Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and scientists at the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have reported their findings in the journal, Geophysical Research Letters, that shed light on the much debated question of whether global warming is increasing the frequency of hurricane and cyclone activity.
Not helping the debate was the fact that hurricane and storm records were scattered shipping reports and inconsistent up until the advent of weather satellite technology in the 1960s. And after that the technology developed so quickly that consistent standards in collecting and reporting data were not maintained. :::[Newswires]
Kossin and his colleagues realized they needed to smooth out the data before exploring any interplay between warmer temperatures and hurricane activity. Working with an existing NCDC archive that holds global satellite information for the years 1983 through 2005, the researchers evened out the numbers by essentially simplifying newer satellite information to align it with older records.
"This new dataset is unlike anything that's been done before," says Kossin. "It's going to serve a purpose as being the only globally consistent dataset around. The caveat of course, is that it only goes back to 1983."
Even so, it's a good start. Once the NCDC researchers recalibrated the hurricane figures, Kossin took a fresh look at how the new numbers on hurricane strength correlate with records on warming ocean temperatures, a side effect of global warming.
What they found surprised them; it seems global warming, let that read increasing ocean surface temperatures, did and didn't corelate with increasing hurricane frequency activity during this 24 year snapshot. It did in the Atlantic, it didn't anywhere else. Or rather, they "still can't make any global statements.", but can for the Atlantic.
Sea-surface temperatures may be one reason why greenhouse gases are exacting aunique toll on the Atlantic Ocean, says Kossin. Hurricanes need temperatures of around 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit) to gather steam. On average, the Atlantic's surface is slightly colder than that but other oceans, such as the Western Pacific, are naturally much warmer.
"The average conditions in the Atlantic at any given time are just on the cusp of what it takes for a hurricane to form," says Kossin. " So it might be that imposing only a small (man-made) change in conditions, creates a much better chance of having a hurricane."
The Atlantic is also unique in that all the physical variables that converge to form hurricanes - including wind speeds, wind directions and temperatures - mysteriously feed off each other in ways that only make conditions more ripe for a storm. But scientists don't really understand why, Kossin adds.
It would seem that when Gaia made Herself in Her own image, She placed America on the shores of the Atlantic to remind them to pay their carbon-taxes, or risk her throwing the alphabet at them. Could this be Intelligent Design's missing link? Could Gaia be this Intelligent Designer?
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