Hurricane Felix, currently menacing Central America, has become the second storm of 2007 to be rated category five – the highest wind speed category (updates). The Daily Telegraph says it was upgraded on Sunday from category two to category five in 15 hours – one of the fasted jumps on record. There is some debate over what this might mean. Jean-Noel Degrace, expert at Meteo-France told the AFP, “The fact that there have already been two intense storms marks out 2007 as an active year.” Mark Saunders, lead scientist with the Tropical Storm Risk, only went so far as to say it was “unusual but not unprecedented” to have a category five at this point in the hurricane season.
Despite the US National Hurricane Center having already predicted this to be an “above-normal” hurricane season, some people are still getting excited, perhaps over excited. “I can’t get over these numbers: The 1980s saw three official Category 5 hurricanes. The 1990s saw two. The 2000s, so far, have seen eight, all clustered from 2003 to 2007. In this context, the past five years certainly look like a scary anomaly compared to what has come before,” said blogger Chris Mooney, whose book “Storm World” deals with “Hurricanes, politics and the battle over global warming (Nature review, subscribers only). Could these hurricane numbers be linked to global warming?
Climate modeller William M. Connolley is having less than none of it. “If you want to know if its got warmer, then hurricanes are clearly a poor indicator – the record is too noisy,” he says. “And we have a far better record: that of the temperature. If you want to know, conversely, if GW is going to lead to more or deeper or scarier hurricanes, then counting numbers by decade isn’t a good idea either.” Their disagreement continues in the comments of Connolley’s blog.
Whatever the truth of the situation, it is proving grist to the mill of those looking for a liberal (for which read global warming expounding, environmentalist) bias in the media – NewsBusters for example. Mooney has also pulled together a nice set of links on Felix.
Image: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
— Daniel Cressey