How A Human-Caused Data Error Created An Increasing Trend In Normalized Hurricane Costs

A “normalization” of past disaster losses seeks to estimate what amount of damage extreme events of the past would cause under today’s societal conditions.

Long-time THB readers will know that the concept of and first methodology for normalization was developed more than 25 years ago by me and Chris Landsea, of the National Hurricane Center, and applied to U.S. landfalling hurricanes. [emphasis, links added]

Since that time, more than 70 peer-reviewed papers have been published building on our methods and seeking to normalize damage time series in regions and countries around the world and for a wide range of phenomena — including floods, tornadoes, extratropical cyclones, convective storms, wildfire, and earthquakes.

With respect to normalized U.S. hurricane losses, both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) AR6 WG and the Sixth U.S. National Climate Assessment (USNCA) have chosen to highlight just one normalization study from this growing literature Grinsted et al. 2018, which I’ll just call G18.

Contrary to every other normalization study of U.S. hurricanes or otherwise, G18 concludes that even after normalizing historical hurricane loss data for changes in population and wealth, there remains an underlying increasing trend in losses that can be attributed to human-caused climate change.

I can report today — in jaw-dropping fashion — that the increasing trend reported in G18 and promoted by IPCC and the USNCA is not the result of human-caused climate change, but rather, it is the result of a human-caused data error that is obvious and undeniable.

I have contacted PNAS to request a retraction and reached out to Dr. Grinsted.

Grab a cup of coffee and read on — this error is obvious and fatal to the research. It requires immediate action by PNAS and corrections by the IPCC and USNCA.

Roger Pielke Jr. has been a professor at the University of Colorado since 2001. Previously, he was a staff scientist in the Environmental and Societal Impacts Group of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He has degrees in mathematics, public policy, and political science, and is the author of numerous books. (Amazon).

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