Hurricane Katrina and global warming

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The tremendous destruction caused by recent Atlantic Ocean tropical cyclones, such as Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma, and Sandy caused a substantial upsurge in interest in the subject of global warming by news media and the wider public, and concerns that global climatic change may have played a significant role in those events. Time Magazine, for example, published an article titled, "Is Global Warming Fueling Katrina?"[1]—however, the article itself addressed hurricanes in general, rather than Katrina specifically, and was inconclusive.

Shortly after the hurricane, former Boston Globe reporter Ross Gelbspan wrote an op-ed piece for the Globe titled, "Katrina's Real Name", declaring that the hurricane's "real name is global warming." Gelbspan went on to assert:

"Although Katrina began as a relatively small hurricane that glanced off south Florida, it was supercharged with extraordinary intensity by the relatively blistering sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico."

Gelbspan did not single out Katrina from other recent storms in that regard; in the article he went on to attribute other major weather events over the preceding year to global warming, including a blizzard in Los Angeles, high winds in Scandinavia, wildfires in Spain, and a drought centered in Missouri.

Britain's then deputy prime minister, John Prescott, has linked Katrina with global warming,[2] and statements made shortly after the hurricane by Germany's environment minister, Jürgen Trittin,[3] indicate he believes that global warming is responsible for an increase in the frequency of destructive natural events.

Kerry Emanuel had recently published a paper in the journal Nature[4] that found a good correlation between hurricane intensity and sea surface temperatures. Some journalists have claimed Emanuel's paper concludes that the recent increase in intense Atlantic storms is due to global warming,[5][6] but Emanuel stated that "it would be absurd to attribute the Katrina disaster to global warming".[7]

The Internet blog RealClimate has written that "there is no way to prove that Katrina either was, or was not, affected by global warming".[8]

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