ABC Recycles Story Blaming Global Warming for Recent Hurricane Intensity

History seemed to repeat itself on Monday's World News with Charles Gibson, as substitute anchor Dan Harris introduced a story, filed by ABC correspondent John Berman, which highlighted the view of "some scientists" that global warming is responsible for an increase in the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes in recent decades. Not only did the same Harris/Berman team file a similar story over two years ago on the July 9, 2005 show, then known as World News Tonight, but Monday's report also recycled soundbites of two scientists from the earlier story. Berman, from Monday September 3: "Across the globe, the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled over the past 30 years. Some scientists say the cause is global warming." Notably, two years ago on the July 15, 2005 World News Tonight, ABC's Jeffrey Kofman filed a story dismissing the influence of global warming, contradicting Berman's July 9 story from the previous week. (Transcripts follow)

On Monday's show, after relaying that Hurricane Felix is headed for Central America, Harris introduced the report: "Storms this powerful are supposed to be extremely rare, but this is the second such storm in two weeks. And some climatologists are warning there will be more. Here's ABC's John Berman."

Berman relayed that the frequency of category 4 and 5 storms is increasing, as he highlighted the theory that global warming is the underlying cause. Berman: "Studies show mammoth storms could be on the rise. Across the globe, the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled over the past 30 years. Some scientists say the cause is global warming."

On the July 9, 2005 World News Tonight, Harris introduced Berman's story: "Scientists have been surprised by the intensity of recent storm systems, and they're wondering whether global warming may be playing a role. At its peak yesterday, Dennis was the strongest July hurricane ever reported off the U.S. coast. As ABC's John Berman reports, that record may not stand for long."

Berman similarly pointed to studies showing an increase in high-intensity hurricanes. Berman: "It could get even worse. According to a comprehensive study, hurricanes will become even more intense because of global warming -- the idea that greenhouse gases are heating the earth's atmosphere and oceans."

Monday's story recycled clips of NOAA's Tom Knutson and Old Dominion University's Robert Tuleya first used in the July 9, 2005 story:

TOM KNUTSON, NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab: Those storms that do occur are going to have the potential to be significantly stronger in a warmer climate.
...

Prof. ROBERT TULEYA, Old Dominion University: It could be the difference between, say, a roof staying on the house and the roof being ripped off.
...

KNUTSON: In our simulations, you end up with some of these really monster storms.

On the July 15, 2005, World News Tonight, Elizabeth Vargas introduced a story filed by Jeffrey Kofman that contradicted Berman's July 9 story as he cited scientists who blamed that year's intense hurriane season on other factors, dismissing the role of global warming. Kofman: "Scientists say this is not because of global warming, it is simply a lot of cyclical climate patterns conspiring to create the perfect conditions for a long season of perfect storms."

So if Monday's World News with Charles Gibson has you worried, take comfort in the possibility that Vargas and Kofman will show up on Sunday and say it was all just a bad dream.

Also of note, just two weeks ago on the August 21 The O'Reilly Factor on FNC, AccuWeather senior meteorologist Joe Bastardi argued that the trend toward stronger storms is not caused by global warming, but is instead part of a normal cycle that has been observed multiple times in the past century. Bastardi: "We're back in the '30's, '40's and 50's. This back and forth cycle that occurs, we saw it in the 1890s to 1910. ... And people are just getting carried away and fascinated when, if they go back and look at what happened before, you can see the similarities."

Below are complete transcripts of Berman's stories from the Monday September 3, 2007 World News with Charles Gibson, and the July 9, 2005 World News Tonight, followed by Kofman's story from the July 15, 2005 World News Tonight:

From the September 3, 2007 World News with Charles Gibson:

DAN HARRIS: There is another massive hurricane charging across the Caribbean tonight. Hurricane Felix is expected to slam into Central America tomorrow morning with a potential storm surge of 18 feet. Storms this powerful are supposed to be extremely rare, but this is the second such storm in two weeks. And some climatologists are warning there will be more. Here's ABC's John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN: Two weeks ago, it was Hurricane Dean with winds of 160 miles per hour. Now, it's Felix, with winds of 145 miles per hour. A powerful one-two punch.

BERNIE RAYNO, AccuWeather.com: Once you get into 4 to category 5 hurricanes, you're going to see catastrophic damage.

BERMAN: Category 5 hurricanes carry winds over 155 miles an hour. Only three storms of that magnitude have made landfall in the U.S. since the government start keeping records. The last was Hurricane Andrew in 1992. But studies show mammoth storms could be on the rise. Across the globe, the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled over the past 30 years. Some scientists say the cause is global warming.

TOM KNUTSON, NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab: Those storms that do occur are going to have the potential to be significantly stronger in a warmer climate.

