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Hurricanes getting worse with global warming

If it sounds to you like Florida is besieged more now than in the past by hurricanes, you'd be right. Kerry Emanuel, professor of meteorology in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, analyzed records of tropical cyclones--commonly called hurricanes or typhoons--from the middle of the 20th century in the North Pacific and North Atlantic and found that the duration of the cyclones and the highest wind speeds have increased by about 50 percent over the past 50 years.

The increase in storm intensity, he added, mirrors the increase in the average surface temperature of the more southern tropical oceans. This suggests that this warming is responsible for the greater power of the cyclones.

Although some holdouts remain, most scientists, upon reviewing temperature and climate data, agree that global warming is real. A debate, however, still exists on how much of it is caused by human behavior, and the debate has become highly politicized. Even so, the phenomenon is being given a high priority among researchers.

"I don't know if global warming is real or not," said Arno Penzias, a venture capitalist at New Enterprise Associates and a Nobel laureate in a recent interview. "I think the jury could still be out, but we dare not take the risk. Even if the odds are 90 percent, you can't take the risk."