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warming300.jpg Submitted by WWAY on Mon, 10/06/2008 - 10:57am.

The earth is slowly warming up; it is a fact. The cause is heat-trapping, or gases accumulating in the atmosphere. This gradual increase in temperature is what we call global warming, and this warming is causing ocean temperatures to rise. Some scientists, like Dr. Larry Cahoon, think this is leading to stronger hurricanes. "It is not clear if we are seeing more tropical storms overall, but it does appear that in the North Atlantic we are seeing more powerful ones," said Dr. Cahoon, a UNCW professor. A National Wildlife Federation study shows the destructive potential of tropical systems in the North Atlantic has increased by almost 50 percent in the last 30 years. The reason for this trend is likely to be the warming of the Atlantic Ocean. Cahoon said, "Surface waters are getting warmer. They warmed by about half a degree centigrade on average in the last 50 years or so and that's significant. That's a lot of heat. So the extra heat is there to make stronger storms possible." The possibility of stronger storms in the future is bad news for our coast. It could mean more rain, higher winds, and bigger storm surges due to rising sea-level. But there is one thing that could offer some protection. "Coastal wetlands are important as buffers, they protect the inland areas from storm surge, which is the big killer and the big destroyer. Wetlands absorb a great deal of the extra water as it comes in. If we lose those wetlands for one reason or another, there goes the protection that we might have had otherwise," added Dr. Cahoon. This is just part of what we need to do to manage our coast in the future. We also need to make sure new construction takes into account the rising sea levels, and revise building codes to account for greater wind speeds. All of these steps take global warming into account, and are important as we head into the future. For more information, check out the National Wildlife Foundation's website about global warming and its' affects on hurricanes.

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