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Study: Global warming may hinder hurricane formation

Published April 18, 2007


WASHINGTON - The debate over whether global warming affects hurricanes may be running into some unexpected turbulence.

Many researchers think warming is causing the storms to get stronger, while others aren't sure.

Now, a study raises the possibility that global warming might make it harder for hurricanes to form.

The findings, by Gabriel A. Vecchi of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Brian J. Soden of the University of Miami, are reported in Wednesday's issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

Vecchi and Soden used 18 complex computer climate models to anticipate the effects of warming.

Included in the results were an increase in vertical wind shear over the tropical Atlantic and eastern Pacific oceans.

Vertical wind shear is a difference in wind speed or direction at different altitudes. When a hurricane encounters vertical wind shear, the hurricane can weaken.

On the other hand, warm water provides the energy that drives hurricanes.

"Which one of the two - warming oceans or increasing shear - will be the dominant factor? Will they cancel out? We and others are currently exploring those very questions, and we hope to have a better grasp on that answer in the near future," Vecchi said.

[Last modified April 18, 2007, 03:13:56]

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