Hurricanes and Global Warming Once More

Hurricane season begins today — and it is supposed to be a doozy. We may see as many as 17 named storms and five major hurricanes (wind speed of 111 mph or more). See here for multiple forecasts compared.

Considering that we already had one named storm, Andrea, 3 weeks before the official start of the season, it seems unlikely that we will have a replay of last year, with its average hurricane season.

The scientific debate continues to rage over how much global warming is affecting Atlantic hurricanes. As always, I am inclined to listen to our top climatologist, NASA’s James Hansen, especially when he is joined by four dozen expert coauthors.

According to their recent article, “Dangerous human-made interference with climate,”


We conclude that the definitive assertion of Gray (2005) and Mayfield (2005), that human-made GHGs play no role in the Atlantic Ocean temperature changes that they assume to drive hurricane intensification, is untenable. Specifically, the assertions that (1) hurricane intensification of the past decade is due to changes in SST [sea surface temperature] in the Atlantic Ocean, and (2) global warming cannot have had a significant role in the hurricane intensification of the past decade, are mutually inconsistent. On the contrary, although natural cycles play a role in changing Atlantic SST, our model results indicate that, to the degree that hurricane intensification of the past decade is a product of increasing SST in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, human-made GHGs probably are a substantial contributor, as also concluded by Mann and Emanuel (2006). Santer et al. (2006) have obtained similar conclusions by examining the results of 22 climate models.

The oceans are getting warmer, and hurricanes are getting more intense as a result.