Cumberland Advisors Guest Commentary – Outlook for the 2019 Hurricane Season

Bob Bunting brings his established credentials, including being a Director of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and a Lead Forecast for NOAA, to this guest commentary. He also mentions the Climate Adaptation Center (CAC), of which he is the CEO and which I personally support with money and effort.

Bob Bunting & David Kotok

We thought it timely to share Bob’s views as we in Florida start the summer red tide season and hurricane season with very warm water, even as we digest the newly released FEMA updates on disaster and contingency planning.

We thank Bob for this guest submission and also for agreeing to speak on July 16 at the joint GIC-Keystone Policy Center meeting in Keystone, Colorado. See: for details.

Editor’s Update: Bob’s July 16, 2019 presentation is available here –

Bob Bunting

And his July 17, 2019 interview in Sarasota, FL can be viewed here:



Now here’s Bob Bunting. -David

The Hurricane Season 2019 Outlook

By Bob Bunting

Hurricane forecasting has become more a science than an art over my multi-decade career, and that is a good thing! The last few years have not been kind to the US mainland and territories. In 2017, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, all Category 4’s at landfall, caused massive flooding or wind damage; and last year, a slightly above-normal season in the Atlantic, was devastating, with two major hurricanes, Florence and Michael, setting records for wind and rain. These five storms traveled over very warm seas and had explosive development (ED) cycles, and Michael struck the panhandle of Florida as a Category 5, the first ever in the region.

As I look at sea-surface temperature anomalies at present, I do not like what I see! In mid-June there are several areas where sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) are 3°C higher than normal, as you can see in the depiction below.

Bob Bunting Hurricane Image

The coolest water, shown in shades of blue, is off the coast of western Mexico and in the northern mid-Atlantic. Warm water is abundant in the South Atlantic and along the East Coast of the US, as well as in the Gulf of Mexico along the Texas and Mexico coasts. The dashed ovals show SSTs that average 1 to 3 degrees C above normal. An area of very warm water, averaging 5°C above normal, lies along the Mid-Atlantic coastline from Cape Cod to North Carolina.


Three of the four areas of warmer than normal SSTs are therefore close to the US mainland and densely populated areas of our country. After the last several years, when we have seen hurricanes develop rapidly from the tropical storm stage all the way to Category 4 and 5 superstorms in just a day or two, we should be concerned!  Incidentally, I have coined a term for such rapid development cycles: explosive development (ED).

During the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, Hurricane Harvey struck the Greater Houston area with peak winds of 130 mph and 60+ inches of rain in places. Then there was Hurricane Irma, which terrorized the Caribbean islands and Florida as it gained and maintained Category 4 and 5 status for days and proved to be the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. Finally, Hurricane Maria rapidly developed and whacked Puerto Rico with upper-Category 4 winds, leveling much of the island.

The 2018 hurricane season was active but with only two major hurricanes. Unfortunately, both of them hit the US. Hurricane Florence struck the Carolinas as just a Category 1 but drowned the area with 30+ inches of rain, a record for that region. Please note that the color-coding of the 2018 hurricanes is slightly different, but you will get the idea.

This is Florence:

Later in the season, Hurricane Michael ripped through the panhandle of Florida as a Category 5 storm.

Together, these five storms did an amazing $295 billion in damage, $265 billion in 2017 and $30 billion in 2018 and killed about 4700 people! Fortunately, last year the two major hurricanes hit the US in relatively sparely populated areas.

What is unusual about the last two seasons is that hurricanes experienced ED cycles where they intensified to Category 5 within a day or two. All these storms except Harvey had pinpoint eyes that were 20 miles or less in diameter.  Take a close look at Michael’s amazing pinhole eye as it came ashore. When storms have this extremely compact eye formation, the winds around the eye are like large tornadoes that wipe the landmass clean. Hurricane Michael showed its fury as it leveled the area around Mexico Beach, Florida, and also mowed down more than a million acres of trees in North Florida and South Georgia. Inland Georgia experienced Category 3 winds for the first time in recorded history.

Two of the five storms, Harvey and Florence, dumped record rains as they stalled on the coastline. This, too, is unusual.

What we know is that SSTs are now much warmer than normal on average. When expansive water bodies like oceans and gulfs are warm, they also tend to warm to a greater depth than usual. When tropical systems move over expansive, warm water bodies they intensify more rapidly than they would over cooler water, all other things being equal. They also gather more moisture in the process and can become very heavy rainmakers, especially if they stall or move slowly as they approach land.
Since 1880, millions of verified observations have shown that the Earth’s average air temperature has risen by almost 2°F. That does not seem like much, but in effect it is! Warmer air holds more moisture. We also know that the poles are heating much faster than the equator is, which means the temperature gradient between the equator and poles is diminishing. When that happens, the jet streams weaken and move poleward. The result can be that hurricanes approaching the mid-latitudes can stall or slow down and dump those record rainfalls.

We also know that since 1880 sea level rise has averaged about 9 inches around the globe. When strong storms hit the coasts, storm surges are not only higher now because storms are stronger but also because the surges come on top of already higher sea levels.

So where do these considerations leave us as we consider the 2019 hurricane season? Thankfully, a weak El Niño event is ongoing in the Pacific. El Niño conditions in the Pacific correlate with stronger wind shear in the Atlantic. When the wind speed increases with increasing height, shear is created. Such conditions inhibit hurricane development by disrupting the vertical organization of storms.

Because we know SSTs are warmer than normal overall and wind shear may be somewhat higher than normal, the forecast is for a near-normal hurricane season this year. Normal is defined as about 12 storms total, with two or three major hurricanes. A major hurricane is considered a Category 3, 4, or 5 storm.

Given the normal season expected, why am I more than a little concerned? Because – and you may already see where I’m going here! – the warm SSTs are close to US shorelines, where tens of millions of people live. Thus, hurricanes approaching the US may spin up more rapidly than normal, as has been the case in recent years. Take Florida, for example. Since the 2000 census, Florida’s population has from grown from 15.3 million to 21.6 million today. Should a hurricane rapidly intensify just off the coast of a heavily populated area and then strike within 24 hours, there would not be time for an orderly evacuation. This is a nightmare scenario for planners and a potential catastrophe when it becomes reality.

With very warm water along the eastern seaboard well north of usual warm water anomalies of the past, this may be the year when a storm moving up the East Coast becomes much stronger faster and then maintains super-hurricane status for much longer than usual.

Why is this potential developing? We cannot say with absolute certainty that any particular storm is a result of climate warming. But what we can say is that much warmer sea surface temperatures create increasing probabilities of bad outcomes.

Climate warming impacts are here now Isn’t it time that we begin to plan, adjust, and mitigate the worst impacts of climate-induced changes like sea level rise and the changing characteristics of hurricanes? We know a lot about how to mitigate, plan, and adjust; but thus far our response has been too slow for the level of threat we now face. This just isn’t smart!

USF Climate Change Event Jan 2019 - Bob Bunting

These are among the threats that have led to the creation of the Climate Adaptation Center (CAC). While the initial center will focus on local and regional climate-related issues in Florida, we hope the first CAC will be a prototype for other CACs worldwide to deal with local impacts. Adaptation and mitigation actions can help us to successfully deal with the worst impacts of a warming climate. While a global solution to the warming climate may evolve in the decades ahead, we now have little choice but to adapt in ways that protect our way of life. Climate warming is not only a problem for future generations; it is a problem for us! For more information about the CAC, please contact me at We need your help now!

