Daily Archives: May 19, 2008

Study says global warming not worsening hurricanes

AP | May 18, 2008

By SETH BORENSTEIN

WASHINGTON – Global warming isn’t to blame for the recent jump in hurricanes in the Atlantic, concludes a study by a prominent federal scientist whose position has shifted on the subject.

Not only that, warmer temperatures will actually reduce the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic and those making landfall, research meteorologist Tom Knutson reported in a study released Sunday.

In the past, Knutson has raised concerns about the effects of climate change on storms. His new paper has the potential to heat up a simmering debate among meteorologists about current and future effects of global warming in the Atlantic.

Ever since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, hurricanes have often been seen as a symbol of global warming’s wrath. Many climate change experts have tied the rise of hurricanes in recent years to global warming and hotter waters that fuel them.

Another group of experts, those who study hurricanes and who are more often skeptical about global warming, say there is no link. They attribute the recent increase to a natural multi-decade cycle.

What makes this study different is Knutson, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fluid dynamics lab in Princeton, N.J.

He has warned about the harmful effects of climate change and has even complained in the past about being censored by the Bush administration on past studies on the dangers of global warming.

He said his new study, based on a computer model, argues “against the notion that we’ve already seen a really dramatic increase in Atlantic hurricane activity resulting from greenhouse warming.”

The study, published online Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience, predicts that by the end of the century the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic will fall by 18 percent.

The number of hurricanes making landfall in the United States and its neighbors — anywhere west of Puerto Rico — will drop by 30 percent because of wind factors.

The biggest storms — those with winds of more than 110 mph — would only decrease in frequency by 8 percent. Tropical storms, those with winds between 39 and 73 mph, would decrease by 27 percent.

It’s not all good news from Knutson’s study, however. His computer model also forecasts that hurricanes and tropical storms will be wetter and fiercer. Rainfall within 30 miles of a hurricane should jump by 37 percent and wind strength should increase by about 2 percent, Knutson’s study says.

And Knutson said this study significantly underestimates the increase in wind strength. Some other scientists criticized his computer model.

MIT hurricane meteorologist Kerry Emanuel, while praising Knutson as a scientist, called his conclusion “demonstrably wrong” based on a computer model that doesn’t look properly at storms.

Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist, said Knutson’s computer model is poor at assessing tropical weather and “fail to replicate storms with any kind of fidelity.”

Trenberth, climate analysis chief at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., said it is not just the number of hurricanes “that matter, it is also the intensity, duration and size, and this study falls short on these issues.”

Knutson acknowledges weaknesses in his computer model and said it primarily gives a coarse overview, not an accurate picture on individual storms and storm strength. He said the latest model doesn’t produce storms surpassing 112 mph.

But NOAA hurricane meteorologist Chris Landsea, who wasn’t part of this study, praised Knutson’s work as “very consistent with what’s being said all along.”

“I think global warming is a big concern, but when it comes to hurricanes the evidence for changes is pretty darn tiny,” Landsea said.

Hurricane season starts June 1 in the Atlantic and a Colorado State University forecast predicts about a 50 percent more active than normal storm season this year. NOAA puts out its own seasonal forecast on May 22.

In a normal year about 10 named storms form. Six become hurricanes and two become major hurricanes. On average, about five hurricanes hit the United States every three years.

Secrecy, censorship and suppression kept South Korean mass executions hidden from public view

korea_mass_executions

This Aug. 2007 photo, released by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, shows the remains of some of 110 victims of 1950 executions of political prisoners at Cheongwon, Chungbuk, south of Seoul, South Korea. The commission, which excavated the site, is investigating that and other mass killings in South Korea in 1950-51. A commission chief investigator estimates up to 7,000 were killed in the central city of Daejeon alone, and tens of thousands elsewhere. (AP Photo/ The Truth and Reconciliation Commission)

AP | May 18, 2008

Fear, secrecy kept 1950 Korea mass killings hidden

By CHARLES J. HANLEY

SEOUL, South Korea – One journalist’s bid to report mass murder in South Korea in 1950 was blocked by his British publisher. Another correspondent was denounced as a possibly treasonous fabricator when he did report it. In South Korea, down the generations, fear silenced those who knew.

Fifty-eight years ago, at the outbreak of the Korean War, South Korean authorities secretively executed, usually without legal process, tens of thousands of southern leftists and others rightly or wrongly identified as sympathizers. Today a government Truth and Reconciliation Commission is working to dig up the facts, and the remains of victims.

How could such a bloodbath have been hidden from history?

Among the Koreans who witnessed, took part in or lost family members to the mass killings, the events were hardly hidden, but they became a “public secret,” barely whispered about through four decades of right-wing dictatorship here.

“The family couldn’t talk about it, or we’d be stigmatized as leftists,” said Kim Chong-hyun, 70, leader of an organization of families seeking redress for their loved ones’ deaths in 1950.

Kim, whose father was shot and buried in a mass grave outside the central city of Daejeon, noted that in 1960-61, a one-year democratic interlude in South Korea, family groups began investigating wartime atrocities. But a military coup closed that window, and “the leaders of those organizations were arrested and punished.”

Then, “from 1961 to 1988, nobody could challenge the regime, to try again to reveal these hidden truths,” said Park Myung-lim of Seoul’s Yonsei University, a leading Korean War historian. As a doctoral student in the late 1980s, when South Korea was moving toward democracy, Park was among the few scholars to begin researching the mass killings. He was regularly harassed by the police.

Scattered reports of the killings did emerge in 1950 — and some did not.

British journalist James Cameron wrote about mass prisoner shootings in the South Korean port city of Busan — then spelled Pusan — for London’s Picture Post magazine in the fall of 1950, but publisher Edward Hulton ordered the story removed at the last minute.

Earlier, correspondent Alan Winnington reported on the shooting of thousands of prisoners at Daejeon in the British communist newspaper The Daily Worker, only to have his reporting denounced by the U.S. Embassy in London as an “atrocity fabrication.” The British Cabinet then briefly considered laying treason charges against Winnington, historian Jon Halliday has written.

Associated Press correspondent O.H.P. King reported on the shooting of 60 political prisoners in Suwon, south of Seoul, and wrote in a later memoir he was “shocked that American officers were unconcerned” by questions he raised about due process for the detainees.

Some U.S. officers — and U.S. diplomats — were among others who reported on the killings. But their classified reports were kept secret for decades.

Mobile phone use linked to behavioural problems in children

Telegraph | May 19, 2008

By David Thomas

The children of mothers who use mobile phones while pregnant are more likely to develop behavioural problems, new research suggests.

A study of more than 13,000 children in Denmark claims to show a link between use of handheld telephones by pregnant women and problems such as hyperactivity in their children.

The risks are increased if the child then uses a mobile themselves before the age of seven, according to the report to be published in the journal Epidemiology.

The study raises renewed questions over the safety of mobile phones, which have in the past been linked with brain cancer.

The scientists behind the research at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Aarhus in Denmark stressed that the results “should be interpreted with caution” and checked by further studies.

But they added: “If they are real they would have major public health implications.”

The programme surveyed 13,159 children born in the late 1990s. Results showed that mothers who did use handsets were 54 per cent more likely to have children with behavioural problems. That figure increased to 80 per cent when the children also later used the phones themselves.