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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vort: Smooch!!!
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Happy 8th.
Is there any evidence so far that wind sheer is decreasing the number of hurricanes organizing, more than normal?
I am curious to see how this will play out over the next decade.
Models are factoring in African dust, are any factoring in what a liquid Arctic ocean will do to Jet Stream Locations and the ripple down to the ITCZ?
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should be some additional blog space available soon...just a W A G.
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Quoting IKE:


I hope your husband isn't on the list....lol.....

It was a joke...please don't add me to your list.....
IKE: If my husband was on here he'd probably be on my ignore list but he doesn't blog. LOL - Suppose I should go and review my Ignore list and clean it up - I really do have a lot of people on it. We had so many trolls this past season.
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Quoting theshepherd:
Raid used to work on blow flies. LOL... Different times now.

DDT used to work on lots of things and look where that got us. There is pest resistance in bloggerland? Learn something new about this every day.
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Quoting Aloysius:
I am new to this blogging technology (and psychology) so could someone explain the procedure that will be used to remove very obnoxious bloggers from this corner of cyberspace. Beyond "ignore" that is. tia
Raid used to work on blow flies. LOL... Different times now.
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vortfix - I never ignore you. Except maybe during political moments. Of course the older I get the easier I find ignoring political moments becomes.
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I am new to this blogging technology (and psychology) so could someone explain the procedure that will be used to remove very obnoxious bloggers from this corner of cyberspace. Beyond "ignore" that is. tia
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288. IKE
conchygirl?

LOL?

Ignore list?
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
285. IKE
Quoting conchygirl:
Unfortunately, I have more than 69 on Ignore LOL


I hope your husband isn't on the list....lol.....

It was a joke...please don't add me to your list.....
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting IKE:


POOF!

Puts me up to 69.
Unfortunately, I have more than 69 on Ignore LOL
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275. IKE
Quoting 15hurricanes:
I laugh again!!!! because you are very behave!!!


POOF!

Puts me up to 69.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
271. IKE
Quoting 15hurricanes:
266 and 267!

I can't see you !!! lol


Good. That means you can't see 271 either which means I can say what's on my mind....why do you come on here like you're hyped up on something all of the time?
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
269. IKE
Quoting 15hurricanes:
2009 Atlantic hurricane season


Is nearly 174 days away.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
267. IKE
Looks like an impressive system in the making. Note the latest pressure reading in Amarillo,TX.....

Amarillo, Texas (Airport)
Updated: 12 min 47 sec ago
Partly Cloudy
52 °F
Partly Cloudy
Humidity: 27%
Dew Point: 19 °F
Wind: 16 mph from the WSW
Wind Gust: 25 mph
Pressure: 29.57 in (Falling)

Visibility: 10.0 miles
UV: 0 out of 16
Clouds:
Few 22000 ft
(Above Ground Level)
Elevation: 3606 ft
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Morning all: Beautiful, crisp morning here in Melbourne - 44 at my house this morning.
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What are you folks doin' up this early?!?!?!?!?!
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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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