In the latest development in a scientific debate about how, and whether, global warming will affect some of the world's strongest storms, a University of Michigan team predicts stronger water storms from dust devils and water spouts to tornadoes and hurricanes because of global warming.
Hardly the final word on a subject which is debated by well-respected and well-credentialed scientists, the new research, published in the Swedish journal Tellus A at least improves on the predictions used by computer models that simulate the effects of climate change.
The new research concludes that for every 3.6 degrees (F) that the Earth's surface temperature warms, the intensity of storms could increase by at least a few percent.
"It shows us that climate change could lead to increases in how efficient convective vortices are and how much energy they transform into wind," said Nilton Renno, the lead author. "Fueled by warmer and moister air, there will be stronger and deeper storms in the future that reach higher into the atmosphere."
In May, a NOAA analysis suggested Atlantic hurricanes will become stronger, but less frequent, because of global warming. But also recently, a prominent hurricane researcher who had previously supported the idea that global warming makes hurricanes stronger has second-guessed some of his assumptions.
2007 saw fewer hurricanes than expected, though there were several rapidly intensifying cyclones in the Atlantic basin. Three killer storms Dean, Felix and Noel were just retired by the World Meteorological Organization, and their names will not be used to describe tropical cyclones in the future.
The early predictions for 2008 are for an above-average year filled with frequent storms and several intense hurricanes. The storm season officially begins June 1, and the second named storm of the season became the season's first major hurricane as well, Hurricane Bertha.
Meanwhile, tornado activity in 2008 remains above average, and tornadoes have killed more people than any year since 1998, and is on pace to be the deadliest on record.
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