Best Local Hero

Judith Curry

Staff Pick

When Hurricane Katrina tore into the Gulf Coast, it created a perverse, but tempting, chance to make a point about global warming. Scientists had long figured a hotter atmosphere would agitate the storm cycle, creating more or bigger storms, or both. Was Katrina an example? Just after the storm hit, JUDITH CURRY, along with other atmospheric scientists at Georgia Tech, happened to co-publish a landmark study on hurricanes and global warming. They concluded the strongest hurricanes are getting even stronger as the Earth gets hotter. At a Washington briefing where Curry was asked to describe the research, a congressional aide with ties to the coal industry tried to portray her work as out-of-step with mainstream science. It didn’t work. Reporters at first concentrated on the aide’s trumped-up controversy. But the well-timed research eventually sunk into the public’s mind as yet more evidence of the costs of climate change. Curry has walked a difficult tightrope for scientists: While she’s been candid about the evidence for global warming, she’s steered clear of pontificating on issues outside her expertise. She and her Tech colleagues have kept their eyes on their own work, which is just what we need if we wish to understand what we’re doing to this planet.

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