Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Sign of the Coming Apocalypse #316
I guess I missed this when it happened, but the above photo (courtesy of NASA's Earth Observatory website) is of the first ever hurricane observed in the South Atlantic. Nicknamed "Hurricane Catarina" (that's a "C", not a "K", along with an extra "a") after the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina where it came ashore on March 28, 2004. Meterologists learn at their mothers' knees that hurricanes are "impossible" in the South Atlantic, and this one caught them so much by surprise that they didn't even have a naming convention like they do in the Northern Hemisphere. Although its tough to do science with one datapoint, Catarina is destined to become a heavily studied event, and scientists have already started to debate whether it was simply a fluke weather event or the sign of changing conditions. At least a few groups (here and here) have speculated that global warming may play a role in increasing storm activity in the South Atlantic. As the pros at realclimate.org explain in a nice article, it is a prediction of climate change models that the intensity of naturally occurring hurricanes will be enhanced by global warming, mainly as a result of rising sea surface temperatures. So even if any individual event, like Katrina, cannot be directly attributed to global warming, the next century may well see a rash of destructive storms in the Caribbean.