David R. Kotok
Chairman and Chief Investment Officer
Email | Bio

Bob Bunting
Atmospheric Scientist, Author, Educator, and Entrepreneur
Email | Bio

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Memorial Day Reflections

“[On Saturday, May 25,] more than 980 cadets became army second lieutenants at West Point’s football stadium. America’s Vice-President, Mike Pence, told them President Trump has proposed a $750bn defense budget for 2020 and said the US ‘is once again embracing our role as the leader of the free world.’

“ ‘It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life,’ Pence said. ‘You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen. Some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere.’

“The class was the most diverse in West Point’s history, and Pence said he wanted to acknowledge ‘the historic milestones that we’re marking today.’ The 2019 cadets included 34 black women and 223 women, both all-time highs since the first female cadets graduated in 1980. The academy graduated its 5,000th woman on Saturday.

“The 110 African Americans who graduated were double the number from 2013. Pence said graduates also included the academy’s 1,000th Jewish cadet.

“Pence did not serve in the military but noted that his late father served in the Korean War.”

(Source: The Guardian, May 26, 2019:

Arlington National Cemetery - Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour

Memorial Day weekend, 2019. Some go to the beach or hike in the mountains or picnic in the park. Others decorate the graves of veterans who served honorably to defend the United States. Others march in parades. Many just hang out. A few still wear poppies.

Ponder the news flow and look around the globe. On every continent but Antarctica we see strife and civil unrest. In many areas we see actual combat. In many more places we see preparations for combat. And belligerency seems to have replaced diplomacy. “Speak softly and carry a big stick” (Teddy Roosevelt, January 26, 1900) has been replaced with “Tweet loudly (using CAPS for emphasis) and be inconsistent and ambiguous.”

The spreading use of Twitter as a political messaging medium has been intensified by President Trump. Indeed, he has managed to make its use ubiquitous. Twitter is now a tool of psychological warfare. Ambiguity and confusion are Trump’s go-to tactics in this modern method of rhetorical warfare.

Technology has always been key to the waging of war, and so it shouldn’t be surprising that these days the battle front has shifted into the realm of digital devices and network security. The effort by several Western nations, including the US, to exclude the Chinese firm Huawei from the build-out of the 5G broadband network is a prominent example of that battle. Here’s an instance of an apparent transgression by Huawei against an American firm: “Huawei is a ‘national security threat’ that tried to steal my tech: Akhan Semiconductor CEO,” . Thank you to Bob Bunting for the link.

Instruments that were originally designed for good work in the biological, communications, and electromagnetic spheres are now the underpinnings of war. All can kill. They necessitate very sophisticated defenses, and change is rapid. 5G is about speed. America’s West Point graduates are taught this lesson.

Another form of warfare is rapidly expanding in the realm of trade, with sanctions, tariffs, and other restrictions meted out as punishments in various economic forms. Money itself is an instrument of war. Since earliest times, money has played that role. Almost 2500 years ago, Athens hired mercenaries to fight against Sparta. Today, Maduro sells his national Venezuelan gold hoard in order to raise the cash to buy the continued loyalty of his key military folks. They will turn on him when the money runs out, just as the Thracians turned on Athens when they weren’t paid what was promised. In some ways, nothing has changed in 2500 years.

In America this Memorial Day we find a deeply divided body politic. The antagonists are diverse and numerous, and the rhetoric is harsh. The protagonists pledge allegiance to their rigid views above all and lack civility. Centrists have no place to hide from the storm, no source of comfort to ease their worry, no leadership backed by a moderate social-historical gestalt to guide them. America seems to be increasingly embroiled in a modernist form of civil war.

So what are we fighting for?

My friend Michael Drury has reminded me that the Second Amendment to the US Constitution is number two for a reason. He argues that the numbering sequence in the Bill of Rights is quite intentional. In the American Revolutionary War, the British were headed for the armory in Concord to seize the guns kept there by the nationalist militia.

But what were the guns protecting?

It is the words of the First Amendment that set our nation on its democratic path. Those 45 words protect us. Religion, speech, press, assembly, and the right to petition are the five First Amendment freedoms. They are what the guns defend.

Our West Point graduates, the most diverse group of graduates in our nation’s history, are taught that lesson, too.

Jon Meacham concludes his marvelous book, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels (, with this story:

“To the veterans returning to Ohio after the battle, Lincoln made brief remarks as they prepared to go west. No one knew when the war would end; no one knew if Lincoln, who was facing reelection in November, would be president in a matter of months. He spoke not with the poetry of Gettysburg, but his words on that August day said much about why the salvation of the Union would repay any price in blood and toil and treasure. The tall, tired president, his face heavily lined, his burdens unimaginable, was straightforward.

“ ‘It is,’ he said, ‘in order that each one of you may have, through this free government which we have enjoyed, an open field, and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise, and intelligence; that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life with all its desirable human aspiration – it is for this that the struggle should be maintained, that we may not lose our birthrights – not only for one, but for two or three years, if necessary.’ And finally: ‘The nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel.’ ”

Meacham concludes his book with this:

“For all of our darker impulses, for all of our shortcomings, and for all of the dreams denied and deferred, the experiment begun so long ago, carried out so imperfectly, is worth the fight. There is, in fact, no struggle more important, and none nobler, than the one we wage in the service of those better angels who, however besieged, are always ready for battle.”

I’m in Colorado. My Tuesday night speech will be hosted by a West Point graduate. Like those in this year’s class, he is dedicated to patriotism and service to our nation. I thank him for hosting me.

We hope your Memorial Day was safe and pleasant and that it honored those who serve(d) all of us in our great country.

My personal best wishes to Steve, who was a first lieutenant when I was a second lieutenant and who was my senior officer sponsor. And to Skip and all in his family, as I’m thinking of you and them and your experience on one side of the world when I was on its other side.

And I reflect today about my father, who served in the South Pacific; and my first cousin, who served in Korea; and my uncle, who served in Europe; and many others in my family and among friends. We remember you all on Memorial Day.

To all of our readers: please be safe.

David R. Kotok, captain, US Army, 1966–1969
Email | Bio

Links to other websites or electronic media controlled or offered by Third-Parties (non-affiliates of Cumberland Advisors) are provided only as a reference and courtesy to our users. Cumberland Advisors has no control over such websites, does not recommend or endorse any opinions, ideas, products, information, or content of such sites, and makes no warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of their content. Cumberland Advisors hereby disclaims liability for any information, materials, products or services posted or offered at any of the Third-Party websites. The Third-Party may have a privacy and/or security policy different from that of Cumberland Advisors. Therefore, please refer to the specific privacy and security policies of the Third-Party when accessing their websites.

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Cumberland Advisors Market Commentaries offer insights and analysis on upcoming, important economic issues that potentially impact global financial markets. Our team shares their thinking on global economic developments, market news and other factors that often influence investment opportunities and strategies.

Watch Livestream of Climate Change Summit at University South Florida Sarasota-Manatee

Cumberland Advisors’ Patty Healy is participating in the Climate Change Summit held at USF Sarasota-Manatee today, January 25, 2019. She’ll be speaking to the audience about municipal bond ratings relating to how prepared these entities are for severe weather events, the impacts of climate change, and other factors that may affect credit ratings. I’ll be helping out with introductions, interviews, and as an emcee. Bob Bunting, an accomplished entrepreneur and scientist, will lead the conference through many important topics and panel discussions.

