Hurricane Katrina started off as a relatively small hurricane, but ended as one of the nation’s most destructive hurricanes ever. In light of such storms becoming more common, a debate has begun over whether or not global warming is to blame.
”There is increasing confidence, as the result of our study, that there’s some level of greenhouse warming in what we’re seeing,” said Judith Curry, an atmospheric scientist from Georgia Tech.
The studies of her research team showed that rising global temperatures have warmed the oceans. These warmer oceans provide more energy to fuel hurricanes which leads to more severe storms.
Other studies have also pointed to the same results. Kerry Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, recently published a paper in the science journal-Nature- which found that as sea temperatures rise, the intensity of hurricanes are also rising.
Still, other climate experts are not as convinced. A meteorologist at the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Christopher Landsea stated that fluctuations in hurricane activity have been going on for years and are just part of nature.
”The question is are there any man made changes to hurricanes, and it’s an important one to ask because we are changing the chemistry of the atmosphere. We’re adding more carbon dioxide and methane and it does change the radiation and it’s going to warm things up- some say a moderate amount and some say by a small amount, which is open to scientific debate.”
However Landsea explained that even if the carbon dioxide emissions doubled by the year 2100 and warmed the oceans by three degrees that would do little to change the power of a hurricane.
”If you look at the raw hurricane data itself, there is no global warming signal.”
Dr. Stanley Goldenberg, another meteorologist at the NOAA agrees.
”I speak for many hurricane climate researchers in saying that claims like that are nonsense,” said Goldenberg to a group of reporters.
Yet as evidence mounts, it has become increasingly hard to dispute the correlation between climate change and the hurricane’s strength which has led some to criticize President Bush and his administration for their inability to act on global warming.
”The American president shuts his eyes to the economic and human damage that the failure to protect climate inflicts on his country and the world through natural catastrophes like Katrina,” said Jurgen Tritten, Germany’s environmental minister in an opinion piece printed in the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper.