The Intersection

Two new studies on the hurricane-global warming relationship are just out, reported on here by the New York Times. I haven’t seen the Purdue study yet. The other study, by Michael Mann and Kerry Emanuel, has already been discussed at scientific conferences and even reported on by some journalists. Mann and Emanuel suggest that contrary to previous claims about a natural “cycle” in Atlantic hurricane activity, it may be that the mid-century downturn in storms was partly the result of human-caused “global cooling” due to sulfate areosol pollution. The implication is that now that the Clean Air Act amendments have passed and aerosols are down again, carbon dioxide has become the dominant climate forcing factor, leading to global warming and, in turn, more hurricane activity. If this is correct, of course, it also means that there is no necessary endpoint in sight, no “natural cycle” that will bring about a downturn eventually–a potentially very scary conclusion.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see what the scientific reaction is to this work. Meanwhile, over at Prometheus, Roger Pielke, Jr., fairly points out that there are other peer reviewed studies that have come out that provide a different take on the hurricane-GW issue, but that these studies have not been covered by the Times and aren’t even mentioned in the current piece. I certainly think that the Times reporter, in providing a counterpoint (which he does anyway), could at least have mentioned this work.

Comments

  1. #1 megan
    May 31, 2006

    In a somewhat related note, there’s an article in nature today that’s a Q&A with Geologist David Rogers, who’s been doing analysis on the levee break and the geology of New Orleans you might find interesting:
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v441/n7093/full/441556b.html

  2. #2 Steve Bloom
    June 1, 2006

    Chris, the papers by both Michaels et al and Klotzbach have major problems. Michaels et al uses a seriously cherrypicked sea surface temperature metric and Klotzbach’s major conclusion (that most of the increase that Emanuel found was in the early part of the studied period, with the last twenty years or so being relatively flat) was obvious in Emanuel’s paper. The fact that RP Jr. says these papers should have been mentioned doesn’t mean that’s true. Bear in mind that he has a horse in this race. Also note this from the editorial in the new Nature: “In the past year, an emerging consensus has suggested that rising sea surface temperatures may well be causing hurricanes to become more intense over time.”

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