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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: Tropics not warming ???
By masher2 on 8/1/2007 4:05:55 PM , Rating: 2
This is a basic facet of global warming, revealed by the temperature data itself. The coolest, driest areas of the planet are warming the most.

Many tropical regions are actually cooling very slightly.

RE: Tropics not warming ???
By Yossarian22 on 8/1/2007 4:33:51 PM , Rating: 2
No they aren't. Antarctica, for example, is much colder now then ever before.
See the "Antarctic climate cooling and terrestrial ecosystem response"
From 1986-2000cetral Antarctic valleys cooled .7C causing ecosystem damage from cold.
The west Antacrtic ice shelves are thickening.

RE: Tropics not warming ???
By masher2 on 8/1/2007 5:21:42 PM , Rating: 2
I said the actic region, not the antarctic. Here a link to the baseline surface temperature differential data for the entire globe. You can clearly see regions such as Siberia, Alaska, Greenland, etc, have warmed the most. The tropical belt is much less affected, and some regions are actually showing a mild degree of cooling. We don't have data for all of Antarctica, but for those we do, some show net warming, others net cooling.

While regional differences are large, global warming does act in general to reduce the temperature differential between the warmest and coldest regions of the planet.

RE: Tropics not warming ???
By Yossarian22 on 8/1/2007 11:03:22 PM , Rating: 2
When you said coldest and driest, I thought of Antarctic. The rest of the world is relatively mild in comparison. Anyhow, nobody can say the earth isn't warming, because it has since the Holocen epoch

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