Damaging Katrina-level storm surges are twice as likely in warm years

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 5:22 PM GMT on November 26, 2012

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Perhaps the most stunning images in the wake of Hurricane Sandy were the sight of the roller coaster from the Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, New Jersey lying in the Atlantic Ocean. The images reminded us that hurricane storm surges are capable of causing tremendous destruction along the coast, and one of the main concerns on how global warming might affect hurricanes is the potential for stronger hurricanes to create larger storm surges. We expect that global warming should make the strongest hurricanes stronger, since hurricanes are heat engines that take heat energy out of the ocean and converts it to wind energy. These stronger winds will be capable of piling up higher storm surges. However, it is controversial whether or not we have observed an increase in the strongest hurricanes, since hurricane winds are hard to observe. Our long-term hurricane data base is generally too low in quality and covers too short a period of time to make very good estimates of how climate change may be affecting hurricane winds. However, a new 2012 paper, "Homogeneous record of Atlantic hurricane surge threat since 1923" by Grinsted et al., looked at storm surge data from six tide gauges along the U.S. coast from Texas to New Jersey, and concluded that the number of moderately large hurricane and tropical storm surge events has increased since 1923. Moderately large storm surge events are on pace to nearly double by the year 2100, compared to 20th century levels. Moreover, 1-in-9 year to 1-in-30 year Katrina-level storm surge events are twice as likely to occur in warm years compared to cool years, and thus global warming may be able to dramatically increase the frequency of highly damaging extreme storm surge events. Since sea level is steadily rising due to global warming, these future storm surges will also be riding in on top of an elevated ocean surface, and will thus be able to do even greater damage than in the past. Expect to see many more shocking storm surge damage photos in the coming decades, unless we wise up, retreat from areas highly vulnerable to storm surge, and invest in increased shoreline protection measures.


Figure 1. The Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, N.J. taken during a search and rescue mission by 1-150 Assault Helicopter Battalion, New Jersey Army National Guard on Oct. 30, 2012. Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen.


Figure 2. Top: Observed long-term frequency of moderately large storm surge events from hurricanes and tropical storms measured at six tide gauges along the U.S. East Coast (inset map). The thick line is a 5-year moving average. These type of surge events occurred an average of 5.4 times/year between 1923 - 2008, and are on pace to increase to 9.5 events per year by 2100. Bottom: Departure of Earth's annual mean surface temperature from average, shaded to show warmer and colder than median temperatures. Large storm surge events increase in probability during warmer than average years. Image credit: Grinsted et al. 2012, "A homogeneous record of Atlantic hurricane surge threat since 1923."

Using storm surge to evaluate damage normalization studies
Damage from landfalling storms can be used to estimate if hurricanes are growing stronger with time, but damage estimates must first be corrected to account for changes in wealth and population over time. A 2008 study by Pielke et al. found that although hurricane damages had been doubling every ten years in recent decades, there were no increases in normalized hurricane damages in the U.S. from 1900 - 2005. They used census and economic data to adjust for how increases in populations and wealth may have affected hurricane damages over time. However, Grinsted et al. (2012) questioned whether or not this was done correctly. They found that storm surge heights of U.S. hurricanes and tropical storms correlated very well with metrics that looked at storm intensity, when looking at many decades of data to see long-term trends. However, the researchers found that while short-term trends in normalized hurricane damage estimated by Pielke et al. (2008) did correlate well historical storm surges, these normalized damages had poor correlation with the storm surge record, when looking at decades-long time scales. This implies that the corrections were biased. Dr. Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Western Australia makes the case that efforts such as the one done by Pielke et al. (2008) to normalize disaster losses are probably biased too low, since they only look at factors that tend to increase disaster losses with time, but ignore factors that tend to decrease disaster losses. These ignored factors include improvements in building codes, better weather forecasts allowing more preparation time, and improved fire-fighting ability. He writes, "Most normalization research to date has not accounted for those variables because they are extremely difficult to quantify. (And most researchers have been at pains to point that out; e.g., Neumayer & Barthel, 2011, pp. 23-24.) In effect, normalization research to date largely rests on the oddly inconsistent pair of assumptions that (a) we have built up enormous wealth during the 20th century but (b) did so without any technological advance whatsoever." Grinsted et al. (2012) suggest that it may be possible to use their storm surge data to correct biased hurricane damage estimates, though. Take home message: studies showing no increase in normalized damage from storms have high uncertainty, and it is possible that higher economic damages due to stronger hurricanes are indeed occurring.

