---------- Forwarded Message ----------
Global Warming Fuels Hurricanes
By BRENDA EKWURZEL
Knight Ridder Newspapers, The Ledger, Lakeland Florida
Published Saturday, September 3, 2005
In the course of a few days, Hurricane Katrina transformed itself
from a mild tropical storm into one of the most devastating
hurricanes on record.
Because rising global temperatures have warmed the oceans, and warm
oceans fuel hurricanes, many people have asked whether global warming
is at work.
It is impossible to blame any one weather event -- be it a hurricane
or a heat wave or a blizzard -- on global warming. That's because
weather is not climate. Climate represents average conditions over
multiple seasons or decades. A longer perspective is essential to see
climate shifts above the natural variation.
Atmospheric scientists compared data over the past half century and
found there is a link between global warming and the power -- not
frequency -- of hurricanes.
Recent research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows
that the duration and intensity of hurricanes has doubled over the
last 30 years. This trend corresponds to increases in average ocean
surface temperatures over the period.
Most of the strongest hurricanes on record have occurred during the
past 10 years, when ocean surface temperatures reached record levels.
And climate scientists around the world are certain that rising ocean
temperatures are a result of global warming.
Burning fossil fuels in cars and power plants releases carbon dioxide
that blankets the Earth and traps heat. Oceans cover the majority of
the Earth's surface, and they absorb most of this excess heat.
Temperatures have already risen dramatically in recent decades, and
because global warming pollution can stay in the atmosphere for a
hundred or more years, temperatures will only continue to increase.
This is a serious problem.
A warmer planet means more droughts, extreme heat with serious impact
on air quality and human health, more intense rain storms and rising
sea level that threaten people living on the coasts.
If state and federal governments ignore global warming, hurricane
damage will likely escalate.
In 2004, hurricanes caused more than $45 billion in damages. The cost
of Katrina alone may surpass that. To protect the lives of coastal
residents and reduce property damage, we need to start addressing
global warming today.
And the United States should take the lead. With only 4 percent of
the world's population, the United States emits 25 percent of the
world's global-warming pollution.
Unfortunately, President Bush has failed to act on global warming. In
fact, his administration has misrepresented the work of climate
scientists. This failure is discouraging U.S. companies from
producing and selling the most efficient cars and trucks, appliances
and renewable energy systems here and in Europe, Japan, China and
India. This will put the U.S. economy at a disadvantage.
For economic and environmental reasons, and above all to save human
lives, we must take action to reduce heat-trapping emissions. Too
much is at stake to ignore Katrina's warning signs.
Brenda Ekwurzel is a climate scientist with the Union of Concerned
Scientists, an independent nonprofit alliance of scientists.
Posted by Tim
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