Was Hurricane Irene caused by global warming?

“Irene’s got a middle name, and it’s Global Warming,” environmental activist Bill McKibben wrote Thursday night in The Daily Beast. He argued that this year’s hot Atlantic Ocean temperatures and active spree of hurricanes — coupled with droughts, floods and melting sea ice elsewhere on the globe — are “what climate change looks like in its early stages.”…

But not so fast, hurricane scientists say: Not only is it impossible to tie any single hurricane to global warming, but researchers are also still fiercely debating whether the changing climate is making — or will make — tropical cyclones either stronger or more frequent.

It’s also not even clear that hurricane seasons are getting worse over time, some researchers say. After all, New York City and Long Island have been hit by nine previous hurricanes from 1858 to 1991, according to NOAA records, including the disastrous 1938 storm known as the Long Island Express. And the deadliest hurricane in U.S. history struck 111 years ago — the 1900 storm that killed an estimated 8,000 people in Galveston, Texas.