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Old 09-23-2005, 09:54 AM   #1
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it's global warming, stupid!

This is global warming, says environmental chief

By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
Published: 23 September 2005

Super-powerful hurricanes now hitting the United States are the "smoking gun" of global warming, one of Britain's leading scientists believes.

The growing violence of storms such as Katrina, which wrecked New Orleans, and Rita, now threatening Texas, is very probably caused by climate change, said Sir John Lawton, chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. Hurricanes were getting more intense, just as computer models predicted they would, because of the rising temperature of the sea, he said. "The increased intensity of these kinds of extreme storms is very likely to be due to global warming."

In a series of outspoken comments - a thinly veiled attack on the Bush administration, Sir John hit out at neoconservatives in the US who still deny the reality of climate change.

Referring to the arrival of Hurricane Rita he said: "If this makes the climate loonies in the States realise we've got a problem, some good will come out of a truly awful situation." As he spoke, more than a million people were fleeing north away from the coast of Texas as Rita, one of the most intense storms on record, roared through the Gulf of Mexico. It will probably make landfall tonight or early tomorrow near Houston, America's fourth largest city and the centre of its oil industry. Highways leading inland from Houston were clogged with traffic for up to 100 miles north.

There are real fears that Houston could suffer as badly from Rita just as New Orleans suffered from Hurricane Katrina less than a month ago.

Asked what conclusion the Bush administration should draw from two hurricanes of such high intensity hitting the US in quick succession, Sir John said: "If what looks like is going to be a horrible mess causes the extreme sceptics about climate change in the US to reconsider their opinion, that would be an extremely valuable outcome."

Asked about characterising them as "loonies", he said: "There are a group of people in various parts of the world ... who simply don't want to accept human activities can change climate and are changing the climate."

"I'd liken them to the people who denied that smoking causes lung cancer."

[...]

A paper by US researchers, last week in the US journal Science, showed that storms of the intensity of Hurricane Katrina have become almost twice as common in the past 35 years.

Although the overall frequency of tropical storms worldwide has remained broadly level since 1970, the number of extreme category 4 and 5 events has sharply risen. In the 1970s, there was an average of about 10 category 4 and 5 hurricanes per year but, since 1990, they have nearly doubled to an average of about 18 a year. During the same period, sea surface temperatures, among the key drivers of hurricane intensity, have increased by an average of 0.5C (0.9F).

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/...icle314510.ece
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Old 09-23-2005, 09:55 AM   #2
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I don't see how it can't be
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Old 09-23-2005, 09:57 AM   #3
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notice the cars ... coincidence!?!?!
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Old 09-23-2005, 09:58 AM   #4
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I'd like to see data on Gulf water temperatures over the last 100 years.

And using smoking to underscore their point helps support the "loonie" claim.
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Old 09-23-2005, 10:41 AM   #5
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"hurricaine rita has been upgraded to a category 12 storm... which I believe is just a step below a black hole. this, of course, has lead all the environmentalists to start whining 'it'sss gloobal warrrming... so as we're all sucked into rita's vortex, the only positive, of course, would be that the environmentalists, too, would be sucked into anti-matter."
-jon stewart
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Old 09-23-2005, 10:43 AM   #6
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i'm sorry, but i am baffled as to why people refuse to see the thuddingly obvious connection between, not the creation of these storms, but their intensity.
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Old 09-23-2005, 10:58 AM   #7
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There is more than ample evidence that the post-1995 hurricane period is part of the well-accepted pattern of increasing/decreasing hurricane intensity and frequency that has occurred, quite without the help of mankind's development, throughout the past 2 centuries.

Less than 1 degree fahrenheit, or the difference between 85 and 86 degree water in a (naturally occuring) warm eddy in the Gulf, will not influence whether a storm hits Category 5.

Bush's record on the environment sucks. We all know that. But his policy is not the reason for these horrible storms.

Now, could it be a general karma thing, and US is getting its comeuppance, that's something I'm willing to accept...
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Old 09-23-2005, 11:12 AM   #8
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why does global warming, more than any other scientific theory i can think of, inspire such skepticism? is it because it asks us to modify our behavior?

also, i think you're wrong MB about the 1 degree warmer water -- it does make a big difference.
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Old 09-23-2005, 11:26 AM   #9
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I am not skeptical on global warming. It is happening, a fact of life, and it will affect the way we live dramatically in the next 50 years.

*Weather dork alert*

Back to the water temp - Andrew in 1992 and Camille in 1969 did not have 86 degree water in their paths. A favorable upper-level shear environment contributes equally with water temperature, depth of warm water, and forward speed to all the monsters reaching Cat 5 status. 1 degree may, or may not be helping it. Please note that Rita has passed beyond the warmest waters, and the loss of 4-5 degrees combined with shear from the south and slowing forward speed is causing it to weaken.