BERMAN: Over the past 25 years, tropical ocean temperatures have increased by about half a degree Celsius. Hurricanes get their strength from warm ocean water. Higher water temperatures means more energy for the storms. In a simulation of more than 1,000 storms, scientists found that within 80 years, the average hurricane strength will increase by half a category in the five-step scale.

Prof. ROBERT TULEYA, Old Dominion University: It could be the difference between, say, a roof staying on the house and the roof being ripped off.

BERMAN: Average wind speed could jump 15 miles an hour. Rainfall could increase by two inches.

TULEYA: In our simulations, you end up with some of these really monster storms.

BERMAN: The good news is that these storms were on a computer. However, storms like Dean and Felix are real. John Berman, ABC News, New York.


From the Saturday July 9, 2005 World News Tonight:

DAN HARRIS: "Scientists have been surprised by the intensity of recent storm systems, and they're wondering whether global warming may be playing a role. At its peak yesterday, Dennis was the strongest July hurricane ever reported off the U.S. coast. As ABC's John Berman reports, that record may not stand for long."

JOHN BERMAN: "In Florida, they know just how powerful hurricanes can be. Over the last year, they have been reminded more times than they care to count."

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: "I've had enough hurricanes."

BERMAN: "But it could get even worse. According to a comprehensive study, hurricanes will become even more intense because of global warming -- the idea that greenhouse gases are heating the earth's atmosphere and oceans."

TOM KNUTSON, NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab Climate Modeler: "Those storms that do occur are going to have the potential to be significantly stronger in a warmer climate."

BERMAN: "Hurricanes get their strength from warm ocean water. Higher water temperatures mean more energy for the storms."

KNUTSON: "As a storm is moving across the ocean, it's evaporating water from the ocean's surface, and that's supplying the fuel for the storm."

BERMAN: "Tom Knutson is lead author of the study which used one of the world's most powerful computers to simulate 1,300 virtual storms. He found that within 80 years, the average hurricane strength will increase by half a category in the five-step scale of destructive power."

Prof. ROBERT TULEYA, Old Dominion University: "It could be the difference between, say, a roof staying on the house and the roof being ripped off."

BERMAN: "Average wind speed could jump 15 miles an hour, rainfall two inches and storm surge several feet."

TULEYA: "In our simulations, you end up with some of these really monster storms."

BERMAN: "The study says nothing about how global warming will affect the frequency of hurricanes, but the researchers say that is next on their agenda. The residents of Florida will be waiting. John Berman, ABC News, New York."

From the Friday July 15, 2005 World News Tonight:

ELIZABETH VARGAS: "Another major storm is causing misery in the Caribbean. Tonight, Hurricane Emily has winds of 115 miles per hour and could threaten Texas by Tuesday. It is the fifth named Atlantic storm since June 1st. the first time since they began keeping records in 1851 that so many major storms have formed so early. So for our 'Closer Look' this evening, what's behind all this? And are more deadly hurricanes on the way? Here's ABC's Jeffrey Kofman."

JEFFREY KOFMAN: "Last week, Hurricane Dennis, now Hurricane Emily. July is supposed to be low season for hurricanes. But it seems just like peak season, late August, early September. And there are good reasons."

STAN GOLDENBERG, NOAA Meteorologist: "Really, what you have is you have just a combination of a lot of favorable factors hitting the Atlantic right now, setting up for a very, very active year, which has already really started now."

KOFMAN: "The first named storms of the season -- Arlene, Bret and Cindy -- had limited punch. Dennis and now Emily are different, born from storms blowing off the coast of Africa in an area meteorologists call the Tropical Box, where warm water acts like jet fuel for hurricanes. Usually, these waters stay cool until late August, but already this July, the entire area of the Atlantic where hurricanes form is two to four degrees warmer than normal."

BRUCE ALBRECHT, University of Miami Meteorologist: "This time of the year, we don't expect to see hurricanes forming off systems that come off the African coast. And this year is an exception to that."

KOFMAN: "And then, there's the Bermuda high, a high-pressure system that is sitting over the north Atlantic. Right now, it stretches almost to American shores. Hurricanes can't penetrate it, so they are forced westward to the Caribbean, Florida and the Gulf. Even the wind patterns over the Atlantic this summer are helping the hurricanes thrive."

GOLDENBERG: "Yes, we're seeing a lot in June, July so far. But, really, I would expect the worst is yet to come. We've got a lot of activity to go. This is going to be a very, very busy year."

KOFMAN: "Scientists say this is not because of global warming, it is simply a lot of cyclical climate patterns conspiring to create the perfect conditions for a long season of perfect storms. Jeffrey Kofman, ABC News, Miami."