Link Between Global Warming And Hurricane Intensity Remains Strong

A study published in the journal Science questioning the link between increased hurricane strength and global warming was quickly seized upon by Matt Drudge and the right-wing blogosphere as evidence the dangers of global warming are over-hyped.

Time for a reality check. The author of the study, Christopher Landsea, does “not dispute global warming was occurring or that it could influence hurricanes.” Rather, Landsea argues that pre-1990 data on hurricane strength is unreliable, so it can’t be used to construct multi-decade trends in hurricane strength. These findings are preliminary and the author of the major study Landsea criticizes, M.I.T. scientist Kerry Emanuel, disputes them.

But ultimately, it doesn’t matter much whether Landsea is right or not about hurricane intensity data. Other major studies have established the link between global warming and hurricane strength by relying on different data. Bill Chameides, Chief Scientist at Environmental Defense, elaborates on this point, using a study that relies on ocean temperature:

[Landsea’s study] from a public policy perspective has been made largely moot by the work of Trenberth and Shea, published in June 2006 in Geophysical Research Letters. They showed that 50 percent of the extremely warm temperatures of the North Atlantic Ocean in the summer of 2005 that spawned the record-breaking 2005 hurricane season was caused by global warming. [Release, 7/31/06]

The global warming deniers should put the cork back in their champagne.