2007 Hurricane Season: Where's the Beef?
July 31, 2007 1:12 PM
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
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
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.
"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov
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