The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active and costly season on record. Recent publications linking an increase in hurricane intensity to increasing tropical sea surface temperatures have fueled the debate on whether or not global warming is causing an increase in hurricane intensity. Because of the substantial implications of the hurricane–global warming issue for society and the immediate policy relevance associated with decision making related to Hurricane Katrina, attacks and rebuttals related to this research are being made in the media and on the World Wide Web without the rigor or accountability expected of scientific discourse. In this paper, we aim to promote a balanced and thoughtful examination of this subject by

  • clarifying the debate surrounding the subject as to whether or not global warming is causing an increase in global hurricane intensity,

  • illustrating a methodology of hypothesis testing to address multiple criticisms of a complex hypothesis that involves a causal chain, and

  • providing a case study of the impact of politics, the media, and the World Wide Web on the scientific process.

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School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia

National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado