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Scientists see if global warming causes hurricanes

CNN's Natalie Pawelski looks at hurricanes and global warming
Windows Media 28K 80K

September 17, 1999
Web posted at: 5:06 p.m. EDT (2106 GMT)

(CNN) -- Hurricanes are born in the tropics for a reason: warm water is their fuel.

So some researchers are looking into whether a warmer Earth could bring stronger tropical storms with higher winds and more destruction.

"Certainly, if we warm up the atmosphere that's gonna have effects on the current weather patterns," said John St. John, a research scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

"But our ability to model these is limited by what we understand."

Scientists say that so far, hurricane history provides no evidence of any connection between global warming and hurricanes.

"As recently as four or five years ago, we had a very active season with strong hurricanes -- 1995," said Edward Rappaport of the National Hurricane Center.

"Just two years later though was a very quiet year. Now we're back at an active year. It's hard to pinpoint a relationship between that and global warming, at least at this point."

It is predicted that future hurricanes could be up to 20 percent stronger than today's  

Looking into the next century, one study projected future hurricanes up to 20 percent stronger than today's.

But many researchers believe other factors -- including La Nina and other big weather systems -- will overpower any effect global warming might have.

Most climate scientists say that Earth does seem to be heating up.

They think carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases form an atmospheric blanket that is warming the Earth.

Researchers caution that one has to consider questions of climate change over decades, even centuries.

One weather event, like a strong hurricane or a rough hurricane season, cannot alone be blamed on global warming.

CNN Correspondent Natalie Pawelski contributed to this report.

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