Solar impacts on hurricanes

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:36 PM GMT on May 13, 2010

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I'm in Tucson for the American Meteorological Society's 29th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology. This is the premier scientific conference on hurricanes, and is held only once every two years, so pretty much all of the world's greatest hurricane experts are here. One of the more intriguing posters presented at Tuesday's poster session was titled, Evidence linking solar variability with USA hurricanes, by Robert Hodges and Jim Elsner of Florida State University. They showed that the probability of three or more hurricanes hitting the U.S. during a hurricane season with warmer than average sea surface temperatures increases dramatically during minima in the 11-year sunspot cycle. The odds increase from 20% to 40% for years when the sunspot activity is in the lower 25% of the sunspot cycle, compared to years in the upper 25% of the cycle. Near the peak of the sunspot cycle, the odds of at least one hurricane hitting the U.S. are just 25%, but at solar minimum, the odds increase sharply to 64%. The authors studied the period 1851 - 2008, and controlled for other variables such as changes in sea surface temperature and El Niño. Such a large impact of the sun on hurricanes might seem surprising, given that the change in solar energy at all light wavelengths is only about 0.1%. This relatively small change causes just a 0.1°C change in Earth's mean surface temperature between the peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle (high solar activity) and the minimum of the sunspot cycle (where we are now.) However, variation in radiation between extrema of the solar cycle can be 10% or more in portions of the UV range (Elsner et al., 2008.) The strong change in UV light causes globally averaged temperature swings in the lower stratosphere of 0.4°C between the minimum and maximum of the sunspot cycle--four times as great as the difference measured at Earth's surface (Lean, 2009). This sensitivity of the stratosphere to UV light is due to the fact the ozone layer is located in the stratosphere. Ozone absorbs a large amount of UV light, causing the stratosphere to heat up when solar activity is high. The authors speculate that a warmer stratosphere then heats up the upper troposphere, making the atmosphere more stable. An unstable atmosphere--with hot temperatures at the surface and cold conditions in the upper troposphere--are conducive for stronger hurricanes. Thus, we would expect to see reductions in hurricanes during the peak of the sunspot cycle.

Previous research
The findings presented at this week's conference build upon earlier work published by Elsner et al. (2008) and Elsner et al. (2010). The first of these studies found that for every 100 extra sunspots in September, the temperature of the atmosphere at 16 km altitude over the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico increased by about 0.5°C, and the number of hurricanes in this region was reduced by 26%. Interestingly, a reduction of hurricanes over the eastern Atlantic off the coast of Africa was not observed during solar maxima, which the authors attributed to the fact that hurricanes in this region are limited by sea surface temperature, not instability. Solar maximum brings a small increase in sea surface temperature to the globe, aiding hurricane development in regions where sea surface temperature is the limiting factor. The second of these studies (Elsner et al., 2010) computed that for a Category 2 hurricane affecting the U.S. during the most active 30% range of the solar cycle, the resultant heating of the upper troposphere would cause a 19% decrease in the stability, lowering the hurricane's winds by 10% (10 mph.) Stronger hurricanes would be affected even more, with a potential wind speed reduction of 23 mph for the most powerful hurricanes. The 27-day rotation period of the sun causes a change in UV light even larger than the change observed during the 11-year sunspot cycle, so perhaps we should be monitoring the phase of the sun's rotation to look for more favorable periods for hurricane formation.

Commentary
Considering that this year we are at the deepest solar minimum in more than a century, this research gives us yet another reason to expect a severe Atlantic hurricane season this year. My next post, which may not be until Monday, I'll discuss the sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic hurricane main development region, which set an all-time record last month for the warmest monthly anomaly for the 100+ years we have records. Also, El Niño now appears to be over, as sea surface temperatures in the Eastern Pacific have crossed the threshold into neutral territory.

References
Elsner, J. B., and T. H. Jagger, 2008, United States and Caribbean tropical cyclone activity related to the solar cycle, Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L18705, doi:10.1029/2008GL034431.

Elsner, J. B., T. H. Jagger, and R. E. Hodges, 2010, Daily tropical cyclone intensity response to solar ultraviolet radiation, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L09701, doi:10.1029/2010GL043091.

Lean, J.L., 2009, Cycles and trends in solar irradiance and climate", Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, Volume 1, Issue 1, Pages 111-122 Published Online: 22 Dec 2009

Jeff Masters

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Quoting Ossqss:


Ash, for all intents and purposes, plays the same roll as a cloud. Where does the volcanic ash end up by virtue of the weather patterns we have see in that neck of the woods?