If you’re unable to attend in person, the University has provided this “Livestream Link” as a way to watch:

Livestream - Climate Change Summit at University South Florida Sarasota-Manatee 

More details about the Climate Change Summit at the University South Florida Sarasota-Manatee can be found here:

Thank you,

David R. Kotok
Chairman and Chief Investment Officer
Email | Bio

Zika, Climate Change & January 25

On December 30, as 2018 drew to an end, NBC’s Meet the Press aired an entire program on the climate change crisis, well worth watching ( Host Chuck Todd gave no air time to climate change denialism. Instead, the episode plunged into analyzing the crisis at hand, what might be done, what impediments slow our time-critical response, and how to overcome those impediments. Florida Republican Representative Carlos Curbelo, among other program guests, called for constructive action. “We need to stop covering the debate and start covering the story, so that people see that this is real, and so that politicians take a more-pragmatic approach and find solutions that are actually achievable,” Curbelo said. The day after Thanksgiving, despite Mr. Trump’s personal dismissal of climate change, the Trump administration released Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (, and we’ve been digesting its deeply concerning contents in the week since.

The impacts of climate change are myriad, affecting our world, our communities, our health, our food supply, and our investments. We will be taking a look at a number of climate-change-related issues impacting Florida and beyond, from sea level rise to red tide to hurricanes to fruitful adaptive strategies and the economic opportunities they present, when we convene on Friday, January 25, at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee for our one-day event, “Adapting to a Changing Climate: Challenges & Opportunities.” See the full roster of speakers, including our own Patricia Healy, here: We hope to see you there.

In today’s commentary, however, I would like to zero in on the impact of climate change on vector-borne diseases, including Zika. Chapter 14 of the Fourth National Climate Assessment ( addresses the adverse effects of climate change on human health, noting that “Climate change affects human health by altering exposures to heat waves, floods, droughts, and other extreme events; vector-, food- and waterborne infectious diseases; changes in the quality and safety of air, food, and water; and stresses to mental health and well-being” (p. 545 in the full report PDF). We have no trouble grasping the threats posed by heat waves, fires, floods, and storms that claim lives as well as property, along with droughts that parch crops and threaten water supplies, but we should not miss the implications of climate change for increased vector-borne disease risks. As the report points out, “Climate change is expected to alter the geographic range, seasonal distribution, and abundance of disease vectors, exposing more people in North America to ticks that carry Lyme disease or other bacterial and viral agents, and to mosquitoes that transmit West Nile, chikungunya, dengue, and Zika viruses” (p. 545).

The range of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, for example, a primary vector for dengue, chikungunya, Zika, and yellow fever, is expected to expand considerably worldwide, exposing far larger populations, particularly in Australia, Europe, and North America, to those viruses. According to one recent study, well before the end of the 21st century, 68%–80% of human populations may share their environments with Aedes aegypti and thus be vulnerable to the diseases that mosquito can carry, with the percentages depending on the climate change scenario that actually unfolds, ( In general, lower greenhouse gas emissions translate to less risk for human health.

Risk of mosquito-borne diseases in general is to be understood not just in terms of the range of a particular mosquito species but also in terms of mosquito “disease danger days.” As an August 2018 report published at Climate Central points out, “there’s an elevated risk of disease transmission [assuming disease is present] when temperatures are between 61 degrees and 93 degrees Fahrenheit.” The report notes the circumstances required for disease transmission: “In addition to needing the proper climatological factors for the mosquito to survive and transmit disease, there needs to be the establishment of the disease in the first place — having the proper climatic conditions, a critical density of mosquitoes, and the conditions for the sustained cycle of disease transmission itself. And, in order to transmit disease, a mosquito must bite twice — once to acquire the disease [itself], and a second time to pass it on. The largest number of these twice-biting mosquitoes were produced at 75 degrees Fahrenheit.” (

Climate Central analyzed weather data for 244 US cities to determine the number of disease danger days each city faces now as the climate warms. They found that 94%, or 229, of the cities they studied are already seeing an increase in the number of days when average temperatures fall within the optimal range for mosquito-borne disease transmission. Some areas, however, may become too hot for the mosquitoes themselves. Phoenix, for example, actually has fewer disease transmission danger days than it did previously because of the number of extremely hot days the city must contend with. All in all, only 12 cities are experiencing a decrease in disease danger days. As the climate warms, the report concludes, Americans face heightened risks for dengue, Zika, chikungunya, and West Nile (

The 2015–2016 Zika outbreak drove home the hazards of mosquito-borne diseases, as Zika took a terrible toll on the development of one in seven unborn children whose mothers were exposed to the otherwise generally mild virus ( Babies were born with microcephaly and/or other birth defects such as vision problems, deafness, and epilepsy. Their lives and their family’s lives were forever changed from what might have been.

In 2018, Zika has not made many headlines in the US, and the case count is down. As of December 4, 2018, the provisional case count for US States is 58 for the year, all travelers returning from affected areas. US territories have reported 116 Zika cases, with the virus presumably transmitted through local populations of infected mosquitoes ( Case counts aside, the virus remains a threat – nothing has changed about its intrinsic potential to wreak havoc. It is still active throughout the South and Southeast Asia region, and some districts in India saw worrisome outbreaks in 2018 (

While some experts hypothesize that “herd immunity” has been achieved in areas hardest hit in 2016, Carmen Zorilla, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine in San Juan, disagrees. She estimates that about 10.5% of pregnant women in Puerto Rico tested positive for Zika during the outbreak – an infection rate not nearly high enough to confer herd immunity. She observes that such viral outbreaks tend to happen in 3–5-year cycles. (

Problematically, some 60–80% of Zika cases are asymptomatic, so Zika can readily go undetected and gain a foothold before it is identified in a particular area. Fewer than half of those infected actually seek medical care ( Most of the time, symptoms, when people do have them, are relatively mild and somewhat flu-like: fever, rash, headache, achy joints and muscles, and conjunctivitis, though in rare instances a Zika infection can lead to Guillain-Barré syndrome. Currently, the CDC recommends Zika testing for pregnant women with possible Zika exposure and for those who experience Zika symptoms after traveling to areas where they might have been exposed to the virus (

Is there room in that surveillance net for a Zika outbreak to fire up before it is detected? Definitely so. In 2016, a research team led by Northeastern University professor Alessandro Vespignani and overseen by the Center for Inference and Dynamics of Infectious Diseases, projected the discrepancy between the number of reported Zika cases and the likely number of actual cases. The team’s models projected that the actual number of infections in July 2016 was likely 25 times the number of confirmed cases (

Dr. Vespignani notes that major outbreaks are associated not only with the right air temperature but also with areas of standing water. In many instances, people educated to understand the risks can manage those, emptying the birdbath or flower pot saucers and the like at least once a week; but after major precipitation events magnified by climate change, when there is standing water everywhere, mosquito populations can spike. The sopping US Southeast, where rainfall records were handily broken in 2018, can testify that there is sometimes “water, water everywhere,” to borrow a phrase from Samuel Taylor Coleridge (

Furthermore, densely populated areas face elevated risk. Juanita Constible, a climate expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council, explains that, for mosquitoes, “extension of habitat is a combination of climate change and human behavior. Urbanization can expand habitats for some species of mosquito that prefer cities [Aedes egypti among them], so as people expand into natural areas, those species will go with them. Not only do urban settings have plenty of habitat and food, but in cities, mosquitoes lack natural predators.” (

Kate Fowlie, spokesperson for the US CDC, warns, “Mosquito-borne disease outbreaks are difficult to predict. There will be future outbreaks, including large ones, as well as years with reduced transmission, but it is impossible to know when or where these transmission patterns will occur” (

