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Meteorologist to discuss storm trends in anticipation of hurricane season

Research meteorologist Thomas R. Knutson said he will discuss whether this hurricane season will be a busy one Thursday during a speaker series at Memorial Hospital.

Knutson, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Dynamics and Prediction Group in Princeton, N.J., plans to discuss his predictions as well as what we can expect in the future during “Climate Changes and their Effects on Hurricanes,” sponsored by the Sun Herald newspaper and the University of Southern Mississippi.

“People study hurricanes on different time scales,” he said. “My work has focused on longer-term trends and what kind of impact we can expect in the future.

“Everybody agrees that we’re in a more active pattern. It’s much more active than it was in the ’70s and ’80s. The main debate is if this cyclical time will last.”

Some scientists believe hurricane seasons alternate between active and quiet in a cyclical manner with each cycle lasting 10 or 20 years. Others believe because of global warming and other effects that the decades of quiet hurricane seasons are over.

Knutson said he isn’t a seasonal forecaster, instead focusing on long-range trends. He pointed out that the active hurricane period began in 1995, with only 2004 and 2005 standing out because of the number of hurricanes that made landfall. Knutson said he and fellow researchers study all storm activity, not just ones that made landfall.

Knutson said there is no trend in U.S. landfall activity, so global warming has had little effect on storms.