05.21.08

Findings! Findings! Findings! Another Scientist Joins The Global Warming-Hurricanes Debate

Posted in Commentary, Global Warming And at 11:57 pm by gmachos

Good evening. Sorry that I’ve been away from posting something in the Hurricaneville Blogosphere these past few days, but I’ve been busy with my job, and also work on another site that I do called GMC Hoops. The site is devoted to covering high school basketball in Middlesex County, New Jersey, and the summer league season is beginning to heat up. However, I continue to watch things in the news, and pass interesting stories I find on the internet to the readers on the Hurricaneville Mailing List. A couple of interesting articles caught my eye this week including the discovery of a new tool to predict hurricane season activity in the Atlantic, and another scientist’s findings in regard to the link between global warming and hurricanes.

Earlier this week, a highly regarded American scientist, Tom Knutson, stated in a recent published study that there is no link between the recent increased tropical activity and global warming. As a matter of fact, Knutson believes that in the long run, tropical storm and hurricane occurrences will dramatically be reduced by warming although storms that do occur will be stronger and more devastating. In the study that was released on Sunday, Knutson, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fluid dynamics lab in Princeton, N.J., stated that by the end of the 21st century, the number of hurricanes will be reduced by 18 percent.

Furthermore, the number of tropical storms will decrease by about 27 percent. However, the number of major hurricanes, ones that reach an intensity of Category Three or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Scale will only fall by eight percent. Looking at this information, one would wonder how would that be possible. I gave it some thought, and while I didn’t read Knutson’s work, I logically deduced that he came up with the findings using a model that showed a relationship between the oceans increased temperatures due to global warming, and wind shear. Say for example, we have increased sea surface temperatures globally. Well, that means for the Atlantic that the Eastern Pacific would be more likely an environment that is similar to an El Nino episode, where warmer sea surface temperatures off Western Mexico, Central America, and South America would produce stronger hurricanes in the Eastern Pacific.

These storms in turn would come ashore in Mexico and Central America, and then bring its remnants across into the Atlantic bringing hostile upper level wind conditions that would hamper the development of fledgling storms such as tropical storms and minimal hurricanes. Wind shear for a developing tropical storm, or hurricane, can be a death sentence. Hurricanes need light winds aloft to help nurture its very delicate vertical cloud structure. You’ll often hear the term, vertically stacked when forecasters refer to the cloudy system of a hurricane, and that is because the storm produces towering cumulonimbus clouds that produce the rain and fierce thunderstorms. Consequently, we have the reduction in those numbers for developing storms. This idea has come up before during the constant and sharply contested debate on this subject.

In response to Knutson’s findings, MIT professor, Kerry Emanuel, who is author of the book, Divine Wind, admired Knutson as a scientist, but stated that one of the government’s top weather researchers was wrong in his analysis. According to the USA Today article that features the results of Knutson’s findings, Emanuel stated that his conclusion was, “demonstrably wrong” since it was “based on a model that doesn’t properly look at storms”. Another highly regarded researcher, Kevin Trenberth, also criticized Knutson’s model as being inadequate for assessing tropical weather, and “fails to replicate storms with any kind of fidelity.” Earlier this year, Emanuel issued results of another study that he had done on the subject that indicated he was at a quandry over some of the results since they demonstrated that global warming may not dramatically increase hurricane activity after all, which was a revision of his earlier thoughts from the summer of 2005 just weeks before Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Central Gulf Coast of the United States.

When the average person reads these stories, and the basic theme of these studies, he or she may wonder if the hurricane researcher has gone the way of their medical brethren. Often, you’ll hear on the news that the Journal of American Medicine has come up with a study that revealed the benefits that drinking coffee has on people only to have another one come up a year or so later that conflicts what they’ve previously found. Perhaps, this is the journey that is called learning. You’ll always find out new things. These things are ones that you’ve never considered before. Obviously, this global warming question in regard to hurricanes is still open ended. While there a consensus that global warming is occurring on the planet, there is still doubt on its impact on tropical storms and hurricanes. The moral of the story here is that residents along the coast from Maine to Texas need to be prepared for anything each and every year, and also doing things to fortify the coastline against the present threat from storms.

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