The people of New Orleans are surely not thinking about wind vortices, the coriolis effect or the dampness of the troposphere as they hunker down during hurricane Katrina this morning. They're mostly thinking about the savage rains and 140 mph winds that have driven them from their homes. But it's that meteorological arcana that's made such a mess of the bayou, and to hear a lot of people tell it, we have only ourselves--and our global-warming ways--to blame.
The article says the jury is still out on whether gobal warming increases the frequency of tropical cyclones, but an MIT study shows that the intensity (as measured by the wind speed) of hurricanes is up 50% in the past 50 years.
Actually, the study - recently published in Nature - found that both the top wind speeds and duration of tropical cyclones were up 50% over the past 50 years, and that "these increases in storm intensity are mirrored by increases in the average temperature at the surface of the tropical oceans, suggesting that this warming...is responsible for the greater power of the cyclones."
And still the Bush administration refuses to sign onto the Kyoto agreement. But nine Eastern states are going over Dubya's head to adopt their own version of the Kyoto Protocol, three Western states are poised to follow suit - and there are signs of progress in other places as well. For example, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality recently shut down an Alexandria power plant that feeds the Washington, DC grid for violating federal pollution standards - standards the Bush administration has failed to enforce.