Thursday, September 16, 2004

Hurricanes and Climate Change

WIRED - Hurricane Ivan is among the most powerful Atlantic storms in recent history, and more such storms are likely in the future due to global warming, say climate experts. "Global warming is creating conditions that (are) more favorable for hurricanes to develop and be more severe," said Kevin Trenberth, head of the climate analysis section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

While few climate and hurricane experts are willing to go that far publicly, there is little debate that the Earth is retaining more of the sun's energy than in the past. Emissions of gases such as carbon dioxide act as an extra blanket that keeps some of the sun's energy from dissipating into space. The extra energy from this "greenhouse effect" has already warmed the Earth by about 1 degree Fahrenheit, according to the 2001 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report is based on evidence and research from more than 2,500 scientists from about 100 countries...

Hurricanes need exactly the right conditions to form, and warm water and high water-vapor levels are just two of the ingredients, said David Battisti, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington. However, global warming is greatly increasing the odds in favor of more intense and more frequent hurricanes and cyclones, Battisti said. Where these storms will appear is very difficult to predict. Traditional hurricane zones may not see any increase while countries that have never experienced them will, he said.


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