NOAA: Warmed Global Oceans Produce Less Atlantic Hurricanes
January 25, 2008 10:41 AM
Researchers at the NOAA make a positive observation about the global ocean temperature going up
While opposing factions wage war over global warming and what calamities it might bring upon the earth, research by the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
on ocean temperature and land-falling hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean seems to indicate that a globally warmer ocean may actually produce fewer killer storms.
In an article published in
Geophysical Research Letters
, physical oceanographer and climate scientist Chunzai Wang of NOAA's
Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory
explains that the effects of a warmer tropical oceans region have reduced the number of storms reaching the U.S. mainland.
"Using data extending back to the middle nineteenth century," Wang writes, "we found a gentle decrease in the trend of U.S. land-falling hurricanes when the global ocean is warmed up. This trend coincides with an increase in vertical wind shear over the tropical North Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, which could result in fewer U.S. land-falling hurricanes." He goes on to say "the vertical wind shear is not the only factor affecting Atlantic hurricane activity, although it is an important one."
While warming in the North Atlantic Ocean decreases the vertical wind shear in the main Atlantic hurricane development region which lies between the 10th and 20th degree latitudes between Central America and Africa, warming in the tropical Pacific and Indian oceans increase it. The impact from the warming of the Pacific and Indian regions overshadow the North Atlantic's, producing a greater wind shear effect in the tropical Atlantic over all. The higher level of wind shear helps to suppress storm formation and reduces the number of hurricanes that trundle into U.S. soil.
Wang's team's observations were made on data collected on sea surface temperatures from 1854 to 2006 and show an almost global warming trend.
Though future global warming may increase Atlantic hurricane activity, overall storm production will likely be effected strongly by the sustained long-term warming of the global oceans. While, as Wang states earlier, wind shear is an important factor in storm formation, other components such as sea surface temperatures, sea level pressure and atmospheric humidity also play a role.
These may all change in ways unknown if a warming climate trend continues globally.
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