It could have an impact all the way to China on the weather or aspects in between that impact our hurricane production in the Atlantic.

Where do the waves come from anyhow?



Yes sir i fully agree with your analysis of this as well. This will play a role of some type in this years hurricane season. I know most don't believe that but, In My Opinion a role will exist.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20450
Agatha
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East Pacific Names 2010
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1462. Ossqss
Quoting TampaSpin:


I'm gonna have to very respectfully disagree with Dr. Masters only to some degree. I believe some of the Cool down has occured from the Volcano. Look at the map and look at the Ash release as the United Kingdom has caught the most of the Ash fallout and if you look at the Map that is some of the most cooling has occured.


Current Forecast of Ash Fallout


Ash, for all intents and purposes, plays the same roll as a cloud. Where does the volcanic ash end up by virtue of the weather patterns we have see in that neck of the woods?

It could have an impact all the way to China on the weather or aspects in between that impact our hurricane production in the Atlantic.

Where do the waves come from anyhow?

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I'm not sure what the Red spot is at every hour in the MId Atlantic is caused from.....
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Quoting WxTracker15:
ITS RAINING HERE ALOT


it looks like it!
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


In the northern Atlantic.. I'd buy that. But in the Caribbean and the area's off Africa the SST's are cooling slightly because of stronger trade winds. This is to be unsurprised in the month of May, still the SST's are phenomenally high across the majority of the Atlantic.


Did you look at that link i posted Look in the Middle Atlantic also....you can change that from Zero hours to +18hours
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Quoting TampaSpin:


I'm gonna have to very respectfully disagree with Dr. Masters only to some degree. I believe some of the Cool down has occured from the Volcano. Look at the map and look at the Ash release as the United Kingdom has caught the most of the Ash fallout and if you look at the Map that is some of the most cooling has occured.


Current Forecast of Ash Fallout


In the northern Atlantic.. I'd buy that. But in the Caribbean and the area's off Africa the SST's are cooling slightly because of stronger trade winds. This is to be unsurprised in the month of May, still the SST's are phenomenally high across the majority of the Atlantic.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


No, its being caused by the pickup of trade winds in the Atlantic. The volcano is to far north nor is it strong enough to cause any type of SST lowering in the Atlantic, especially this far down south. This has all been discussed before by Jeff Masters if you wish to refer back.. it would take big 'K' to cause any significant type of lowering SSTs.. an eruption of the big 'K' would also completely shut down air travel from the US to Europe.. would be a real bad situation.


I'm gonna have to very respectfully disagree with Dr. Masters only to some degree. I believe some of the Cool down has occured from the Volcano. Look at the map and look at the Ash release as the United Kingdom has caught the most of the Ash fallout and if you look at the Map that is some of the most cooling has occured.


Current Forecast of Ash Fallout
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20450
ITS RAINING HERE ALOT
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1452. Patrap
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 433 Comments: 132806
Quoting CybrTeddy:


No, its being caused by the pickup of trade winds in the Atlantic. The volcano is to far north nor is it strong enough to cause any type of SST lowering in the Atlantic, especially this far down south. This has all been discussed before by Jeff Masters if you wish to refer back.. it would take big 'K' to cause any significant type of lowering SSTs.. an eruption of the big 'K' would also completely shut down air travel from the US to Europe.. would be a real bad situation.


Pardon the noob, but isn't that ironic? Warm ocean temperatures cause winds to pick up which cools the ocean temperatures?
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1450. Patrap
GOM IR Loop

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1449. Ossqss
Quoting TampaSpin:


Does anyone believe the Cooling in the North Atlantic is caused some by the Volcano....I believe so!


The output certainly had to do something somewhere. The higher the further :)

I just worry about Katla and its history.........

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8668604.stm

"But Dr Goodenough points out that, with Eyjafjallajokull "we only had a few hours warning".

"Seismic monitoring does not necessarily give you advance notice of an eruption."
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1448. Patrap
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 433 Comments: 132806
Quoting CybrTeddy:


Did not know that, explains the stark difference in resolution from 2005 to now.

All of the gory details: http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/phod/cyclone/data/method.html

Especially thorough at the bottom of the page. Would have been nice if they went back an applied the latest version on the algorithm to the historical data...happens all the time in satellite data.
But may not have the funding...or motivation.
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I'm off for the night, my bed is asking for me. Have a pleasent night everyone. I spent a nice moment with you. Thanks.
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Quoting atmoaggie:

It may be higher...hard to compare the two since they changed the algorithms a lot in Oct 2008. I am not entirely sure it is much higher...I think it may just be comparable.


Did not know that, explains the stark difference in resolution from 2005 to now.
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Quoting F4PHANTOM:

hope not. got 6" in hr&1/2. finaly receding
Typical Houston and SE Tx....nothing for weeks then it dumps all at once.
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1443. Patrap
Quoting F4PHANTOM:

hope not. got 6" in hr&1/2. finaly receding


Im sure that was a drencher..was watching it for a spell..Rates were High

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1442. Patrap


Date Taken: 05.11.2010
Posted: 05.12.2010 17:48
Video Location: Gulf of Mexico, At Sea
ROBERT, La. -- Oil and gas stream from the riser of the Deepwater Horizon well May 11, 2010. This video is from the larger of two existing leaks on the riser. This leak is located approximately 460 feet from the top of the blowout preventer and rests on the sea floor at a depth of about 5,000 feet. (Courtesy video) Oilspill10
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 433 Comments: 132806
Quoting TampaSpin:


Does anyone believe the Cooling in the North Atlantic is caused some by the Volcano....I believe so!


No, its being caused by the pickup of trade winds in the Atlantic. The volcano is to far north nor is it strong enough to cause any type of SST lowering in the Atlantic, especially this far down south. This has all been discussed before by Jeff Masters if you wish to refer back.. it would take big 'K' to cause any significant type of lowering SSTs.. an eruption of the big 'K' would also completely shut down air travel from the US to Europe.. would be a real bad situation.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


Seriously, what hasn't this season so far got in coming with 2005? 2005 is a pretty strong analog year. Although TCHP is higher.

SST cool down wasn't unexpected nor is it a sign of a 're-emerging' El Nino for those wondering.. the trade winds have picked up some and will likely bump back down in a week or so.

It may be higher...hard to compare the two since they changed the algorithms a lot in Oct 2008. I am not entirely sure it is much higher...I think it may just be comparable.
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Strong trades = cooling SSTs. Current = Strong Trades = cooling SSTs. Logic speaks lol.
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1437. Patrap



Date Taken: 05.13.2010
Posted: 05.13.2010 09:16
Video Location: LA, US
B-roll of the oil and gas plume from the cofferdam of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the coast of Louisiana. Oilspill10
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 433 Comments: 132806
1436. BDAwx
How at risk do we think Bermuda will be this year?:)
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Some pretty decent cooling going on in the Atlantic.


Does anyone believe the Cooling in the North Atlantic is caused some by the Volcano....I believe so!
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20450
something trying to pop in the EPAC on the first day of the season? (western side of the image)

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1433. Patrap
Quoting HouGalv08:
Patrap, see post #1415. I wonder if that meso complex in west TX will hold together and smack us tomorrow morning.


Sumthing to wack away this Rude Crude smell Uptown would be kinda welcome.

Ill pass on the ruff stuff though.

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1432. pottery
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Quoting TampaSpin:
Not been home all day but, in a 1 line sentence did BP have any luck today with the Oil Spill

Nothing positive yet, that I have seen, anyway.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Pretty interesting that 2005 also suffered from a brief cooling down period in the Atlantic just like this one.


Seriously, what hasn't this season so far got in common with 2005? 2005 is a pretty strong analog year. Although TCHP is higher.

SST cool down wasn't unexpected nor is it a sign of a 're-emerging' El Nino for those wondering.. the trade winds have picked up some and will likely bump back down in a week or so.

Also, anyone watch the last launch of Atlantis today? Was pretty cool!
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Not been home all day but, in a 1 line sentence did BP have any luck today with the Oil Spill
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20450
Quoting Patrap:
Patrap, see post #1415. I wonder if that meso complex in west TX will hold together and smack us tomorrow morning.
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Quoting Patrap:




PORT FOURCHON, La. -- The surf carried an unwelcome surprise to Port Fourchon Beach, turning it into the latest oil spill strike zone.

Ah ha! Well, there's a little more...

