On Hurricanes and Global Warming

Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 01:21 MDT

Contributed by: evilscientist

As the US waits to be hit by the second force 5 hurricane in as many months it gives pause for thought on global warming. How are these two things connected? Well, as the Earth warms up, the process is slowed by one main factor, the oceans. Water can hold a heck of a lot of thermal energy, way more than air and even rock. So as the energy from the Sun is trapped by the greenhouse effect, some of that energy goes into the oceans which, acting like a large heat sink, moderates temperature change. So what? I can hear you all saying. Well, that energy doesn't stay in the oceans forever. It warms the air above the water, in essence transferring the energy to the air. Over the Caribbean, this causes hurricanes. The greater the amount of energy stored in the ocean, the more powerful the hurricane will be.

Now with the Earth warming up, all storms, including hurricanes, will become more violent due to the extra energy in the system. Look for more hurricanes of this magnitude or greater in the future.

What is causing the global warming? It depends on who you ask. If you ask the oil industry, they'll deny it's even happening or if they admit to it at all, it's just a solar cycle.

Environmental groups argue that the growing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, put there by burning oil and other fossil fuels, is causing the greenhouse effect to become more pronounced and warming up the Earth.

Likely it is caused by many factors, the only one we can really control being the amount of carbon dioxide we're putting into the atmosphere. It must be said that yes, what we do does in fact effect the global environment, and yes the carbon dioxide we're producing is contributing to the warming of the Earth. It's probably not the only thing, but it is one of the things we can control.

This is where the crowning irony comes in. The United States is the worlds largest single producer of greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide in particular. Also, because Americans don't want to give up their SUV's anytime soon, they're not likely to slow down in their production of greenhouse gas. Further given that the president of the United States didn't even acknowledge that the Earth was warming up, let alone that human activity could be part of the cause makes it ironic that the current hurricane is about to slam into his home state of Texas. Mother Nature's revenge as it were.

Of course human short sightedness won't help solve this problem. It is far cheaper to invest in ways to reduce our production of greenhouse gas than it will be to fix the problems that will result. Hurricane Katrina will cost hundreds of billions of dollars to recover from. Investments in mass transit of only a fraction of that would help reduce the root cause. Of course, since it's believed there's no immediate threat, that money won't be spent because it might interfere with some company's profit or someone's lifestyle choice.

It's all in our hands right now. What we do about it will affect generations to come.

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