Al Gore and ‘Category 6 hurricanes’

On Wednesday, I published an interview with Al Gore in which he mentioned that the scientific community was beginning to consider Category 6 hurricanes. The line has attracted some criticism because there are no official plans to add a sixth category to the 1-5 scale. Here's what I had Gore saying:

If you look at superstorm Sandy on October 29th, the ocean water east of New Jersey was nine degrees fahrenheit above average. That’s what put so much more energy into that storm. That’s what put so much more water vapor into that storm. Would there be a storm anyway? Maybe so. Would there be hurricanes and floods and droughts without man-made global warming? Of course. But they’re stronger now. The extreme events are more extreme. The hurricane scale used to be 1-5 and now they’re adding a 6. The fingerprint of man-made global warming is all over these storms and extreme weather events.

But this was also a segment of the interview in which I remembered struggling to keep up with Gore, and when that happens, some nuance can get lost. (A note on methods: In most cases, including this one, I transcribe these interviews in real time, with a tape recorder as back-up. I also, as is always mentioned in the introduction to the interviews, lightly edit for length, clarity, and redundancy).

I'm out-of-town and so away from my tape recorder. So I asked Gore's staff about the line and they have Gore saying:

"The scientists are now adding category six to the hurricane…some are proposing we add category 6 to the hurricane scale that used to be 1-5. "

That doesn't offend my memory of the discussion and it's entirely possible I missed Gore's qualifying sentence while trying to keep up. If so, that's my fault, and I apologize. Gore's staff also clarified the broader intent of Gore's remarks:

Former VP Gore discussed the destructiveness of climate change–fueled extreme weather as being categorically above and beyond the scale we currently use. To clarify, his original comments regarding hurricane measurements were intended to convey this ongoing consideration by the scientific community.

That's how I read that section, too. The part of Gore's argument that struck me came in the preceding paragraph, when he said, "The temperature has increased globally and there’s now 4 percent more water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere than 30 years ago. As a result, every extreme weather event now has a component of global warming in it." This was his larger point, and one worth considering.

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