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BBC Hurricane Complaint

November 25, 2022

By Paul Homewood


I submitted two complaints to the BBC last month, but never got the usual automatic acknowledgements, so I contacted the Executive Complaints Unit asking them to check if they had received them. They assured me they were.

But strangely a few days later I received responses to two other complaints from last year, which I had forgotten about. It made me wonder if they have a blacklist with my name on!

Anyway, one of the responses concerned this report in December 2021:


The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season has now officially ended, and it’s been the third most active on record.

Though the last month has seen little tropical storm activity, all the pre-determined names have been exhausted for the second year in a row.

There were 21 named tropical storms, including seven hurricanes, four of which were major hurricanes – where wind speeds were 111mph or greater.

This puts 2021 behind 2020 and 2005 – the first and second most active years.

As my post at the time noted, the 2021 hurricane season did not have the third highest number of hurricanes. Since 1851, there had been 50 other years with as many or more than the seven recorded this year in the Atlantic.


It was true that last year recorded the third highest number of tropical storms, a totally different thing. I therefore called on the BBC to issue a correction to this effect.

But I also pointed out that in recent years we are now able to spot more storms:


It is true that this year has had the third highest count of TROPICAL STORMS, a category which includes weaker storms as well as hurricanes. But this is largely due to changes in observing practices. Nowadays every single storm is monitored by satellite, whereas in the past many crossed the ocean unobserved.

Dr Neil Frank, who was Director of the US National Hurricane Center from 1974 to 1987 goes further, maintaining that many of the storms now named would not have been in his day.

He made two particular complaints about current methods last year:

1) Many named storms are actually winter storms, not tropical storms. He states that the first six tropical storms last year would not have been counted in his time.

2) Nowadays the NHC rushes to name a storm, simply based on wind speeds. His team would have waited until the central pressure dropped to confirm that it really was a tropical storm, and not just a thunderstorm. This often explains why named storms are often so short lasting now.

Indeed the BBC itself published an article making this very point a few months earlier, written by the same reporter!

These changes in observing practices of course totally undermined the BBC claims of “third most active season”. So I also asked them to add an explanatory note about this.

In their response, they made their usual attempt to fob me off and not actually answer the issues I had raised:

It is not the BBC making the claim you highlight, the source of that is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Noaa. Their report on the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season says:
This year was the third most active year on record in terms of named storms, it marks the sixth consecutive above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, and this was the first time on record that two consecutive hurricane seasons exhausted the list of 21 storm names.
The Editorial Guidelines recognise the BBC can report the views of credible and named individuals and organisations so long as such views are appropriately attributed. In the case of this article, readers would have understood it presented the informed views of the Noaa.
Regarding your second concern that the article you have raised concerns about not including some information included in your email and taken from an earlier item by the same journalist, I considered whether the omission of this information undermined the article and in my view it does not. 
It’s not possible for every individual article on a topic to include every element of a story that some readers may like included. It is the job of the BBC news editors to decide on the content of individual articles.
However, the article did include information about any impact of climate change, which you have raised in your email. It says:

What role does climate change have in tropical storms?

While scientists expect climate change to make huge storms worse, the latest report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggested with "medium confidence" that the global frequency of tropical cyclone formation will decrease or remain unchanged with increasing global warming.
With warmer oceans you get more fuel for a tropical storm or hurricane to develop and, according to the IPCC, "it’s likely that the frequency of rapid intensification in tropical cyclones has increased globally over the last 40 years".
The report goes on to conclude with "high confidence" that the proportion of intense tropical cyclones will increase on the global scale with increasing warming.
In other words, the tropical cyclones that form are likely to become more intense which, if they hit land, will bring more impacts.

Naturally I have resubmitted my complaint, which will trigger Stage 2 of the complaints process. Keeping it simple, I have said:

Your headline claims 2021 hurricane season was third most active.
As I have already pointed out, there have been 50 other years with as many or more hurricanes. The third most active claim refers to Tropical Storms, not Hurricanes, so this needs to be corrected.
As I also pointed out, many more tropical storms are observed these days thanks to satellites. In the past they still occurred but were not spotted. The BBC itself has acknowledged this fact in an earlier article by the same reporter.
It is therefore grossly misleading to claim "3rd most active" without explaining that many storms in the past were not recorded

  1. drkenpollock permalink
    November 25, 2022 10:57 am

    Good stuff, Paul. Any reader of your blog will have noticed that the BBC thinks that IPCC stands for “International” Panel on Climate Change, while you and they know it is the “Intergovernmental” Panel…Why should one expect the BBC Complaints experts to be accurate on such a minor detail? And who talks about the Noaa, and not the NOAA???
    Peripheral points, but they betray the amateurish approach to complaints by the BBC – even at the higher level of the ECU! What hope is there???

