In this issue of Time magazine, an article suggests that Katrina was the result of global warming and attempts to blame us for the disaster.
The people of New Orleans are surely not thinking about wind vortices, the coriolis effect or the dampness of the troposphere as they hunker down during hurricane Katrina this morning. They?re mostly thinking about the savage rains and 140 mph winds that have driven them from their homes. But it?s that meteorological arcana that?s made such a mess of the bayou, and to hear a lot of people tell it, we have only ourselves?and our global-warming ways?to blame.
So is global warming making the problem worse? Superficially, the numbers say yes?or at least they seem to if you live in the U.S. From 1995 to 1999, a record 33 hurricanes struck the Atlantic basin, and that doesn?t include 1992?s horrific Hurricane Andrew, which clawed its way across south Florida in 1992, causing $27 billion dollars worth of damage. More-frequent hurricanes are part of most global warming models, and as mean temperatures rise worldwide, it?s hard not to make a connection between the two. But hurricane-scale storms occur all over the world, and in some places?including the North Indian ocean and the region near Australia?the number has actually fallen. Even in the U.S., the period from 1991 to 1994 was a time of record hurricane quietude, with the dramatic exception of Andrew.
Does that mean that Camille in 1969 was an abnormality? What about the category 5 hurricane in 1935 that hit Florida? Again, the media has taken statistics completely out of context to try to convince us that we’re to blame for the rise in hurricanes. In this article in Discover magazine, top environmental scientists explain that the effects of global warming won’t be felt for nearly a century and admit they are not even sure man is even the cause of the problem.
Since its beginning, the Earth has had cycles of large hurricane activity as well as periods of low hurricane activity. The fact that there are many more hurricanes recorded today is the fact that we can actually detect that much better than in the past. Fifty years ago, a hurricane could have passed with a hundred miles of our coast and we wouldn’t have known it. With satellite technology, we can track every hurricane on the planet. If you look on the NOAA hurricane history site, you will see that the number of hurricanes picks up in the late seventies right when we started using satellites to track these storms.
Is humanity affecting the planet’s temperature or is the Earth in a natural warming cycle? We don’t have enough information to tell yet. Until we do, can we please keep the panic to a minimum?