Weather Whys

By Texas A&M University —

Q: Is there a relationship between global warming and hurricanes?

A: That's a question that a lot of people are asking, says John
Nielsen-Gammon, professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M
University who also serves as State Climatologist. “There were more
hurricanes and tropical storms in 2005 than any year in at least 70
years,” he explains. “A lot of fingers are being pointed at global
warming for the rise in severe storms. There are a lot of studies being
done in this area, and global warming appears to be at least a strong
contributing factor. We know that some areas of the oceans are warmer
than in years past, and this can contribute to more intense storms.”

Q: What specific areas of water are warmer?

A: The Atlantic Ocean, Nielsen-Gammon says, is scientifically proven
to be warmer than normal. “Large areas of the Atlantic are at least one
degree warmer than in years past, and this goes back to 1995,” he points
out. “So we have had a decade of warmer water there, and that's where
hurricanes form. The long-range outlook tells us that this warming trend
could continue another 5 to 20 years. Since warmer water means stronger
storms and hurricanes, it could mean stronger storms in the future.
Back in 2005, there were three hurricanes that reached category 5 status
— the strongest level — but it remains to be seen if that will happen
in the years to come.”