Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Everyone from atmospheric experts to Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore warn that global warming eventually will spawn super-strong storms. The warmer the oceans, the more powerful the hurricanes, they say.
But a couple of noted scientists are throwing cold water on that concept.
They have found that as the Atlantic basin becomes hotter, hurricane intensity likely won't increase - and might even deflate somewhat.
The reason: The ocean's heat acts to stabilize the upper atmosphere, which, in turn, hurts a storm's ability to build.
"When you warm the upper atmosphere, you make storm formation less efficient," said Gabriel Vecchi, a research oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The findings of Vecchi and Brian Soden, an associate professor of oceanography at the University of Miami, are to be published Thursday in Nature, a prominent science journal.
They found that natural factors, such as El NiÃ±o and wind patterns, had a greater influence on boosting storm intensity than global warming, resulting from human activity.
"Even though we know oceans will warm, that doesn't mean hurricanes will intensify over the next 50 to 100 years," Soden, of UM's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, said.
That assertion doesn't exactly wash with a large segment of the scientific community, as a growing number of studies hold that global warming is steadily increasing the intensity, duration and number of tropical systems.