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Researchers Debate Warming, Hurricanes

Last year an El Nino _ a warming of the water in the tropical Pacific that can affect weather worldwide _ dampened the Atlantic hurricane season.

Now, just weeks before the traditional June 1 start of the hurricane season, forecasters and residents of hurricane-threatened regions nervously wait to see what this summer will bring.

The government's hurricane season forecast has yet to be issued, but a top storm researcher has predicted a very active 2007 Atlantic hurricane season. William Gray of Colorado State University expects at least nine hurricanes, with a good chance one will hit the U.S. coast.

While Vecchi and Soden's research indicates increased wind shear in the Atlantic and eastern Pacific, their models did not find the same thing elsewhere.

The models projected that the west and central Pacific should become more favorable to development of the storms, called typhoons in those areas.

Kerry Emanuel, a hurricane expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said he thinks storms' sensitivity to wind shear may be overestimated.

Emanuel, who was not involved in this research, said he published a study last year that calculated that increasing the potential intensity of a storm via warming by 10 percent increases hurricane power by 65 percent, whereas increasing shear by 10 percent decreases hurricane power by only 12 percent.

On the other hand, Christopher W. Landsea of NOAA's National Hurricane Center, called Vecchi's study "a very important contribution to the understanding of how global warming is affecting hurricane activity."

Landsea, who was not part of the research, said he believes it "provides evidence that the busy period we've seen in the Atlantic hurricanes since 1995 is due to natural cycles, rather than manmade causes."

The research was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.


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