Earth's climate system has been likened to a machine that converts and distributes solar energy. Because the Tropics get most of the sun's heat, the resulting temperature imbalance sets the atmosphere in motion. Earth's daily rotation causes this mass of moving, moist air to form eddies, some becoming depressions, or areas of low atmospheric pressure. Depressions, in turn, may develop into storms. If you observe the general path of tropical storms, you will notice that they tend to move away from the equator — either north or south — toward cooler regions. In doing so, storms also serve as massive heat exchangers, helping to moderate the climate. But when the temperature in the upper level of the ocean — the «boiler room" of the climate machine— exceeds about 27 degrees Celsius, tropical storms may acquire enough energy to become cyclones, hurricanes, or typhoons — regional names for essentially the same phenomena.
In terms of lives lost, the worst natural disaster in U.S. history resulted from a hurricane that slammed into the island city of Galveston. Texas, on September 8, 1900. Storm waves claimed between 6,000 and 8,000 lives in the city, plus up to 4,000 in nearby areas, and demolished some 3,600 houses. In fact, not one man- made structure in Galveston remained unscathed. As mentioned in the preceding article, there have been a number of powerful storms in recent years. Scientists are studying whether this is linked to global warming, which may be providing more energy to storm systems. Changes in the weather, however, may be just one symptom of global warming. Another potentially harmful consequence may already be in evidence.
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SCIENTISTS WARN: MORE BAD STORMS ON THE WAY
Extreme weather phenomena are becoming commonplace. Scientists believe that the synoptic catastrophes are due to global warming.
Over the past two weeks our planet has been hit by two powerful tropical storms — Katrina and Nabi. The first devastated New Orleans on August 29, while the second struck Japan and Russia's Far East a few days ago. Next in line is Malaysia. Ti Li Hu, a meteorologist with the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, announced recently that the country is going to be swept by a powerful typhoon with devastation similar to that of the United States and Japan. The UN expert links this turn to global changes in the earth's climate. Unlike these two countries, Malaysia is unprepared for the onslaught of tropical storms: Until now storms have been bypassing it.
This past week witnessed a lively discussion about the impact of global warming on natural catastrophes. In its latest issue Nature published an article titled After the Flood with its subhead reading; "Academic experts say they were all too aware of the devastation that would claim New Orleans and its surroundings in the wake of a fierce hurricane. Could they have done any more to convince politicians of the need to protect the city?" The phrase actually provides an answer: They did not do everything they could. This refers not only to specific situation: Experts believe they do not really try to alert the powers that be to the climate changes that are already occurring on the planet.
Last week, the journal published on its web site sensational revelations by a U.S. climatologist Kerry Emmanuel who compared the temperature on the oceanic surface and cyclonic wind speed over the past 70 years. It turned out that these indicators have more than doubled. The author believes that the increase in water temperature on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean affects the frequency and power of hurricanes. By 2010 the temperature is expected to rise by several degrees, which means that there, will be more typhoons.
This view is shared by Russian scientists. Pavel Demchenko, a senior research associate at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics Climatic Theory Laboratory, told this reporter that global warming will without a doubt make natural catastrophes more frequent and devastating. This especially applies to droughts and floods. The relationship between climate changes and tropical cyclones has yet to be studied.