Sunday, September 18, 2005

Science helps us out

Tropsat 277X187It's Official: Hurricanes Are Getting Stronger | Science Blog:
The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes worldwide has nearly doubled over the past 35 years, even though the total number of hurricanes has dropped since the 1990s, according to a study by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The shift occurred as global sea surface temperatures have increased over the same period. The research appears in the September 16 issue of Science.
It's official, sea surface temperatures are rising. Hurricane intensity rises with sea surface temperature, therefore, the causal link is pretty easy to make.

It's also official that rising carbon dioxide levels will raise sea surface temperatures. All of which is a long way of saying that the increase in hurricane intensity is a straightforward consequence of the ongoing trend of global climate change.

Can we blame No Man's Land on global warming? No. These arguments are all averages. There might still have been a major storm with the same path at the same time without the changes in sea temperatures. All we can say is that intensity of hurricanes are likely to continue to rise, and that average losses of property and lives will continue to rise, barring any mediation.

The major factor driving the increase in the costs of hurricanes is not intensity. The major factor is that more people are living in hurricane prone regions around the world. Better building codes and better planning are key components of any future discussions about hurricanes. Managing global warming is just one part of that calculus.

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