Study: Climate Change Likely Made Storms Even Stronger

4 09 2008

 

By ERIC BERGER | Houston Chronicle

The strongest hurricanes have gotten stronger in nearly all oceans around the world, likely in response to global warming, a new study concludes.

Scientists say the research is noteworthy, because it uses only satellite observations.This may eliminate some of the bias in the historical hurricane record that has made it all but impossible to determine whether monster storms such as Hurricane Katrina are stronger or more frequent than they were a few decades ago.

After reanalyzing 25 years of satellite data from the North Atlantic and the other five ocean basins where tropical cyclones form, the study’s authors found that the top 30 percent of each year’s storms became measurably stronger between 1981 and 2006. The intensity change was equivalent to about 5 mph for the strongest storms.

“I think this makes the argument much more compelling that climate change is really affecting the most rare, powerful storms by making them even stronger,” said James Elsner, a hurricane scientist at Florida State University and lead author of the study published in Nature.

In recent years, especially since the record 2005 tropical season, some hurricane scientists have believed that warmer oceans were producing stronger hurricanes.

But other scientists have said the record of past hurricanes couldn’t be compared to that of the modern era, when storms are analyzed in minute detail from space, air and sea. Prior to the use of satellites and aircraft reconnaissance, the ability to measure sustained winds at sea was severely constrained.

One of those researchers, Chris Landsea, of the National Hurricane Center, said the new paper overreaches in its conclusion that global warming has caused the apparent rise in hurricane intensity.

The new paper finds the sharpest rise in intensity for the North Atlantic, Southern Indian and Northern Indian oceans. The trends are more modest in the Western North Pacific and Eastern North Pacific basins, and nonexistent in the South Pacific.

Read on here.

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