NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 24, 2007

Hurricanes over the past 5,000 years appear to have been controlled more by El Nino and an African monsoon than warm sea surface temperatures, such as those caused by global warming, according to a new study published in the journal Nature.

According to the report's authors, killer hurricanes hit when local sea-surface temperatures were warm or cool.  For example:

  • Intense hurricanes made landfall during the latter half of the "Little Ice Age," a period of cooling that occurred approximately from the 14th to mid-19th centuries.
  • The Caribbean experienced a relatively active interval of intense hurricanes for more than a millennium when local sea-surface temperatures were on average cooler than modern times.

Tropical sea surface temperatures are apparently not a requisite for increased intense hurricane activity, says Jeffrey Donnelly, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.  Moreover, he says, changes in intense hurricane activity should be better predicted with more study of the Eastern Pacific and West African climate patterns.

Source: Timothy Gardner, "Surprising study: Killer hurricanes thrived in cool seas," USA Today, May 23, 2007.

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