It seems obvious that surveillance is key to preventing outbreaks both in the present and in a warming future, but the CDC’s funding for expanded infectious disease surveillance is due to run out in 2019. The CDC is already planning to scale back its participation in the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), an early-warning system for infectious disease outbreaks, in 39 of 49 countries (

While the US will be assisting with infectious disease surveillance in 10 countries, the map of Zika-affected areas around the globe, courtesy of the CDC, is expansive (

There is a lot of purple on this map, but these are not all the places Zika can go; they are merely places where infection is already a risk. Infected travelers can fly all over the world, and disease-bearing mosquitoes know no borders other than inhospitable habitats. Climate change, as we have seen, will widen the range of vector-borne diseases, sharply increasing the percentage of the global population at risk. Viruses themselves, of course, are moving targets, as they mutate regularly – Zika posed no known risk to the unborn until this century, when a mutation changed what had been a mild pathogen ( Scientists also warn us that we may soon be contending with disease-causing bacteria and viruses that have lain dormant for centuries or even millennia, frozen in permafrost that is now melting as the Arctic warms (

As we look ahead, addressing climate change will clearly entail grappling with expanded threats to human health, and one of those threats will be elevated vector-borne disease risks, perhaps coupled with diseases modern medicine has yet to encounter. Climate change mitigation and adaptation, combined with vigilant surveillance, vaccine development, and mosquito population control strategies will all be keys to managing vector-borne disease risks posed by certain species of mosquitoes and ticks.

This commentary has been a deepish dive into just one of the secondary challenges climate change will pose to nations, states, cities, municipalities, and the well-being of Americans. In the instance of Zika, we know that the lifetime cost of caring for one child whose life is profoundly impacted by prenatal exposure to the Zika virus, beyond heartbreak, is likely to reach one to ten million dollars ( Human health is just one area in which proactively addressing climate change and adaptation makes both imminent sense and dollars and cents. Again, if you are in the Sarasota area on January 25, we hope you will join us at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee for “Adapting to a Changing Climate: Challenges & Opportunities.” Find more information about this one-day event and register here:

Is Climate Warming Creating More Dangerous Hurricanes?

Two Hard-Hitting Hurricane Seasons

Last year was a September to remember in the US as far as hurricanes go. First, Harvey hit Texas with 130-mph winds and thundering rains totaling up to 60 inches in places, setting all-time US rainfall records. Next, Irma created havoc across the Caribbean and Florida as the strongest Atlantic hurricane on record, with 185-mph sustained winds that leveled islands and nearly created a nightmare scenario in Florida. And of course no one will forget Maria, which hit an ill-prepared Puerto Rico with catastrophic results.

Here are some recent pieces in which I describe the effects of these hurricanes:

From June through August the 2018 hurricane season yielded a slightly elevated number of storms, but all were weak. Elevated wind shear, a near-record cold Atlantic Ocean, and Sahara dust clouds combined to lull us to sleep – that is, until Florence formed in September off the African coast, just as Irma had. This time the track was more northwest, across thousands of miles of open water. Finally, Florence hit a patch of warm water, found low wind shear, and fought off the dust. The result was the first major hurricane of 2018 and one that had a clear shot at the Carolina coast.

Packing 140-mph winds after a 24-hour cycle of super-rapid intensification, Florence was not a storm to discount. The Carolinas are a magnet for Atlantic hurricanes: Think Hazel, Hugo, Gloria, and Donna, among others. But what made Florence even more of a threat was both human denial and the natural slope of the continental shelf, which is shallow and thus amplifies storm surge, especially for storms coming into the coast at right angles. Usually storms approach from the south, not from the east. It makes a difference. Florence came in perpendicular to the coast and acted much like a plow pushing the water at the coast, creating a large storm surge even as the storm itself weakened, striking with top winds of 106 mph.

Like Harvey, this massive storm ground to a halt just as it was making landfall. As with Harvey, record rains pelted North and South Carolina for days, dumping trillions of gallons of water on ground already saturated from a very wet summer. With storm surge and 30+ inches of record-setting rainfall, epic flooding resulted. Many rivers crested at levels that are hit only in a 1000-year flood, inflicting widespread major flooding that continued for weeks and killed not only people but millions of animals, creating billions in losses.

Finally, it was October 2018, and many began to think we were done with hurricanes. After all, at this point, although there had been many weak tropical storms and hurricanes, there had been only one major storm, and now Florence was out of the news.

Back in June, the Sarasota magazine published a nice summary of hurricanes, and I was pleased to be part of the spread of articles. Here is an excerpt from the discussion of Sarasota and hurricanes:
“Sarasota is more vulnerable to storms – like Wilma or Charley – that form in the Caribbean and enter the Gulf of Mexico, usually early or late in hurricane season. (The most perilous time for us, Bunting says, is the first two weeks of October.) But even those storms rarely hit our stretch of the west coast. Because of the shape of Florida’s land mass and atmospheric factors related to the rotation of the earth, they tend instead to make landfall to the south, often around Naples, and travel east across Florida, or to curve north and hit the northern Gulf Coast.

“Does this mean we can breathe easy? Hardly, says Bunting, who confesses, ‘I couldn’t sleep’ during the days that Irma threatened our coast. ‘All it takes is one,’ he says. ‘Only one.’”

You can read the entire article(s) here:

Sure enough, in the second week of October a weak tropical system emerged south of Cuba, in the area climatologically favorable for late-season hurricane formation. This worrying development was made even more scary by a very warm loop current in the Gulf of Mexico, which was moving warmer than normal sea-surface temperatures off the West Florida Centennial Shelf northward to a position near the Big Bend region of Florida. Tropical Storm Michael entered the Gulf, and as it moved almost due north, it began to strengthen.

At first a Category 1 hurricane, Michael soon sucked energy from the warm loop current and intensified with a bang! During the next 24 hours the storm churned northwest of Sarasota toward Mexico Beach in northwest Florida. The Category 1 storm exploded to a very strong Category 4 with 155-mph winds; and the eye wall, surrounding a pinpoint eye, struck Mexico Beach and surroundings like a large tornado, complete with a storm surge. Wiping the Earth’s surface clean at the impact point, Michael registered the third lowest pressure ever recorded in the eye of a US hurricane making landfall – 919 mb. Imagine the panic of people watching the radar images like the one below as the storm approached the beach.

Hurricane Michael ravaged the town of Mexico Beach, Fla

Note, too, the small eye surrounded by the red eye wall as Michael ravaged the town of Mexico Beach. As the hours passed, much of northwest Florida and parts of Georgia saw record wind speeds and mass destruction totaling billions.

Is Climate Change Responsible?

Are hurricanes getting stronger because of climate warming? Are nature’s largest storm events and the rainfall totals they bring being magnified by the climate change? Is humanity responding to the threats or simply ignoring reality in hopes that the threats will go away or that our descendants will mitigate them later? Does sea level rise play a role in what appears, to the uninitiated, to be worsening storm impacts? Are we still dealing with critics who say that what we are seeing is nothing unusual or that everything can be blamed on a warming climate?

Let’s answer these questions to the extent that they can be answered. While 2017–18 featured the strongest set of hurricanes ever recorded, there isn’t enough evidence yet to say that hurricanes are stronger now than they have been in the past. This year, including Florence and Michael, has been above normal with regard to the number of storms (15) but normal with respect to the number of major hurricanes (2). Those two storms happened to hit the Mid-Atlantic Coast and Gulf Coast. It just takes one such event to change perceptions, and we had two.