    • November 25, 2022 3:50 pm

      “the BBC thinks that IPCC stands for “International” Panel on Climate Change, while you and they know it is the “Intergovernmental” Panel…Why should one expect the BBC Complaints experts to be accurate on such a minor detail? And who talks about the Noaa, and not the NOAA???”

      A humanities graduate perhaps?

      I challenge your view that their approach to complaints is amateurish. In factual detail yes but in weasel words no. These are skilled slimeballs who’s art is that of deflection.

    • November 25, 2022 5:58 pm

      Quite important as using ‘international’ suggests it is free from politics and honest whereas ‘intergovernmental’ should tell you that is political and dishonest.

      • drkenpollock permalink
        November 25, 2022 9:54 pm

        Brilliant, Gerry. Got it in one…

  2. HotScot permalink
    November 25, 2022 11:28 am

    the International [sic] Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggested with “medium confidence”.

    Defined as a 50:50 chance, so as good as a coin toss.

    • dennisambler permalink
      November 25, 2022 2:54 pm

      These expressions of confidence are based on “expert opinion”. Guess who the experts are…

      • HotScot permalink
        November 25, 2022 7:01 pm

        I’m not a coin tosser I’m a coin tossers mate and I’m only tossing coins coz Klaus Schwab’s the tosser……..

  3. Ben Vorlich permalink
    November 25, 2022 11:31 am

    I’m sure the BBC has a list of serial complainants. I’ve been told mine will be carefully monitored in future in one of the responses.
    I liked the bit about running out of names as being a criteria for severe storm counts.

    • dennisambler permalink
      November 25, 2022 2:55 pm

      It’s why the Met office started naming storms.

    • November 25, 2022 3:51 pm

      Surprised the PC BCC has not jumped at the obvious, namely to suggest that Western names are elitist and of course racist!

  4. MrGrimNasty permalink
    November 25, 2022 11:38 am

    Brick wall head bashing.
    After speed reading their ‘rules’ again, as far as I can see you won’t get any satisfaction from this angle of attack. As they say, they have merely reported an ‘expert’ opinion. Their rules do not require them to place context or counter opinion in every individual article.

    • November 28, 2022 7:16 am

      We can debate the term “expert”. Also it is compelling that in the name of cyense, the BBC only inform of one side of the argument albeit one which is made up of claims and assertions supported at best by minimal and selective use of data, something which should cause shouts of protestation from supposed scientists.

      • catweazle666 permalink
        November 28, 2022 1:30 pm

        “Ex-spurt”, a drip under pressure.

  5. Joe Public permalink
    November 25, 2022 11:46 am

    Well done Paul, keep up the pressure on the mis- and dis-informers.

    “It is not the BBC making the claim you highlight, the source of that is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Noaa.”

    That BBC statement is wrong.

    It’d be correct if the headline was “NOAA claims ‘2021 hurricane season was third most active’ ” or similar.

    “The Editorial Guidelines recognise the BBC can report the views of credible and named individuals and organisations so long as such views are appropriately attributed.”

    Attribution begins only at the 5th paragraph:

    “Matthew Rosencrans, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (Noaa) Climate Prediction Center in the US, said …”

    In addition, the BBC seems to think their response to you absolves them from responsibility for due diligence.

  6. It doesn't add up... permalink
    November 25, 2022 11:51 am

    The BBC seem to think that it is quite in order to quote misinformation (whether intentional or accidental) from sources they want us to regard as authoritative without attempting to verify it. Time was when journalists did not run a story without proper corroboration.

    Perhaps you should volunteer as a fact checker for a modest retainer?

  7. Ben Vorlich permalink
    November 25, 2022 2:13 pm

    In case this doesn’t make it to the BBC. Something missing from computer models, who’d have thought that could happen.

    Scientists on a research vessel in Antarctica watched the front of a glacier disintegrate and their measurements “went off the scale.” As well as witnessing disruptions on the ocean surface, they recorded “internal” underwater tsunamis as tall as a house, a phenomenon that has been previously missed in the understanding of ocean mixing and in computer models.

