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Global warming, storms and interesting meetings


Readers will be interested in an article from the Environment News Service (that I’ve pasted below) in which scientists state they’ve calculated the degree to which increased hurricane strength is recent years is a result of global warming, as opposed to what portion can be attributed to natural cycles (such as the multi-decadal mid-Atlantic oscillation). If you track these things, this article is worth saving in your “global warming” clippings file.
On another note, I’m attending two very interesting events this week. The first (today, Wednesday) is a lunch presentation at the Economic Club of Toronto by Paul Pabor, VP of Waste Management Inc. Renewable Energy on the topic of “Waste-derived energy.” The remarks are apparently going to talk about the environmental and economic benefits of landfill gas and other forms of waste to energy. I’ll report in this space something of what we learn later in the week.
On Thursday I’m participating in a “Waste Options Summit” presented by John Tory and the Ontario Progressive Conservative Caucus at Queen’s Park. I’ve taken to avoiding political policy development forums like the plague after having had a very disappointing experience serving as co-chair of the Ontario Conservative Party’s environment policy committee back in the mid-1990s. (Long story short: My co-chair John Snobelen and I developed all kinds of terrific policy initiatives that were totally ignored by the party and the Mike Harris government after they came to power in 1995. Worse, I found out that a bunch of industry lobbyists formed their own “ad hoc” environment committee as part of the Red Tape Review panel, and the government actually followed their totally self-serving guidance. The experience left me with a feeling of democracy being subverted by big money and I became convinced that industry should be banned from making financial contributions to political parties. Mike Harris and crew spent their tenure “paying back” their industry supporters with all kinds of policy initiatives that benefited the companies and not the public interest [or that of the environment].)
However, I want to listen to what folks have to say at this summit, since incineration and other options are back in a big way in Ontario, and maybe some of us who work in the waste management and recycling business can nudge the opposition party (and perhaps future government) toward some practical solutions to our diversion and disposal challenges. Again, I’ll report more here later in the week or early next week after the meeting.
Now, here’s that interesting article I told you about (click on the green text to continue):


Global Warming Kicked 2005 Hurricanes Up A Notch
BOULDER, Colorado, June 26, 2006 (ENS) – Global warming created about half the extra warmth in the waters of the tropical North Atlantic that stimulated hurricane formation in 2005, while natural cycles were a minor factor, a new study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research demonstrates.
The research by world leading climate scientists contradicts recent claims that natural cycles are responsible for the increase in Atlantic hurricane activity since 1995 and adds support to the theory that hurricane seasons will become more active as global temperatures rise.
While researchers agree that the warming waters fueled hurricane intensity, they have been uncertain whether Atlantic waters have heated up because of a natural, decades-long cycle, or because of global warming.
The new analysis by lead author Dr. Kevin Trenberth and associate scientist Dennis Shea of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) will appear in the June 27 issue of “Geophysical Research Letters,” published by the American Geophysical Union.
“The global warming influence provides a new background level that increases the risk of future enhancements in hurricane activity,” says Trenberth, who heads NCAR’s Climate Analysis Section.
Last year produced a record 28 tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic. Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma all reached Category 5 strength, the highest level on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Category 5 hurricanes carry winds greater than 155 mph (249 km/hr). The storm surge is greater than 18 feet (5.5 meters) above normal.
This year the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center forecasts a “very active” season, with 13-16 named storms, 8-10 hurricanes, and 4-6 major hurricanes.
The 2006 prediction indicates a continuation of above-normal Atlantic activity that began in 1995, but forecasters say they do not currently expect a repeat of last year’s record season.
Trenberth and Shea’s research focuses on an increase in ocean temperatures.
During much of last year’s hurricane season, sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic between 10 and 20 degrees north, where many Atlantic hurricanes originate, were a record 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1901-1970 average.
By analyzing worldwide data on sea-surface temperatures since the early 20th century, Trenberth and Shea were able to calculate the causes of the increased temperatures in the tropical North Atlantic.
Their calculations show that global warming explained about 0.8 degrees F of this temperature rise.
Aftereffects from the 2004-05 El Nino accounted for about 0.4 degrees F.
The Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO), a 60 to 80-year natural cycle in sea-surface temperatures, explained less than 0.2 degrees F of the rise, Trenberth says.
The remainder is due to year-to-year variability in temperatures.
Earlier studies have attributed the warming and cooling patterns of North Atlantic ocean temperatures in the 20th century – and associated hurricane activity – to the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation.
But Trenberth, suspecting that global warming is also playing a role, looked beyond the Atlantic to temperature patterns throughout Earth’s tropical and midlatitude waters.
He subtracted the global trend from the irregular Atlantic temperatures – separating global warming from the Atlantic natural cycle.
The results show that the AMO is weaker now than it was in the 1950s, when Atlantic hurricanes were also active.
However, the AMO did contribute to the lull in hurricane activity from about 1970 to 1990 in the Atlantic.
Global warming does not guarantee that each year will set records for hurricanes, according to Trenberth. He notes that last year’s activity was related to very favorable upper-level winds as well as the extremely warm sea-surface temperatures.
Trenberth says each year will bring ups and downs in tropical Atlantic sea-surface temperatures due to natural variations, such as the presence or absence of El Nino, a warming pattern in the tropical Pacific Ocean.
Still, the researchers conclude that over the long-term ocean warming will raise the baseline of hurricane activity.
Source: Environment News Service


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