But it is accurate to say that for each degree the air warms, it can hold nearly 4% more water. It is also accurate to say that warmer ocean waters have more heat potential, thereby increasing storm intensity, all other things being equal. So while the recent record of hurricanes does not prove in a statistical sense that hurricanes are more intense because of a rapidly warming climate, there is room for legitimate concern.

Explosive storm development also seems to be different and more concerning than in the past. Harvey, Irma, Florence, and Michael all had 24-hour periods during which they exploded from Category 1 to Category 4 or 5! Warmer sea-surface temperatures are clearly one major factor. In heavily populated areas, if such explosive storm development occurs, evacuation just cannot happen in time. How to deal with this issue will be one of the most talked-about topics for years to come as we learn how to adapt to climate-warming issues.

There is also evidence that heavier rain events are being caused in some part by the warming climate. First, as noted above, warmer air can hold more moisture; but also, as the earth warms, the jet streams tend to set up further north and are weaker than was normal for most of the 20th century. These two factors mean that storms hold more rain and tend to slow down and meander rather than moving at a brisk clip with the help of jet stream winds. Harvey and Florence certainly did just that, and I agree with the IPCC conclusion that slower-moving storms with heavier precipitation are becoming more common.

What, if anything, are we doing about these trends? Certainly, an effort is occurring in the US and other countries to limit greenhouse gases, with or without the Paris Agreement, and much more is needed in both the short and long term. But with regard to hurricanes in North Carolina, there has been little action to protect the eroding shoreline. A recent news article tells the story:

In Florida, local communities are getting more involved in protecting themselves, but still there is still too little happening on state and regional levels.

Sea level is now rising about an inch every seven to eight years now. Along the North Carolina coast the sea level has risen about 6.5 inches since 1950. When storm surges occur on top of even a modest sea level rise and the continental shelf is shallow, the surge/flood impacts from both major and minor hurricanes are amplified. This was the case with Category 2 Florence!

An interesting point and counterpoint were recently raised in California regarding climate warming, at the Climate Action Summit ( in San Francisco, which featured many impressive and interesting presentations.

One troubling takeaway was the emphasis on attributing every bad weather event, from droughts to fires and floods, to climate warming. Fires, floods, and droughts have been around for a very long time. The key point, however, is that our climate is warming much faster now than climatic changes have unfolded in the past. Changes that used to take thousands of years are being compressed into decades. This precipitous rate of change is what is so troubling!

The counterpoint was a series of panel discussions organized by a group called the Hartland Foundation, specifically to rebut the Climate Action Summit and climate warming in general. See

This group was less impressive and seemed to focus more on PR than scientific discussion. I was struck by the dearth of IPCC members or representation from first-rate science institutions at this gathering. This group failed to identify the rate of climate warming as unusual and highly correlated to human-generated greenhouse gas emissions.

Ignoring what is and hoping for the best is not a strategy. Shooting the messenger , climate science, is costing us big-time, but perhaps the lessons from Florence will lead to a more reasoned and action-oriented approach. As many readers know, I am not in the camp that expects worst-case scenarios of sea level rise by 2100. See my article

But there is no reason to believe that the past and current trend of sea level rise will suddenly stop and good reason to believe, on the other hand, that the rate will increase as global temperatures continue to rise.

Evidence Calls for Action

While fair debate is welcome and needed, dismissing climate warming as nonexistent is not helpful, nor is sensationally predicting the end of the world by 2100. What is helpful is concerted action to mitigate the impacts of the most likely climate-warming scenarios. Preventing further damage to the climate by limiting greenhouse emissions, pushing technological solutions, and promoting scientific understanding are key to being successful – as I know we can be!

Policy reacts to the will of society but with a time lag. That’s why it’s so important to study this issue and not be drawn in by polarizing positions. It is all too easy to jump on bandwagons, but the answers are now largely known for those who want to deal with high-probability scenarios. In North Carolina an opportunity was missed on a statewide level. During the 1990s, as I discussed in my previous article published by Cumberland, the US and the world missed an early opportunity to deal with climate warming. Now it’s time for local action that will trickle up rather than down. Perhaps North Carolina and its coastal communities will help lead the way.

Florida is one of most vulnerable areas, with $7T in real estate along the beach lying in harm’s way and with climate-enhanced red tide becoming more of a real problem. Florida has the opportunity to lead the climate adaptation movement for local and regional mitigation of the additional climate changes sure to come in the next decades.

Herein lies a series of opportunities for local and regional coordination through a new center in the Sarasota-Manatee area that can take developing climate science and tailor it for decision makers in state, regional, and local governments. Billions of dollars already being spent can be better utilized for the formation of effective, coordinated, and enduring adaptive solutions.

Also, because the adaptation to climate warming is one of the most important issues of our time, the situation is ripe for entrepreneurs who want to stop talking and start doing! I predict that new business development in this area will create an economic boom for those who can seize the opportunity!

Sarasota -Manatee is ground zero for climate impacts from rising sea levels, explosive hurricane development, and red tide. Because it is, it can be a hub that helps Florida, the region, and local levels to create a platform for academia, government, and the private sector to foster mitigation and adaptation as well as to catalyze economic opportunities that mitigation will surely spark.

Florida and the Sarasota-Manatee area have the expertise, financial resources, and leadership to help broker a more effective approach to dealing with climate-change impacts. It’s time to take the abundant resources we have available and organize them, much as Steve Jobs and company did when they reinvented the phone with the iPhone. They took the pieces that we all use in our daily lives, from music to calendars and from news to maps, and handed them back to us in the form of an “on the go” platform that integrated what already existed into a truly transformative device. That example provides the inspiration that we can do it, too; but this time we are challenged to creatively adapt to deal with an issue that will fundamentally impact all our lives. Stay tuned!

We thank Bob for allowing us to publish his work: Bob Bunting – atmospheric scientist, author, educator, and entrepreneur.

Links to other websites or electronic media controlled or offered by Third-Parties (non-affiliates of Cumberland Advisors) are provided only as a reference and courtesy to our users. Cumberland Advisors has no control over such websites, does not recommend or endorse any opinions, ideas, products, information, or content of such sites, and makes no warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of their content. Cumberland Advisors hereby disclaims liability for any information, materials, products or services posted or offered at any of the Third-Party websites. The Third-Party may have a privacy and/or security policy different from that of Cumberland Advisors. Therefore, please refer to the specific privacy and security policies of the Third-Party when accessing their websites.

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January 25th & Gary Shilling

Gary Shilling is an icon of our finance industry. His monthly missive is priceless. Fred Rossi edits and researches. The work product is extraordinary. We thank them for permission to share the December monthly in full. The trigger for our request was their thorough examination of the climate-change debate and the coincident timing, as registration is now open for the January 25th GIC-USFSM conference, Adapting to a Changing Climate: Challenges & Opportunities, to be held at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.
Here is a link to the conference presentations lineup:
The conference is fully sponsored, so the registration cost is only 50 bucks to cover lunch and direct costs. Issues such as red tide, hurricane intensity, and rising sea levels are among those to be examined. The purpose of the conference is not to find fault; instead, it is to discuss what to do now and tomorrow and next week and next month.
Please take a look at the excellent data assembled by Gary and Fred, starting on page 31 of Gary Shilling’s Insight for December, available here as a PDF file:’s-INSIGHT-December-2018-(Climate-Change-A-Look-From-Both-Sides).pdf – page=31.
Also look at the latest official US report on climate change, released by the Trump administration on the day after Thanksgiving: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States,  
Another valuable source of reliable analysis of climate change comes from the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics of the University of Chicago. Their working paper 2018-51 is entitled “Valuing the Global Mortality Consequences of Climate Change Accounting for Adaptation Costs and Benefits” (August 2018). It’s available here:
We hope that you will join us at the USFSM auditorium on January 25 for the conference. Please forward this message to anyone who might be interested in this subject.