Wonder why nola.com posted a pic of a spot next to a much bigger, normal-sized key.
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Pretty interesting that 2005 also suffered from a brief cooling down period in the Atlantic just like this one.

2005 compared to current.

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Quoting Weather456:


I'm in Saint Kitts, I didn't know you was so close. Do you also speak French cause I noticed you lived to two French speaking territories.


Now you know :)... I can see you by looking south-east. Yeah, because of my origins i also speak french. It's also my nationality.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Some pretty decent cooling going on in the Atlantic.

That's interesting! Cooling in one of the northern hemisphere ocean basins in MAY...

Shows how strong evaporative cooling is, thanks to a pick up in winds, relative to solar heating...
(assuming everything is on the up and up with the data)
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1423. Patrap
SPC Mesoscale Discussion 569

MESOSCALE DISCUSSION 0569
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
0905 PM CDT FRI MAY 14 2010

AREAS AFFECTED...CENTRAL TX/TX BIG BEND

CONCERNING...SEVERE POTENTIAL...WATCH POSSIBLE

VALID 150205Z - 150330Z

A WATCH MAY BE NEEDED PRIOR TO 03Z/10 PM LOCAL TIME FOR PORTIONS OF
CENTRAL TX/TX HILL COUNTRY/BIG BEND VICINITY. PRIMARY SEVERE THREAT
SHOULD CONTINUE TO TRANSITION TO DAMAGING WINDS/SEVERE HAIL/HEAVY
RAINFALL.

SEVERE MCS CONTINUES TO ORGANIZE WITH COLD POOL EXPANSION AS IT
CONTINUES TO APPROACH THE I-10 VICINITY NORTH/WEST OF JUNCTION AS OF
02Z. WHILE THE 00Z DEL RIO OBSERVED RAOB WAS INDICATIVE OF A STRONG
CAPPING INVERSION BETWEEN 750-800 MB...COLD POOL/MCS DRIVEN UPLIFT
SHOULD CONTINUE TO ALLOW PARCELS TO REACH THEIR LFC AND AT LEAST
TAKE PARTIAL ADVANTAGE OF A STRONGLY UNSTABLE/VERY STEEP LAPSE RATE
THERMODYNAMIC ENVIRONMENT ALONG/EAST OF THE RIO GRANDE AS IMPLIED BY
THE 00Z DEL RIO RAOB. WITH THAT SAID...A MORE STABLE BOUNDARY LAYER
DOES EXIST WITH EASTWARD EXTENT TOWARD I-35 IN CENTRAL TX.

GIVEN THE INCREASING ORGANIZATION/PROPAGATION OF THE QUASI-LINEAR
CONVECTIVE SYSTEM...POTENTIAL WILL EXIST FOR SOME QLCS ACCELERATION
WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF SOME UPSWING IN DAMAGING WIND
POTENTIAL...ALONG WITH CONTINUED POTENTIAL FOR BOUTS OF SEVERE HAIL
ESPECIALLY WITH THE MORE DISCRETE/SOUTHWEST FLANK STORMS. ALONG
THESE LINES...A 44 KT GUST WAS RECENTLY MEASURED AT OZONA TX AS OF
0143Z.

..GUYER.. 05/15/2010


ATTN...WFO...FWD...EWX...SJT...

LAT...LON 32249851 30339787 28799935 29170086 30130126 30150024
30389912 32249851
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1422. Patrap
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 433 Comments: 132806
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Some pretty decent cooling going on in the Atlantic.


I guess the reason why are the high winds and seas in response to an increased pressure gradient.. at least in my area.
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Quoting CaribBoy:


Hi W456, well I'm from Guadeloupe but living in St Martin.


I'm in Saint Kitts, I didn't know you was so close. Do you also speak French cause I noticed you lived to two French speaking territories.
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Quoting Weather456:
Cariboy where are you from?


Hi W456, well I'm from Guadeloupe but living in St Martin.
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Some pretty decent cooling going on in the Atlantic.
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Cariboy where are you from?
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
1416. Patrap
Deepwater Horizon Response Phone Press Conference, Part 6

Joint Public Affairs Support Element More Videos from Joint Public Affairs Support Element RSS
Video by Lt. Scott Sagisi
1
2
3
4


Date Taken: 05.14.2010
Posted: 05.14.2010 17:06
Video Location: LA, US
Officials brief the media, and then take questions and answer, about the current oil spill situation in the Gulf Coast. Part 6 of 7. Oilspill10


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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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