Environment

The More Things Change...

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyMay 3, 2006 9:40 PM

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For many, it might seem as though all the recent attention to hurricanes and global warming is something new. On the contrary, this topic has been with us for a long time. And debates in the past have sounded surprisingly like debates today. For instance, I just read a 1999 Time magazine story by J. Madeleine Nash, published in the wake of Hurricane Floyd on September 27, 1999. It was entitled "Wait Till Next Time; If a little heated water in the Atlantic can create Floyd, what storms will global warming bring?" The piece quoted MIT's Kerry Emanuel discussing how hurricanes could grow stronger with global warming, Colorado State's William Gray questioning this self same notion, and then, at the end, Roger Pielke, Jr. (then with the National Center for Atmospheric Research) observing that the real issue is not whether hurricanes will get stronger, but rather, current societal vulnerability: "...the days when a big hurricane could make landfall in sparsely populated places are fast disappearing, Pielke notes, and that alone is cause enough for worry." So, in short, the debate in 1999--seven years ago--sounded strikingly like what we're hearing today. The only difference would appear to be that now, Emanuel is saying hurricanes have actually gotten stronger, whereas before he was merely saying that they could get stronger...I believe that Emanuel and Gray even debated this subject publicly at an American Meteorological Society meeting circa 2000. If anyone knows anything more about that event or can remember how it went down, please email to let me know. As you can see, with my travels over, I'm getting back to blogging (and back to work).....

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