GIC & USFSM - Adapting to a Changing Climate - Challenges & Opportunities

Climate Change Resources

Cumberland Advisors is a sponsor of the upcoming USF-GIC event,

“Adapting to a Changing Climate: Global to Local Impact”

GIC & USFSM - Adapting to a Changing Climate - Challenges & OpportunitiesClimate Change Resources

Cumberland Advisors, the Global Interdependence Center, the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, the Science and Environment Council and Atlas Insurance are the primary sponsors in this event that will feature Bob Bunting among other luminaries invited for this very important discussion.

In this post you’ll find a compilation of resources that can be referenced as part of the ongoing conversation on climate change and its impact.

Event links

USFSM Website & Event Registration:

Flyer for event:

(Long URL)

(Short URL)

Cumberland Advisors Commentaries



Red Tide Current Status:

NASA Climate Change Resources:

Press Releases


Press Coverage

Sarasota Magazine – Climate Change Conference Set for Jan. 25.

Climate Change Conference Set for Jan. 25

Excerpt of Sarasota Magazine’s…

Climate Change Conference Set for Jan. 25

Topics will include the implication of rising sea levels for Florida, the effect of climate change on hurricanes, whether climate change worsens red tide and more.

By Staff 12/4/2018 at 10:37am

Cumberland Advisors, the Global Interdependence Center, the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, the Science and Environment Council and Atlas Insurance are organizing a conference that will examine “Adapting to a Changing Climate.” The featured speaker will be Bob Bunting…

Read full article at Sarasota Magazine.

Responses to Climate Change & Markets

We thank readers for their many comments and criticisms regarding our commentary on climate change and markets. For those who missed the original piece, here is the link: “Climate Change & Markets,”

Market Commentary - Cumberland Advisors - Climate Change & Markets ResponsesThere were diverse responses ranging from total disagreement to full endorsement. No one offered observations about the market section. Many agreed that there is climate change but argued that it is not manmade. Others said it was and is manmade. Still others argued that there has always been climate change, that there is not a lot new happening now, and that this warming is a natural cycle. Still others took the view that the formerly natural cycle ended with manmade rising CO2 levels. The debate is passionately argued on all sides. Readers may examine a compilation of responses that represent the range of views.

We asked our friend Bob Bunting to weigh in after he examined some of the responses. Bob and I are working together on a conference at USFSM that will discuss climate change and hurricanes and their impacts. The tentative date is January 25, 2019. More information will be forthcoming.

Here is Bob’s observation.

“As you know I have been in the camp that the predictions made are being presented in the upper extreme. That being said, every model including the Russian model is predicting more warming. The trend in all models is up, and the trend in observed temperatures is up. I believe the best forecast now is for about a one-inch rise in sea level for every 7 to 8 years in the future to about 2030 and then an acceleration of the sea level rise to about an inch every 4 years by 2070 or so. This would give us 6 to 8 inches of rise in the next 50 years or so. This is precisely the reason I feel we can deal with climate warming impacts while at the same time limiting damage by reducing carbon emissions over the next 25 to 50 years. I don’t agree with the speaker on Fox News (critic) who said that we should ignore most of the other models because they are government-funded. The military is government-funded; education is government-funded; the national parks are government-funded. They are all assets to society in some way and are not diminished in value just because they are government-funded. Big science has been funded by governments for years. The US NASA investment has driven the technological advancement of the US and world for more than 50 years. The Russian model may be correct, but it is an outlier, and we shouldn’t put all our eggs in that basket, nor should we take the most extreme predictions for warming and sea level rise as the ‘answer.’ We need to prepare for the most likely scenarios, those more in the middle, and then adjust as we go along. The models get better, and humankind advances in its efficiency.”

Bob’s mention of Fox News refers to a YouTube clip that was sent by John Wickser II (Amalfi Capital Partners). We will include John’s remarks and YouTube link below. We don’t agree with the Fox report but want readers to see all sides.


…I really do think that this global “climate change” propaganda scare needs to have the proper perspective at a minimum…so that we don’t continue to be hurled headlong into a trillions dollar abyss to prop up corrupt government plutocrats. Please watch this U tube video with an open mind and I will pray that you issue an addendum to this Commentary when you have educated yourself more fully on this issue.

(ED Note: The video was removed from YouTube within 24hrs of this publication, we’ve posted a replacement as of 4:30pm on Nov 1, 2018)

Thanks and all the best,

Dear readers, these types of questions are the substance of real inquiry. We make the world a better place by learning more and engaging in civil discourse, which my Cumberland partners and I are pleased to facilitate. We appreciate that nearly all replies to our climate change piece were civil and polite and free of the maliciousness and acrimony we see in the daily flow of political debate.

And now for the responses.


Here is Loren:


You might want to at least listen to the Live Stream (Ed: YouTube Video) below. I cannot do a better job than these guys. Very informative. Think your readers would benefit from it. Thanks.


The Heartland Institute, the world’s leading think tank pushing back at climate alarmism with scientific data, will be live-streaming two panel discussions of scientists and climate policy experts as “counter programming” of the Global Climate Action Summit this week in San Francisco.


And here is Lawrence:

I don’t think Climate Change triggers are so simple…We only had 1+ Celsius degree change in the Earth’s temperature in the past Century..the Earth’s population was 1.6B in 1900 and now is 7B+…however, with the irrigation of Worldwide Grasslands for Agriculture, there is more vegetation on the Planet now than in 1900 (satellite studies) …even with the fairly recent destruction of Rain Forests…more vegetation, more oxygen..we have succeeded in cleaning our air in USA from lots of carbon monoxide–many parts of World have not–China is one.

You might want to read book by Dr. Patrick Michaels, Cato Institute, Noble Prize Climatologist…he goes into detail about Natural Climate altering factors…when I was in Australia I learned that the Great Barrier Reef was “dry” approx. every 200,000 years for at least the pst 1.2M years due to Climate change…yet it has renewed each time due to Natural occurrences…

We have had minor Climate warming for decades in the 1930’s-1940’s–remember the “Dust Bowl” in the Midwest…then we had a cooling period from the 1950’s-1970’s…now another warming…who really knows why?

“I don’t think the World Scientists are using the best “science” to understand/explain climate issues”, says Dr. Michaels. 32 World Climate Models show same results–only differing Model is Russian Model–and Russian Model has been more accurate according to Dr. Michaels…he says there are too many worldwide economic and other reasons to challenge data input in Models… he was on Mark Levin this past Sunday..his book is interesting and again, he is World renown Climatologist…I agree it would have been nice to have another Climatologist on the Levin show to debate Dr. Michaels science.

My opinion: Climate Change has more to do with Natural occurrences than man made. CO2 is significantly less percentage wise in atmosphere than in past several hundred+ years—Earth’s minor gases like CO2, methane, etc., make up less than 1/10 of 1% of Earth’s atmosphere!

Earth’s population increase from 1.6B in 1900 to 7B+ in less than 125 years is very concerning–Scary!..

