Increasing hurricane damages

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 9:53 PM GMT on December 05, 2008

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A conference called the Hurricane Science for Safety Leadership Forum convened this week in Orlando to look at how we can better prepare for the inevitable hurricanes in our future. The conference brought together an interesting mix of experts--scientists from environmental groups like the National Wildlife Federation, insurance industry representitives, and a representative from the pro-business Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).

There are a number of interesting Powerpoint and video presentations posted on their web site, for those interested. The most eye-opening fact I saw came during a presentation done by Amanda Staudt of the National Wildlife Federation. In her presentation on the policy implication of hurricanes and climate change, she showed that the population of South Florida is projected to grow from a 1990 population of 6.3 million to a 2050 population of 15-30 million people. That's a startling increase in population. Higher and higher hurricane damage tabs are inevitable in coming decades, just from this huge increase in population. She goes further, showing that if the theoretical predictions for global warming by the end of the century come true--a 2-13% increase in hurricane winds due to ocean warming, a 10-31% increase in hurricane rainfall, and an increase in sea level of several feet--there is likely to be a huge increase in hurricane damage, and probably in deaths, as well.

I have a few comments on this. While I believe that hurricane damages will continue to grow primarily because of population increases, higher wealth, and poor land management, the contribution of increased damage due to global warming will start to become significant by the end of the century. The 5% increase in hurricane winds per °C of ocean warming theorized by hurricane researcher Dr. Kerry Emanuel (Emanuel, 2005) may not seem like much, it will make a significant difference in the destructive power of the strongest storms. A Category 4 hurricane does about four times more damage than a Category 3 hurricane, and 250 times more damage than a Category 1 storm (Figure 1). Given the expected increase of tropical sea surface temperatures of 1-2 °C by 2100, hurricane wind speeds should increase by 5-10%. Since the difference in wind speed between a Category 3 and Category 4 hurricane is about 15%, we can anticipate that the strongest hurricanes in 2100 will do 1 1/2 to 3 times more damage than they do now.

This may be an underestimate of the increase in damage, though. Global sea level rose about 0.75 feet last century, and is expected to rise 0.6 - 1.9 feet this century, according to the "official" word on climate, the 2007 report of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). A paper published by Pfeffer et al. in Science this year concluded that the IPCC underestimated sea level rise, and that the "most likely" range of sea level rise by 2100 is 2.6 - 6.6 feet. If true, we can expect greatly increased damage from hurricane storm surges. However, it is possible that there will be fewer hurricanes by the end of the century, thanks to an increase in wind shear over the tropical Atlantic (Vecchi and Soden, 2007).


Figure 1. Potential hurricane damage as a function of Saffir-Simpson category for U.S. hurricanes between 1925-1995. If the median damage from a Category 1 hurricane is normalized to be a "one", then Category 2, 3, and 4 hurricanes were 10, 50, and 250 times more damaging, respectively. Data taken from Pielke, Jr. R. A., and C. W. Landsea, 1998: "Normalized Atlantic hurricane damage 1925-1995" Wea. Forecasting, 13, pp.621-631.

Better building codes
Congressman Bennie Thompson, D-MS, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, helped to kick off the conference with opening remarks that underscored his intention to hold Congressional hearings on developing new building codes in hurricane-prone areas. He was hopeful that President-elect Obama and new incoming head of Homeland Security, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, would work to adopt new, tougher building standards. "Take a look at the homes on the Bolivar Peninsula in Texas that are still standing after the hurricane," Thompson said. "We know how to build stronger homes. Now we just need to do it." Thompson said that while such legislation had been introduced in the past but failed, chances were better under an Obama administration of passage.

I think it is essential that more stringent and comprehensive building codes get adopted in hurricane alley to reduce the inevitable huge price tags from future hurricanes.

References
Emanuel, K. 2005, "Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years", Nature, 436, 4 August 2005, doi:10.1038/nature03906.

Vecchi, G.A., and B.J. Soden, 2007, "Increased tropical Atlantic wind shear in model projections of global warming", Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L08702, doi:10.1029/2006GL028905, 2007.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting BahaHurican:
I guess the best blog to troll is a blog where the main topic is done for six months . . . lol

I'm wondering if SIndian / SWPac is likely to have a busy season this year. For some reason I associate La Nina to neutral years with lower activity in those areas.

Need to go read up on my correlations again. Also need to check out what's kicking on BoM's website these days . . .

