Global warming and the frequency of intense Atlantic hurricanes: model results

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:37 PM GMT on April 05, 2010

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Could global warming increase wind shear over the Atlantic, potentially leading to a decrease in the frequency of Atlantic hurricanes? There is a growing consensus among hurricane scientists that this is indeed quite possible. Two recent studies, by Zhao et al. (2009), "Simulations of Global Hurricane Climatology, Interannual Variability, and Response to Global Warming Using a 50-km Resolution GCM", and by Knutson et al. (2008), "Simulated reduction in Atlantic hurricane frequency under twenty-first-century warming conditions", found that global warming might increase wind shear over the Atlantic by the end of the century, resulting in a decrease in the number of Atlantic hurricanes. For example, the second study took 18 relatively coarse (>60 km grid size) models used to formulate the 2007 IPCC climate report, and "downscaled" them using a higher-resolution (18 km grid size) model called ZETAC that was able to successfully simulate the frequencies of hurricanes over the past 50 years. When the 18 km ZETAC model was driven using the climate conditions we expect in 2100, as output by the 18 IPCC models, the authors found that a reduction of Atlantic tropical storms by 27% and hurricanes by 18% by the end of the century resulted. An important reason that their model predicted a decrease in the frequency of Atlantic hurricanes was due to a predicted increase in wind shear. As I explain in my wind shear tutorial, a large change of wind speed with height over a hurricane creates a shearing force that tends to tear the storm apart. The amount of wind shear is critical in determining whether a hurricane can form or survive.


Figure 1. Top: predicted change by 2100 in wind shear (in meters per second per degree C of warming--multiply by two to get mph) as predicted by summing the predictions of 18 climate models. Bottom: The number of models that predict the effect shown in the top image. The dots show the locations where tropical storms formed between 1981-2005. The box indicates a region of frequent hurricane formation where wind shear is not predicted to change much. Image credit: Geophysical Research Letters, "Increased Tropical Atlantic Wind Shear in Model Projections of Global Warming", by Vecchi and Soden, 2007.

Since the Knutson et al. study using the 18 km resolution ZETAC model was not detailed enough to look at what might happen to major Category 3 and stronger hurricanes, a new study using a higher resolution model was needed. This was done by a team of modelers led by Dr. Morris Bender of NOAA's GFDL laboratory, who published their results in Science in February. The authors used the GFDL hurricane model--the model that has been our best-performing operation hurricane track forecasting model over the past five years--to perform their study. The GFDL hurricane model runs at a resolution of 9 km, which is detailed enough to make accurate simulations of major hurricanes. The researchers did a double downscaling study, where they first took the forecast atmospheric and oceanic conditions at generated by the coarse (>60 km grid) IPCC models, used these data to initialize the finer resolution 18 km ZETAC model, then used the output from the ZETAC model to initialize the high-resolution GFDL hurricane model. The final results of this "double downscaling" study suggest that although the total number of hurricanes is expected to decrease by the end of the century, we should expect an increase of 81% in the number of Category 4 and 5 storms in the Atlantic. This trend should not be clearly detectable until about 60 years from now, given a scenario in which CO2 doubles by 2100. The authors say that their model predicts that there should already have been a 20% increase in the number of Category 4 and 5 storms since the 1940s, given the approximate 0.5°C warming of the tropical Atlantic during that period. This trend is too small to be detectable, given the high natural variability and the difficulty we've had accurately measuring the exact strength of intense hurricanes before the 1980s.The region of the Atlantic expected to see the greatest increase in Category 4 and 5 storms by the year 2100 is over the Bahama Islands (Figure 2), since wind shear is not expected to increase in this region, and sea surface temperatures and atmospheric instability are expected to increase there.

The net effect of a decrease in total number of hurricanes but an increase in the strongest hurricanes should cause an increase in U.S. hurricane damages of about 30% by the end of the century, the authors compute, assuming that hurricane damages behave as they did during the past century. Over the past century, Category 4 and 5 hurricanes made up only 6% of all U.S. landfalls, but accounted for 48% of all U.S. damage (if normalized to account for increases in U.S. population and wealth, Pielke et al., 2008.)


