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Global Warming: How Hurricanes Help

Hurricane season officially begins in June, and this year, it started a bit early. These powerful swirling storms are triggered by the surface warming of the ocean. But now researchers think they may be nature?s way of SLOWING DOWN global warming by cooling off the ocean.

Atmospheric scientists have found evidence that tropical cyclones and hurricanes play an important role in the ocean circulation patterns that transport heat and maintain the climate of North America and Europe. This is known as the Gulf Stream, which acts as an ocean conveyer belt. The upper part of the conveyer belt travels from the south to the north, passing through the Pacific Ocean and Indian oceans and past warmer latitudes warming the water brought to North America and Europe.

Researcher Matthew Huber says, "It was thought that hurricanes occurred over too short of a time period and over too small of an area to affect the global system. [Our] research provides evidence that hurricanes play an important role and may be one of the missing pieces in the climate modeling puzzle?Warm water fuels hurricanes, which have been shown to leave cold water in their wake." His team discovered that hurricanes cool the tropics, forming in response to higher temperatures and acting as a thermostat for the area. This explains some of the mystery of the observed temperatures from the distant past during a greenhouse climate. The poles were much warmer than today, about 82 degrees Fahrenheit, but the tropics were not much warmer than they are at the present time.

Art credit: gimp-savvy.com

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