And here is Alan.

Hi David,

I am a proud denier. I don’t deny climate change—always has changed, always will—but I do deny that carbon taxes, or any human activity, will be able to alter or change a natural cycle. Martin Armstrong said it best:

“Forecasting that the world was getting colder was not profitable for the academics. However, by blaming humans for it getting warmer was a winner! No government can tax people for the privilege of making the climate actually change regardless if it was true or not. But blame humans and it becomes a justified tax. If it’s nature – governments can’t make anything out of that one.”

For the record, I think we are heading into (if we already have not entered) a global cooling cycle. If I am right, I would rather live in Sarasota than Pittsburgh. Neither one of us is voting on climate change with our feet. Such is the foibles of human nature.



And here is Bill:


I think there is a reasonable consensus among sensible people that climate change is occurring and most likely is a consequence of man (and woman) made increases in greenhouse gases. I do not believe that there is a consensus that extreme weather events such as hurricanes can as yet be reasonably attributed to climate change. We do know that losses are rising but that is a consequence of building in vulnerable places and has nothing to do with climate change.

I challenge you to document the case for more extreme weather events. Some data below, from Wikipedia. (Yes, I know that many do not consider it a respectable source but is sure is convenient for a purpose such at this.)

Please see my comments below the data as well.

RESPONSES TO CLIMATE CHANGE & MARKETS - Number of tropical storm and hurricanes per season



What to do? The theory of externalities provides a powerful case that there is next to nothing high-income countries can do without cooperation from India and China. Research, fine, but CAFÉ is a stupid waste of resources. At the present time, there are only two possibly effective things we can do. One is to further explore options for geo-engineering. If you are unfamiliar with work there, I suggest a bit of reading. Some of the ideas are quite fascinating and even promising. We will also have to raise seawalls in vulnerable areas, such as where you live.

I am an economist and not a so-called climate denier. I am a denier when it comes to wooly headed thinking.


And here is Gregory:

This article you shared “Trump and the End of Smugness” was great btw. I just shared it with some people.

The term “climate denier” is deliberate mischaracterization of those on the right of the political spectrum, much like the term trickle down economics. It’s also a mean-spirited comparison to the word “holocaust denier”. No real thought leader on the right denies the fact that the climate changes and man has some role in it, only that the costs imposed by many proposed regulations governing it outweigh the potential benefits to society. That’s WITH the assumption that other governments, besides the US, would actually be on board with them. In a deal like the Paris Accords, many countries would have growing emissions while the US is put at a tremendous economic disadvantage, leaving the world with an aggregate gain.

I’ll defer to respected economists like Mankiw.

“Even the moral argument is not without critique. With just a 1% real annual rate of growth, global per capita income rises from about $12,000 today to $77,000 by 2200. Even if climate change damages shrink the economy by 13% by 2200, as some have suggested, our distant descendants will be five times richer on average than we are. Are we to sacrifice our relatively modest wealth so they might be six-times richer that us?

And even if we are to value future generations as Stern suggests and morals may dictate, then are we not better off bequeathing them an economy that has grown unencumbered by carbon policy for a century or more?”

Again, the above hinges on a huge assumptions; that the climate models are accurate. But they simply cannot accurately predict how the oceans and atmosphere will interact over long periods of time on a planetary scale. They can’t predict with any accuracy what the climate will be like ten years from now much less 100. It is mainstream, agreed upon science, that there is a reasonable chance we could suddenly reverse course and enter a several hundred year period of global cooling, regardless of human interference, just like we did after Medieval and Roman times.

I’m assuming you’re familiar with the issues of back testing investing models; climate models are similar. According to the site where your Bloomberg article got it’s data “A way to test the accuracy of models is through hindcasting – see whether they successfully predict what has been observed over the past century.” But all that shows is they can fit the model to the history not predict the future.

Maybe 97% of scientists agree that man impacting the climate is real but it gives no indication of magnitude. 100% of scientists agree that if I poor a shot glass filled with water into my pool the water level will rise but rain and evaporation (nature) are going to have a much more meaningful impact. Bear in mind that intellectuals don’t get grant money, book deals, or promoted for being moderate. Being alarmist pays in this field. But even if we ignore that and assume your assumptions are correct, the correct policy prescriptions are debatable. Even if the assumptions were correct, and the policy prescriptions agreed upon; Do you suggest we attack China, and others, and force them to comply or do we allow the US economy to decline relative to theirs? I, like most who have studied international relations, believe the US remaining the lone super power is best for world peace and that more authoritarian states would carve up the world for themselves like they tried in the world wars.

Your choice of language gives away some bias and where you get your opinions from. Using the term “climate denier” suggests being unfamiliar with the opposing side of the debate which is an indicator of being stuck in an ideological echo chamber or experiencing cognitive dissonance. I appreciate the “Trump and the End of Smugness” article but now it almost seems like you just did it for appearances.

And here is Mathew:

I agree with you that climate change is real. The earth has become an ice ball twice and we had dinosaurs living as close to the poles as present day Alaska. Vast deposits of potash exist along the coast of NC where I live and they are far inland from the ocean and filled with oceanic fossils. They were deposited there over the millennia from the sea levels rising and falling. The globe has absolutely been warming ever since the end of the last ice age to put into perspective man’s limited time on the Earth. Approx. 10,000 years.

The debate in my mind and the mind of many is that this phenomenon is not man made. These fluctuations in climate and sea levels have been going on far longer than the presence of man much less the presence of industrial man. The amount of greenhouse gases emitted from one volcanic eruption is equal to decades of manmade gases. I see the climate change push as a coordinated global effort to demand even more government control of the people of this planet. Period… The sky is not falling my friend.

And here is my friend Dennis Gartman excerpted from his daily letter (October 25, 2018):

A PROFESSOR WRITES ON CLIMATE CHANGE: We begin by noting that we are long time believers in climate change and always have been. The climate changes and we have said from time to time that when we played golf in central Florida several years ago we came across sharks’ teeth imbedded in the sand there. It has been several hundred million years since Florida was under water deep enough to have monstrous sharks roaming those waters, but clearly the climate was materially different then… measurably, materially warmer and sufficient to have melted the glaciers to the extent that Florid was indeed under water. To the very best of our knowledge, however, there were very few automobiles roaming the land prior to that climate change several hundred million years ago, but we are open to correction on this fact.

That said and in light of the comment we wrote recently about the fact that we are uncommonly fortunate to live in the safest, least war-torn, healthiest, least dangerous, least travail insistent period of humankind, we note what, Dr. Roger Pielke, a Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado, recently wrote about global weather disasters in a letter-to-the-editor of The Wall Street Journal.

He wrote in “Some Good News—About Natural Disasters, of All Things“,

“Disasters certainly continue to cause catastrophic damage across the globe. The annual cost of disasters has doubled since reliable accounting of all events world-wide began in 1990, rising from about $100 billion to $200 billion a year in 2017 dollars.

“But it’s deceptive to track disasters primarily in terms of aggregate cost. Since 1990, the global population has increased by more than 2.2 billion, and the global economy has more than doubled in size. This means more lives and wealth are at risk with each successive disaster.

“Despite this increased exposure, disasters are claiming fewer lives. Data tracked by Our World in Data shows that from 2007-17, an average of 70,000 people each year were killed by natural disasters. In the decade 50 years earlier, the annual figure was more than 370,000. Seventy thousand is still far too many, but the reduction represents enormous progress.