References
Grinsted, A., J. C. Moore, and S. Jevrejeva, 2012, "A homogeneous record of Atlantic hurricane surge threat since 1923," PNAS 2012, doi:10.1073/pnas.1209542109

Pielke et al., 2008, "Normalized Hurricane Damage in the United States: 1900–2005", Natural Hazards Review, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp. 29-42.

Links
In this remarkable home video, 15-year-old Christofer Sochacki captures the evening high tide on the day Superstorm Sandy struck Union Beach, New Jersey. The later part of the video shows how high waves on top of a 8-foot storm surge can lead to a punishing assault on beach-front structures.

Jeff Masters

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430. pcola57
3:28 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Quoting PensacolaDoug:





howdy neighbor.


Howdy back to you Doug.. :)
I think I remember you live in East Hill..am I right?
And this rain is just great isn't it?
Just coming down gently but enough to make a difference to my lawn and other flora..
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6634
429. SFLWeatherman
3:25 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Chance of rain 70%. Saturday for WPB!:)
Member Since: May 23, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 4207
428. hydrus
3:24 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Interesting little blob in the Western Caribbean..
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19494
427. hydrus
3:16 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19494
426. PensacolaDoug
2:56 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Quoting pcola57:


Very nice area..
I live in Myrtle Grove..
Near the back gate of Pensacola Naval Air Station..





howdy neighbor.
Member Since: July 25, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 519
425. bappit
2:55 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Quoting lightinthedark:
398

Dont ya just love it ... If you disagree with the general consensus of the forum on Climate Change you are a troll ... even if you post more weather related posts than the people who are calling you a troll...

If people are calling you a troll, then you should stop and really ask why. Take responsibility for your actions. Maybe in fact you are not a troll, but why do people think you are?
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 5557
424. goosegirl1
2:33 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Quoting VaStormGuy:


Latest NAM snow forecast... DC snow hole :(


It's snowing to your west- I would send it, if I could :) It's nice snow, only sticking to grass and leaving roads clear.
Member Since: December 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1181
423. pcola57
2:29 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Current Jet Stream..







Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6634
422. goosegirl1
2:29 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Here's a link for the New River, which discusses the age of the river and it's geological past: Link
Member Since: December 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1181
421. overwash12
2:28 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Quoting Neapolitan:
Disagreeing has nothing to do with it. Deliberately and repeatedly posting debunked and foolish nonsense does.
I have to agree with ya,Nea. However, if we have another winter like 1977,we are coming to your house to burn furniture to stay warm! lol
Member Since: June 24, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1437
420. goosegirl1
2:25 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
weather.com has a topic on the most amazing bridges in the world...and I think this is one of the best...

extremely high up. Over 4,000' high



Here's my personal favorite, and it's even on the east coast: Link

I haven't been there for several years, but you used to be able to take helicopter tours or ride a cable cars system down to the river. It's one of the oldest rivers on earth, and an amazing place to visit.
Member Since: December 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1181
419. goosegirl1
2:21 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Quoting TomballTXPride:

Incorrect. .6C is exaggerating. We have not saw that yet. Please stick to the facts. Thanks in advance.


Here's a peer reviewed source: Link


Member Since: December 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1181
418. FunnelVortex
2:16 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Member Since: October 20, 2012 Posts: 7 Comments: 2864
417. TampaSpin
2:15 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Snow and Rain...
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 177 Comments: 20430
416. pcola57
2:13 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Quoting NttyGrtty:


Up on the back side on Hidden Creek Golf Course...


Very nice area..
I live in Myrtle Grove..
Near the back gate of Pensacola Naval Air Station..
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6634
415. goosegirl1
2:13 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Quoting schwankmoe:


okay, what does the peer-reviewed science tell us is the real temperature rise over the last 100 years?


Yes, I would like to see this as well.

Convince us. I'm listening.
Member Since: December 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1181
414. TampaSpin
2:11 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
I say let the Climate Change happen the same time the Fiscal Cliff happens.....ONE is sure to survive! Then again, maybe not!
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 177 Comments: 20430
413. pcola57
2:10 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Thank you for that link Caicos..
Quoting a short observation by Katharine Hayhoe..

"Katharine Hayhoe, professor and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, this heralds big changes for agriculture on the Great Plains. "In a nutshell," Hayhoe says, "we're seeing major shifts in places and times we can plant, the types of crops we can grow and the pests and diseases we're dealing with. If you talk to seed companies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and even farmers, they tell you we can modify our way out of this, that we can overcome all these problems with technology. There's no question we can adapt to some of the change, but whether we can adapt to all of it is a very open question."
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6634
412. NttyGrtty
2:09 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Quoting pcola57:


Navarre getting the same I'm sure..
I didn't realize you were from there..
A nice place..
Do you live on the gulf or inter-coastal side?


Up on the back side on Hidden Creek Golf Course...
Member Since: February 11, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 786
411. bohonkweatherman
2:08 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
This is pretty big news for around here, no rain in November here for first time since 1897, there is a slight chance of a shower Thursday. Been praying for rain since early October. Not sure when the weather pattern will change. This is for Austin Texas.
Member Since: July 5, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1348
410. schwankmoe
2:05 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Quoting TomballTXPride:

One little problem.

Please stick to peer-reviewed science. Thanks.


okay, what does the peer-reviewed science tell us is the real temperature rise over the last 100 years?
Member Since: October 18, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 542
409. CaicosRetiredSailor
2:03 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Link for #407

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id= climate-change-threatens-second-dust-bowl
Member Since: July 12, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5984
408. pcola57
2:01 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Quoting NttyGrtty:


A very wet drive in from Navarre this morning...


Navarre getting the same I'm sure..
I didn't realize you were from there..
A nice place..
Do you live on the gulf or inter-coastal side?
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6634
407. CaicosRetiredSailor
2:01 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Climate Change Threatens to Create a Second Dust Bowl

Rising temperatures, persistent drought, and depleted aquifers on the southern Great Plains could set the stage for a disaster similar to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, scientists say

By Melissa Gaskill

A cool October broke a 16-month streak of above average temperatures across the Lower 48, but temperatures are projected to remain above normal across most of the western half of the country in the coming months. In addition, the latest climate change projections put future temperature gains on the high side of various models.

As of November 6, 59.5 percent of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing persistent drought conditions that are most severe in the Great Plains—North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado—where drought is expected to persist or intensify in the foreseeable future. On October 17–18 those drought conditions combined with high winds to create a large dust storm across Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming, closing major highways.
Member Since: July 12, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5984
406. NttyGrtty
1:59 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Quoting pcola57:
Gonna be a cloudy,rainy day here..
That's just fine with me.. :)

Webcam from my area..




It should last all day..


A very wet drive in from Navarre this morning...
Member Since: February 11, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 786
405. pcola57
1:55 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Gonna be a cloudy,rainy day here..
That's just fine with me.. :)

My WU weather

Webcam from my area..




It should last all day..
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6634
404. TropicalAnalystwx13
1:53 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Quoting TomballTXPride:

I prefer sticking to scientific facts. Therefore I stand firm in my assertion in my previous post in 384. Call it non-sense, call it whatever you want. I'm not backing down this time.

The graph is from the University Corportation for Atmospheric Research. If that's not scientifically accurate, I don't know what is.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30237
403. RTSplayer
1:51 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Quoting Xyrus2000:


You're assuming increased water vapor means more clouds, which is an incorrect assumption. Clouds form when certain atmospheric conditions are present. If they aren't met, you get haze, humidity, but not clouds.

Also, given the short lifetime of water in the atmosphere, any negative feedback is extremely short-lived when compared to the long-term positve feedbacks induced by long lived GH gases like CO2.

The are a few reasons why a runaway effect won't happen on Earth, but increased water vapor isn't one of them. Increased water vapor on Venus is what likely triggered the runaway effect on Venus in the first place.



I did some theory-crafting on it once, and found that the Earth's maximum stable temperature, under present solar conditions and distance from the Sun, is less than the boiling point of water for the global average, but the temperature would actually be above boiling in the tropics during the day. Of course, by then all plants, animals, fungi, and algae we know would be dead with the possible exception of a few extremphiles we know of which can live in hydrothermal vents and such.

This could conceivably happen if enough coal, oil, and natural gas were burned through a volcanic super-plume or such (as has happened before supposedly,) and all forests burned, etc.

