1 18 Environment e Day N.w Friday. Spembe 0.1993
Warming of earth from pollution
could lead to more hurricanes
The first hurricane to hit the Vir-
gin Islands mentioned in written
history was on Oct. 14,1526. The
stonn affected the Spanish who had
attacked and suppressed the Indi-
Hurricanes are no strangers to
these islands. Throughout time.
they have hit the islands. The last
hurricane that devastated the Virgin
Islands, particularly St. Croix.
before Hugo struck was in 1928.
To many people, 1989's Hugo
was a vicious storm. On Sept. 17
and 18, many in the Virgin Islands
will remember the misery and the
important lessons of inconvenience
the storm left especially on St.
Croix. Hugo shredded many lives in
the Virgin Islands, destroying or
damaging thousands of homes as
well as businesses and farms.
A hurricane is a well-organized
system that pumps large amounts of
warm, moist air to high levels in the
atmosphre at a rapid rate. The
warm, moist air over tropical
oceans possesses enormous heat
energy which creates humricnes.
Before Hurricane Hugo hit these
islands it was very hot, I was told.
Old folks always said: "When the
weather is hot, something is about
Scientific forecasts aboul global
warming are based on sophisticated
computer models used for predict-
ing the weather. The computer used
to forecast the weather is a power-
ful tool but not enough to consider
in detail the physical, chemical and
biological processes that affect cli-
mate. Furthermore. Ihe roles of
oceans and clouds in particular
complicate hurricane prediction.
It is well-known that the oceans
cover most of the earth's surface
and absorb not only heat but a por-
lion of the carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere. But how much heal
and carbon dioxide the oceans
absorb to offset the warming of the
atmosphere is unknown.
Today scientists are telling us
that the earth will get warmer as we
head toward 2000. The earth's
atmosphere is a delicate balance of
gases that interact with animals and
plants in the biosphere to maintain
temperature and moisture condi-
tions best suited for life on earth.
As carbon dioxide and other
greenhouse gases increase in the
atmosphere. less heat is allowed to
naturally dissipate into space. Thus,
such natural events as hurricanes
will become more frequent. The
burning of fossil fuels like gasoline,
wood and coal increases carbon
dioxide in theratmosphere.
The other day someone asked
me what forests have to do with the
greenhouse effect. Well, when large
tracts of forest are burned, carbon
dioxide that has been stored in the
trees is released into the atmo.
sphere. The burning also releases
methane and nitrous oxide. These
gases trap heat. warming the earth.
Thus forests play an important
role in regulating climate. They are
not there to be assaulted or
destroyed by man.
Besides the burning of forests.
many factors affect the climate.
In these islands we are also
responsible for air pollution that
contributes to climate changes.
Emissions from such industries as
refineries and dry cleaning estab-
lishments, freon coolant used in air
conditioners and refrigerators, car-
bon monoxide from vehicles, espe-
cially on St. Thomas, and many
more pollutants are degrading the
environment and harming human
Locally and globally, asr pollu.
tion also threatens to destroy the
earth's protective shield against
harsh ullraviolel rays from the sun.
Any significant degradation of the
protective ozone layer would
sharply increase the incidence of
skin cancer among many people
exposed to the sun.
In 1985. a hole was discovered
in the ozone layer over Antarctica.'
That caused the leaders of many
Industrial countries to reach an
agreement known as the Montreal
Protocol to phase out chlorofluoro.
carbons, chemicals that increase
Some scientists, however,
believe the earth is already expert-
encing the effects of a rise in green.
house gases. For more than a centu-
ry, temperature records have been
kept. The hottest year was 1990.
followed by 1988, 1987. 1989 and
1981. 1991 was almost as hot as
As a global family, we are faced
with an unprecedented situation.
We must act now to protect our
descendants. Trying to reduce the
buildup of greenhouse gases won't
be easy. But unless we make the
effort now. our children and grand.
children may well live in a dramatic.
cally warmer and more rapidly
changing world. And as the earth
became warmer, they would see
Oloslt Davs, wio holds a mos.
ter of science degree in range man.
agement andforestry ecology. u a
St. Croix ecologist. activutr and