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 user 2005-09-09 at 10:14:00 am Views: 99
  • #12613

    What Led to Katrina? Jury Still Out on Global Warming

    Sept.05 – Is global
    warming a culprit in the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina? Yes,
    no and perhaps are the answers climate scientists give.

    Everyone is clear global warming did not cause Katrina and that it is
    not causing more hurricanes. The worldwide rate has held pretty steady
    at 90 a year for decades, says Kerry Emanuel, professor of atmospheric
    science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    But researchers such as Gary Yohe, an economics professor at Wesleyan
    University in Middletown, Conn., who studies the economics of climate
    change, says rising temperatures – one degree in the past 50 years -
    are causing the hurricanes that do form to be stronger and
    longer-lasting, and therefore cause more damage.

    “The temperature of the tropic oceans is warmer than it’s been in 150
    years,” and geological evidence indicates it’s higher than it has been
    in thousands, Emanuel says.

    But Christopher Landsea, a researcher meteorologist in the hurricane
    research division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
    Administration, says Katrina wasn’t caused by global warming but is
    simply a part of the natural cycle of hurricane activity.
    Hurricane activity on the Atlantic Coast runs in cycles
    William Gray of the Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State
    University has shown that hurricane activity waxes and wanes over 25 to
    30 years. The 1910s and ’20s were bad for hurricanes. Then came a
    period of calm, and another bad period in the 1940s and ’50s. From the
    1960s to 1995 was a period of calm.

    Robert Sheets, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami from
    1987 to 1995, agrees. He doesn’t believe there’s any solid evidence
    that Katrina was strengthened by global warming.

    “Anything we’ve seen so far is not outside of what has occurred in the past,” he says.

    Unfortunately, the latest lull period began just as air conditioning
    became widespread, allowing people to move to the sunny and humid
    coasts in droves.

    “We’ve seen very busy times before, but the big difference is there’s
    so many people living in hurricane alley. The coastal population is
    doubling roughly every 25 years from Texas to Carolina. That means the
    last time we were in a busy period there were many fewer people and
    less infrastructure in the way,” Landsea says.