At a time when heart-rending news reports bring us details of the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch, we are hard pressed to see such storms as "good." To say that hurricanes in general serve a good purpose by no means assuages the suffering and sorrow caused by this particular storm or any other like it.
What we can say, however, is that hurricanes are both an effect and a cause of life-essential balances on Earth.1 Advanced life requires a rotation period no slower than about 24 hours. A slower rotation rate would result in deadly differences between day and night temperatures. A rotation rate of 24 hours, however, yields surface wind velocities that will, on occasion, stir up hurricanes and tornadoes. So, in this case, such storms represent the necessary effect of Earth's life-sustaining spin rate.
Fresh-off-the-press studies done in the vicinity of Bermuda demonstrate that hurricanes also play a vital role in sustaining the right range of temperatures for life. On the one hand, they counterbalance the ocean's tendency to leach carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This leaching, if unchecked, would result in a catastrophic cooling of the planet. On the other hand, hurricanes prevent the oceans from trapping too much of the sun's heat. They help circulate greenhouse gases globally as they shade the ocean (reflecting solar radiation) locally, preventing heat from building up too dramatically for the safety of certain sea creatures. During the summer of 1995, three hurricanes over the Sargasso Sea increased the flow of carbon dioxide from the water to the atmosphere by more than fifty percent.2 At the same time, each hurricane cooled the sea water (near the surface) by 7°F (4°C) for two to three weeks at a time.
Meteorologists affirm that too many or too few hurricanes would spell disaster for advanced life on Earth. The fact that their frequency and intensity fall into precisely the right range for life support provides one more piece of evidence that God carefully designed Earth with the necessities of life in mind.
1. Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, 2nd ed., (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1995), p. 136.
2. Nicholas R. Bates, Anthony H. Knap, and Anthony F. Michaels, "Contribution of Hurricanes to Local and Global Estimates of Air-Sea Exchange of CO2," Nature, 395 (September 3, 1998), pp. 58-61.