Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Evidence That Global Warming Fuels Stronger Atlantic Hurricanes

Date:
March 2, 2007
Source:
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Summary:
Atmospheric scientists have uncovered fresh evidence to support the hotly debated theory that global warming has contributed to the emergence of stronger hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean.

New evidence supports the theory that global warming has contributed to stronger hurricanes. (Credit: NOAA)
Credit: NOAA

Atmospheric scientists have uncovered fresh evidence to support the hotly debated theory that global warming has contributed to the emergence of stronger hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean.

The unsettling trend is confined to the Atlantic, however, and does not hold up in any of the world's other oceans, researchers have also found.

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported the finding in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The work should help resolve some of the controversy that has swirled around two prominent studies that drew connections last year between global warming and the onset of increasingly intense hurricanes.

"The debate is not about scientific methods, but instead centers around the quality of hurricane data," says lead author James Kossin, a research scientist at UW-Madison's Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies. "So we thought, 'Lets take the first step toward resolving this debate.'"

The inconsistent nature of hurricane data has been a sore spot within the hurricane research community for decades. Before the advent of weather satellites, scientists were forced to rely on scattered ship reports and sailor logs to stay abreast of storm conditions. The advent of weather satellites during the 1960s dramatically improved the situation, but the technology has changed so rapidly that newer satellite records are barely consistent with older ones.

Kossin and his colleagues realized they needed to smooth out the data before exploring any interplay between warmer temperatures and hurricane activity. Working with an existing NCDC archive that holds global satellite information for the years 1983 through 2005, the researchers evened out the numbers by essentially simplifying newer satellite information to align it with older records.

"This new dataset is unlike anything that's been done before," says Kossin. "It's going to serve a purpose as being the only globally consistent dataset around. The caveat of course, is that it only goes back to 1983."

Even so, it's a good start. Once the NCDC researchers recalibrated the hurricane figures, Kossin took a fresh look at how the new numbers on hurricane strength correlate with records on warming ocean temperatures, a side effect of global warming.

What he found both supported and contradicted previous findings. "The data says that the Atlantic has been trending upwards in hurricane intensity quite a bit," says Kossin. "But the trends appear to be inflated or spurious everywhere else, meaning that we still can't make any global statements."

Sea-surface temperatures may be one reason why greenhouse gases are exacting a unique toll on the Atlantic Ocean, says Kossin. Hurricanes need temperatures of around 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit) to gather steam. On average, the Atlantic's surface is slightly colder than that but other oceans, such as the Western Pacific, are naturally much warmer.

"The average conditions in the Atlantic at any given time are just on the cusp of what it takes for a hurricane to form," says Kossin. " So it might be that imposing only a small (man-made) change in conditions, creates a much better chance of having a hurricane."

The Atlantic is also unique in that all the physical variables that converge to form hurricanes -- including wind speeds, wind directions and temperatures -- mysteriously feed off each other in ways that only make conditions more ripe for a storm. But scientists don't really understand why, Kossin adds.

"While we can see a correlation between global warming and hurricane strength, we still need to understand exactly why the Atlantic is reacting to warmer temperatures in this way, and that is much more difficult to do," says Kossin. "We need to be creating models and simulations to understand what is really happening here. From here on, that is what we should be thinking about."

The work was funded by the National Science Foundation. Co-authors Daniel Vimont, a UW-Madison atmospheric scientist, Ken Knapp, a scientist at the NCDC, and Richard Murnane, a scientist at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, also contributed to the study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Wisconsin-Madison. "New Evidence That Global Warming Fuels Stronger Atlantic Hurricanes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 March 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070228123140.htm>.
University of Wisconsin-Madison. (2007, March 2). New Evidence That Global Warming Fuels Stronger Atlantic Hurricanes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070228123140.htm
University of Wisconsin-Madison. "New Evidence That Global Warming Fuels Stronger Atlantic Hurricanes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070228123140.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Volcano Erupts on Papua New Guinea

Raw: Volcano Erupts on Papua New Guinea

AP (Aug. 29, 2014) Several communities were evacuated and some international flights were diverted on Friday after one of the most active volcanos in the region erupts. (Aug. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Have Figured Out Why Rocks Move In Death Valley

Scientists Have Figured Out Why Rocks Move In Death Valley

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) The mystery of the moving rocks in Death Valley, California, has finally been solved. Scientists are pointing to a combo of water, ice and wind. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

AP (Aug. 27, 2014) Thundering surf spawned by Hurricane Marie pounded the Southern California coast Wednesday, causing minor flooding in a low-lying beach town. High surf warnings were posted for Los Angeles County south through Orange County. (Aug. 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins