Perfect storm conditions for more hurricanes

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More Hurricane Katrinas and Juans could be on the way.

A couple of American scientists in an online report Monday warn that the frequency and intensities of Atlantic hurricanes have doubled over the last century.

More Hurricane Katrinas and Juans could be on the way.

A couple of American scientists in an online report Monday warn that the frequency and intensities of Atlantic hurricanes have doubled over the last century.

They link the increase in major storms to climate change and argue on a Royal Society of London website the average hurricane season may be more active in the future.

"What we've done for the first time is provide a holistic view of hurricanes in the North Atlantic Ocean for a long period of time,'' said Peter Webster, a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

"We've shown there are changes in their character, in their number and in their intensity which are not a nice steady increase, but a series of jumps," Webster said in a phone interview.

Webster co-authored the study - Heightened Tropical Cyclone Activity in the North Atlantic: Natural Variability or Climate Trend? - along with Greg Holland, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

In their statistical analysis of hurricanes and tropical storms in the north Atlantic, Webster and Holland report that about twice as many hurricanes form in the region each year on average than a century ago.

The scientists' report is partly aimed at a number of skeptics who have argued in the last few years that the increase of violent storms such as Katrina bear no relation to climate change.

Skeptics contend that improved, systematic weather observation in recent decades has led partly to the conclusion that the number of storms has increased. But Holland and Webster's paper argue that meteorologists began using data from aircraft flights in 1944 and from satellites around 1970.

In contrast, two of the jumps in hurricane and tropical storm activity that Holland and Webster report on took place around 1930 and 1995.

"If you found a jump when aircraft or when satellites were introduced, then you'd say that's because of the changes and techniques of observation,'' Webster said. "But they didn't occur then."

Organizations: Royal Society of London, Georgia Institute of Technology, National Center for Atmospheric Research

Geographic location: North Atlantic Ocean, Atlanta, Boulder, Colorado

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