Weinkle, J., Maue, R. and Pielke Jr., R. 2012. Historical global tropical cyclone landfalls. Journal of Climate 25: 4729-4735.
The authors write that "in recent decades, economic damage from tropical cyclones (TCs) around the world has increased dramatically," but they say that the "scientific literature published to date finds that the increase in losses can be explained entirely by societal changes (such as increasing wealth, structures, population, etc.) in locations prone to tropical cyclone landfalls, rather than by changes in annual storm frequency or intensity." However, they note that "some in the public, media, and the insurance industry continue to point to human-caused climate change as a factor responsible for at least part of the observed increase in TC-related economic losses in recent decades," citing as examples the writings of Gillis (2010), Mills (2005) and Munich RE (2010).
What was done
"Using currently available historical TC best-track records," in the words of Weinkle et al., they constructed "a global database focused on global or individual basin trends in the frequency or intensity of landfalling TCs of minor or major hurricane strength."
What was learned
The three U.S. researchers identified considerable interannual variability in the frequency of global hurricane landfalls; but they say that "within the resolution of the available data, our evidence does not support the presence of significant long-period global or individual basin linear trends for minor, major or total hurricanes within the period(s) covered by the available quality data."
What it means
In discussing their findings, Weinkle et al. say their long-period analysis "does not support claims that increasing TC landfall frequency or landfall intensity has contributed to concomitantly increasing economic losses." And they conclude with the reassuring fact that their quantitative analysis of global hurricane landfalls "is consistent with previous research focused on normalized losses associated with hurricanes that have found no trends once data are properly adjusted for societal factors (e.g., Pielke et al., 2008; Crompton and McAneney, 2008; Neumayer and Barthel, 2011; Barthel and Neumayer, 2012; Bouwer, 2011; Raghavan and Rajesh, 2003)."
Barthel, F. and Neumayer, E. 2012. A trend analysis of normalized insured damage from natural disasters. Climatic Change: 10.1007/s10584-011-0331-2.
Bouwer, L.M. 2011. Have disaster losses increased due to anthropogenic climate change? Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 92: 39-46.
Crompton, R.P. and McAneney, K.J. 2008. Normalized Australian insured losses from meteorological hazards: 1967-2006. Environmental Science and Policy 11: 371-378.
Gillis, J. 2010. In weather chaos, a case for global warming. New York Times, A1, 15 August, New York, New York, USA.
Mills, E. 2005. Insurance in a climate of change. Science 309: 1040-1044.
Munich RE. 2010. Natural Catastrophes 2009: Analysis, Assessments, Positions. Topics Geo. Rep., 40 pp.
Neumayer, E. and Barthel, F. 2011. Normalizing economic loss from natural disasters: A global analysis. Global Environmental Change 21: 13-24.
Pielke Jr., R.A., Gratz, J., Landsea, C.W., Collins, D., Saunders, M.A. and Musulin, R. 2008. Normalized hurricane damage in the United States: 1900-2005. Natural Hazards Review 9: 29-42.
Raghavan, S. and Rajesh, S. 2003. Trends in tropical cyclone impact: A study in Andhra Pradesh, India. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 84: 635-644.Reviewed 12 December 2012