Former Vice President Al Gore said Monday that Hurricane Harvey brought once in 500,000 year rainfall to parts of Texas, only to be questioned by scientists challenging his data.
“Within the last two weeks we have had two more record-breaking, climate-connected storms,” Gore said at an World Economic Forum summit in New York City.
Gore said that Harvey brought once in 25,000 year rainfall to the greater Houston area, adding that some “parts of Texas received totals that represented a once in 500,000 year event.”
Gore likely got the figures from a report released by the company MetStat, which found “localized maximum recurrence intervals of over 500,000 years or a 0.0002% chance of occurring in any given year.”
Many scientists, however, have shied away from using such phrasing to describe rainfall because of the lack of data. Even MetStat’s analysis admitted “these estimates contain considerable uncertainty.”
“Dang, that’s right up there with his claim on NBC’s tonight Show with Conan O’Brien that the temperature inside the Earth is ‘several million degrees’ at ‘2 kilometers or so down,’” Climatologist Roy Spencer told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Spencer’s e-book reached number 17 on Amazon’s most sold ranking for the week of Sept. 10. Gore’s e-book is ranked 46,059 on the Kindle Store.
Spencer has cautioned readers of his blog to ignore “claims of 500 year flood events” associated with Harvey, “because we don’t have enough measurements over time to determine such things, especially when they also depend on our altering of the landscape over time.”
Gore’s claim of a 500,000 year rain event has even less evidence to back it up. People have not been measuring Texas rainfall long enough to say with any strong certainty this is true. The rainfall data of Texas that does exist can also be spotty the farther back one looks.
Harvey brought record levels of rainfall to Texas in late August, causing widespread flooding and damage to southeastern Texas and parts of Louisiana. Houston got about 50 inches of rain.
Gore tied the storm to man-made global warming. He claimed that Harvey was able to pick up power by crossing warmer-than-normal waters over the Gulf of Mexico and stalling over land due to Arctic Sea ice melt.
“It is a global phenomena and it is getting worse,” Gore said.
Spencer has also taken issue with this claim, pointing to data showing no apparent trend in hurricane activity, despite a warming Gulf of Mexico. He found that “major hurricanes don’t really care whether the Gulf is above average or below average in temperature.”