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Warmer Oceans linked to Stronger Hurricanes 374

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 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.
  • doesn't make sense (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dominator2010 ( 735220 ) * on Saturday March 18, 2006 @05:21PM (#14949270) Journal
    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.
  • Re:Kyoto (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @05:27PM (#14949299) Journal
    I wonder how many huracane disasters it will take the US to adopt the Kyoto Protocol they have rejected...

    I don't think you get it. Despite right-winger's appearent hatred of Darwin's ideas, they actually embrace dog-eat-dog everyman-for-himself view of things. Their belief is that if nations/people cannot handle and adapt to global warming, it is their own problem and that they "deserve" to parish. This fits nicely into their no-welfare, no gov'mt help, 3rd-world Phd wages and visas, reward the wealthy, let "permiscuous" aides patients die, might-makes-right, etc. approach to things.

    The only thing they have not done is openly stated that this is their formal policy (because they would lose the moderate conversatives if they admitted it publicly). They are essentially closet Darwinists. One of their slogans during the last Republican convention was "don't be afraid to compete". Well, don't be afraid to compete in a warm, flooded world.
  • Re:Hollywood knows. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by g-doo ( 714869 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @05:28PM (#14949309)
    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 []. Besides, the subject could use a publicity, and a high profile film provides just that.
  • Re:What now? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by slashkitty ( 21637 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @05:50PM (#14949416) Homepage
    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.
  • by hazem ( 472289 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @05:51PM (#14949420) Journal
    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 warming of the whole system.
  • by delong ( 125205 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @05:52PM (#14949425)
    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 Galveston), the 1964 Betsy hurricane (which destroyed New Orleans), and the 2005 Katrina hurricane (ditto). There was a rapid ramp-up in the 1930s, and there appears to be a rapid ramp-up in the 2000's.
  • by thethibs ( 882667 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @05:58PM (#14949454) Homepage

    The horsepucky in this is the part about stronger and more frequent hurricanes.

    It seems like they are getting worse because more people are moving into the areas the hurricanes like to play, so they do more damage.

    The data, on the other hand, shows no significant change in the overall hurricane pattern.

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

    by No_CO2_warming ( 822194 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @10:01PM (#14950437)
    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: [] 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. The most likely explanation is that the ocean outgases and releases more CO2 when temperature increases, and holds more dissolved gasses as the oceans cools. Since we are near an alltime CO2 low over the last 250 million years, it is worthwhile to note a few things:

    1. CO2 is not a pollutant. It is, in fact, the lifeblood of the planet, required for growth of vegetation. It is the cornerstone of the food chain. The increased CO2 aerial fertilization effect has contributed to the greening of the planet, as confirmed by satellite photography.

    2. Water vapor is by far the primary contributor of the greenhouse effect, accounting for 96 to 99%. CO2 accounts for 1 to 3%. Methane and others trace gasses account for less than 1%. The greenhouse effect lets solar radiation in, but, like a blanket over the planet, absorbs some IR heat that would otherwise radiate out. This keeps the Earth's mean temperature somewhere around 15 C, instead of roughly -15 C. This vital 30 C swing is the reason that the Earth is habitable.

    3. During the current interglacial period, the Earth has been about 2C cooler (The "Little Ice Age" around 1600-1700, when the Thames regularly froze over), and it has also been about 2C warmer (The medieval warm period around 1000 - 1200, when Greenland was colonized by the Vikings and exported surplus crops.) We are currently about in the middle of this natural variation, which occurred without manmade CO2.

    4. The best protection against climate change is a rich, technologically advanced society that can adapt to natural variation. Don't damn the 3rd world to extended time in poverty by crippling the world's economy with a meaningless Kyoto type treaty, that will cost billions, but will have no measureable impact on real world temperature.

  • 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?

The world is coming to an end--save your buffers!