UN Storm Brews over Hurricane-Global Warming Link
NEW YORK A U.S. government hurricane scientist has resigned from the United Nations' science panel on climate change because, he said, a lead author in the group had too strongly linked global warming to hurricanes.
The issue of whether climate change is leading to increased severity of hurricanes came to a head late last year at a conference at Harvard University where researchers, including the school's Dr. Paul Epstein, said recent storms, droughts and heat waves are probably being caused by global warming.
The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which evaluates the state of climate science as a basis for informed policy action concluded in its most recent report that greenhouse gases from autos and industry contribute to global warming.
Last year's hurricane season produced nine of the storms, six of them "major" with sustained winds of more than 110 mph . Florida was hit by four hurricanes, the first time a single state was hit by that many in one season since 1886.
Oil and gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico are still operating at reduced rates after September's Hurricane Ivan.
Chris Landsea, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's hurricane research division, said he had resigned from the U.N's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change because a lead author in the group "gave his own opinion" about the busy 2004 hurricane season at the Harvard conference.
Landsea said Dr. Kevin Trenberth, the lead author and head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, was introduced at the conference as an IPCC lead author, but then offered his personal opinions and not those of the IPCC itself.
"I found it perplexing that the participants in the Harvard press conference had come to the conclusion that global warming was impacting hurricane activity today," said Landsea in the statement. "I am withdrawing because I have come to view the part of the IPCC to which my expertise is relevant as having become politicized," he added.
Trenberth told Reuters he's never said global warming had anything to do with the number of hurricanes that hit Florida last year or that it can increase the frequency of hurricanes.
"What we are suggesting is that when a disturbance does form a hurricane it's apt to be more intense and there's heavier rainfalls," he said.
Sea surface temperatures and rainfall averages have risen, he said, which provides fuel for hurricanes.
"These are all factors related to global climate change and they're clearly affecting the environment in which hurricanes are forming in," he said.
Trenberth said hundreds of scientists contribute to IPCC studies and that the group includes scientists who dismiss global warming, such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Richard Lindzen. He said he would welcome Landsea back to IPCC as an important scientific voice.
Landsea told Reuters he might return to IPCC one day, but not while Trenberth was a lead author.