Figure 2. Expected change in Atlantic Category 4 and 5 hurricanes per decade expected by the year 2100, according to the Science paper by Bender et al. (2010).

Commentary
These results seem reasonable, since the models in question have been successfully been able to simulate the behavior of hurricanes over the past 50 years. However, the uncertainties are high and lot more research needs to be done before we can be confident of the results. Not all of the IPCC models predict an increase in wind shear over the tropical Atlantic by 2100, so the increase in Category 4 and 5 hurricanes could be much greater. Also, the GFDL model was observed to under-predict the strength of intense hurricanes in the current climate, so it may not be creating enough Category 4 and 5 hurricanes in the future climate of 2100. On the other hand, IPCC models such as the UKMO-HadCM3 predict a very large increase in wind shear, leading to a drastic reduction in all hurricanes in the Atlantic by 2100, including Category 4 and 5 storms. So Category 4 and 5 hurricane frequency could easily be much greater or much less than the 81% increase by 2100 found by Bender et al.

The estimates of a 30% increase in hurricane damages by 2100 may be considerably too low, since this estimate assumes that sea level rise will continue at the same pace as was observed in the 20th century. Sea level rise has accelerated since the 1990s, and it is likely that this century we will see much more than than the 7 inches of global sea level rise that was observed last century. Higher sea level rise rates will sharply increase the damages due to storm surge, which account for a large amount of the damage from intense Category 4 and 5 hurricanes.

Keep in mind that while a 30% in hurricane damage by the end of the century is significant, this will not be the main reason hurricane damages will increase this century. Hurricane damages are currently doubling every ten years, according to Pielke et al., 2008. This is primarily due to the increasing population along the coast and increased wealth of the population. The authors theorize that the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926, a Category 4 monster that made a direct hit on Miami Beach, would have caused about $150 billion in damage had it hit in 2005. By 2015, the authors expect the same hurricane would do $300 billion in damage. This number would increase to $600 billion by 2025 (though I think it is likely that the recent recession may delay this damage total a few years into the future.) It is essential that we limit coastal development in vulnerable coastal areas, particularly along barrier islands, to reduce some of the astronomical price tags hurricanes are going to be causing. Adoption and enforcement of strict building standards is also a must.

The authors of the GFDL hurricane model study have put together a nice web page with links to the paper and some detailed non-technical explanations of the paper.

References
Bender et al., 2010, "Modeled Impact of Anthropogenic Warming on the Frequency of Intense Atlantic Hurricanes", Science, 22 January 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5964, pp. 454 - 458 DOI: 10.1126/science.1180568.

Vecchi, G.A., B.J. Soden, A.T. Wittenberg, I.M. Held, A. Leetmaa, and M.J. Harrison, 2006, "Weakening of tropical Pacific atmospheric circulation due to anthropogenic forcing", Nature, 441(7089), 73-76.

Vecchi, G.A., and B.J. Soden, 2007, "Increased Tropical Atlantic Wind Shear in Model Projections of Global Warming", Geophysical Research Letters, 34, L08702, doi:10.1029/2006GL028905, 2007.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting tornadodude:


yeah I'll double check first, thanks!

have a good one

on any of the major us carriers tethering runs 60 a month. it tends to be a bit slow, and you can't use the phone while its a modem. usually they also sell aircards for the same rate. might be worth looking into if you'll use it enough and you don't mind a contract.

Patrap you on here this afternoon? I'd love to hear your opinion on all this.....
and by the way, Patrap and his lovely wife are responsible for feeding me my first crawfish yesterday and it was amazing!
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Quoting tornadodude:


yeah, I wonder if they have opera browser for blackberry, but I want to tether it for when I do storm chasing I have internet on my laptop


Try this link.. it appears to have the answer.

Link
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Quoting Orcasystems:


I have no idea on that one actually... I use the browser on the Crackberry , if I have to.


yeah, I wonder if they have opera browser for blackberry, but I want to tether it for when I do storm chasing I have internet on my laptop
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Quoting Jeff9641:


I agree, what JB from accuweather said about Florida being the center point for landfalls this year seems to be beginning to verify. The pattern is setting up to one of 2004 although there weren't an extreme amount of storms, the ones that formed seemed to all target Florida. It looks as if a dominate Bermuda High is going to setup much further east than the last several years. I am getting increasingly concerned about Florida this year. We should see the season start early and end later. After this Friday no cold fronts appear to be coming to Florida so the heat will continue to build.


