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Global Warming and Hurricanes

Tropical cyclones, also known as hurricanes in the Atlantic and typhoons in the Pacific, are enormous heat engines fueled by warm ocean waters. Rising sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and ocean subsurface temperatures due to global warming are likely to have an effect on the overall intensity of hurricanes and typhoons. The picture is complicated by wind shear and other atmospheric phenomena which affect the size, development and impact of specific storms. However, the longterm trend is for rising sea surface temperatures, which pump additional heat and water into the lower atmosphere. The heat energy converts to kinetic energy, or wind, and the additional water comes out as increased rainfall. Shallow waters like the Gulf of Mexico warm faster than the deep ocean, and thus contribute additional heat and moisture to storms passing over them.

Two recent papers on a possible link between global warming and stronger hurricanes are:
Kerry Emanuel (2005) Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years   Nature 436:686-688.

P.J. Webster et al. (2005)  Changes in Tropical Cyclone Number, Duration, and Intensity in a Warming Environment   Science 309:1844-1846.


Future Global Warming

Dangerous human-made interference with climate: A GISS modelE study
Dr. James Hansen of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and Columbia University Earth Institute and colleagues look at the question of how rapidly climate change caused by global warming becomes dangerous, and by extension the amount of time left to develop technologies to avoid the worst effects. Their concern is that positive feedbacks (i.e. global warming activates phenomena such as methane release, which cause more warming) may make the threshold of dangerous climate interference occur much sooner than previously thought. Other effects not yet adequately studied, such as ice sheet melting, could lead to future sea level rise beyond humanity's control.

IPCC Global Warming Reports
Get recent 2007 reports on global warming from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These include four parts on: "The Physical Science Basis", "Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability", "Mitigation of Climate Change" and "The Synthesis Report". Produced by 2500+ scientific expert reviewers, and 1250+ authors from 130+ countries.

Current Global Warming

Ross Gelbspan reports on current developments in global warming at The Heat is Online

Elizabeth Kolbert gives a concise and current picture of the effects of global warming now and the politics of climate change in "Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change", 2007. 

Climate of 2006
The 2006 average annual temperature for the contiguous U.S. was the warmest on record. U.S. and global annual temperatures are now approximately 1.0°F warmer than at the start of the 20th century, and the rate of warming has accelerated over the past 30 years, increasing globally since the mid-1970's at a rate approximately three times faster than the century-scale trend.

Climate of 2005
The highest global surface temperature in more than a century of instrumental data was recorded in the 2005 calendar year by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). 2005 was in a dead heat with 1998, the warmest previous year.

Hazards/Climate Extremes from NCDC
Recent data on hurricanes, typhoons, severe storms, droughts and flooding around the globe.


Carbon Emissions and Global Warming

680 million vehicles today, more to come. Motor vehicles could add 2 gigatonnes of carbon to the atmosphere each year within 20 years.  Ethanol from biomass has the potential to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector by reducing gasoline consumption.  Summary of Global Warming and the Need for Liquid Fuels from Biomass, BioEnergy '98, 1998.

Tens of terawatts (1 TW = 1 trillion watts) of carbon-emission-free primary power will be required by 2050 to stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide content.   For comparison, the power provided by all combined energy sources today is 10 TW.  A massive technical and commercial effort will be required to meet this challenge.  Summary of Energy implications of future stabilization of atmospheric CO2 content, Nature 395: 881-884,


Politics and History of Global Warming

The Heat is On: The High Stakes Battle Over Earth's Threatened Climate
Ross Gelbspan, 1997, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, New York.
   Ross Gelbspan is a Pulizter Prize-winning journalist who carefully describes both the scientific facts about global warming and the public relations campaign to raise doubts about the existence of global warming. A fascinating look at disinformation and politics supported by fossil fuel interests vs leading climate scientists. The insurance industry may provide a political counterweight, as it stands to lose billions from weather disasters. A thoughtful look at the urgency and the political, economic and technological difficulties we face in dealing with global warming.  Get the book and climate news updates at The Heat is Online. This is an excellent, up-to-date site with recent developments, facts and politics of global warming.   See also Boiling Point by Ross Gelbspan, 2004, How Politicians, Big Oil and Coal, Journalists and Activists Have Fueled the Climate Crisis.

Greenhouse: The 200-Year Story of Global Warming
Gale E. Christianson, 1999, Walker and Company, New York.
   Gale Christianson is Distinguished Professor of the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana State University and a Guggenheim Fellowship winner.  This is an excellent account of the history of the Industrial Revolution and the genesis of global warming, blending accounts of scientific observations and the development of fossil fuels.  The science includes a history of theory and observation on global warming from Fourier to Arrhenius to modern measurements of carbon dioxide at Mauna Loa and General Circulation Models (GCMs). Paralleling this is a detailed account of the rise of coal, steel, and railroads including Watt, Bessemer and Carnegie and the average life in industrial England.  Following that, a history of oil from Drake's well at Titusville in 1859 to J.D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil to the Middle East, and the automobile from Otto and Daimler to Ford to GM to sport utility vehicles.  Kyoto politics, coral reef destruction, recent weather anomalies and future scenarios of global warming conclude the book.


El Niño/ La Niña

El Niño Theme Page is NOAA's central point of access to all sorts of data and FAQ's on El Niño/ LaNiña, including impacts and predictions.

Increased El Niño frequency in a climate model forced by future greenhouse warming  A. Timmermann, J. Oberhuber, A. Bacher, M. Esch, M. Latif and E. Roeckner, (1999) Nature 398:694-697.  22 April 1999.
    Using a climate model with higher resolution in the tropics, Timmermann et al.show that forcing by a realistic scenario of increasing greenhouse-gas concentrations causes more frequent El-Niño-like conditions (Pacific climate oscillations) and stronger La Niña events. In other words, the El Niño/La Niña phenomenon is likely to become more frequent, year-to-year variations may become more extreme, and strong La Niña events may become more common. The mean sea surface temperature will rise between years 2000 to 2100 in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.  


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