Saturday, February 11, 2006

This Just In - Global Warming Is a Threat to the Atlantic and Gulf Coast After All

Dark Syde, at Daily Kos, wonders, in this thoughtful post (scroll about half way down), if we remember the many interviews on cable t.v. shows and news reports last year, when climate scientists stated emphatically that global warming played no part in the 2005 active Atlantic hurricane season.

Well, it turns out that not only may that not be true, but that there may have been a deliberate disinformation campaign by the Bush administration to play down the role of global warming in the recent spate of deadly hurricanes.

The official line of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is that we’ve merely entered into a period of increased storm activity, which occurs every few decades. The effects appear more noticeable because we’ve had an unusually calm Atlantic period for about 40 years. Scientists have claimed that this switch to more active storm seasons is merely a naturally occurring shift.

Perhaps there’s some truth to it. As Dark Syde points out, the increase in the number of tropical storms forming off the coast of Africa may indeed be part of a natural decadal shift; but the fact that those storms travel as far as they do, hold together as well as they do, and increase into well formed and intense hurricanes are all influenced by the fact that the ocean temperature has been rising. It only takes a difference as small as a few degrees to affect the strength and intensity of a tropical storm. Indeed, whether they hold together at all and develop well-formed eyes, which allow them to strengthen into hurricanes, is determined by the temperature of the water. In cold waters, tropical storms fall apart.

It turns out that the majority of scientific opinion may be that global warming is playing a role in the increase in the number of severe hurricanes affecting the U.S. But those scientists working at NOAA who might hold this opinion are being discouraged from speaking to the media about it. NOAA, like all federal agencies, has a policy that all their staff experts must clear statements with their public affairs department before going to the press. And the public affairs departments at most federal agencies are staffed by political appointees. So, the only scientists being encouraged to discuss global warming and its influence on the active storm seasons we’ve been suffering are those whose opinions may actually be in the minority and even outside the mainstream. They don't necessarily represent good science. They may simply be representative of this administration's political policy.

None of this surprises me. I’ve said before that it appears counterintuitive to dismiss global warming as a factor when the storm activity has gone off the charts. Come on, there have been so many Atlantic storms that NOAA ran through the entire alphabet and then started using the Greek alphabet and then simply ran out of letters. Never in my memory has that happened before. And I’m over 50 and track Atlantic storms as a hobby.

And we’ve been getting more “storms of the century” than there have been years in the century. You can’t have a storm of the century in the summer, then a blizzard of the century in the winter practically every year and still call them all “storms of the century.”

Global warming is here. We’re feeling its devastating effects right now. How much more proof do you need than the reality on the ground that you can see with your own eyes?

The problem is that the Bush administration is the most fact-phobic crowd ever to have misgoverned our nation in a century. They’ve been outed by disgruntled NOAA scientists and EPA scientists both. And so has a gullible media that never seems to question the lies these guys put out until after it’s too late.

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