Last year was very active for them so I think it would be active this year too but they could have an 06
Member Since: March 29, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2377
Southeast weather blog update:
Link
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30825
Interesting weather this past week....
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I found the distribution of abnormal highs/lows rather interesting, STL. Seems the Wern 1/2 of the country sucked the heat out of the eastern half . . .
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22727
Michael, interesting question.

Any correlation to what we are experiencing here in south florida with abnormal cold temperatures and what the weather as well as water temps will be for next year?
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Quoting futuremet:
Hurricane season is over, yet trolls still strike.

they need to get a life lol
I guess the best blog to troll is a blog where the main topic is done for six months . . . lol

I'm wondering if SIndian / SWPac is likely to have a busy season this year. For some reason I associate La Nina to neutral years with lower activity in those areas.

Need to go read up on my correlations again. Also need to check out what's kicking on BoM's website these days . . .
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22727
Good evening!
It's been bitterly cold where I am today, and it's only 26 degrees right now! Wednesday should provide a nice warm up, though.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 104 Comments: 503
Quoting MichaelSTL:


LOL... Then I will ignore you. How old are you anyway, the way you talk and post?

Please do not judge other people based on their age on WU. I find that offensive.
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Quoting presslord:
C'mon....admit it....I may be stupid.....but I'm HOT....the perfect woman....

*vomit* That's not funny! Anyway we're about to get 8 cm (3.5 in) of snow here in S. Ontario but unfortunately it will soon be replaced with rain.
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Mmmmm Cinnamon Buns

What did happen to cyclone 7 that Baha mentioned I know it died but is it still there?
Member Since: March 29, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2377
nice rolls

and the only stupid person i see here is 15hurricanes o sorry not stupid simple
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C'mon....admit it....I may be stupid.....but I'm HOT....the perfect woman....
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...as a matter of fact....I'm the stupid one...

MichaelSTL, on the other hand, knows his stuff....
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Hurricane season is over, yet trolls still strike.

they need to get a life lol
Member Since: July 19, 2008 Posts: 43 Comments: 4051
Quoting vortfix:
WooooooBaby!!
LMAO


Photobucket

Eww! Never again!!
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BRB, folks. I gotta make a quick run.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22727
hello baha just having a quick stop by
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Did anybody ever read Stephen R Donaldson's The Mirror of Her Dreams? This 15character is reminding me of the mad Imager . . . If u haven't, well, u had to have been there . . .
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22727
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
15hurricanes your about to be replaced with empty space


But then...

What shall we use to fill the empty spaces where [he] used to talk?

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admin has been contacted 15 hurricanes wont be long now enjoy the empty space
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Hey, KOTG,

1. I'm not conversing with anybody who has gone off their psych meds; [!] and [-] are good enough for me . . .

2. What's the deal with the former watched system off SriLanka? I haven't seen anybody posting about it this p.m.

This is about the only genuinely quiet time of year (well, and maybe May also - sometimes). By the end of the month things will start to heat up south of the equator, literally and figuratively . . .
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22727
I can't read half the posts on the blog it must be a bad day. At school a saw what 15hurricanes was saying and it wasn't nice or even related to weather. Hopefully tomorrow will be different.
The low in the South China Sea is looking better but unorganized I think it might be their last storm of the season. We can look forward to southern hemisphere cyclone seasons
Member Since: March 29, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2377
375. GBlet
Thank You! I thought I was the only person getting headache from this. This has been going on for a couple of weeks. Anyway, this low is starting to wrap rather well. Just hoping for quick change over to snow.
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Quoting presslord:
I simply can't get over how hot I am....
I especially like the mustache . . . nice blend with the hair . . .
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22727
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
15hurricanes your about to be replaced with empty space
yep i thought so
I just want to have a Civilized hurricanes discussion
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15hurricanes your about to be replaced with empty space
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366. GBlet
Good afternoon everyone! Temp here is still in the 50's. Waiting to see what rolls in!
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Quoting 15hurricanes:
BahaHurrican,

hi retarded !!!!!
Keep it civil. Personal attacks, bickering, flaming, and general trollish behavior will not be tolerated. Disagreements are fine, but keep them civil and short.
Stay on topic.
No monomania.
No hot linking external or copyright images without the image owner's permission.
Do not circumvent a ban. Most bans last 24 hours or less, please accept the ban. If you create a new username to circumvent a ban, you will be blocked from the site completely.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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