US Blocked Hurricane Statement - Nature Magazine
Author: Deborah Zabarenko
But a spokesman for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, dismissed the Nature report as "an interesting piece of fiction" and said the statement was not sent out because it was not ready by the start of hurricane season on June 1.
At the heart of the dispute is an exhaustively vetted two-page "fact sheet" meant to explain how climate changes are related to hurricanes. It has not been officially released and a copy obtained by Reuters includes the words "Draft -- Not for Distribution".
Illustrated with charts, the document notes questions about the cause of stronger Atlantic hurricanes, most of which were asked urgently after the catastrophic 2005 hurricane season.
NOAA spokesman Jordan St. John said some 50 scientists worked to craft a document acceptable to all, ranging from those who maintain human-caused global warming can intensify hurricanes to those who contend any changes in hurricane intensity are due to natural cycles.
"A ROLE FOR GLOBAL WARMING"
While noting "a role for global warming" in the increased sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico -- prime hurricane-spawning territory, where growing storms feed on warm water -- the statement also stressed previous periods when the tropical Atlantic was significantly warmer than the global average.
Nature, a British journal, said work on the fact sheet started in February after NOAA researchers accused political appointees at NOAA of "ignoring ... the possibility that global warming could cause hurricanes to be more intense or frequent."
The question of global warming has been a contentious one for the Bush administration, and scientists have complained in the last year of being restricted in talking about it with the media.
President George W. Bush has acknowledged that global warming is a serious problem that is caused in part by human activity, but his administration pulled the United States out of the Kyoto Protocol meant to limit the greenhouse gas emissions that are a prime cause.
Nature also said scientists at NOAA were concerned that climate scientists who published articles on the connection between climate change and increased hurricane intensity were kept away from the media, while those whose research supported the idea of natural cycles were put forward.
They cited e-mails obtained by the environmental group Greenpeace USA that showed "several NOAA scientists told their seniors that the agency was not properly representing hurricane science."
NOAA's St. John denied this in a telephone interview.
St. John said he was considering posting the fact sheet online in response to questions about it and the Nature article. The agency's Web site is http://www.noaa.gov.