The current debate on the linkage between global warming and hurricanes

June 19, 2007

Shepherd and Knutson capture many facets of the major arguments for "human" and "natural" causes in the "surge" in hurricane activity. Following Hurricane Katrina and the parade of storms that affected the conterminous United States in 2004-2005, the apparent recent increase in intense hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin, and the reported increases in recent decades in some hurricane intensity and duration measures in several basins have received considerable attention.

Following a recent report issued by the World Meteorological Organization, this perspective is much needed because policymakers, the public and media need a balanced perspective and an appreciation for how difficult this problem is.

J Marshall Shepherd comments, "Hurricanes and related hazards can have significant social, economic, political, and health impacts and as such, there is a vested interested by all in having a clear picture of how these storms will change as the climate system warms."

This article also provides a summary of theoretical considerations for why hurricanes are likely to be stronger in a warmer climate. The authors conclude that significantly more research - from observations, theory, and modeling - is still needed to resolve the current debate on whether or not a global warming influence on hurricanes is already detectable in the observed record.
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Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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