The peninsula is overdue on the climatological return of both hurricanes and major hurricanes. Here it's not a matter of if, just when.
Member Since: January 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 3259
Quoting tornadodude:


I did do that, and I have the cord, I just dont know how to run my laptop off of the internet on my phone now


I have no idea on that one actually... I use the browser on the Crackberry , if I have to.
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Quoting MrMarcus:
So, wait a second. First, "Global Warming" was supposed to be responsible for all of the intense hurricanes we saw early in the decade (due to all of the emissions created by SUVs or some such nonsense). Now the scientific community has decided it's the opposite effect, as it relates to frequency, and that only the intensity has increased? And we have to consider that "the uncertainties are high and lot more research needs to be done before we can be confident of the results"? Sounds to me like "Global Warming" doesn't increase the number of hurricanes and MAY increase the intensity, but we haven't a clue, and the alarmists are changing their tune. Am I missing something here?

Yes.
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Boy, it's like the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane season but for worldwide earthquakes :P
Member Since: May 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 559
97. Skyepony (Mod)
I see ECFL teetering between less majors or way more majors in the graphic above. Would expect the MDR to shift north a little & using the other study..not any gain of shear for FL..1/2 expect the breeding grounds out there to be more active. When that has happened some years in the past we get more storms but usually not so many majors, since they hit before they pull it together. Kinda makes sense for the Bahamas taking the brunt..studies have shown how things shift north a little with warming. That would give them Haiti's weather..

Had to share the Noctilucent Clouds from after STS-131 Discovery launch this morning. I've never uploaded a series near this big but the NLC beast that was born just had to documented.. I've got a few really close launch shots in there..front row. The sound was incredible. Click on the pic to get to the series.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 156 Comments: 36076
Quoting jeffs713:

I, Tdude, wed thee Blackberry to thy laptop...


haha thanks
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Quoting Ossqss:


Just double check that the unlimited includes other devices. Some plans exclude tertiary connections and only include the root device access. There are always limitations of some sort. You should be able to call the support folks and make sure before you blaze on down that road, just in case. There are some devices that actually work as a hotspot for up to 5 wireless connections through the phone. "i" something :)

Good luck -- L8R


yeah I'll double check first, thanks!

have a good one
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Quoting Orcasystems:


It should have come with a USB cable, which also allows you to recharge it from your laptop.

You have to marry them when you connect it.

You also have to load the desktop manager via the CD that came with it.. or off the website of your service provider


I did do that, and I have the cord, I just dont know how to run my laptop off of the internet on my phone now
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Quoting hcubed:
Questions about the main post (and Dr. Masters, please comment):

IIRC, hurricanes have changed in intensity upon approach to land, simply because of the shallower water they may pass over.

And hurricanes have had their energy drained as they passed over wetlands.

So, based on all of that, would an increased sea level also have an effect on decreasing strength at landfall? More coast covered, longer continental shelf, increased encroachment, more wetlands formed, bays and harbors re-shaped - all could affect strength, right?

If the sea level rises


Longer continental shelf waters can work both ways... it could weaken the storm due to less overall energy, but it could also strengthen due to no upwelling. Also, bear in mind that even with a 6-foot rise, the shelf waters will only be 1% deeper in some areas.
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So, wait a second. First, "Global Warming" was supposed to be responsible for all of the intense hurricanes we saw early in the decade (due to all of the emissions created by SUVs or some such nonsense). Now the scientific community has decided it's the opposite effect, as it relates to frequency, and that only the intensity has increased? And we have to consider that "the uncertainties are high and lot more research needs to be done before we can be confident of the results"? Sounds to me like "Global Warming" doesn't increase the number of hurricanes and MAY increase the intensity, but we haven't a clue, and the alarmists are changing their tune. Am I missing something here?
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Quoting Orcasystems:




You have to marry them when you connect it.


I, Tdude, wed thee Blackberry to thy laptop...
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Quoting tornadodude:


well I have unlimited everything, and I think I might need a special cord for it, and I have a Blackberry Curve


Just double check that the unlimited includes other devices. Some plans exclude tertiary connections and only include the root device access. There are always limitations of some sort. You should be able to call the support folks and make sure before you blaze on down that road, just in case. There are some devices that actually work as a hotspot for up to 5 wireless connections through the phone. "i" something :)

Good luck -- L8R
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Quoting tornadodude:


well I have unlimited everything, and I think I might need a special cord for it, and I have a Blackberry Curve


It should have come with a USB cable, which also allows you to recharge it from your laptop.

You have to marry them when you connect it.

You also have to load the desktop manager via the CD that came with it.. or off the website of your service provider
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Quoting Ossqss:


Many support that capability (possibly a special cable required and software), but you will need to check the spec on your unit (manual typically) and the rates on your data plan. Ya don't want any surprises on your next bill if you hook it up :)


well I have unlimited everything, and I think I might need a special cord for it, and I have a Blackberry Curve
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Questions about the main post (and Dr. Masters, please comment):

IIRC, hurricanes have changed in intensity upon approach to land, simply because of the shallower water they may pass over.

And hurricanes have had their energy drained as they passed over wetlands.

So, based on all of that, would an increased sea level also have an effect on decreasing strength at landfall? More coast covered, longer continental shelf, increased encroachment, more wetlands formed, bays and harbors re-shaped - all could affect strength, right?

If the sea level rises

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Quoting tornadodude:
hey, sorry it's off topic, but does anyone know how I can tether my blackberry to my laptop?

thanks!


Many support that capability (possibly a special cable required and software), but you will need to check the spec on your unit (users manual typically) and the rates on your data plan. Ya don't want any surprises on your next bill if you hook it up :)
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Good afternoon all

Earthquakes seem to be occurring with greater frequency in the Caribbean now and we have had two within the last two days just to the South of the Cayman Islands in the area of the Cayman Trench. The " Trench" is the deepest part of the Caribbean and one of the deepest in the world's oceans, reaching over 25,000 feet down.

This trench is to be explored for the very first time with deep sea submersibles and other mapping equipment in search of undersea volcanic activity amongst other data gathering exercises. The expedition arrived on site a few days ago and has just started to deploy equipment.

For those interested there is a web site on which you can follow this historic expedition to explore a new underwater frontier never seen before. It will be interesting to see whether recent earthquake activity in that area is related to any underwater volcanic activity less than a 100 miles away from us.

Go here to follow updates from the ship
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hey, sorry it's off topic, but does anyone know how I can tether my blackberry to my laptop?

thanks!
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78. benirica 12:36 PM EDT on April 05, 2010

I'm very concerned, for Florida and the Gulf, this year if ENSO neutral conditions settle in by July-August based upon current conditions.....Not concerned about the "numbers" per se, but more concerned about the trajectories.....It could be a very active "long track" Cape Verde season this year when all is said and done with not a lot of recurvature out to sea...The final piece of the puzzle, in terms of trajectory, will have to wait until June-July when the relative position of A-B high settles in.
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Quoting benirica:
Hey there. Don't know if anyone has posted this, but its something I just saw on local news here and just confirms what has been said here for months.
Local meteorologist was at the hurricane conference in Florida and had a chance to interview Dr. Grey and Dr. Klotzbach, who's prediction update is due out next week (I believe).
They gave her a heads up and said that they are concerned with the extreme temperatures in the Atlantic (particularly off of Africa) and they believe both El Nio and the SAL by Africa will be gone by July.
The numbers they gave (or at least what the met. said) were pretty wide... they called for 13 - 20 storms, but obviously they expect a very active season.
Another thing that was said if about the risk for our region. Usually we have a 28% risk of having a storm pass within 100 miles of us. This year it seems that from every 4 storms, 1 would or has a high chance of passing within 100 miles of here.


I'm not surprised that they would say something like that.

Thanks for the heads up!
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Quoting jeffs713:

No kidding. And it has already been mentioned on here, but I am a bit uneasy how the quakes seem to be moving north along the eastern edge of the Pacific plate after the Chilean quake. (and the aftershocks on this quake are even moving north)

The LA area has been under quite a bit of strain already... this succession of quakes may be the straw that broke the camel's back.