“The material cost of disasters also has decreased when considered as a proportion of the global economy. Since 1990, economic losses from disasters have decreased by about 20% as a proportion of world-wide gross domestic product. The trend still holds when the measurement is narrowed to weather-related disasters, which decreased similarly as a share of global GDP even as the dollar cost of disasters increased.

“The decrease in disaster damage isn’t a surprise, because as the world population and economy have grown, the incidence of the most damaging extreme events has hardly changed. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported in 2014 that there has been no increase in hurricanes, floods, droughts or tornadoes within the past 30 years. And 2018 is on track to have the lowest losses from disasters as a share of global GDP since 1990.”

(Ed: Full commentary by Roger Pielke Jr. available at the WSJ website)

When we moved to Raleigh, North Carolina to go to graduate school in 1972 and traveled to the Outer Banks for the first time we were struck by the desolate nature of the Banks. Homes were few, small and inexpensive. Now they are many, large and hugely expensive. When the smallest storms hit the Banks far more monetary damage can and will be done to these structures than the worst storms of that far more active time. Oh, and here we are in late October, only a month removed from peak hurricane time here in the US southeast and although we’ve suffered through Florence and Michael and as Mexico has suffered through Willa this week, the number of storms has been far fewer than in recent years. But we still believe in climate change; it’s just that we believe that man has had little if anything to do with it and that Mother Nature continues to hold the reins.

We are also certain that the fears stirred up by the eco-radicals are fears engendered by the Left to entice the public into adopting anti-business philosophies, hoping that in the end they can usurp political control yet again. Indeed, there is our great concern in this regard; that this is all a great charade with political rather than environmental intentions at the core.

And here is Richard from the Sierra Club:


I hope you and your friends can bring some sanity to the politicians. I know you’re doing everything you can.

Maybe if enough investors stop contributing to climate deniers, they’ll get the message. Right now we have to overcome a major donor base that makes lots of money from fossil fuels and is reluctant to allow any regulations that affect profitability.

Two weekends ago, I attended the ‘Responsible Shale Energy Extraction’ Symposium” sponsored by UT-Arlington CLEAR. The event had over 180 attendees, 40+ companies represented, and over $55,000 being raised for graduate and undergraduate research.

The symposium featured many papers about how the fracking industry can now recycle wastewater and save money. There were also papers by Dr Anne Epstein about health considerations and by Professor Katherine Hayhoe about climate change.

When I asked two questions about what the industry was doing to slow down climate change, the response was complete denial of any responsibility. It was depressing. They just don’t get it.

And here is Bob:

Dear Mr. Kotok

Why the pejorative “Climate Change Deniers?” The climate debate was that CO2 into the atmosphere caused global warming. Everybody knows the climate is changing, as it has for the last billions of years. I think the people opposed to drastic government plans are thinking what if we do something that may help a little, while Russia, China, India, Africa and South America etc go their merry way? Seems like a plan by some to punish the evil United States with no benefit to the global warming scenario. I don’t deny the climate is changing, but I doubt all the hysteria and self appointed gurus are going to make any difference.

And a couple of side observations:
1) Remember the big scare of the coming ice age? What happened to that?
2) In Madison, WI where we lived the glacier was supposedly a mile thick. Then without Al Gore or automobiles or cars it melted. How did that happen?
3) Who is going to step up and shut down all airports, shipping, and coal power plants everywhere, including China and Russia and India?
4) Maybe the earth has a self correcting mechanism we don’t know about. Like the extinction of people??

William asked:

I agree with most of what you have said because we have facts. Do we know if we impose a carbon tax what will that do to our economy? Also even if we maintained all of Obama’s regulations would our weather be any different? Lastly, playing devils advocate why do you still transact business in the State of Florida?

And Donald noted:

You are the first person/entity that I know of to make the point about electric cars getting juiced up from coal fired plants. I have always argued that electric cars, per se, are not the answer. It depends upon how we reform our grid. Thank you for point this out!

And Lindsey Added:


The unfortunate reality is until the masses put matters like global warming far above just making a profit. the influences of a few will drive policy over the good of the whole. The haves and have-not is widening and thus a critical mass of the have-nots feel left behind; left or right of center. This then results in the cyclical nature of our political policies. Mark when Obama became president some of his policies were directed under misleading or at best half baked assumptions on energy/environmental R&D.

Having a very long career in R&D I have seen first-hand how science can be manipulated to present a very biased not yet confirmed result.

Climate change is real yet I know there are many, yet to be proven assumptions.

I’ll leave on that note.

We again thank all readers for their responses.
David R. Kotok
Chairman and Chief Investment Officer
Email | Bio

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Climate Change & Markets

Why did Hurricane Michael intensify so quickly? And why was the Western US so hot and dry this summer? And what about climate change all across the rest of the global landscape and seascape? And what do I do with my portfolio?

Market Commentary - Cumberland Advisors - Climate Change & Markets
There are still many climate change deniers. But that cohort shrinks as more and more hard evidence overwhelms former assertions and opinions. A storm surge destroying Mexico Beach is a televised fact. So is a record low level of water in Lake Mead. These realities and a hundred others are facts reflecting climate-based causality.

Climate policy and energy policy are a current test of the ability of our political leaders and of markets to handle the challenges of cognitive epistemology. We’ve written recently about cognitive functioning, so there is no reason to repeat that discussion here. If you missed it, here’s the link:

On climate change we will refer readers to this Bloomberg link: Please take a few minutes to peruse it. And then take a very deep dive into the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which released its special report Global Warming of 1.5°C earlier this month. That report is available here:

Now let’s look at US policy. The Trump administration has attempted to reverse America’s shift away from coal mining but with only very limited success (see Nevertheless, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) intends to scale back an Obama-era rule designed to cut planet-warming emissions from the nation’s power plants (see Meanwhile, the White House has repeatedly pressured the EPA to weaken regulations regarding the release of methane gas by the oil industry. Note that methane warms the atmosphere 84 times more than carbon dioxide does:

These and other actions by US policy makers are those of climate change deniers. Their decisions are influenced by powerful financial interests that appear to care little about the rapidly accruing costs imposed on all of us by unmitigated climate change.

My personal view is that of a climate change accepter. I think the planet is getting hotter and we are running out of time to do anything about it. I cannot understand the cognitive dissonance of the Tesla owner who feels “green” while his charging station gets its juice from a coal-fired power plant. The same “green” person pays no gasoline tax (money that goes to highway maintenance) and may well oppose a carbon tax. I think a carbon tax is needed immediately.

But policy debate is one thing, and portfolio management is another. Sometimes they require the wearing of two different hats.

An investment advisor has to take the policies made by others and apply them, even when he doesn’t like them. That is why we own an ETF designed to capture profits from the exploration and production of oil and natural gas. Our choice is centered on the domestic US arena. We’re managing risk that originates in the international arena and in the administration’s trade war agenda and in the Middle East geopolitical sphere. We’re wary of turbulence around global energy options.

So we don’t like our national energy policy – we see it as the result of cognitions and policy gone astray. But we are invested in the US energy sector. There it is.

Now for a teaser. We asked Bob Bunting for a sequel to his popular piece on hurricanes and an adaptive response to climate change (see Bob said yes. Be on the lookout for it in the next few weeks.

David R. Kotok
Chairman and Chief Investment Officer
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Cumberland Advisors Market Commentaries offer insights and analysis on upcoming, important economic issues that potentially impact global financial markets. Our team shares their thinking on global economic developments, market news and other factors that often influence investment opportunities and strategies.