4 Sep 2008

Ocean warming boosts strongest storms - study

4:37 pm on 4 September 2008

Global warming is likely to increase the strength of the wind in the most powerful storms, says a study published in the British magazine Nature.

Scientists at Florida State University compared satellite data over 25 years of storms which formed over the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

Their findings suggest that a 1°C increase in water temperature in tropical regions is likely to considerably boost the strength of the most powerful storms.

The analysis showed strong cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons have become more frequent in most of the tropics.

However the overall number of storms did not increase over the period.

The idea that climate change might be linked to tropical storms has been highly controversial.

A few years ago, it was claimed that hurricanes would become more frequent as well as more common in a warming world.

But recent research has suggested they would occur less frequently, though likely to pack a more powerful punch each time.

The bulk of the scientific work on possible links to climate change has featured North Atlantic hurricanes, largely because of the relatively good historical records contained in the US.

The new analysis, using satellite data acquired by US, European and Japanese programmes, shows up different trends across the tropics.

The increase in strong storms shows up most markedly in the North Atlantic and Indian oceans, and is absent in the South Pacific.