This paper reviews recent research on tropical cyclones and climate change from the perspective of event risk—the physical behavior of storms; vulnerability—the characteristics of a system that create the potential for impacts, but are independent of event risk; and also outcome risk—the integration of considerations of vulnerability with event risk to characterize an event that causes losses. The paper concludes that with no trend identified in various metrics of hurricane damage over the twentieth century, it is exceedingly unlikely that scientists will identify large changes in historical storm behavior that have significant societal implications, though scientists may identify discernible changes in storm behavior. Looking to the future, until scientists conclude a) that there will be changes to storms that are significantly larger than observed in the past, b) that such changes are correlated to measures of societal impact, and c) that the effects of such changes are significant in the context of inexorable growth in population and property at risk, then it is reasonable to conclude that the significance of any connection of human-caused climate change to hurricane impacts necessarily has been and will continue to be exceedingly small.

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Footnotes

Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado

Hurricane Research Division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, Miami, Florida

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Hurricane Center, Miami, Florida

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Climate Prediction Center, Camp Springs, Maryland

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Hurricane Center, Miami, Florida

*Current affiliation: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Hurricane Center