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Warmer Oceans linked to Stronger Hurricanes 374

Posted by Zonk
from the raise-your-hand-if-you-are-shocked dept.
linguizic writes "According to Scientific American, global warming could be creating stronger hurricanes: 'Since the 1970s, ocean surface temperatures around the globe have been on the rise--from one half to one degree Fahrenheit, depending on the region. Last summer, two studies linked this temperature rise to stronger and more frequent hurricanes. Skeptics called other factors into account, such as natural variability, but a new statistical analysis shows that only this sea surface temperature increase explains this trend.'"
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Warmer Oceans linked to Stronger Hurricanes

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18, 2006 @04:42PM (#14949111)
    Global warming is a Liberal Myth. Rush and Sean said so!
    • Rush and Sean said so!
      That much, on any controversial issue, is enough to make me think something is false.
    • Damn. You beat me to it. I was just going to say the EXACT same thing, almost. Anyone that talks of global warming is a liberal- and also likely a terrorist too. F'n Wackos! so why are we having more potent hurricanes again?
    • by jadavis (473492) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @10:48PM (#14950536)
      I know what you said was a joke, but there's a real issue here. Most people believe global warming is happening, and most people believe that a part of that warming is caused by humans. It doesn't really matter if it's caused by humans or not, if a natural cycle throws the environment out of whack it's just as bad as if humans do.

      The question is what to do about it. We can:
      (1) Totally ignore it.
      (2) Put our entire economy on hold.

      Or anything in between. To determine what we should do requires a lot more information than we actually have. What's the extent of the damage? How much of that damage will be prevented if we do something now? How much of our economy will be affected by doing something?
      • It would seem to me, irregardless of the causes to global warming, and irrespective of whether there is a solution, the industrialized world weening itself of its oil addiction as quickly as possible is a damn good idea.
      • by colmore (56499) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @03:38AM (#14951156) Journal
        I love how many people on one side of this debate (there are more than two) seem to think investing in new technology and researching effective ways of changing consumption patterns amount to "putting our economy on hold." Talk about futurephobia.

        If I had a cent to invest, I'd be looking for the intersection for emerging consumer economies (that is, formerly 3rd world countries with rapidly growing middle classes) and alternative energy sources, particularly those that will survive increased international pressure as evidence for climate change caused by human carbon emissions masses (the evidence is already pretty rock solid, but as more amasses, fewer and fewer in the international community will be able to ignore it.) So look for zero carbon (wind looks to be the most promising right now) and carbon-neutral (biofuels, you only release as much carbon as what you grew absorbed in its lifetime - as opposed to burning carbon you dig out of the ground) power solutions in the former 3rd world. Invest across a handful of technologies and markets, and you're pretty sure to do well.

        Put our economy on hold? WTF? Things are changing. Economies are always in states of flux. Don't deny science because it might be inconvenient to your pocketbook; reorient your pocketbook to the current situation.
  • Um. . .Duh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Limburgher (523006) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @04:45PM (#14949118) Homepage Journal
    Didn't we already know this? Was it a total mystery that having a patch of water over which hurricanes generate, say, the Gulf of Mexico, will serve to strengthen them? Was it a total mystery that climate change might bring about nasty consequences?

    Ok, well, for some people [whitehouse.gov] it was. :)

    • Re:Um. . .Duh? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fm6 (162816)
      Well, you may think there's an obvious connection, as do I, but there are still many doubters. The article (which the Slashdot headline, as usual, mischaracterizes) simply reports that there's a little more evidence on one side of the argument.

      Of course, it's all irrelevent if you're already convinced that this whole global warming thing is just a fantasy by tree-huggers and Bush-haters (no pun intended).

      • Re:Um. . .Duh? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cluckshot (658931)

        The fact of Global Warming isn't really in question. The place is warming up. The real question is why? There are people who take a warming trend to be evidence of human activity etc. There are others who question that. The rise in temperature really is not in doubt.

