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The BBC & Cyclone Idai

March 21, 2019

By Paul Homewood



BBC blames Cyclone Idai on climate change:



Unless a rich benefactor steps in, the role of human-induced climate change in Cyclone Idai is unlikely to be clearly determined.

The scientists with the expertise simply don’t have the resources to do the large amount of computer modelling required.

However, there are a number of conclusions about rising temperatures that researchers have gleaned from previous studies on tropical cyclones in the region. While Cyclone Idai is the seventh such major storm of the Indian Ocean season – more than double the average for this time of year – the long-term trend does not support the idea that these type of events are now more frequent.

"The interesting thing for the area is that the frequency of tropical cyclones has decreased ever so slightly over the last 70 years," said Dr Jennifer Fitchett from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa who has studied the question.

"Instead, we are getting a much higher frequency of high-intensity storms."

Climate change is also changing a number of factors in the background that are contributing to making the impact of these storms worse.

"There is absolutely no doubt that when there is a tropical cyclone like this, then because of climate change the rainfall intensities are higher," said Dr Friederike Otto, from the University of Oxford, who has carried a number of studies looking at the influence of warming on specific events.

"And also because of sea-level rise, the resulting flooding is more intense than it would be without human-induced climate change."


Whatever arguments about the impacts of climate change on tropical cyclones, the damage caused in Mozambique has much more to do with the vulnerability of people on the ground than rising temperatures.

"If you look at North America, they are experiencing Category 5 cyclones quite regularly now, and they don’t experience the level of damage that Mozambique is seeing," said Dr Fitchett.

"When a storm like this comes along, the potential for devastation is infinitely higher. A city like Beria is at much higher risk, because not only have you many more people there, it’s also so much more difficult for them to get out."


Usual BBC tactics – find a junk scientist to spout falsehoods which they could not get away with themselves.

If McGrath bothered to check the actual data, he would find that Accumulated Cyclone Energy has actually been declining in the Southern Hemisphere:




Sea levels are barely rising at all around Mozambique:



And despite the assertion that there is absolutely no doubt that when there is a tropical cyclone like this, then because of climate change the rainfall intensities are higher, even the IPCC has had to admit that there is little empirical evidence to back this up.


The competence of the BBC’s junk scientist, Jennifer Fitchett, is called into question, when she baldly states “If you look at North America, they are experiencing Category 5 cyclones quite regularly now


In fact the last hurricane to hit North America at Cat 5 was Dean in 2007, when it made landfall in Mexico. The previous one was Andrew in 1992. In all there have only been seven such hurricanes since the Labor Day one in 1935.

Surely any scientist who claims to know about hurricanes should know all of this?

But when did the BBC ever bother with facts, where climate change is concerned?

  1. HotScot permalink
    March 21, 2019 12:45 pm

    The scientists with the expertise simply don’t have the resources to do the large amount of computer modelling required.


    • March 21, 2019 1:12 pm

      That applies particularly to Prof Otto, acting head (i.e. fundraiser) of the Environmental Change Institute somehow attached to Oxford University.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      March 21, 2019 1:55 pm

      Look at the data perhaps? Oh, yeah, silly me, that might show the truth where you can produce a model to give BS!

  2. Bloke down the pub permalink
    March 21, 2019 12:45 pm

    I sense a complaint to the BBC coming on.

  3. HotScot permalink
    March 21, 2019 12:50 pm

    Instead, we are getting a much higher frequency of high-intensity storms.

    Except on the East coast of the USA which, before 2017, had gone 12 years without landfall of a major hurricane.

    By the metric that Idai is evidence of climate change, the same must be true of the lack of hurricanes in the US over that 12 year period. No climate change for 12 years then.

    Condemned by their own puerile logic!

  4. March 21, 2019 1:00 pm

    “The factors controlling the intensity of TCs are poorly understood due to complex mechanisms[DeMaria et al., 2005], including internal dynamics [Gray, 1979;D’Asaro et al., 2011], upper-ocean interaction[Holliday and Thompson, 1979;Mainelli et al., 2008;Lin et al., 2005, 2008, 2009a, 2009b, 2011;Pun et al., 2011;Lin et al., 2013a;Vincent et al., 2014;Balaguru et al., 2015] and TC interaction with the surrounding environ-ment [Merrill, 1988;Emanuel andZivkovic-Rothman, 1999;Emanuel et al., 2004]. While tropical cyclone tracks are broadly determined by the large-scale steering flow, storm intensity is influenced to a greater extent by smaller-scale features both in the atmosphere and ocean [Emanuel, 1986].”

    Click to access variability-of-upper-ocean-characteristics-and-tropical-cyclones-in-the-south-west-indian-ocean.pdf

  5. johnbillscott permalink
    March 21, 2019 1:00 pm

    Without linkages this event was episodic event – nothing to see here. Given the failure of modelling how would more study adduce anything.

    As Climate Change is being used as a cause for everything, I venture to say the Brexit Storm must be due to it.

    • bobn permalink
      March 21, 2019 3:19 pm

      My dog was sick this morning, because of climate change, oops maybe it was brexit that made her sick? maybe it was a climate brexit breakfast change. Yes thats it. Climate brexit breakfast change caused an earthquake yesterday. Hell, i’m so factual i should be on the BBC!

  6. It doesn't add up... permalink
    March 21, 2019 1:11 pm

    A city like Beria

    I’m sure that mass murdering Stalinists cross the minds of these people sooner than the port of Beira.

    I was down in South Africa about 20 years ago when a similar storm had hit Mozambique, forcing me to choose a different safari as the runway was underwater at my original choice. The flooding in Mozambique was extensive and at least it was reported without climate change allgations by the South African media.

