Scientists from Britain's Meteorological Office have fingered a new suspect in their attempt to solve the mystery of tropical storms. It is, unexpectedly, air quality.
If North Atlantic hurricanes are more destructive or more frequent, it may be linked to lower levels of atmospheric pollution. Conversely, sulphate aerosols and other particles from factory chimneys, vehicle exhausts, domestic fires, power stations and other human economic advances may have played a role in keeping tropical storms under control, at least a little, during the 20th century.
Climate scientist Nick Dunstone and fellow-researchers at the Met Office's Hadley Centre in Exeter, Devon, report in the Nature Geoscience journal there is at least circumstantial evidence that aerosols play a more significant role in the storm cycle than anyone had expected.
Yeah, what is this "circumstantial evidence?"
Using climate simulations, the scientists were able to match storm records and predictions from 1860 to 2050 with recorded and predicted levels of atmospheric pollution, and identify an effect.
Through much of the 20th century, the Nature Geoscience paper suggests, aerosols actually suppressed the hurricane forces by cooling the ocean waters. It was not possible to match specific storms with a particular level of aerosol pollution, but in general there seemed to be less frequent tropical storms during periods of greater aerosol discharge.
Ah, climate simulations! The same climate simulations that consistently over predict the amount of warming based on CO2 increases?
Those models? When the models can correctly predict the temperature rise, get back to me on any other applications for them.
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