        There is extremely good evidence that the process is substantially if not entirely natural. I know that some will argue against this but there are several very good indicators. The sun has gotten brighter and in particularly it has also

        • Re:Um. . .Duh? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by GooglePlexity (959033)
          Then why do the overwhelming majority of climate scientists think that global warming is influenced by human activities? Yes, there are natural trends that cause cyclic temperature change, but in the last 100 or so years, we have seen a dramatic departure from that trend that couldn't be cause by natural effects.
          • Re:Um. . .Duh? (Score:2, Insightful)

            by WoodstockJeff (568111)
            Then why do the overwhelming majority of climate scientists think that global warming is influenced by human activities?

            I don't know - maybe because they are ignoring the evidence NASA has that global warming is also occuring on Mars, which doesn't have any SUVs to speak of, or coal-powered electrical plants, or any of those other nasty human-caused things?

            • by Jeremi (14640)
              maybe because they are ignoring the evidence NASA has that global warming is also occuring on Mars


              You think Mars is bad, check out the greenhouse problems they have on Venus...

        • Re:Um. . .Duh? (Score:5, Informative)

          by Coryoth (254751) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @06:22PM (#14949550) Homepage Journal
          There is extremely good evidence that the process is substantially if not entirely natural.

          And in practice there is a lot more damning evidence that a significant portion of the warming is anthropogenic. Here's a rief summary of some of the most quickly explained information:

          Atmospheric carbox dioxide correlates very well with temperature. We know this by many methods, but the one with the longest historical record is that of ice-cores, which provide data on historical CO2 levels and historical temperature going back 650,000 years. Over that time span there is an extremely close correlation of atmospheric carbon dioxide and temperature.

          More recently there is, again, very good correlation between the recent rapid (and accelerating) rise in temperature and recent rises in the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. By recent I mean the last 150 years or so.

          Correlation, of course, does not prove causation. However we know from completely independent study that, based on its absorption spectra, atmospheric carbon dioxide will tend to trap heat. We therefore not only have very powerful correlations, we also have very good reasons to expect and anticipcate causation.

          Further studies of the change in ratio of different carbon isotopes in atmospheric carbon dioxide shows that the recent (last 150 years) spike in carbon dioxide is almost entirely caused by humans.

          Based on all of that we would certainly expect human carbox dioxide emissions to be a factor in recent global temperature increases. When models attempting to predict the rise based on historical data are run the expected warming trend is remarkably well accounted for.

          The sun has gotten brighter and in particularly it has also been much more electrically active in the last few years.

          Solar variation gets brought up often, and certainly there is solar variation and we can expect it to have some impact on global temperatures. The observed solar variation alone is, however, not sufficient to properly account for the observed warming. The IPCC claims that around 30% of the observed warming can be accounted for by solar variation, but the remaining warming is almost entirely accounted for by human factors, particularly human CO2 (and other greenhouse gas) emissions. So yes, solar variation most certainly matters. To the best of our knowledge however solar variation is not the primary factor - anthropogenic factors are.

          Jedidiah.
          • Re:Um. . .Duh? (Score:3, Interesting)

            The statement that CO2 correlates well with temperature is incorrect. CO2 has been steadily increasing over the last 100 years, while temperatures rose from the 1880's to about 1940, cooled until about the 1970s, and has risen again of late.

            The 500k year Vostok ice core data: http://cdiac.esd.ornl.gov/trends/co2/vostok.htm [ornl.gov] shows CO2 either in phase or lagging temperature by up to 1000 years, over four temperature oscillations. This means the CO2 does not drive temperature, but that temperature drives CO2

            • Re:Um. . .Duh? (Score:3, Informative)

              by 2marcus (704338)
              2) Direct CO2 forcing is responsible for 9 to 26% of radiative forcing depending on how you do your calculations (realclimate calculations [realclimate.org])

              Warming due to CO2 will also lead to more water vapor in the atmosphere in a positive feedback.

