones, Newswise



Blaming any one individual hurricane on man-made climate change is just the absolute height of absurdity

Claim Publisher and Date: Matt Walsh among others on 2022-09-28

While towns across Florida and the Carolinas are cleaning up in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian and the death toll climbs, several high-profile climate change skeptics are questioning the connection between the hurricane and human-caused climate change.

“Blaming any one individual hurricane on man-made climate change is just the absolute height of absurdity," tweeted conservative pundit Matt Walsh, in a post that was shared over 20,000 times. In another tweet posted on October 3rd, climate skeptic Peter Clack (whose claim has been the subject of a previous fact check) says, "A hurricane is not climate change. Nor is rainfall, storms or winter snow. They are all just the weather. This concept of weather has been hijacked by a global warming frenzy, that has been relentless for 33 years. We must see a return to common sense."

Scientists concede that any direct links between climate change and one weather event are difficult to prove. However, the consensus is that these extreme weather events are being exacerbated by climate change, making them more intense. Therefore, this claim is rated “half true.”

“It is true that climate change does not cause hurricanes,” says Andrew Dessler, director of Texas Center for Climate Studies and professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M, “However, we can say with very high confidence that the hurricane was more destructive due to climate change.”  

Hurricane Ian dumped an enormous amount of rain on parts of Florida. Radar estimates and ground observation rainfall shows well-over one foot of rain fell in just 12-24 hours across a swath of the region. In some of the hardest-hit areas such as Placida and Lake Wales, this exceeds the rainfall rates for 1-in-1,000 year flood events, according to NOAA data. 

“We are 100% sure that the storm surge was more damaging because it was riding on a higher sea level,” adds Dessler, “We are very confident that global warming is also causing more rainfall from hurricanes because warmer air holds more water. Finally, we have some confidence that climate change is increasing the intensity of hurricanes, so this hurricane may have had stronger winds than it would otherwise have had.” 

“You need to look at trends,” warns Kim Prather, Distinguished Chair in Atmospheric Chemistry at University of California, San Diego. “And there is definitely an increase in the number of major weather related disasters occurring over recent decades.”

Register for reporter access to contact details