The Ravages of Hurricane Katrina and the Global Warming Connection

The full measure of damage caused by Hurricane Katrina may not be known for days. AP News has a list of the effects known to date, here.

Rescue efforts are still underway in most areas. Los Angeles County Fire Department’s swift-water rescue team left L.A. early this morning to join the rescue efforts, as worn out National Guard units “strained by long overseas deployments” and volunteers from across the country scramble to get to the hurricane ravaged area.

Last night I posted, Katrina’s Real Name — Global Warming, about an OP/ED by Global Warming author Ross Gelbspan. A reader pointed me to Salon’s, Katrina’s destructive waves, noting that Kerry Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, cited “the destruction of Katrina is due to the combination of normal hurricane cycles and massive development in hurricane-prone areas, not global warming.”

I thoroughly agree with my reader’s point about “the destruction of Katrina” being attributed “to massive development in hurricane-prone areas”, however, what my reader failed to note is that Emanuel also notes that atmospheric warming “fuels the intensity of hurricanes.”

So, as global warming increases, expect hurricanes to get stronger. However, that doesn’t mean, as some perceive, that there are actually more of them lately.”When we looked at the historical record, we found that the frequency of storms globally hasn’t really changed at all,” Emanuel said. “It’s about 90 per year, plus or minus 10. The frequency globally appears to be steady.”

Emanuel’s claim actually backs up Gelbspan’s claim that “As the atmosphere warms, it generates longer droughts, more-intense downpours, more-frequent heat waves, and more-severe storms.” Gelbspan does not claim we are getting more storms, he claims the storms we are getting are more intense. Emanuel seems to concur with this. So, too do others…

For all its numbing ferocity, Hurricane Katrina will not be a unique event, say scientists, who say that global warming appears to be pumping up the power of big Atlantic storms.

2005 is on track to be the worst-ever year for hurricanes, according to experts measuring ocean temperatures and trade winds — the two big factors that breed these storms in the Caribbean and tropical North Atlantic.

The above quote from a story in AFP News Wire: Brace for more Katrinas, say experts, also points to a recent study by Kerry Emanuel:

Just a tiny increase in surface temperature can have an extraordinary effect, says researcher Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

In a study published in Nature in July, Emanuel found that the destructive power of North Atlantic storms had doubled over the past 30 years, during which the sea-surface temperature rose by only 0.5 C (0.9 F).

Emanuel’s yardstick is storm duration and windpower: hurricanes lasted longer and packed higher windspeeds than before.

Flooding is another problem caused by the recent surge of intensity of hurricanes.

Kevin Trenberth of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research suggests that hurricanes are dumping more rainfall as warmer seas suck more moisture into the air, swelling the stormclouds.

The indirect evidence for this is that water vapour over oceans worldwide has increased by about two percent since 1988. But data is sketchy for precipitation dropped by recent hurricanes.

“The intensity of and rainfalls from hurricanes are probably increasing, even if this increase cannot yet be proven with a formal statistical test,” Trenberth wrote in the US journal Science in June. He said computer models “suggest a shift” toward the extreme in in hurricane intensities.

While the jury may still be out on how much of this increased intensity is caused by Global Warming, the evidence is certainly pointing in that direction. And, we do know from recent news reports, that the Bush administration and the Big Oil and Coal industries have had had a hand in covering up scientific evidence that Global Warming is an issue that we must pay attention to.

It was just a couple of months ago that John Kerry and Henry Waxman called for an investigation of manipulated Global Warming reports by former White House official Phillip Cooney, who resigned from his position after an expose by the NY Times.

Finally, another piece of evidence that human activity has a detrimental effect on the environment was pointed out by Ron, in the comments of my previous post: Major ozone loss over Antarctic.

The destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina is overwhelming and catastrophic. Not only has our dependence on Big Oil effected our environment, but those effects have ricocheted to create another problem we now face from the damage caused by Katrina, the storm has shut down oil production in the Gulf, which will drive oil prices even higher.

It’s time for the Bush administration to wake up to the reality that their courting of Corporate Oil giants and other big industry is hurting our country more and more each day.

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3 Responses to The Ravages of Hurricane Katrina and the Global Warming Connection

  1. Noisy Democrat says:

    I wonder what President Kerry would be saying right now. Maybe after talking about what the situation is right now, he could say something like this: “This disaster affects not only the residents of the Gulf Coast, but the entire nation. We need to take a level-headed look at the situation: 20% of the nation’s domestic energy production is located in the Gulf Coast. Oil rigs and refineries have been shut down, and it’s not yet clear when they’ll be back in operation. This means that other than providing material assistance to survivors of this disaster, the most important thing we all can do right now is conserve energy as much as possible. Carpool to work if you can, or take public transportation. Find ways to conserve electricity. This is a time for all of us to pull together and share in the sacrifices that have to be made so that we can speed our nation’s recovery from this disaster.”

    Or if energy conservation wouldn’t make a difference (I think it would but I’m just guessing), he could call us to action in some other way. However it was done, it would be nice to have an actual leader in the White House talking about the actual facts of the situation and giving instructions on how we can work together to share the burden of a catastrophe, wouldn’t it? But I can’t imagine President Bush saying anything of the sort — asking people to make actual sacrifices, making us recognize we’re all in it together. It’s not his way of thinking.

  2. Noisy Dem

    Sounds much like what we could expect from President Kerry, too me. I hope he will issue a statement. I think we all need to think about conserving at this point. Gas, electricity and money!

  3. Start watching for headlines that are more optimistic, such as these:

    GLOBAL WARMING REVERSED!
    DIASTER AVERTED… EARTH SAVED!
    MAN-MADE CLIMATE CHANGES… PERMANENTLY NULLIFIED!

    Albert Einstein provided the perfect scientific answer to Global Warming in 1905 with his paradigm, mass-to-energy equation, which is the key to unlocking all of the clean, cheap, environmentally friendly energy the inhabitants of Earth will ever need, without any pollution or waste stream, and with no carbon dioxide or other greenhouse emissions.

    Even the super-powerful Energy Cartel will be unable to prevent millions of individuals around the World from freely switching to this abundant and everlasting Einsteinian cornucopia of “home-made energy,” which will automatically reestablish Mother Nature as the exclusive controller of climate change.

    http://slow-motion-Thermonuclear.blogspot.com/2006/06/invention-for-sale-slow-motion.html