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Hurricane Floyd signal of a new weather era?

CORVALLIS, Ore. - The same long term climatic forces that Wednesday will cause Hurricane Floyd to ravage the Florida coast is also the culprit behind other weather events literally around the world - ranging from a wet, cool winter projected this year for Portland, Ore., to better salmon conditions in the Pacific Northwest and normal rain for the drought-stricken Sahel region of Africa.

But those forces also suggest a 15-20 year period of more regular and destructive hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean and resulting decades of destruction for coastal cities of the United States.

This process, which scientists just began to understand in the early 1990s, is sometimes called a thermohaline circulation pattern or "conveyor belt" of ocean waters that has implications for El Ninos, La Ninas and countless other global impacts, said George Taylor, the state climatologist at Oregon State University and president of the American Association of State Climatologists.

"This hurricane season started late, but it's already had about an average amount of hurricane activity and it's only halfway over," Taylor said. "It's going to be a very busy hurricane season, just as four of the last five years have been. And the Pacific Northwest is going to have its sixth year in a row of wetter than average weather. This is not a coincidence. If you want to understand what is happening, you have to look at some of the climate forces that are driving it."

What's happening, Taylor believes, is that a conveyor belt of ocean circulation which operates over vast distances has kicked into a higher level of activity - a pattern that began about 1995 and generally lasts around 20 to 25years before it quiets down again. It's a pattern separate from, and not to be confused with possible global warming caused by the greenhouse effect.

When this conveyor belt of ocean waters is most active, Taylor said, it tends to produce warmer water
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Contact: George Taylor
taylor@oce.orst.edu
541-737-5705
Oregon State University
14-Sep-1999


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