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Cold periods had fewer storms, natural ocean cycles the largest cause of hurricane variability.

I've always been skeptical of the view that global warming leads to stronger hurricanes. The argument behind it seems overly simplistic -- hurricanes feed off warm water, so warmer sea surface temperatures will lead to more frequent and powerful storms.

Elsewhere in our solar system, the exact opposite seems true. Blisteringly hot Venus, for instance, seems to have extremely weak storm activity, whereas icy Jupiter has massive hurricanes that last centuries, large enough to swallow the entire earth several times over. This is only suggestive rather than conclusive, but clearly there's more to storm activity than just raw temperature.

Basic thermodynamics helps to explain why. Storms are essentially large heat engines. It's not temperature that drives a heat engine, but differences in temperature. Global warming, which warms the poles more than the equator, would seem to decrease the latitude-based differential that helps drive a hurricane's rotational energy.

So went my pet theory, at least— but no hard data supported it.

However, the other side had no hard data either. While climate modelers claimed global warming might strengthen storms, actual hurricanologists were adamant that no actual evidence existed. Some pointed to research on wind shear, which suggested that a warmer climate would reduce the conditions that allow hurricanes to form, despite warmer surface water.

In 2005, one hurricanologist, Emmanuel Kerry, broke ranks and claimed to have actual proof that global warming increased hurricanes. For this, Time Magazine quickly named him "Man of the Year". However, last year Kerry publicly recanted his view, admitting that his earlier work was flawed.

With Kerry's renunciation, hurricane scientists were unanimous in their view that global warming wouldn't lead to measurably stronger storms.

But could it do the reverse? Could global warming actually reduce hurricane activity? A pair of Chinese researchers now says this very well may be true, at least for some parts of the earth.

The researchers, using a new branch of science they call "paleotempestology", looked backwards through several thousand years of the earth's history. Using sedimentary deposits, core samples from caves, and other geological proxies, along with documented historical records of hurricane landfalls, they built the longest record of hurricane activity ever constructed. They then correlated it to the varying temperature at each period..

On the global level, the researchers found no link between climate and hurricane activity. Surprisingly, though, cold periods such as the Little Ice Age had the most hurricanes, at least in some regions, a result the team said "begs adequate explanation".

However, the study found a strong link between natural patterns such as El Nino and hurricanes, a clear pattern of rising and falling activity on decadal time scales. These oscillations, known as "ENSO", tended to suppress and enhance hurricanes on a regular cycle, with the cooler "la Nina" years having the most activity.

The research was published in the Chinese Science Bulletin, and can be viewed here.

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RE: Be right back
By wordsworm on 1/15/2009 11:55:27 PM , Rating: 2
You could do an experiment to by putting your head in a plastic bag and seeing what your breath does to the air. Think it'll kill you? Maybe you should stop breathing then?

Hey, I just thought of a fun game you and I could play. You go in a garage with an SUV or V8 running, and I'll go in a garage with a Prius. Last one standing wins. We could also try the plastic bag scenario with you sucking on the one with the tailpipe. OK, before you go out and actually do it, you should know that exhaust is toxic: the Prius, even though it's on, wouldn't necessarily be burning gas while the V8 sure would and you'd be dead. Why am I telling you this? I'm telling you because I'm afraid that you might just go ahead and do something like that and I don't want to be held criminally responsible. Lord knows that the American tort system favors the accidental idiot.

RE: Be right back
By sigilscience on 1/16/2009 12:48:06 AM , Rating: 2
Lets try this game instead. You and I go live in a city with a million cars all running their engines. Lets see if that exhaust kills us, no matter how many of them are SUVs?

Oh wait, I've already been playing that game for 30 years. Looks like I'm winning.

RE: Be right back
By bfonnes on 1/19/2009 11:49:16 PM , Rating: 2
Environmentalists, to my knowledge, are not telling people not to drive their cars ever. If some of them feel personal responsibilty and decide to ride bikes and like to be healthy, then more power to them. Why do we have to have this debate in terms of life or death situations? Breathing is involuntary... You don't decide every time you take a breath whether or not you want to do it because the air is bad... So, your argument is a bit fallacious.

RE: Be right back
By onelittleindian on 1/20/2009 10:31:59 AM , Rating: 2
If some of them feel personal responsibilty and decide to ride bikes and like to be healthy, then more power to them
But thats not all they're doing. They're also trying to pass laws to make SUVs more expensive, gas more expensive, attacking SUVs in parking lots and dealer lots, and even trying to get them banned outright in some places.

Riding a bike isn't "showing responsibility". It's either a) exercise, or b) an excuse for a backwards hippie to feel smug and superior.

RE: Be right back
By FITCamaro on 1/16/2009 9:14:25 AM , Rating: 1
I have a game. You put a shotgun in your mouth and pull the trigger. End game.

RE: Be right back
By just4U on 1/18/2009 12:10:33 PM , Rating: 2
Uhh.. how about you guys stop playing that silly game? How can you even hope to be taken seriously (post wise) when your being stupid and posting this crap.

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA

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