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April 11, 2008

Lead Scientist Championing Global Warming's Supercharging of Hurricanes Now Says... Umm, Maybe Not

Remember, the debate is over. When this scientist's work was taken as dispositive that global warming would cause more frequent and more powerful hurricanes, the debate was over. He wrote a paper, after all. Case closed.

Now, of course, that he's revising his earlier work (as scientists do, if they're actually scientists), the debate will still be over, and global warming will still cause more frequent and more powerful hurricanes. After all, he wrote a paper. Sure, he now challenges his own older conclusions, but still: Case closed.

One of the most influential scientists behind the theory that global warming has intensified recent hurricane activity says he will reconsider his stand.

The hurricane expert, Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, this week unveiled a novel technique for predicting hurricane activity. The new work suggests that, even in a dramatically warming world, hurricane frequency and intensity may not substantially rise during the next two centuries.

The research, appearing in the March issue of Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, is all the more remarkable coming from Emanuel, a highly visible leader in his field and long an ardent proponent of a link between global warming and much stronger hurricanes.

His changing views could influence other scientists. [ed: Not bloody likely.]

"The results surprised me," Emanuel said of his work, adding that global warming may still play a role in raising the intensity of hurricanes but what that role is remains far from certain.

...

Among the first to publish was Emanuel, who, just three weeks before Hurricane Katrina's landfall, published a paper in Nature that concluded a key measurement of the power dissipated by a storm during its lifetime had risen dramatically since the mid-1970s.

In the future, he argued, incredibly active hurricane years such as 2005 would become the norm rather than flukes.

This view, amplified by environmentalists and others concerned about global warming, helped establish in the public's mind that "super" hurricanes were one of climate change's most critical threats. A satellite image of a hurricane emanating from a smokestack featured prominently in promotions for Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.

...


What has not been as broadly disseminated, say Pielke and some hurricane scientists, is that other research papers have emerged that suggest global warming has yet to leave an imprint on hurricane activity. One of them, published late last year in Nature, found that warming seas may not increase hurricane intensity.

...

In the new paper, Emanuel and his co-authors project activity nearly two centuries hence, finding an overall drop in the number of hurricanes around the world, while the intensity of storms in some regions does rise.

For example, with Atlantic hurricanes, two of the seven model simulations Emanuel ran suggested that the overall intensity of storms would decline. Five models suggested a modest increase.

"The take-home message is that we've got a lot of work to do," Emanuel said. "There's still a lot of uncertainty in this problem. The bulk of the evidence is that hurricane power will go up, but in some places it will go down."

"We don't know" and "the evidence is inconclusive" and "we've got a lot to work to do" are all of course just scientific jargon for case closed, the debate is over.


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posted by Ace at 02:40 PM

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