Hurricane Ike: worse because of global warming?

By Barbara Kessler

Hurricane Ike, which knocked Galveston and Houston with a right hook reminiscent of Katrina, again raises the question of whether global warming is fostering monster storms.

It has become almost ipso facto among many climate change scientists and activists that global warming is a key culprit behind worsening hurricanes. They point out that tropical storms feed on warmer water, and warmer sea waters are a given these days, whether you believe that the sea change is caused by Mother Nature, greenhouse gases or little green men in space.

But weather forecasters and meteorologists take a more measured view of hurricanes. Trained to distinguish between causes and consider time lines and probabilities, they do not use “weather” and “climate change” interchangeably. Weather is a sudden occurrence – albeit with a hurricane it can malinger and loom with maddening deliberateness – whereas climate change is a gradual thing, building over many years.

So to the weather experts, the shorthand formula is not as simple as Storms + Warmer Waters = Worse Storms.