You knew it was coming. The Hurricane Katrina inspired global warming stories. Well at the top of this morning's Today show Matt Lauer invoked one of the media's favorite boogeymen:
Matt Lauer: "Then why are there so many hurricanes this year and is global warming to blame? We'll take a closer look at that."
At 7:18am Katie Couric, with a graphic next to her running down the names of all the hurricanes this season, conjectured that global warming was causing so many hurricanes this year the government was running out of names for them.
Katie Couric: "Hurricane season ends November 1st but already people are asking why have there been so many? It has been a brutal year. 17 named storms in the Atlantic, nine of them hurricanes. Among them Arlene, Dennis, the deadly Katrina and now Rita. So many in fact that only four names are left. Stan, Tammy, Vince and Wilma. After that the National Hurricane Center would have to use the Greek alphabet. Are humans partially to blame for all these natural disasters? Here's NBC's Tom Costello."
Tom Costello: "It's a question over which scientists are divided. Is global warming to blame for warmer oceans and an increase in the number of violent hurricanes? Researcher Judith Curry says the evidence is compelling."
[Judith Curry, Georgia Tech: "Once you do a five-year average you, you see things lining up very consistently in terms of the category four and five hurricanes with the sea surface temperature."]
Costello: "Here's why. In the 1970s category 4 and 5 storms accounted for 20 percent of all hurricanes but since 1995 they've made up 35 percent and during the same period ocean temperatures have risen by one degree on average.
[Curry: "It raises the average category of the storms about one category."]
Hmm a five year average, now that's quite an extensive sample. Now Costello did bring on Gerry Bell of NOAA who countered Curry:
Costello: "But the government's lead seasonal hurricane forecaster says it's hard to prove a link with global warming."
[Gerry Bell, NOAA: "Just because you have warmer oceans does not mean in any way that, that is caused by greenhouse warming."]
However any of Today's viewers who didn't stick around for the full report and only got the teases from Katie and Matt were left with the typical 'The sky is falling' fearmongering line of the media.