*end weather dork alert*

It's just a bit premature to blame it for these large storms when there are other proven factors involved; that's all I'm saying.
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Old 09-23-2005, 11:41 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by MumblingBono
I am not skeptical on global warming. It is happening, a fact of life, and it will affect the way we live dramatically in the next 50 years.

*Weather dork alert*

Back to the water temp - Andrew in 1992 and Camille in 1969 did not have 86 degree water in their paths. A favorable upper-level shear environment contributes equally with water temperature, depth of warm water, and forward speed to all the monsters reaching Cat 5 status. 1 degree may, or may not be helping it. Please note that Rita has passed beyond the warmest waters, and the loss of 4-5 degrees combined with shear from the south and slowing forward speed is causing it to weaken.

*end weather dork alert*

It's just a bit premature to blame it for these large storms when there are other proven factors involved; that's all I'm saying.


i fully agree that it's more complicated than rising ocean temperatures -- we're in agreement that global warming is a problem, and is very real.

i suppose the only thing i'd point out is that, if it weakens when it passes over cooler waters, what's going to happen in the very near future when the water temperatures continue to rise? one degree does make a difference, it appears, if it weakens from a 5 to a 4 because it goes over slightly cooler waters.

also, the appearnce of two monstrous category 5 hurricanes within 3 weeks of one another is, i believe, unprecedented.

i also think it's less about proving a direct, causal link between global warming and the strength of hurricanes but the resistance that arises whenever anyone points out the link between rising ocean temperatures (due to global warming, and also due in large part to human activity) and hurricanes and the fact that, yes, humans are unnaturally altering the earth's climate and there are very negative side effects that result in death.

it boggles my mind -- and this seems to come from my fellow Americans -- that there is so much knee-jerk resistance to the possibility that driving your car is actually bad for the earth.

everyone else seems to be on board, why not us?
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Old 09-23-2005, 11:55 AM   #11
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from that bastion of republicanism, the new york times.

Quote:

Storms Vary With Cycles, Experts Say
By KENNETH CHANG
Published: August 30, 2005
Because hurricanes form over warm ocean water, it is easy to assume that the recent rise in their number and ferocity is because of global warming.

But that is not the case, scientists say. Instead, the severity of hurricane seasons changes with cycles of temperatures of several decades in the Atlantic Ocean. The recent onslaught "is very much natural," said William M. Gray, a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University who issues forecasts for the hurricane season.

From 1970 to 1994, the Atlantic was relatively quiet, with no more than three major hurricanes in any year and none at all in three of those years. Cooler water in the North Atlantic strengthened wind shear, which tends to tear storms apart before they turn into hurricanes.

In 1995, hurricane patterns reverted to the active mode of the 1950's and 60's. From 1995 to 2003, 32 major hurricanes, with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater, stormed across the Atlantic. It was chance, Dr. Gray said, that only three of them struck the United States at full strength.

Historically, the rate has been 1 in 3.

Then last year, three major hurricanes, half of the six that formed during the season, hit the United States. A fourth, Frances, weakened before striking Florida.

"We were very lucky in that eight-year period, and the luck just ran out," Dr. Gray said.

Global warming may eventually intensify hurricanes somewhat, though different climate models disagree.

In an article this month in the journal Nature, Kerry A. Emanuel, a hurricane expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote that global warming might have already had some effect. The total power dissipated by tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic and North Pacific increased 70 to 80 percent in the last 30 years, he wrote.

But even that seemingly large jump is not what has been pushing the hurricanes of the last two years, Dr. Emanuel said, adding, "What we see in the Atlantic is mostly the natural swing."
From an october 2004 issue of USA today.
Quote:

Q: Why have so many hurricanes hit land this year?

A: The quick answer is just bad luck. A more complete answer, is that the unusual run of hurricane good luck the USA had been enjoying since 1995 ended in 2004.

Back in 2000 when I was working with Dr. Bob Sheets on our book, which was published in 2001, Hurricane Watch: Forecasting the Deadliest Storms on Earth, I talked with William Gray of Colorado State University. Gray is best known to the public for his forecasts of what each hurricane season should bring. This is just one aspect of his work. He was among the first, if not the first, scientist, to see and study links between global climate patterns and hurricanes.

He was one of the first scientists to study the cycles that Atlantic Basin hurricanes run in. During some decades-long periods, such as from the 1940s into the mid-1960s, many more hurricanes, especially strong hurricanes, form than during other decades, such as from the late 1960s until 1995.

