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Another milder-than-normal season takes shape

During the active 2005 hurricane season, the usual doom-and-gloom prophets blamed the storms on global warming. "Nature's wrath," we were told, "hath been unleashed". Aided by a complaisant media, we were told this was our wakeup call, come to punish us for our SUV-driving ways.

Then disaster struck.  The 2006 season not only didn't live up to predictions, it wound up being one of the quietest seasons of the past century. No matter. We were told to ignore this year-long blip, told that 2007 would come roaring back with a vengeance.

And yet, here we are, two full months into the season, and not a single hurricane has formed. Not one. Just two mild tropical storms, one of which didn't even strike land, and a third storm which never went above subtropical status. Hurricane forecasters are busily downgrading their predictions for the rest of the season.

And so it goes. The sky isn't falling yet. But what about the future? Will global warming wreck all our beach-going vacations?

There are two schools of thought regarding the effects of climate change on hurricane science. The first begins with the fact that hurricanes require warm water to form. Global warming means warmer water, leading to the naive conclusion is that more hurricanes will form. The second school realizes that hurricanes are heat engines -- driven not by raw temperature, but by temperature differentials between regions. Global warming warms the arctic and temperate belts, but not the tropics. This reduces the total energy available for major storm formation. It also increases upper-level wind shear, which tends to tear apart storms before they grow too strong. This school believes the long term effects of global warming will be fewer, milder storms.

Climate change aside, hurricanes come and go in cycles. Professor William Gray, one of the nation's most respected hurricane forecasters, believes storm activity will remain high for the next several years, due simply to a long-term cycle of changing Atlantic currents. A team of researchers led by Dr. Chris Landsea of the National Hurricane Center goes further. In a paper published last year, they claim storm rates have not risen over the past 100 years, but only that improved monitoring technology results in registering storms which would have previously been missed. And professors Vecchi and Soden's research on wind shear suggests no long-term storm activity increase should be expected.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm not selling my ocean-front condo just yet.

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RE: Here's the reference...
By masher2 on 7/31/2007 3:11:56 PM , Rating: 3
Dr. Landsea's rebuttal of the Holland paper:
Chris Landsea, science and operations officer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Center, said the study is inconsistent in its use of data.

The work, he said, is " sloppy science that neglects the fact that better monitoring by satellites allows us to observe storms and hurricanes that were simply missed earlier . The doubling in the number of storms and hurricanes in 100 years that they found in their paper is just an artifact of technology, not climate change."...
Or even more tantalizing, Dr. Gray's comments on the CO2-tropical storm link:
The hypothesis that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases the number of hurricanes fails by an even wider margin when we compare two other multi-decade periods: 1925-1965 and 1966-2006. In the 41 years from 1925-1965, there were 39 U.S. land-falling major hurricanes. In the 1966-2006 period there were 22 such storms -- only 56% as many. Even though global mean temperatures have risen by an estimated 0.4 Celsius and CO2 by 20%, the number of major hurricanes hitting the U.S. declined .
So which set of researchers are correct? Its interesting to note that Holland's paper was published just this week, but failed entirely to consider data from the mild 2006 season.

And there's a larger point here. On one side, we have scientists claiming global warming has no effect. On the other, we have those who claim it is...but even they agree the natural variance in the storm cycle is much larger than the total effects of global warming.

Neither side is screaming the sky is falling. We have only the media to thank for that

RE: Here's the reference...
By Rovemelt on 7/31/07, Rating: 0
RE: Here's the reference...
By masher2 on 7/31/2007 4:26:52 PM , Rating: 4
> "that year, which was not included in the study, would have ranked above average a century ago"

According to Gray and other noted researchers, this is only because a century ago, most storms which did not make landfall went unnoticed.

RE: Here's the reference...
By Scorpion on 8/2/2007 3:49:12 PM , Rating: 2
Towards the end of 2006? More likely the beginning. Anyone who writes scientific papers knows that it's not uncommon for a paper to take a full year or more for it to be published in a scientific journal. It can often go back and forth between reviewers and author. Of course it all depends on the journal. The more prestigious, the more time it sometimes takes. This in fact just happened to a colleague of mine who's paper just got published a year and a half after he had originally submitted his first draft.

I love's masher's oh so non-subtle sarcasm towards global warming.

Nevermind, I lied.

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