Scientists debate whether Hurricane Katrina was aggravated by global warming

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Friday, September 2, 2005

Both scientists and politicians are divided over the increase in hurricanes in the last 30 years. The years 1970 to 1994 saw far fewer hurricanes than 1995 to the present. The New York Times suggests this decrease was a result of generally cooler North Atlantic water driving winds that disrupted potential hurricanes from forming. Some experts say the recent intensification is part of a natural cycle, while others claim that global warming has increased both the destructive power and the frequency of hurricanes. The Times also pointed out that during 8 recent years the U.S. has been hit by about one-third fewer severe hurricanes than usual.

Britain's chief scientific adviser Sir David King stated, "We have known since 1987 the intensity of hurricanes is related to surface sea temperature and we know that, over the last 15 to 20 years, surface sea temperatures in these regions have increased by half a degree centigrade. So it is easy to conclude that the increased intensity of hurricanes is associated with global warming."

Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Professor Kerry Emanuel wrote that rising sea temperatures could account for only part what he claims has been a sharp rise in the destructiveness of tropical cyclones since the 1970s.[1] Eminent hurricane expert, Professor William Gray said that Emanuel's was “a terrible paper, one of the worst I've ever looked at.” [2]

Jürgen Trittin, Germany's Minister of the Environment was sharply critical of the U.S. Government. He wrote in an editorial: "Greenhouse gases have to be radically reduced worldwide. The US has, up until this point, had its eyes closed to this emergency."

Carsten Voigt of the German Foreign Ministry said that while he believed that hurricanes were more powerful due to global warming, he did not believe that hurricane Katrina was the fault of America, or the Bush administration. “The main point though is that climate change is an issue that needs to be put on the table.”