What he told me In late 2000 is included in Chapter 11 of our book. In brief, Gray noted that since a cycle of more hurricanes began in 1995, fewer major — Category 3, 4, and 5 — hurricanes had hit the USA that you would expect based on the past. He pointed out that from 1900 through 2000, we know of 221 major hurricanes over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. Of these about one-third hit the USA.

From 1995 to 2,000 only three of the 23 major hurricanes that formed hit the USA: Opal in 1995, Fran in 1996 and Bret in 1999. Based on the past, the odds would be that six or seven would have hit during these years. Now, three more have hit, all this year and all in Florida: Charley, Frances, and Jeanne.

If you look at the odds, based on history, even with this year's three major hurricanes hitting, the USA is still running behind the long-term odds.

All of these hurricanes are no surprise to those who keep up, even casually, with what's known and being learned about hurricanes.

By the way, I haven't been able to find any scientist who specializes in hurricanes who thinks global warming has anything to do with what's happening now.

and lastly, also from USA Today, this time printed in 1999...

Quote:
Bigger, badder storm era feared

By Jack Williams, USATODAY.com

The USA's East Coast could be heading back into the same weather pattern that produced the wild hurricanes from 1941-1965. During those years 17 major hurricanes with winds of more than 111 mph hit the East. Remember Hazel, Carol, Donna and Betsy?

Major East Coast hurricanes seem to run in 20- to 30-year cycles and evidence is growing of a shift back to a stormy era, says William Gray, who's known around the world for his studies of hurricanes.

If this is happening, "we're going to see damage like we've never seen before," Gray says from his Colorado State University office. "More people live on the coasts and everyone owns a lot more now than in the 1950s."

In his Aug. 6, 1998 outlook for the rest of the 1998 hurricane season, Gray notes that although El Niño suppressed hurricane activity in 1997, statistics show that the period between 1995-1997 still was the busiest three-year period for hurricane activity on record, with 39 named storms, 23 hurricanes (12 of which were intense) and 107 hurricane days.

Gray theorizes that the Atlantic Basin is entering an era that will see many decades of increased hurricane activity and which will include particularly intense or major hurricanes. His landfall probability model takes into account the "Atlantic conveyor belt" that circulates water from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic and back south along the North American continent and a statistical average of six measures of hurricane activity for a given year called "net tropical cyclone" activity.

Together, these indicators suggest more active seasons, such as those that occurred from the late 1920s through the late 1960s, producing more intense hurricane activity. Gray believes that since 1994, the Atlantic conveyor belt has been strengthening, making conditions more favorable to hurricane formation.

"I think because of the measurements of North Atlantic temperatures, we'll see a stronger conveyor belt in the coming year," Gray said. "Those temperatures are higher - above average - and they fit the conditions of previous periods when the conveyor belt was strong.

"Other factors that help strengthen the conveyor effect, such as the salinity content of the North Atlantic, are being reported as higher than average, and other, lesser signals are going that way."

"Once these cumulative climate signals become really favorable, the number of landfalls goes up disproportionately," Gray said.

The "conveyer belt" starts with warm water flowing north along the East Coast from Florida to North Carolina. This Gulf Stream turns near Cape Hatteras and crosses the Atlantic. East of Greenland, the water, which has become saltier from evaporation, cools. The salty, cool water is heavy and sinks toward the bottom of the ocean and flows south. Eventually it rises to become part of the Gulf Stream, completing the loop.

Neil Frank, National Hurricane Center director from 1975 to 1987, who sifted through the wreckage and interviewed victims after some of the 1960s storms, agrees. "The impact is going to be awesome; we're going to have staggering insurance problems."

In the 1950s, he says, "people put up little fishing shacks at the beach. If they blew away, they blew away. Now you have dredged-out canals so people can drive their big boats up to their expensive homes."

The storms Gray and Frank worry about are "Cape Verde hurricanes" such as Fran, which hit North Carolina in September 1996. These monsters begin off Africa's coast, near the Cape Verde Islands. Ones that make it to the Caribbean often pack winds above 111 mph.

In this century, only about 20% of U.S. hurricanes have been major ones, but these account for 75% of the damage. In 1995, major Hurricanes Luis and Marilyn wrecked homes and resorts on several Caribbean islands.

Global weather patterns over the past two years have been kind to hurricanes. Winds high above the Atlantic that ripped apart many of the storms between 1970 and 1994 have been calm this year, "much more typical of the 1950s," Gray says. The winds that kill hurricanes blow from the west about 30,000 feet above the Atlantic.

Why does the belt speed up and slow down? The amount of salt in the water is one key, Gray says.

In the 1960s, large amounts of ice from the polar regions broke off and moved south diluting the saltwater and slowing the belt. But, after it slows down the Atlantic Conveyer Belt naturally begins speeding up. That's what seems to be happening now. If it is, we're in for another monster hurricane era.

"The East Coast and Caribbean have been very lucky the last 25 years as they've developed," Gray says, "they've become spoiled by this downturn in hurricanes. This luck isn't likely to last."

(Originally published in 1999. Re-published in 2004 with minor editing.)

so the answer to your question is simply the fact that the majority of scientists who specialize in hurricaines say this is a natural cycle that has happened before and will happen again, not global warming.

that is why i don't buy it.
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Old 09-23-2005, 12:36 PM   #12
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Originally posted by Headache in a Suitcase
so the answer to your question is simply the fact that the majority of scientists who specialize in hurricaines say this is a natural cycle that has happened before and will happen again, not global warming.

that is why i don't buy it.


so it's a combination of a bad pattern, and rising ocean temperatrues.

no one says it's one factor, no one says that global warming creates hurricanes, but pretty much everyone agrees that rising ocean tempreatures make hurricanes more intense.

so, we're moving into a period where we are going to see a greater frequency of hurricanes, and this is combined with rising ocean temperatures that make these more frequent hurricanes more intense and destructive.

what more do you need?
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Old 09-23-2005, 12:41 PM   #13
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Will global warming increase the frequency or intensity of hurricanes in the future?

Just about everyone is now aware of climate change, so when an extreme weather event occurs, it is not unusual for people to ask if it is the result of global warming. Because of the link between higher ocean temperatures and hurricanes, there is speculation that hurricanes will increase in frequency or intensity in a warmer world, with higher wind speeds and greater precipitation. As stated above, the frequency of hurricanes has not increased on average over the long term. However, scientists believe that global warming will result in more intense hurricanes, as increasing sea surface temperatures provide energy for storm intensification. An MIT study published recently in Nature provides the first data analysis indicating that tropical storms are indeed becoming more powerful over time.

Higher ocean temperatures may also influence the tracks of hurricanes, increasing the likelihood of hurricanes tracking through the Caribbean or making landfall on the U.S. east coast. Although his phenomenon is not very well understood, a track of unusually deep and warm water appears to have led Katrina directly to the Gulf Coast when it struck Louisiana and Mississippi.
Will global warming create other types of severe weather?

We have certainly seen global temperature increases and changes in precipitation patterns over the 20th century, resulting from human activities. This has resulted in some increases in extremes of temperature and precipitation. These trends will continue in the future, and there is concern that global warming will cause climate variability and extreme events (e.g., floods, droughts, heat waves) to increase. For instance, a scientific analysis indicates human-induced climate change likely increased the severity of the 2003 European heat wave that killed about thousands of people.
The same study predicts that as the climate change progresses, similar heat events will become normal rather than exceptional.

Back to Top

Will the damages from severe weather become worse in the future?

Given future trends in population growth and increasing development in coastal areas, we know that the damages caused by severe weather will increase regardless of global warming. Climate change will likely exacerbate the damage

http://www.pewclimate.org/hurricanes.cfm

The strongest hurricanes in the present climate may be upstaged by even more intense hurricanes over the next century as the earth's climate is warmed by increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Although we cannot say at present whether more or fewer hurricane will occur in the future with global warming, the hurricanes that do occur near the end of the 21st century are expected to be stronger and have significantly more intense rainfall than under present day climate conditions. This expectation (Figure 1) is based on an anticipated enhancement of energy available to the storms due to higher tropical sea surface temperatures.

http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/~tk/glob_warm_hurr.html
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Old 09-23-2005, 12:51 PM   #14
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Global warming or not, does anyone else think it's stupid that 2/3 of our refining capacity is in a known hurricane zone?

And I guess if people are stupid enough to live in areas known to get pummelled by hurricanes on a regular basis (this isn't terrorism, folks; we can't do a damn thing to prevent hurricanes), they deserve to have everything they own periodically destroyed and end up in a gridlock of epic proportions when they try to evacuate. Galveston was wiped off the map 105 years ago, and I guess people didn't learn anything.

Let's go bankrupt rebuilding areas that are just going to get mowed down again. It's not a matter of "if." It's a matter of "when."

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Old 09-23-2005, 01:04 PM   #15
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And back to global warming, the jury isn't out on it, but the alternative isn't pretty either:

http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/science...cle/index.html

Quote:
Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, told a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday that we're in a period of heightened hurricane activity that could last another decade or two.
So we rebuild rebuild rebuild and then what...have it all destroyed again every year or two for the next 20 years?

Maybe we should reevaluate the population density that lives on the coastal regions most vulnerable to hurricane activity, and that includes New Orleans and Galveston/Houston, amongst some other cities around the Gulf of Mexico.

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