              3) I have no idea where you are getting your numbers. Please cite some sources? Again, realclimate [realclimate.org] has reprinted a figure showing 6 different temperature reconstructions of the past 1000 years. None of them have medieval warm periods that are even as warm as today's

        • Re:Um. . .Duh? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by codguy (629138) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @06:53PM (#14949717)
          The fact of Global Warming isn't really in question.
          Let me applaud you on getting this correct because some still deny it is even occurring.
          There is extremely good evidence that the process is substantially if not entirely natural.
          But I won't let you get away with this because it is simply incorrect. The vast majority of the scientific community that has studied this has reached the conclusion that it is related to human activity. Even George W. Bush finally admitted before the start of the G8 summit last year that global warming was linked to human activity.

          Science, not just climate science, is overall a very conservative discipline. For the majority of the scientific community to have arrived at the conclusion that our planet is warming related to anthropogenic activity is not simply because a couple of scientists or even hundreds or thousands of scientists have said so. It is because an overwhelming amount of evidence from every corner of the globe has led them to this conclusion.

          Yes, there are still some climate scientists, by far a small minority, that still claim that either global warming is not occurring, or if so, it is not related to human activity. That's ok, that's part of the scientific process, and everybody has a different understanding of reasonable doubt. But as evidence continues to pour in day after day from around the globe, I think eventually even that small majority will have a change of opinion.

        • Re:Um. . .Duh? (Score:2, Informative)

          by Red Jesus (962106)

          The sun has gotten brighter and in particularly it has also been much more electrically active in the last few years. There were 2 massive solar flares only a few days before Hurricans Katriana and Rita flared up. Wilma has a strong match to several solar flares.

          Pardon? Solar flares? What's this "match" you're talking about? I can understand how human-generated carbon dioxide can trap heat in the atmosphere -- we've established the greenhouse effect. I can also understand how warmer water makes more inten

    • So many people already knew about this that Hollywood had pumped out a cheesy, un-original movie about it over a year ago!
      • Re:Hollywood knows. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by g-doo (714869)
        It wasn't all cheesy. Scientists really are looking into the possibility that fresh water from melting glaciers might be diluting the ocean's salinity. That makes it increasingly difficult for cooling water to sink and return south towards the poles to pick up more heat. This kind of disruption could cause Europe's climate to cool down. We're already seeing signs that a component of the current system powering the Gulf Stream might be slowing down [soton.ac.uk]. Besides, the subject could use a publicity, and a high
    • Re:Um. . .Duh? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by syntaxglitch (889367)
      Didn't we already know this? Was it a total mystery that having a patch of water over which hurricanes generate, say, the Gulf of Mexico, will serve to strengthen them? Was it a total mystery that climate change might bring about nasty consequences?

      None of that was unknown, no, but they're not logically connected by necessity. Global warming is an overall average temperature increase, and is quite capable of lowering average temperatures in some locations. Thus the jump from "global warming" to "zOMG HU
      • Re:Um. . .Duh? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hazem (472289)
        Global warming is an overall average temperature increase, and is quite capable of lowering average temperatures in some locations.

        The problem is that there have been measured increases in ocean temperatures. Hurricanes require energy to keep going (from a site about El Nino, about 81 degrees F). Warmer oceans mean more energy. It's not much of a leap to link stronger hurricanes with warmer oceans.

        • The problem is that there have been measured increases in ocean temperatures. Hurricanes require energy to keep going (from a site about El Nino, about 81 degrees F). Warmer oceans mean more energy. It's not much of a leap to link stronger hurricanes with warmer oceans.

          Well, yes. "Warm oceans -> hurricanes" is well established. I'm saying "global warming -> warm oceans" isn't necessarily accurate, especially since a significant increase in hurricane activity would probably require an ocean tempera
      • Re:Um. . .Duh? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by GooglePlexity (959033) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @06:21PM (#14949547) Homepage
        and even if global warming was not mainly caused by human activity, that doesn't mean we shouldn't do everything possible to slow its rate.
      • Re:Um. . .Duh? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Xyrus (755017)
        "Thus the jump from "global warming" to "zOMG HURRICANES" still strikes me as unlikely..."