The San Andreas and nearby faults have about 150 yrs of "locked" tension built up in them . The Northridge quake that occurred happened on an unknown fault locked up off the San Andreas Fault. Portion of Wikipedia article concerning that quake:

Epicenter

The earthquake struck in the San Fernando Valley about 20 miles (31 km) northwest of downtown Los Angeles near the community of Northridge. The actual epicenter of the quake was in Reseda, near the intersection of Reseda Blvd. and Saticoy St. However, it took several days to pinpoint the epicenter with accuracy, and in the meantime the media had already dubbed it "The Northridge Earthquake." The name stuck, in part due to the extensive damage and loss of life in Northridge. The National Geophysical Data Center places the hypocenter's geographical coordinates at 3412%u203247%u2033N 11832%u203213%u2033W%uFEFF / %uFEFF34.21306N 118.53694W%uFEFF / 34.21306; -118.53694 and a depth of 17 km (10.56 mi). Despite the area's proximity to the San Andreas Fault, the Northridge quake did not occur along this fault, but rather on a previously-undiscovered blind thrust fault.



Eventually, something will give, hopefully it is not a 7.5Mw quake.
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you know i was just thinking wunderground servers are based in san fran wunder if there is a back up sever in the event a big shaker hits near san fran takes the server out would that be the end of wunderground for a while
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Hey there. Don't know if anyone has posted this, but its something I just saw on local news here and just confirms what has been said here for months.
Local meteorologist was at the hurricane conference in Florida and had a chance to interview Dr. Grey and Dr. Klotzbach, who's prediction update is due out next week (I believe).
They gave her a heads up and said that they are concerned with the extreme temperatures in the Atlantic (particularly off of Africa) and they believe both El Niño and the SAL by Africa will be gone by July.
The numbers they gave (or at least what the met. said) were pretty wide... they called for 13 - 20 storms, but obviously they expect a very active season.
Another thing that was said if about the risk for our region. Usually we have a 28% risk of having a storm pass within 100 miles of us. This year it seems that from every 4 storms, 1 would or has a high chance of passing within 100 miles of here.
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Quoting Dr Masters "The authors theorize that the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926, a Category 4 monster that made a direct hit on Miami Beach, would have caused about $150 billion in damage had it hit in 2005. By 2015, the authors expect the same hurricane would do $300 billion in damage. This number would increase to $600 billion by 2025 (though I think it is likely that the recent recession may delay this damage total a few years into the future.)

We had a very large housing bubble back in 2005 & 2006 and prices (Miami) have probably dropped off by 50% + since the peek. If we have another year like 2004 in FL then the increased home owners insurance may cause many to default on their mortgages. This will lead to further erosion of housing prices.
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Quoting jeffs713:

Looks like we have an eddy about to break off the loop current.


Yea... Looks like one is trying to break off at the end of the run.

Photobucket
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Quoting AussieStorm:

What a grouping of aftershocks


No kidding. And it has already been mentioned on here, but I am a bit uneasy how the quakes seem to be moving north along the eastern edge of the Pacific plate after the Chilean quake. (and the aftershocks on this quake are even moving north)

The LA area has been under quite a bit of strain already... this succession of quakes may be the straw that broke the camel's back.
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The GW bent is becoming a real drag. First, everything will heat up, and they have the stats to prove it. That leads to ice melting and glaciers retreating and polar bears with sun burns, and they have the stats to prove it. Then more warmth equals more energy in the oceans equals more frequent and powerful storms, and they have the stats to prove it.

Or do they simply take the existing stats and retro-actively explain them away as GW?

As stats move in other directions (more snow, ozone hole closing up like a puckered sphincter, drought across Dixie followed by excess precip across Dixie, etc.) they then change their model to reflect what is already happening.

"See? We told you less hurricanes becuase of GW! We said that right after the hurricanes became less frequent than they were during the time we were forecasting more frequent hurricanes. Come on, non-believers; it's as clear as the human-warmed blue sky, which we now predict will fall because people eat meat and fart too much."

