Warming oceans linked to increase in powerful hurricanes and storms

Severe hurricanes and cyclones have become more common worldwide as ocean temperatures have increased, according to a study published today in the journal Science. Georgia Tech climatologist Judith Curry and colleagues studied satellite data from the past 35 years as well as computer models before reaching their conclusion: Category 4 and 5 hurricanes — storms with winds of 131 miles per hour or higher — rose from an average of 10 a year in the 1970s to 18 a year since 1990. During the same period, average tropical sea surface temperatures increased up to 1 degree Fahrenheit, after remaining stable from 1900 through the mid-1960s. This is the second major study in six weeks to link warming oceans to more-severe storms, but debate rages on about whether the recent surge in highly destructive storms falls within the realm of normal weather variability. “There is increasing confidence, as the result of our study, that there’s some level of greenhouse warming in what we’re seeing,” said Curry. “Is it the whole story? We don’t know.”