Hurricane disaster prognosis: not so good

SEPTEMBER 22, 2005
Sadly, those supersized hurricanes that seem to be looming around the Atlantic & Gulf are going to be here to stay, as long as the waters remain to be as warm.

If the past three decades are any indication, we might be seeing many more powerful hurricanes like Katrina in the years to come

That's according to a new study released today in the journal Science, which supports claims made after Katrina that warmer ocean temperatures are giving hurricanes more power.

"Odds are that in the next 20 years, [the intensity of hurricanes] is going to stay high, if not increase," said study co-author Judy Curry, chairwoman of Georgia Tech's School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. "We may be looking at more and more Katrina-like storms."

Curry, lead author Peter J. Webster and colleagues tracked the wind speeds of hurricanes around the world since 1970 using data from satellites and reconnaissance airplanes.

They found that while the total number of hurricanes has dropped over the past decade, the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has doubled. They now average about 18 per year.

In the North Atlantic alone, 25 Category 4 and 5 hurricanes occurred between 1990 and 2004, compared with 15 of that strength between 1975 and 1989.

[...] While it's not just global warming that causes higher ocean temperatures, "these daily decisions that we make to drive a car that may be getting only 15 to 20 miles per gallon are really the decisions that affect our grandchildren," she said.

But even if we stop burning fossil fuels, it's hard to tell what would happen, said Curry. She thinks the data suggest the United States needs better disaster management plans and evacuation policies, rather than another debate about global warming.

[...] "The landfall of intense hurricanes is such a rare event that there's absolutely no way that you could see trends unless you waited a hundred years," he said.

Rare event.... just in the past month alone it was Katrina and now it's Rita. Makes me wonder how constant exposure to these these megastorms will affect Florida and the Caribbean Islands. As we saw from Katrina, disaster recovery efforts don't come without a huge price tag. That can't be good for business.

I want to wish everyone in the hurricane-threatened areas of Texas to take care of yourselves and try to find a path out of harm's way, if you can do so.

filed in Weather | by Christine at 11:09 AM on 2005-09-22