Letters from the November 5, 2005, issue of Science News

Wind or fury?

(“The Wind and the Fury” (SN: 9/17/05, p. 184) states, “In 2004, Florida suffered its worst hurricane season in 118 years, with nine hurricanes, five of which were classified as major.” While it’s true that 9 of the 15 named tropical or subtropical storms that formed in the North Atlantic basin last year strengthened into hurricanes, 6 of them actually became major hurricanes and only 4 of these hurricanes—Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne—directly affected Florida. According to the National Hurricane Center, only six hurricanes struck the United States at all last year.

Sean Potter
Chevy Chase, Md.

I have spent the past 30 years as a geoscientist studying the history of Earth and take great exception to a statement in the article: “Scientists are divided on whether climate change, induced by industrial and automotive release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, is driving these statistics.” This sentence states that there would be no climatic warming without mankind’s use of fossil fuels. While that belief may be politically correct, it is certainly not scientifically correct. About 15,000 years ago, much of North America was covered by glaciers, and those glaciers have been retreating since that time with no help from Homo sapiens. While the emission of greenhouse gases by man might be changing the rate of warming, mankind’s activity certainly has not caused the warming.

John D. Underwood
Terrell, Texas

They, the people?

Just curious about the wording in the first paragraph of “French site sparks Neandertal debate” (SN: 9/17/05, p. 189): “Around 36,000 years ago, Neandertals and people lived side by side… .” Were not the Neandertals “people,” and isn’t it true that Neandertals and Cro-Magnons were both Homo sapiens?

John Hanson Mitchell
Lincoln, Mass.

This is one of the biggest debates in paleoanthropology. Many researchers regard Neandertals as a separate species, Homo neanderthalensis. Others view Neandertals as a geographic variant of H. sapiens. The debate is far from over.—B. Bower

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