Hurricanes Irma, Harvey restart debate on climate change and warmer oceans
Peter J. Webster, an atmospheric scientist at Georgia Institute of Technology, said it’s clear that Harvey intensified amid some abnormally warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, and that Irma formed during a season when the Atlantic was also warmer than average.
“I stand by what I said in 2005 — warmer sea temperatures will lead to stronger hurricanes,” said Webster, who 12 years ago published a hotly debated study reporting a rise in Category 4 and Category 5 hurricanes since 1970.
Webster cautioned, however, that sea temperatures are just one factor in spawning hurricanes. “We have two things going on,” he said. “Natural variability and warmer sea temperature.”