"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." Theodore Roosevelt
Most researchers agree that the warming oceans are the result of rising amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, also known as global warming. This process occurs when there are high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Global warming and hurricanes are linked because heat essentially is the fuel of these storms. Researchers have described hurricanes as heat engines that draw their energy upward from the warm ocean water to drive their winds; the increase in ocean temperatures is like throwing a log on a fire.
The recent frequency of strong Category 5 hurricanes such as Katrina and Rita may be linked to global warming, scientists warn, saying that rising global temperatures have warmed the oceans, and warm oceans fuel hurricanes. "Scientific evidence suggests there is a link between global warming and the power, not frequency, of hurricanes," Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel, a climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said earlier this month. While scientists say it is difficult to blame any one weather event - a hurricane or a heat wave or a blizzard - on global warming, recent peer-reviewed research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) shows that a combined measure of both the duration and intensity of hurricanes has doubled over the last 30 years. Hurricanes have grown more powerful and destructive over the last 30 years due in part to global warming, says an MIT professor who warns that this trend could continue.
Super-powerful hurricanes now hitting the United States are the "smoking gun" of global warming, one of Britain's leading scientists believes. The growing violence of storms such as Katrina, which wrecked New Orleans, and Rita, now threatening Texas, is very probably caused by climate change, said Sir John Lawton, chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. Hurricanes were getting more intense, just as computer models predicted they would, because of the rising temperature of the sea, he said. "The increased intensity of these kinds of extreme storms is very likely to be due to global warming."
"Look at Hurricane Katrina - after it went into the Gulf and was warmed by the sea surface it went from a Category 1 to a Category 5," Webster said, arguing that same phenomenon caused similar high-intensity storms. And his research is not alone. Earlier this year, a similar study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that hurricane wind speeds have increased about 50 percent in the past 50 years. The Bush administration has slashed research on global warming and refused to sign the Kyoto Treaty which seeks a cut in greenhouse-gas emissions. Webster said he believes government scientists "are under a lot of pressure not to speak about global warming."
So there is no evidence that there are more storms when looked at globally, but what we may be seeing is an increase in the peak intensity of the strongest ones. Two research papers published in the past month have suggested an increase in the number of category 4 and 5 storms. Tropical cyclone activity is highly variable, often as a result of natural changes in the atmosphere and ocean, so although this evidence is a start, we are a long way from proving a connection.