Gore’s prophecy regarding Kilimanjaro National Park in Tanzania was more precise, and just as wrong.
“Within the decade there will be no more snows of Kilimanjaro,” he said to the audience in An Inconvenient Truth. This occurred moments before he makes his prediction for Glacier National Park.
Alluding poorly to the title of the Ernest Hemmingway short story The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Gore was trying to claim that Africa’s tallest mountain, with a peak that stands higher than 19,000 feet, would no longer have measurable snow cover on or before 2016.
As of November 2022, Snow-forecast.com, a webpage for skiers, reported that an average of 93 combined inches of snowfall (almost 8 feet) hits just the middle altitudes of Kilimanjaro during November and December. And 9 inches of combined snowfall is the average expected for the middle elevations for July and August, the lightest two-month period for snowfall on the middle part of the mountain.
The upper altitudes of Kilimanjaro supposedly get pummeled with an average of 171 inches (more than 14 feet) of snow during November and December. Another 127 inches (10 more feet) is expected during April and May. The expectation for September and October is 59 inches. According to Snow-forecast, every two-month period on Kilimanjaro’s higher elevations is expected to feature well over a foot of snowfall.
For perspective, Syracuse, New York, sometimes crowned America’s snowiest city, records average snowfall of 127.8 inches for the entire year.
More than 20,000 people annually climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro. Pull up a Google image search for “summit of Kilimanjaro” and the results will show a majority of the climbers celebrating with snow under their feet or piled nearby. And it stands to reason most don’t try the five-plus day trek to the top during the months when well over a foot of snow is expected each week.
Going on seven years past the day when Gore said there’d be no more snow on Kilimanjaro, the mountain still catches more annual snow than the people who live in the snowiest American cities will see over several years.
These failed prognostications about the future disasters of climate change were bad enough. But the hyperbole over hurricanes in An Inconvenient Truth was far worse.
“We have seen in the last couple of years, a lot of big hurricanes,” said Gore, in the 2006 film. “The summer of 2005 has been one for the books.”
In his history lecture on the hurricanes of 2005, Gore claimed the lesson to learn was that we had been ignoring “warnings that hurricanes would get stronger” because of human-inflicted climate change.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) hosts a regularly updated webpage titled “Global Warming and Hurricanes: An Overview of Current Research Results.” The update as of October 2022 has this to say:
We conclude that the historical Atlantic hurricane data at this stage do not provide compelling evidence for a substantial greenhouse warming-induced century-scale increase in: frequency of tropical storms, hurricanes, or major hurricanes, or in the proportion of hurricanes that become major hurricanes.
The NOAA lists six named hurricanes making landfall on the continental United States in 2005, including four major ones.
What Gore knew (or should have known) but did not mention when he claimed there had been “a lot of big hurricanes” was that the four “major” storms of 2005 were all measured at Category 3 intensity when they made landfall. This includes the star of Gore’s presentation, the obviously devastating Hurricane Katrina that ravaged New Orleans in August 2005.
Category 3 is the lowest category that still qualifies as a “major” hurricane by the NOAA’s definition.
What neither Gore nor anyone else knew was the hurricane silence that would follow.
In 2006 not a single hurricane of any kind made landfall in the continental United States. And then, over the next 10 years through 2016, not a single major hurricane hit the USA. During seven of those years (2009–2015) just four total hurricanes of any kind made landfall, three of them Category 1 and one a Category 2.
No comparable era of docile hurricanes appears in the NOAA records going back more than a century. This period of unprecedented calm following immediately on the heels of Gore’s hurricane hyperbole really was—to borrow his analysis— “one for the books.”
If Gore proved anything at all, it was that Mother Nature might be real, with a wicked sense of humor, and she decided to spend 11 years making a mockery of his movie.
The deadly Hurricane Katrina obviously wasn’t funny at all. The real story needed no exaggeration, but that’s what it got from An Inconvenient Truth.
Gore’s description of the tragedy is heavy on hyperbole and emotional images:
Before it hit New Orleans, it went over warmer waters. As the water temperature increases, the wind velocity increases, and the moisture content increases. And you’ll see Hurricane Katrina form over Florida. And then as it comes into the Gulf over warm water it picks up energy and gets stronger and stronger and stronger. Look at that hurricane’s eye. And of course, the consequences were so horrendous; there are no words to describe it.
Katrina did indeed pick up speed as it left Florida, briefly ramping all the way up to a Category 5 while still over open water.
In the next installment, the sea levels predictions of flooding.