        A sea surface temperature increase of even a half-degree represents an enormous enormous amount of additional energy feeding into our planetary weather systems.

        It doesn't strike me as unlikely at all.

        ~X~
    • Well, it was obvious to some of us. But most people are in denial about this stuff. Hell, most people haven't admitted global warming is a problem yet, due to greed or stupidity or plain old laziness, or probably a hundred other reasons.
      • by ElectricRook (264648) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @09:25PM (#14950329)
        Most of us with some years behind us, have seen worse environmental scares than this. In the 70's we were running out of oxygen don't you know that we will be dying off in the millions of low oxygen levels predicted to occur in the late 90's. Of course, this was going occur before the comming ice age. Yes, we were warned of the ice age, and the big crash too. No, not the stock market crash, but a meteor was going to smack the earth. Oh yes, I forgot about running out of food too. Yes, us old-timers have seen lots of disasters on a global scale. That all never seemed to materialized after the book sales slumped. This is just the next round, and we are hardened by the frights of the past.
    • Hurricane generation and intensity is a complicated and poorly understood subject matter. We know that factors involved include, but are not limited to, upper sea surface temperature, temperatures below the surface (the best hurricanes thrive on cold deep waters under hot surface waters, I think), wind shear, and upper troposphere atmospheric temperatures. Certainly, a higher sea surface temperature leads to higher potential hurricane intensity, but hurricanes rarely come anywhere near their maxiumum int
  • ...ocean surface temperatures around the globe have been on the rise--from one half to one degree Fahrenheit...
    Err... how many hogheads is that?
  • What now? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gcnaddict (841664) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @04:49PM (#14949137)
    Granted the fact that, as someone already mentioned, we already knew this, we still don't have a definite explanation as to why the waters are warming up. Environmentalists say global warming thanks to oil. Oleum (latin for oil... it's where the term "Petroleum" comes from) companies say it's a result of excess water in the atmosphere or that it's part of a constant cycle. Each side needs to defend their cred, but one better turn out to be right, because these hurricanes/cyclones/typhoons are killing more and more people by the year.
    • Well, water vapor is far and away the most significant greenhouse gas, but there's no obvious way to make it precipitate any faster than it does, unless you want to try orbiting a vast sunshade to reduce the amount of light striking the atmosphere. Occluding an area the size of Texas should do the trick.

      -jcr
      • Re:What now? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by slashkitty (21637)
        Well, maybe we shouldn't be covering the skys with vapor trails from jets. Put less up there, and less would have to come down.
        • Well, maybe we shouldn't be covering the skys with vapor trails from jets.

          They should have modded you funny, but in case you were serious...

          Jets aren't adding any significant amount of water to the atmosphere, and at any rate, cirrus clouds reduce the solar heat gain.

          -jcr
    • Each side needs to defend their cred, but one better turn out to be right, because these hurricanes/cyclones/typhoons are killing more and more people by the year.

            That wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that there are more people to kill, now, would it? Or a shift in population density?
    • Bloody hard to fathom what source of energy could be elevating ocean and air temps...

      Maybe this one? [nasa.gov]
  • One of the major origin of hurricanes is the ocean temperature. If enough water is above 27C you are likely to see hurricanes poping on the radar. If some still want to believe that it was bad luck/fate/god's vengeance/*pick dump excuse* that braught the south of the USA to the ground... let them do.
  • by rapierian (608068) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @04:55PM (#14949167)
    The Earth is getting warmer currently, but the primary cause of increased ocean temperatures in the atlantic is from the fact that we're entering the warm part of the 50 year cycle. If you want a very good write up of the study check out this:

    http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=031606F [tcsdaily.com]

