ABC’s Jeffrey Kofman picked up on the government’s 2006 hurricane season forecast to suggest a link between devastating hurricanes and global warming. Yet scientists are far less certain on the science than Kofman suggested, including the meteorologist Kofman included in his report.
"Some scientists believe that global warming is the reason we are seeing more powerful hurricanes each year. So powerful that they are now considering adding a fearsome category 6," Kofman closed his May 22 "World News Tonight" story on the federal government’s predictions for the 2006 hurricane season.
Of course, category groupings for hurricanes are arbitrary measurements and such a new benchmark doesn’t mean category 6 winds haven’t been achieved before. In fact Kofman’s colleague at ABC, Bill Blakemore, wrote on May 21 that "there have already been hurricanes strong enough to qualify as Category 6s" if a category 6 would be defined as "having sustained winds over 175 or 180 mph."
In defense of the global warming link to strong hurricanes, Kofman cited Professor Hugh Willoughby of Florida International University who told him that it was a "disturbing possibility" that "10 to 20 years from now" there might not be a lull in the number of hurricanes "because of global warming."
Yet Willoughby, a former National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research meteorologist, is far from an unwavering believer in a link between global warming and intense hurricanes. At a lecture in March at the University of South Florida, Willoughby "generally dismissed global warming as a cause for the increase in recent big hurricanes," reported Randolph Fillmore on March 3. The main causes were "a lack of shear (a high-altitude change in wind speed or direction) in the atmosphere over the Gulf of Mexico and the hurricanes’ interaction with the ‘loop current’ in the Gulf," Fillmore added.
"Shear is poison to hurricanes," Willoughby, who added that while "global warming may have some effect," it was not "the main thing happening" in the destructive 2005 hurricane season.
[cross-posted to BusinessandMedia.org]