- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 21, 2004

At least 66 persons have died in Japan’s 10th typhoon of a record-breaking season, prompting some climatologists to question whether global climate changes are responsible for deadly storm seasons in both Japan and Florida.

Tokage, Japanese for “lizard,” is the latest in a series of typhoons to batter Japan. The storm hammered the country on Wednesday, damaging more than 23,000 homes and forcing more than 13,000 people to seek temporary shelter.

Some climate researchers are warning that storms like Tokage and the series of hurricanes that battered Florida this year could be an example of how rising ocean temperatures are causing severe storms.

“This year’s unusually intense period of destructive weather activity, with four hurricanes hitting the U.S. in a five-week period, could be a harbinger of even more extremes to come,” said Paul Epstein, associate director of Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment.

Mr. Epstein spoke at a press conference yesterday sponsored by the center about how global warming could be fueling more destructive storms.



Scientific data show that ocean temperatures are rising gradually, said Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. A rise in sea-level temperatures increases the amount of water vapor, which, he said, can lead to more severe storms.

“Of course, this is the fuel for the hurricanes, and it also means that the hurricanes end up dropping a lot more precipitation and rainfall as a result,” Mr. Trenberth said.

He attributes the global warming to increased concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Not everyone agrees global warming is the problem.

Chris Landsea, a research meteorologist at the Hurricane Research Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said there is no evidence that global warming is causing the latest spike in hurricane activity.

“As far as we can tell, the activity we have seen now has nothing to do with global warming,” Mr. Landsea said.

He attributed the slew of hurricanes that hit Florida this year to a consistent cycle for Atlantic hurricanes, in which a 20-year period of little hurricane activity is followed by two decades of increased storms.

“What we have seen this year in the Atlantic was very busier, but it fits right in with what we’ve previously diagnosed as cycles of hurricane activity,” Mr. Landsea said.

This article based in part on wire service reports.

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