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Was Global Warming Behind Hurricane Season 2004?

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  • Mike Neuman
    Was Global Warming Behind Hurricane Season 2004? June 22, 2005 Reporting by Shauna Dineen Rising ocean surface temperatures in the tropical north Atlantic are
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 23, 2005
      Was Global Warming Behind Hurricane Season 2004?
      June 22, 2005
      Reporting by Shauna Dineen

      Rising ocean surface temperatures in the tropical north Atlantic are
      resulting in increased amounts of moisture in the atmosphere, reports
      climate expert Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric
      Research in Colorado. It is this excess moisture, according to
      Trenberth, which is responsible for brewing up this past hurricane
      seasons' monsters.

      Trenberth's study, "Uncertainty in Hurricanes and Global Warming,"
      published in the June 17 issue of Science, explains that atmospheric
      water vapor levels have increased by five percent over the last
      century. Given present models, Trenberth's study predicts that there
      will be a seven percent increase in moisture in the atmosphere for
      every degree Celsius that the air temperature rises. "Trends in human-
      influenced environmental changes are now evident in hurricane
      regions," Trenberth says.

      The climate shift and resulting rising atmospheric moisture levels is
      truly bad news for the southeastern U.S., as according to Trenberth,
      it most likely means a longer hurricane season. It most definitely
      promises more rain, which equals more flooding, damage, and rising
      storm damage costs.

      Article published Jun 17, 2005
      Climate expert predicts stronger, wetter storms
      The scientist says warmer ocean waters are the cause.


      A pair of scientists say that warmer oceans -- the result of global
      warming -- will likely lead to more damaging hurricanes in the future.

      Climatologists can't yet tell if there will be more storms, but
      rising ocean temperatures will likely affect hurricanes in two ways,
      Kevin Trenberth, a climate expert with the National Center for
      Atmospheric Research reported Thursday in the journal Science.

      Warmer ocean waters will likely allow for more thunderstorms that
      could lead to hurricanes in areas that typically produce them. And
      warmer waters also mean that once a hurricane takes shape, it will
      have more fuel to grow and will take in more moisture.

      The climate shift also likely means a slightly longer hurricane
      season and stronger storms early in the season.

      But that doesn't mean every storm will be a monster, Trenberth said.

      While sea surface temperature is probably the most important
      ingredient in determining a storm's strength, other factors come into

      One is wind shear high in the atmosphere that might slice off the top
      of a growing storm.

      "It's sort of like if you are in the bathtub watching the water going
      down the drain, and you move your leg," he said. "You'll knock it
      out, and it'll take a few minutes to form again."

      Trenberth said Tropical Storm Arlene, the first of the 2005 Atlantic
      season, and Hurricane Catarina, which formed in March 2004 off
      Brazil, a place where hurricanes aren't supposed to form, are other
      indications of the change that could be under way.

      Hurricanes have a natural intensity limit. But researchers at the
      NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J., say
      global warming will likely intensify storms by about half a category
      over the next 80 years.

      "You move to a warmer climate where there are warmer sea surface
      temperatures, and that upper limit will increase," said Tom Knutson,
      a research meteorologist with the lab.

      And while more powerful winds are part of the picture, Trenberth said
      the bigger problem will be flooding because future storms will dump
      more rain.

      "It's not just about the hurricane itself or even the strength of the
      winds," Trenberth said. "It's every bit as much about the rainfall
      and the flooding."

      Globally, the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere has risen 5
      percent over the last century and 10 percent in the area where
      hurricanes form, Trenberth said.

      More moisture in the storm means more rain when a hurricane or
      tropical storm makes landfall.

      Trenberth says it's bad news for coastal communities and inland ones

      The tiny town of Cruso, N.C., is a case in point.

      When most people think of Hurricane Ivan's devastation, they don't
      think of the town that sits near the Tennessee state line, hundreds
      of miles from the Gulf of Mexico coast where Ivan struck land.

      After blowing across Florida and Alabama and heading north, Ivan
      dumped 17 inches of rain on the North Carolina town, causing
      flooding, closing roads and washing out bridges. Of the 92 deaths
      directly attributed to Ivan, eight were in North Carolina and 14 were
      in Florida.

      Climatologists say with global warming, coastal cities and places as
      far inland as Cruso ought to prepare for stronger, wetter storms like
      Ivan in years to come.

      According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the five
      hurricanes that hit the United States in 2004, four in Florida and
      one in Gaston, S.C., caused more than $850 million in flood damage.
      Ivan accounted for $650 million of that.
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