Study Finds Hurricanes Frequent in Some Cooler Periods


New York Times – May 24, 2007

This article reinforces my constant call that we need to spend more time, effort, and money learning about our very complicated weather. It concerns me when I read stories that some scientists want the press to not cover the entire issue (Climate reporting “too balanced” say scientists) and this article only reinforces that feeling.

Scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution studied the lagoon mud on a Caribbean island and found that ocean temperature was not the only factor that influenced the birth of hurricanes. Our understanding of this causality is still evolving and we need to have more effort and publicity about our advances in knowledge, not less. One of the scientists hypothesizes that the warming of the Pacific could stifle Atlantic based hurricanes.

Over the last 5,000 years, the eastern Caribbean has experienced several periods, lasting centuries, in which strong hurricanes occurred frequently even though ocean temperatures were cooler than those measured today, according to a new study.

But, they say, their work does imply that factors other than ocean temperature, at least for thousands of years, appear to have played a pivotal role in shaping storminess in the region.

El Niño episodes tend to change wind patterns in ways that weaken Atlantic Ocean hurricanes, and Africa is a nursery for storm fronts that can drift westward and develop into hurricanes.

Storm records extracted from sediments on the Gulf Coast by other scientists, and near New York City by the Woods Hole team, show a similar pattern, implying that the shifts from quieter to stormier times are not just a local phenomenon, the authors said.

the findings pointed to the importance of figuring out an unresolved puzzle: whether global warming will affect the Niño cycle one way or the other. More intense or longer Pacific warm-ups could stifle Atlantic and Caribbean hurricanes even with warmer seas

Judith A. Curry, an atmospheric scientist at Georgia Tech, said the new study, together with other recent research on warming and storms by her and others, added to a picture of rising risk and lagging government action on reducing vulnerability of coastal populations in the Atlantic and Caribbean hurricane zone. “The bottom line is that we are in an unusually active period of hurricane activity, as a result of a combination of natural variability and global warming,” Dr. Curry said. “Analyses have been done, plans have been put on the table, but nothing seems to be happening.”

You can read the entire news story here.

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2 thoughts on “Study Finds Hurricanes Frequent in Some Cooler Periods”

  1. EB says:

    It is interesting that Mrs Curry still blames “Global warming” for huricanes and says that we are in an unusally active huricane period. She is ignoring the stated facts. My presumption is that she gets funding by crying “Global warming.”

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