    • by linguizic (806996) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @05:14PM (#14949241)
      Quote from the SciAm article: "Her team will now focus on clarifying the mechanisms at work in the North Atlantic by separating out the 75-year natural cycle and climate change. "The last peak was in 1950, the next is in 2025," she adds. "We're only halfway up [the cycle] and we're already 50 percent worse [in terms of storms]. To me, that's a compelling issue that needs to be confronted." Though no one can yet claim that the 75 year cycle isn't responsible for Katrina et al, Dr. Curry there seems to think that this new data presents the possibillity that Katrina et al cannot be explained by the Atlantic cycle.
      • I think Dr. Curry isn't up on her NAO research. The NAO has a 40-50 year variable decadal pattern. The beginning of the 20th century was a cold pattern, with rapid warming in the 1930s followed by 30 years of warm cycle, followed by another cold period up until the 1990s. The 90s were a sustained cold period with minimal hurricane activity, and now we're cycling into another warm period.

        The decadal periods are bookended by monster hurricane cycles. See the 1900 Galveston hurricane (which destroyed Galve
  • by daeg (828071)
    I'm cautious reading stories like these. TFA indicates that statistical analysis says the 1 degree warmer water increases hurricane intensity. That makes sense. Now what can they do with that information? Does it help prediction models? Even if we were a totally rational and science-founded world (which we are not), this study shouldn't sway us either way. Obviously we can't directly control ocean temperature. Can anyone quantify changes humanity can make and implement to lower ocean temperature directly? N
  • by atarione (601740) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @05:10PM (#14949228)
    ~~~~ Curry says. Her team will now focus on clarifying the mechanisms at work in the North Atlantic by separating out the 75-year natural cycle and climate change. "The last peak was in 1950, the next is in 2025," she adds. "We're only halfway up [the cycle] and we're already 50 percent worse [in terms of storms]. To me, that's a compelling issue that needs to be confronted." ~~~

    as i'm reading this they are saying the storms now are 50% worse than the storms in 1950 (which should have been the high point of storm activity based on natural cycle)... and that the natural cycle would point to natural warming for next 20~years........

    I'm honestly starting to wonder if humanity even has time left to get our stuff together or if we've already taken things to far, with our climate impacting activities.

    I was reading the other day about artic wild life...seals ..etc that were moving further north.. leaving local indiginous people that had lived in the areas affected for well..... a LONG ASS TIME. for the first time w/out the food recourses to survive as they have for centuries...

    human caused global warming is close enough to completely proved for me.
  • by FishandChips (695645) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @05:21PM (#14949266) Journal
    Oh well, coming on top of famine, drought, peak oil, bird flu, hiv, cancer, global warming, wars, the North Pole melting, earthquakes, resurgent Islam and thermo-nuclear trouble in Iraq - news always available in a newspaper near you - I guess I'll just have to put this one down to yet another paragraph I failed to read at the bottom of the End User's Licence Agreement called life.
  • doesn't make sense (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dominator2010 (735220) *
    I don't have numbers to justify it, but what about everyone complaining about ice caps melting? It would seem to me that warm waters might explain this, but then wouldn't the melting ice cause the ocean to cool? I guess it depends on how much ice is melting and the range of warmer ocean water.
    • by hazem (472289)
      The energy has to go somewhere. If you put an ice-cube in a glass of water, the ice cube will melt and the water will be cooler. But the overall energy in the system will be the same (not accounting for heat transferring from the glass to the environment).

