Eintime Conversion for education and research 04-08-2008 @ 12:48:31
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Study: Climate change could cut hurricanes

By Seth Borenstein The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Global warming could reduce how many hurricanes hit the USA, according to a new federal study that clashes with other research.

The study is the latest in a contentious scientific debate over how man-made global warming may affect the intensity and number of hurricanes.

In it, researchers link warming waters, especially in the Indian and Pacific oceans, to increased vertical wind shear in the Atlantic Ocean near the USA. Wind shear — a change in wind speed or direction — makes it hard for hurricanes to form, strengthen and stay alive.

That means "global warming may decrease the likelihood of hurricanes making landfall" in the USA, according to researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami and the University of Miami. Every degree Celsius that the oceans warm, the wind shear increases by up to 10 mph, weakening storm formation, said study author Chunzai Wang, a NOAA researcher.

Critics said Wang's study is based on poor data that were rejected by scientists on the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They said that at times, only one in 10 North Atlantic hurricanes hit the U.S. coast, and that the data reflect a small percentage of storms around the globe.

Hurricanes hitting land "are not a reliable record" for how hurricanes have changed, said Kevin Trenberth, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

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