I've never been a fan of (I believe) Dr. Grey, in Colorado, and his annual "I'll correct my prediction as the season moves along" hurricane forecast. Now, it seems as though the good intentions of the GW alarmists are being mitigated by that same practice.

"We predicted you naughty capitalist pigs were going to destroy the Earth, and now we are still predicting that, but in a different way because our first way didn't really work out."

So, I'm willing to listen and accept your "science", and I'm even willing to drink tap water so that my great great great grandkids won't be born with melanoma. However, I'm going to have to ask that you GW people get your crap together and lay your cards on the table, and be willing to admit you were wrong, IF it turns out you were. Heck, I'll even take some version of the universal theory of everything, where no matter what happens, you will have predicted it, just predict it BEFORE it happens. (See Ms. Cleo.... She's never wrong!)

Truthfully, I enjoy this blog and read every new post. i have for a few years now. Yes, i think it lists so far to the left that it probably doesn't steer straight, but I like the science and appreciate the thoughts it provokes. Still, I'm disappointed at the appearance of simply swimming with the current. Forever we hear more hurricanes, or at least while they seem more frequent. then, when the frequency dies down, we suddenly get new data showing that was man-made also.

You are causing me to lose faith.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
GOOD MORNING GUYS

BREAKING NEWS CHECK OUT MY NEW BLOG Link

What a grouping of aftershocks

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Quoting SevereHurricane:
This is a favorite of mine. The animated image below is a 30 day SST forecast by the Naval Oceanographic Office. The only problem with this model is the SST's warmth in The Gulf of Mexico might be a tad bit conservative.

Photobucket

Looks like we have an eddy about to break off the loop current.
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Good morning/afternoon everyone! My question is if wind shear develops over the ever increasing Tropical Atlantic waters over the next several decades, are we going to have more seasons like 2009? And where is all the extra heat going to, since hurricane development will be diminished?
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Quoting Jeff9641:
With temps nearning 90 in east C FL later this week we will see another 4 to 5 degree sea surface jump by the end of week. When I left New Smyerna the ocean temps went from 64 on Wed. to 69 yesterday. April is looking very hot and wet especially from mid April on.


Correct, Both the ECMWF and GFS agree that some sort of ridging will remain established in the Eastern US over the next 10 days. Notice the ECMWF is a bit more robust with the ridging and is a bit more west with the ridge axis. This will support a quicker warm-up for the Gulf of Mexico compared to the GFS solution which keeps the ridge axis further east.

Photobucket
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POLO!!!
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This is a favorite of mine. The animated image below is a 30 day SST forecast by the Naval Oceanographic Office. The only problem with this model is the SST's warmth in The Gulf of Mexico might be a tad bit conservative.

Photobucket
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


There was one in the Atlantic in 2008, smallest storm in Atlantic basin history

Wasn't it led a microhurricane. I remember DR.Masters having that in a blog.
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GOOD MORNING GUYS

BREAKING NEWS CHECK OUT MY NEW BLOG Link
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Quoting stillwaiting:
wasn't there a marco in the epac a couple years ago????


There was one in the Atlantic in 2008, smallest storm in Atlantic basin history
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wasn't there a marco in the epac a couple years ago????
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60. DVG
Link to an interesting theory.

http://europenews.dk/en/node/31026
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59. DVG
Link to an interesting theory.

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Two Quakes In Two Days


The earth was moving once again off the coast of Grand Cayman this morning (Monday 5 April). A moderate earthquake registering a 5 on the Richter magnitude scale occurred at 2:30am some 95 miles south of George Town. According to the US Geological survey the tremor was located 17.926°N, 81.548°W at a depth of 6.2 miles (10Km). The earthquake comes around 31 hours after a 4.2 shook things up on Saturday evening around 7pm some 64 miles south of Bodden Town. Since the 19 January 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit 32 miles south of Bodden Town there have been several smaller tremors in the Cayman Islands area.
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The Gulf of Mexico is warming up nicely now. Some area's such as off the Louisiana Coast and in the Big Bend area have warmed as much as 3C in the past 5 days!

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Quoting NRAamy:
MARCO!!!!!!!!


POLO!
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MARCO!!!!!!!!
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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.