Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Too Soon to Blame Global Warming for Felix and Dean

Two Category 5 hurricanes, Dean and Felix have made landfall in the last two weeks. This is the first time in recorded history that two Category 5 hurricanes have formed in the Atlantic in the same season. The temptation is great to put the blame on climate change, but some weather experts, including some global warming theorists, say it is too soon to make that assumption.

"My guess is that the high intensities of Dean and Felix had more to do with when and where they formed and tracked than with global warming per se," said Kerry Emanuel, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor of meteorology who has published ground-breaking research on the subject.

Many hurricane experts, former IPCC contributor Chris Landsea, say the Atlantic has entered a period of increased hurricane activity that may last twenty years. Felix and Dean both formed in an area of persistent high pressure and passed "over a region known to be a great hurricane intensifier," according to Robert Muir Wood, chief research officer at London-based Risk Management Solutions.

"There is no doubt at all that warmer sea surface temperatures lead to more powerful hurricanes: we can see this every time a hurricane moves over warmer ocean waters," said Terry Joyce, director of the Oceans and Climate Change Institute at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

"But to attribute both of these to global warming, after only two Category 5 storms, is ... premature."


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