    • drkenpollock permalink
      November 25, 2022 2:48 pm

      Careful now, Ben! You and I know there are volcanoes on the sea floor in this area, but we must not let on. Would spoil the narrative of “global warming” – they are, after all, a purely natural phenomenon, nothing to do with us burning fossil fuels…

    • saighdear permalink
      November 25, 2022 9:59 pm

      Link didn’t work tonight: Search results for 2022-11-underwater-tsunamis
      No results

  8. November 25, 2022 4:04 pm

    The 2022 Atlantic hurricane season was a big letdown for climate botherers. The BBC must be gutted.

    • dave permalink
      November 25, 2022 8:43 pm

      “The dogs bark and the Caravan moves on.”

      Omar Khayam is telling whomever will listen that nothing in the past matters. And since our present will soon be the past… nothing matters. Is this a worrying thought or is it a blessed relief?

  9. Gamecock permalink
    November 25, 2022 4:51 pm

    Britain’s last hope is for Elon to buy the BBC.

    • November 25, 2022 5:10 pm

      Perhaps he might buy Britain as well!

      • HotScot permalink
        November 25, 2022 7:03 pm

        Would that make us all Twit’s?

      • dave permalink
        November 25, 2022 8:50 pm

        “…buy Britain…”

        Unfortunately he only has “funny money.”

        But it is getting urgent;

        “Sell when you can: you are not for all markets!”

        Shakespeare’s heroine was brutally saying to a girl who was being choosy about whom to marry that she was no great catch!

  10. Bob Webster permalink
    November 25, 2022 8:41 pm

    This year was a low year for hurricanes, and there was little the NHC could do about it. Cold waters helped.

    The last storm, Nicole, was claimed to be a Hurricane, yet there is no evidence of sustained hurricane force winds over any land area, and only briefly was Nicole over the waters between the Bahamas and the central Florida coast (Nicole made landfall at Vero Beach, Florida).

    The NHC claimedNicole reached 75 mph sustained winds (one mph above hurricane threshold) over the 90 miles from the Bahamas to the Florida coast, but on what basis?

    The hourly records at the weather station at Vero Beach airport, showed the eye passed around 3 am Thursday, November 10. At 2 am, sustained winds from the north were below tropical storm strength, with gusts into low 50s. At 3 am very light northerly wind of 5 mph, no gusts. At 4 am south winds well below tropical storm strength, gusts to low 50s. A perfect record of an “eye” or storm center passing from east to west over the recording station.

    In the many decades I’ve followed the course of tropical storms & hurricanes, I have NEVER known of any storm that was less than a tropical storm at landfall subsequently become a minimal hurricane over land! It just doesn’t happen.

    Yet the NHC would have us believe a hurricane (Nicole?) struck Vero Beach when, in fact, no evidence (from recordings or damage) exists to confirm that even a tropical storm (or subtropical storm, based on where Nicole formed) came ashore!

    I wonder if the people at NHC are related to the election commissioners in Maricopa County, Arizona. Both see things that aren’t there and don’t see things that are!

    • Gamecock permalink
      November 25, 2022 9:37 pm

      “Cold waters helped.”

      [citation needed]

      An absurd assertion.

      • Bob Webster permalink
        November 26, 2022 1:01 pm

        To clarify: Cooler waters in the Atlantic Basin helped reduce tropical storm formation.

  11. Gamecock permalink
    November 26, 2022 1:07 pm

    The waters weren’t cooler this year.

    Hurricane formation is NOT a function of water temperatures. Water temp is NOT a limiting factor: the waters are ALWAYS warm enough.

    Your weather data is wrong. Your understanding of hurricane formation is wrong.

    • Bob Webster permalink
      November 26, 2022 1:37 pm

      “Hurricane formation is NOT a function of water temperatures.” Really?

      Tropical storm formation is not ONLY a function of water temperatures. Indeed, water temperatures alone aren’t enough to create a tropical storm or intensify a tropical storm into a hurricane. But to suggest that water temperature plays no role in the formation/development of tropical storms into hurricanes is as inaccurate as claiming atmospheric CO2 changes are responsible for climate change.

  12. November 27, 2022 3:05 pm

    Reblogged this on Calculus of Decay .

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