Heavy Lifting - thoughts and web finds by an economist
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Wednesday, June 06, 2007
The two years since Hurricane Katrina we have seen predictions that the upcoming hurricane season will be busy and potentially dangerous. There have been some who have gone so far as to suggest that the increase in hurricane activity over the past fifteen years or so is a direct result of global climate change. I have heard such claims but always wanted to see some evidence in support of the claims.
Alas, if this article in Nature is correct, the increase in hurricane activity might be a reversion to the (long-run historical) mean rather than a dramatic increase in activity:
The record indicates that the average frequency of major hurricanes decreased gradually from the 1760s until the early 1990s, reaching anomalously low values during the 1970s and 1980s. Furthermore, the phase of enhanced hurricane activity since 1995 is not unusual compared to other periods of high hurricane activity in the record and thus appears to represent a recovery to normal hurricane activity, rather than a direct response to increasing sea surface temperature. Comparison of the record with a reconstruction of vertical wind shear indicates that variability in this parameter primarily controlled the frequency of major hurricanes in the Atlantic over the past 270 years, suggesting that changes in the magnitude of vertical wind shear will have a significant influence on future hurricane activity.
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