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Hurricanes are getting fiercer


Quirin Schiermeier outlines new findings by scientists at Florida State University that global warming will significantly increase the intensity of hurricanes and other extreme storms worldwide in the journal Nature.

  • Maximum wind speeds of strongest tropical cyclones have increased significantly since 1981.
  • This increase is thought to be driven by rising ocean temperatures - and it is not likely the trend will stop any time soon.
  • Though there was hardly any increase in average number or intensity of all storms, there was a signficant distribution toward stronger storms - meaning that overall there were more storms that reached category 4 and 5.
  • The US National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center predicts that 14 - 18 named storms and 3-6 major hurricanes will form this season. An average season has 11 named storms and 2 major hurricanes.


Hurricanes are getting fiercer
By Quirin Schiermeier
September 3, 2008

As this year's Atlantic hurricane season becomes ever more violent, scientists have come up with the firmest evidence so far that global warming will significantly increase the intensity of the most extreme storms worldwide.

The maximum wind speeds of the strongest tropical cyclones have increased significantly since 1981, according to research published in Nature this week1. And the upward trend, thought to be driven by rising ocean temperatures, is unlikely to stop at any time soon.

In May 2008, Cyclone Nargis killed more than 100,000 people in southern Myanmar. New Orleans, where Hurricane Katrina wrought havoc in 2005, was luckily spared another flood disaster this week as Hurricane Gustav had weakened by the time it hit the coast of Louisiana.

One of the most contentious issues in the climate-change debate has been whether the strength, number and duration of tropical cyclones will increase in a warmer world. Basic physics and modelling studies do suggest that tropical storms will become more intense, because warmer oceans provide more energy that can be converted into cyclone wind. But others believe that atmospheric changes might have an inhibiting role. Increasing shearing winds - another predicted consequence of global warming - are thought to suppress the cyclonic rotation of the storms, for example.

For the rest of this article please CLICK HERE.
The New York Times and USA Today both mentioned the Nature report in recent articles:
"Strongest storms grow stronger yet" (New York Times)
"World's strongest hurricanes could be getting stronger" (USA Today)

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