Global warming may have contributed to intensity of hurricanes

According to a story in the New Republic, “Many respected climate scientists, including some who work for NOAA, believe the organization’s official line on the link between global warming and hurricanes is wrong.” NOAA has officially downplayed the relationship between global warming and the intensity of last season’s hurricanes, but while “global warming didn’t necessarily cause Katrina, but it may be increasing the odds that hurricanes like Katrina will occur.” And NOAA has also downplayed the controversy.

The truth is, we don’t know. I’m with a lot of climate scientists I quoted earlier in this blog, that the weather we had last year wasn’t the weather of 40 years ago. On its face, that suggests, really rather unremarkably that the climate is changing, which arguably, it always is. But we’re also looking at a lot of man-made changes; it takes a lot of faith to say all this has had little or no impact.

[Kerry Emanuel of MIT], who regularly talks with NOAA scientists, says, “Scientists who don’t toe the party line are being intimidated from talking to the press. I think it is a very sad situation. I know quite a few people who are frightened, but they beg me not to use their name.”

I’ve talked a lot about the Bush administration’s attitude towards empirical data in the past. NOAA, this article claims, has actively suppressed claims which argue for a link.

[O]n September 29, in the midst of growing public debate over hurricanes and global warming, public affairs official Jim Teet issued a memo requiring that “any request for an interview with a national media outlet/reporter must now receive prior approval by DOC [Department of Commerce].”

NOAA Public Affairs Director Jordan St. John insists that Teet’s memo merely restated the existing policy, but, by requiring approval and not merely notification, Teet’s order–first publicized by reporter Larisa Alexandrovna of “The Raw Story”–erected an entirely new hurdle in the face of NOAA scientists who want to talk to the press. Noaa employees, speaking on background, described the policy to me as “strange” and “unfortunate.”

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