As the northeast coast mourns and struggles in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the U.S. death toll nears 100 and experts estimate up to $20 billion in total insured damages. In the midst of the devastation, power outages, gas shortages, and scarcity of relief supplies, media is adding to the frenzy, blaming Sandy's fury on climate change and calling "Frankenstorm," the "new norm."
"Anyone who says there's not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think is denying reality," said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at a press conference on October 30. New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg agreed, adding, "What is clear is that the storms that we've experienced in the last year or so, around this country and around the world, are much more severe than before."
Weather experts disagree. The New York Times quotes Martin Hoerling, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
As to underlying causes, neither the frequency of tropical or extratropical cyclones over the North Atlantic are projected to appreciably change due to climate change, nor have there been indications of a change in their statistical behavior over this region in recent decades.
Kevin Trenberth, a climatologist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research who made headlines in 2009 at the center of the Climategate scandal, is also skeptical of reports linking Sandy to global warming. He told the New York Times that, despite changing Arctic conditions, "the actual heating of the atmosphere is very small to cause it to do anything." He concluded that "the null hypothesis has to be that this is just 'weather' and natural variability."
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