      To compound the problem of melting ice caps is that the ice caps tend to reflect a lot of sunlight back into space. Ocean water does this less. This means that more sunlight/energy stays in the Earth system - which contributes at least a little to the
  • how is this a "new" report? this is all we hear about during hurricane season in florida on the radio.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Yep, Global warming is just a myth until a hurricane hit Washington DC or New York City

    Then you can bet someone will declare, it is global warming
  • by Dr_Ish (639005) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @06:39PM (#14949645) Homepage
    Well, as a resident of Louisiana, I can attest that more hurricanes are a bad thing. We were not hit by Katrina, but we had the refugees staying in our houses. New Orleans is still on hell of a mess [louisiana.edu]. On the other hand, we did get hit somewhat by the hurricane everyone forgets, Rita. That really trashed our coastal parishes and poisoned the land with salt (for details see here [louisiana.edu]). A warmer Gulf means the risk of more storms and stronger storms. From where we sit, we really do not give a proverbial 'rats arse' about the politics. We just do not want hurricanes. If ANYTHING can be done to lower the temperature of the sea and thereby reduce the risk, I am for it. The politicos like to carp on about the causal link not being proved -- this was the line used by tobacco companies for years. Anyone who knows anything about the philosophy of science knows that it is almost possible to prove causation. What matters is strong correlation. This we seem to have, although I am sure whilst Haliburton runs the Whitehouse, nobody will pay any attention. Sorry, I needed to vent on this...
  • ... but no shit, Sherlock. That's like saying that we just discovered that severe weather is more likely to occur in zones of low atmospheric pressure. I thought this was supposed to be news for nerds, not news for people that flunked out of middle-school Earth science class.
  • by ctwxman (589366) <me@@@geofffox...com> on Sunday March 19, 2006 @02:58AM (#14951105) Homepage
    OK - this is what I do for a living - forecasting the weather. I've been doing it for better than 25 years.

    Most operational meteorologists I know feel human induced global warming is a bad theory, based on really bad modeling. The equations are incomplete as is the data set. Maybe we're worried because we use numeric weather prediction models [noaa.gov] on a daily basis and understand we can't always get the temperature right to within 2-3 degree over 24 hours, much less 24 years!

    Academicians and theorists seem to support the idea in great numbers. These are people who haven't had to answer for a bad forecast in the supermarket.

    Surely, human induced global warming is a political argument. Ask yourself, why have I never heard even one positive influence from global warming? In science, you should hear the good and the bad. In this argument, it's only the bad that gets publicized. If everyone in the Northern Plains, Northern Europe, New England, Canada and other cold weather climates get a longer growing season with lower winter heating costs, shouldn't that be weighed against tidal rises on Vanuatu?

    Recently, after Katrina and the others, there has been a chorus trying to connect more hurricanes with global warming. Here's what Dr. William Gray says (he's the guy you hear quoted every year with seasonal hurricane predictions):

    There is absolutely no solid evidence that the recent US hurricane disasters of 2004-05 and of Japan in 2004 are 'directly' attributed to the impact of global warming. Landfalling major hurricanes have occurred in earlier periods when the globe was cooler. The two scientific papers in Nature and Science have been largely discredited by myself and others.

    Most of the warming of the last 30 years (1975-2005) cannot possibly be due solely to greenhouse gas increases. Although CO2 amounts have gone up by about 378 ppm/330 ppm = ~15% during this period, the net energy forcing (of about 0.65 w/m2) from this CO2 increase is considerably less than the other energy forcing changes of long wave radiation (LW), evaporation-precipitation, and ocean thermohaline circulation change that have been measured by the reanalysis data over the last 30 and 55 years. For instance, various rainfall measurements indicate there has been a small global average rainfall decrease of 0.5-1.0 mm/d. This is equivalent to global evaporation decreases of 1.5-3.0 w/m2 - 2 to 4 times than that can be attributed to CO2 increase. There are similar energy variations in the last 30 years in OLR and in the global thermohaline circulation. I believe that the global surface warming of the last 30 years is largely due to a small decrease in ocean surface evaporation cooling brought about by ocean deep water circulation changes.

    Blaming all the warming of the last 30 years on CO2 requires that one believe that all the other larger energy source-sinks sum to zero. It is naive to think this is the case. Most warming of the last 30 years has to be of natural origin.

    You can read more of Dr. Gray's thoughts in this excellent paper "Global Warming and Hurricanes." [confex.com]

    I have posted this late. Positive modding to make it more visible would be appreciated.

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