In mid-November, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a special report on extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, floods and heat waves. But its emphasis on the uncertainty of its predictions has enraged scientists and activists alike, just days before the UN Climage Change Conference in Durban.
Storms — and especially hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones — are the most interesting weather systems for people dedicated to preventing climate change. Satellite photographs of these swirling storms are seen as a symbol of a world growing progressively warmer — and of the considerable dangers that lurk in such a world.
The storm of the century, Hurricane Katrina, was seen as a warning sign, a harbinger of disasters to come. But six hurricane seasons have passed since then, and not a single massive, high-category storm has arrived to devastate the coasts of the United States. “Meteorologists last recorded such a calm phase between 1911 and 1914,” explains Roger Pielke, Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, in Boulder, who is working to reconstruct the climate history of the United States.