One of the oft-expressed worries is that man-made global warming will boost the number and power of hurricanes. Last year, Greg Holland from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. reported that global warming had doubled the number of hurricanes over the course of the 20th century. However, a new study in the journal Nature Geoscience finds that global warming may actually reduce the number of Atlantic hurricanes in the 21st century.
According to Bloomberg.com, climate modeler Thomas Knutson at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) finds:
"This study does not support the notion that increasing greenhouse gases are causing a large increase in Atlantic hurricane or tropical storm frequency," the paper's lead author, Thomas Knutson, a NOAA scientist, said May 16 in a conference call with reporters. "Rather for future climate conditions we simulate a reduction." …
Knutson and colleagues plugged data from each of the hurricane seasons from 1980 to 2006 into their model. They then altered atmospheric and temperature data to reflect possible scenarios for conditions at the end of this century published last year by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Under the altered conditions—including sea surface temperatures 1.72 degrees Celsius warmer than now—they found that tropical storm numbers declined by 27 percent and hurricanes by 18 percent. Storm systems with winds of at least 100 miles an hour more than doubled.
If increased hurricane activity is not responsible for rising damage, what is? In February, NOAA explained what is happening:
A team of scientists have found that the economic damages from hurricanes have increased in the U.S. over time due to greater population, infrastructure, and wealth on the U.S. coastlines, and not to any spike in the number or intensity of hurricanes.
The debate continues.