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Taking Oz by storm.

Australia's cyclone season is traditionally over in April, but forecasters were still wary of more storms in May. The unusually strong storms characterizing this year's season have been moving toward a crescendo, with Category 4 Cyclone Larry in mid-March, followed by Category 5 Cyclone Glenda in late March and Category 5 Cyclone Monica in late April. Monica may have had the lowest barometric pressure of any recorded storm.

Coastal residents in Australia and other South Pacific nations are worried about the change in weather patterns. In recent decades, the total number of severe tropical cyclones with wind speed at 64 knots or more--the equivalent of northern hemisphere hurricanes--has actually declined in the region. In the same time, cyclone numbers have risen in the northwestern Pacific and North Atlantic, and have stayed about the same in the Indian Ocean and other parts of the Pacific.

The US NOAA opines that global climate change will probably not increase the number of hurricanes in the world, but MIT meteorology professor Kerry Emanuel published an article in Nature in July 2005 stating that hurricanes' destructive force "is highly correlated with tropical sea surface temperature, reflecting well-documented climate signals, including multidecadal oscillations in the North Atlantic and North Pacific, and global warming," and predicting "a substantial increase in hurricane-related losses in the twenty-first century." Another article in September 2005's Science noted that over the last 35 years, a steadily increasing number of such storms have reached categories 4 and 5 strength, especially in the north and southwest Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

Damage from the five severe cyclones that hit Australia this season was reduced because they made landfall in the sparsely populated north, but was still estimated in billions of dollars.

--Reuters, 4/16; BBC News, 5/10
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Title Annotation:AUSTRALIA; forecasts of cyclones
Publication:Earth Island Journal
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Sep 22, 2006
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