Abnormally High Temperatures in Gulf of Mexico Fueling Hurricane Ike; New Studies Warn of Global Warming-Hurricane Link

Congress Pursuing Policies that Will Worsen Problem

Media release - September 11, 2008
Higher than average Gulf of Mexico sea surface temperatures are currently fueling Hurricane Ike’s increasing size and power and potentially large storm surge damage. Higher temperatures are part of a long-term trend that new scientific studies warn is intensifying the effects of major Atlantic storms like Ike.

One of those studies, published last week in the journal Nature, found that warming seas are providing more energy to Atlantic Ocean hurricanes like Hurricane Ike, increasing their size and the strength of their winds (see below). Prior studies have shown that warming is producing increased rainfall, severe flooding and storm surge during big storms.

"The huge costs of extreme weather and flooding from global warming far outweigh any hypothetical benefits from offshore drilling," said Kert Davies, Greenpeace Research Director.  "Hurricane Ike shows the vulnerability caused by our oil addiction. If Congress is really interested in helping Americans, it will free us from our reliance on oil by increasing automobile fuel efficiency and investing in clean energy sources like wind and solar."

Even as global warming intensifies large storms like Hurricane Ike, it is also driving sea level rise, making coastal communities and infrastructure like oil rigs and refineries more vulnerable to storm surge. Today's storm surge predictions for Hurricane Ike will put major oil refineries and chemical plants at risk.

Links to Recent Science:

1. Warming seas make strong storms stronger, according to new study in Nature.

Elsner, James; Kossin, James P.; Jagger, Thomas H. "The increasing intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones." Nature. 455, 92-95 September 4, 2008. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v455/n7209/abs/nature07234.html

2. New studies in Science and Nature sharply increase sea level rise projections

Pfeffer, W.T., J.T. Harper, S. O'Neel. "Kinematic Constraints on Glacier Contributions to 21st-Century Sea-Level Rise" Science 5 September 2008:

Vol. 321. no. 5894, pp. 1340 - 1343 ( http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2008/904/1

A paper published in Nature on August 31 found that sea level rise may be increasing at faster rates based on new paleoclimate research. Evidence from a prehistoric mass of glacier ice known as the Laurentide ice sheet, which existed in climatic conditions similar to that of today, indicates that Greenland could undergo large changes faster than previously expected, raising sea levels 1.3 m (4.3 ft) by 2100.

"We conclude that we could be grossly underestimating how much the Greenland ice sheet could melt by the end of this century," said Anders Carlson, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the lead author of the study.

Carlson, Anders E. et. al. "Rapid early Holocene deglaciation of the Laurentide ice sheet" Nature Geoscience  p. 620 - 624, 2008 ( http://www.nature.com/climate/2008/0809/full/climate.2008.88.html)

CONTACT: Mike Crocker, Greenpeace Media Officer, 202-215-8989; Glenn Hurowitz, Greenpeace Media Director, 202-552-1828