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Hurricanes and global warming


Arising from: K. Emanuel Nature 436, 686–688 (2005); K. Emanuel reply.

Anthropogenic climate change has the potential for slightly increasing the intensity of tropical cyclones through warming of sea surface temperatures1. Emanuel2 has shown a striking and surprising association between sea surface temperatures and destructiveness by tropical cyclones in the Atlantic and western North Pacific basins. However, I question his analysis on the following grounds: it does not properly represent the observations described; the use of his Atlantic bias-removal scheme may not be warranted; and further investigation of a substantially longer time series for tropical cyclones affecting the continental United States does not show a tendency for increasing destructiveness. These factors indicate that instead of “unprecedented” tropical cyclone activity having occurred in recent years, hurricane intensity was equal or even greater during the last active period in the mid-twentieth century.

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Figure 1: Derivation of Atlantic power-dissipation index (PDI).
Figure 2: The continental United States PDI at the time of impact for the reliable-period record of 1900–2004.


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Landsea, C. Hurricanes and global warming. Nature 438, E11–E12 (2005).

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