  7. March 21, 2019 1:30 pm

    The common thread behind this BBC article is geography, both Fitchett and Otto are geographers, not scientists. I wonder if McGrath knows that. They are entitled to talk about the phenomenology of cyclones, as long as they get it right, but not about explanations.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      March 21, 2019 1:57 pm

      You might be making the mistake of assuming that McGrath wished to produce an accurate article. Past form and his chosen employment suggests he didn’t.

    • March 21, 2019 6:11 pm

      Fitchett is behind the recent astonishing claim, even more astonishingly unchallenged, that the first CAT 5 cyclone in the Indian Ocean occurred in 1994:

      Everybody (including Fitchett) knows that wind speed data are very sparse before around 1980, but outright lies now seem to be OK.

  8. Rowland P permalink
    March 21, 2019 1:46 pm

    Climate is one of the most complex, non-linear, chaotic systems known to man (or person!) To ignore chaos is fraud. To claim that any extreme weather event is caused by man’s activities is fraud.

  9. Ian permalink
    March 21, 2019 3:24 pm

    Isn’t it a bit rich that the BBC empoys “fact checkers” to ensure Brexiteers don’t get away with anything, but go in entirely the opposite direction on this topic?

  10. Phoenix44 permalink
    March 21, 2019 4:13 pm

    If you need millions to build a computer model to find out, i can tell you the answer now for free – it played no role.

  11. hearle permalink
    March 21, 2019 5:47 pm

    1 The Maputo tide gauge station appears not to have enough consistent data to make any conclusion about sea level. Perhaps satellite data might show something more definitive.
    2 In any other business you would be fired for the consistent falsehoods such as the climate journalist at the BBC write because your business would be sued for fraud. The once reliable BBC has become a propaganda institution for the leftist /green/UN agenda. The last time this happened was the mid to late 30’s in Germany. History is repeating itself. How easy it was for the NAZI’s to manipulate the youth at the time! We live in dangerous times and it is not the climate we need to worry about.

  12. MrGrimNasty permalink
    March 21, 2019 6:14 pm

    I haven’t looked at the detail much but when I started digging around a few days ago it looked like records of storms hitting S.Africa are the most incomplete of all globally, but I immediately found Eline in Feb.2000 which seems to have had pretty much the same levels of deaths/damage. So it is probably typical of occasional weather in the area.

    Of course without fossil fuels no one would be rescued, or fed, and no rapid or substantial rebuilding would happen.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      March 21, 2019 9:06 pm

      That would have been the one I referred to in my post above. You remind me it was February. I couldn’t get into Skukuza (not far from the Mozambique border at the Southern end of Kruger NP), so went to Timbavati via Hoedspruit instead. I missed out on the hippos in consequence, but we had several leopard sightings including floodlit by the Land Rover at night up a tree along with the rest of the “Big 5”. It had dumped just enough rain into the Oliphants River that our Land Rover got stuck attempting to cross a ford at one point, and we had to be winched out. Since then they have had some white lions again. The preceding rain meant that the dust was kept down, which improved photography – but it also meant the bush was lush, which made some sighting more difficult. Still, off-roading helped. You could see how the rainy season would have flooded the river much more substantially from the water scouring of the landscape.

  13. March 21, 2019 10:53 pm

    If alarmists think they can see what they wanted to see in weather or nature – that’s ‘climate change’, meaning you naughty humans. Anything else can be ignored or waved away in their blinkered world view.

  14. March 22, 2019 9:55 am

    Would like to share my work on trends in tropical cyclone activity and its relationship with SST.

  15. March 22, 2019 2:20 pm

    The Pungwe flats are what they are, a flood plain. So it is not surprising that the are subject to flooding. Beira as well and I well recall Beira being flooded knee deep,and after a few hours, tumbleweed would be blowing down the streets. In 1975 there were, statistically, 4 number 1000 year rainfall events in present day Zimbabwe.

  16. Slipknot permalink
    March 22, 2019 7:35 pm

    A Zim I was talking to earlier today said a friend once sent him some shots of snow in Gwelo, central Zimbabwe. Several feet of it, almost unheard of, water table wonderfully replenished so everyone delighted.

  17. MrGrimNasty permalink
    March 22, 2019 7:47 pm

    1971 Felic(i)e 42,650 km2 flooded – “worst in history” (3,000km2 claimed for Idai?).

    1966 Claude 22-25″ rain claimed. (24″ highest claimed for Idai?)

    Hardly looks like Idai is ‘unprecedented’.

  18. manicbeancounter permalink
    March 25, 2019 2:51 pm

    Dr Jennifer Fitchett’s claim on Mozambique cyclones is

    “Instead, we are getting a much higher frequency of high-intensity storms.”

    This is based on Fitchett and Grab 2014 “A 66‐year tropical cyclone record for south‐east Africa: temporal trends in a global context”.

    From Table 1 details the recorded cyclones in Madagascar and Mozambique. I have listed the deaths from these events.

    In Mozambique there was a War of Independence covering 1964-1974 and, following Independence, a Civil War 1977-1992. During this period I find it unsurprising that there is a lack of data.

    • manicbeancounter permalink
      March 25, 2019 3:04 pm

      Another “anomaly” I have found in McGarth’s report. A BBC update report on Sunday 24th states

      The new figure puts the overall death toll at about 700 people across Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
      The storm has killed at least 259 people in Zimbabwe, while in Malawi 56 people died when heavy rains hit ahead of the cyclone.

      How would sea level rise of a few centimeters have impacted on the severity of flooding in land-locked Zimbabwe and Malawi? Both are at well over 100 miles from the sea. Even a few meters of sea level rise would make no difference. Maybe climatology, does not teach people to look at a map.

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