Like so many swirling clouds, more than 130 weather forecasters and researchers from around the world gathered in Costa Rica during the past two weeks to discuss hurricanes in the Sixth World Meteorological Organization Workshop on Tropical Cyclones.
In the eye of this scientific storm – the Hotel Herradura, northwest of San José – participants with country-specific nametags mingled, gave presentations and discussed a host of subjects, including the causes of hurricanes, their movement and their relation, if any, to global warming.
“The idea of the conference is to bring people from different countries that are affected by tropical cyclones together to share their knowledge and practices and to let the researchers know what the problems are,” said conference organizer Johnny Chan, from Hong Kong.
On the topic of global warming and whether it affects hurricane seasons, Chan told The Tico Times, “I think we will have to agree to disagree. The consensus is that there is no consensus. Some people think there is a direct affect. Other people say that is not enough to explain it.”
The world saw a record year of hurricanes in 2005, which many attributed to global warming, including former U.S. Vice-President and global warming speaker Al Gore in the film “An Inconvenient Truth.” This year, however, the number of hurricanes was below normal, Chan said.
“A lot of people say 2006 already destroys your theory, but you have to look at different time scales,” Chan explained. “Is one year enough to support or disprove your theory? How many years do you need? Is the range a few years, or a few decades?”
A second principal topic discussed during the conference, held Nov. 21-30, was improving the forecasting of where hurricanes will strike land.
“We still cannot predict where a tropical cyclone is going to make landfall,” Chan said. The conference coordinator added he expected one recommendation that would come from the meeting would be for researchers to put more emphasis on this area.
“One of the reasons we study tropical cyclones is to protect property and people, most of whom live on land,” Chan said. Participants also focused on communication strategies during the conference, the hurricane expert said.
“It’s not enough just to make the forecast. You have to be able to disseminate the information so people will know what to,” Chan said.
The conference, which is held in a different country every four years, was launched in Bangkok, Thailand in 1985. The last conference was held in 2002, in Cairns, Australia.
The World Meteorological Organization is a United Nations organization.