Saturday, March 18, 2006

More on Warming Oceans and Hurricanes

As residents on the Gulf coast continue to struggle to clean up and rebuild after last year's devastating hurricane season, experts continue to find evidence that warmer ocean surface temperatures contribute to stronger hurricanes. The trend over the last forty to fifty years has been for stronger hurricanes, and not necessarily greater numbers of hurricanes, and many scientists have predicted this should be expected due to global warming. Prior to last year's storms, reports were out predicting record strength hurricanes because of continued global warming trends. Of course, there are critics and skeptics, as there should be and needs to be in science, who develop alternative explanations and theories, and there may very well be some legitimacy to natural global climate fluctuations. Certainly there have been numerous global climate shifts throughout earth's history, long before people inhabited the planet. However, a new statistical analysis of the data suggests that only ocean surface temperatures can reasonably explain the trend in increasingly strong hurricanes as global warming continues.

The new study was published this past week in the science journal Science, and is summarized on the Scientific American website. Information theory was used in the analysis, which looks at statistical links indicative of the amount of information various data share, and the only variable that can be linked to hurricane strength is ocean surface temperature. Obviously scientists will continue to test other variables through these statistical models as well as computer simulations, which increasingly are being fine-tuned as time goes on and more global climate data comes in, and all of this does not spell good news for regions susceptible to hurricanes...and hurricane season begins in only a few months.

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