Getting beyond this would require thermolysis of pretty much all carbon-based materials on the planet, which probably is not physically possible short of a colossal impact, or perhaps the Sun simply growing bright enough to roast the planet.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 32 Comments: 1494
402. Neapolitan
1:49 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
Quoting lightinthedark:
398

Dont ya just love it ... If you disagree with the general consensus of the forum on Climate Change you are a troll ... even if you post more weather related posts than the people who are calling you a troll...
Disagreeing has nothing to do with it. Deliberately and repeatedly posting debunked and foolish nonsense does.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13250
401. lightinthedark
1:45 PM GMT on November 27, 2012
398

Dont ya just love it ... If you disagree with the general consensus of the forum on Climate Change you are a troll ... even if you post more weather related posts than the people who are calling you a troll...
Member Since: May 30, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 25
Quoting TomballTXPride:
393. yonzabam 1:20 PM GMT on November 27, 2012

Experience has shown me that those that have to resort to snide remarks and name calling usually are without a scientific rebuttal to keep the discussion/argument going....

I'll give you another chance. Would you like to try again to reply to my post without violating the rules of the forum?


Quoting TomballTXPride:

One little problem. Durango Bill is well known to have a history of siding with Green Energy interests. I would take take graph with a grain of salt.


I see you've edited that little gem out of Post 392.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting yonzabam:



You're a troll.


Yes, he is.

I was going to say something yesterday about some of his remarks, but I held my piece about it.

He's either just a bad internet troll, or else he's a paid propaganda poster for some pro-oil interest group.

No way anyone could be as ignorant as some of his remarks from yesterday.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 32 Comments: 1494
Quoting TomballTXPride:

One little problem. Durango Bill is well known to have a history of siding with Green Energy interests. I would take take graph with a grain of salt.

Please stick to peer-reviewed science. Thanks.
Quoting TomballTXPride:

I prefer sticking to scientific facts. Therefore I stand firm in my assertion in my previous post in 384. Call it non-sense, call it whatever you want. I'm not backing down this time.
Quoting TomballTXPride:

Incorrect. .6C is exaggerating. We have not saw that yet. Please stick to the facts. Thanks in advance.


You just refuted a peer review study in the previous post #388.

Did you just contradict yourself here?....

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Good Morning/Evening

I'm for safer water. Developing Beryllium Oxide nuclear power would create more efficient plants with more energy, less and safer waste, and create non-weaponizable waste material. That would create safer power, cleaner environment, promote lower CO2 emissions to help stop climate change and an olive branch for governments that want nuclear power for their people without creating more nuclear weapons.
That may be better than Thorium but I haven't done a comparison.

I like the rolling bridge, and wish they could make something similar to stop Levee breaches!
http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=rolling+bridg e&view=detail&id=2D2B54086F27A25C86DF6DD1012D89FF6 42846D5&first=1
Member Since: December 28, 2006 Posts: 113 Comments: 1492
According to this graph, global temperatures have increased by around 1 degree C.


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
More flood misery in the UK today. Wales and NE England bearing the brunt. Insurers are saying they will be withdrawing flood insurance for 200,000 homes.

BBC aerial video here:

Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TomballTXPride:

Incorrect. .6C is exaggerating. We have not saw that yet. Please stick to the facts.
Facts? Okay: "Averaged over all land and ocean surfaces, temperatures have warmed roughly 1.33°F (0.74ºC) over the last century.".

Seriously, where do you come up with such nonsense?
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13250
No weather to report around here, it was 85 yesterday and it will be 60 today, No rain with front, haven't had a decent shower here with a front since September. By this weekend almost all of the USA will be way above normal in temps to warm. No freeze here yet which is kind of unusual, have a great day!
Member Since: July 5, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1348
Quoting yoboi:


????


government...
Member Since: September 23, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 2426
382. yoboi
Quoting schwankmoe:
yeah, those arguments were especially silly. AGW must not be real because if it was we'd be building nukes by the dozen and all sorts of gummint money would be going towards solar panels? as if there are no other political and economic variables and considerations at all regarding where politicians throw money??



????
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 6 Comments: 1951
Quoting aislinnpaps:
Everyone have a great Tuesday!

I only have 47mins left of Tuesday to go. I'll have a good Wednesday. lol

Have a good Tuesday all. It's not that bad.
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Everyone have a great Tuesday!
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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.