More Hurricanes and Climate

From Kenneth Chang in Sunday’s New York Times:

Global warming is not a significant factor in this year’s storminess, experts said. While some climate models predict that warming might eventually mean somewhat stronger hurricanes, that effect is expected to be very small compared to the natural hurricane cycle.

Or how ’bout this, from our friends in the UK:

Hurricane Frances – a vast storm the size of Texas – yesterday began to hit the Florida coastline, bringing 100mph winds and torrential tropical rain.

But a US government body admits – despite President George Bush’s refusal to join international action to combat global warming – that it is likely to be only a foretaste of things to come as the climate changes.

Now, I hate to harp, but it looks to me like Mr. Chang is being a bit more rigorous here. The Independent doesn’t say, but when it refers to “a US government body” admitting that Frances “is likely to be only a foretaste of things to come as the climate changes,” it could only be referring to the recently released USGCRP report. Here’s what that report actually has to say about hurricanes:

Simulations with a new hurricane model suggest that tropical cyclone intensities may increase under conditions of warming of tropical sea surface temperatures. The model projects that this warming, representative of the average projected change during the 21st century as a result of human-induced changes in atmospheric composition, results in an increase of approximately 5-10 percent in peak hurricane winds. However, considerable controversy still exists with respect to the correctness of such simulations in light of our inability to assess the veracity of these models due to the lack of consideration of the full complement of climate system changes under a warming scenario and inadequate observational data on hurricanes ? areas where continuing research is warranted.

That’s a bit weaker than “likely,” don’t you think? Though I love the bit about a storm the size of Texas. That’s epic. Texas is real big.