An overestimated hurricane

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:18 PM GMT on January 31, 2006

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Back in December, I speculated that five or six hurricanes from 2005 would get their names retired, easily besting the record of four set in 2004. Certainly, Katrina, Dennis, Emily, Wilma, and Stan will have their names retired, but what about Ophelia? The December preliminary report on Ophelia put her damage at $1.6 billion, perhaps high enough to get her name retired. Well, the National Hurricane Center has released its final report for Hurricane Ophelia, which brushed North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane on September 14-15, 2005. It turns out that damage estimates and the estimated height of the storm surge were both considerably overestimated at the time of the storm. The Insurance Information Institute put out a preliminary estimate of $800 million in insured damage for Ophelia, which translated into a total damage estimate of $1.6 billion, based on the rough rule of thumb that total damage is double the insured damage. However, the final damage reports for Ophelia only added up to $35 million in insured damage ($70 million total damage), making it very unlikely that Ophelia will get her name retired. The $1.6 billion damage estimate was based on a model used by the insurance company. Considering that the model was off by a factor of over 20, I think we can take future preliminary damage estimates from hurricanes with a healthy dose of scepticism!

Initial storm surge heights were also considerably off, which likely let to a good part of the error in the damage estimates. If you go back to my blog from September 15, 2005, I reported: "storm surge values ranged as high as 10 - 12 feet in some of the smaller creeks in the Neuse River near New Bern, a remarkably high storm surge for what was a tropical storm for that area." This information was based on Local Hurricane Statements released by the National Weather Service at the time of the storm. I prepared a map(Fig. 1) showing the estimated storm surge from these Local Hurricane Statements. However, the NHC official storm report lists maximum storm surge height of only 4-6 feet, about half of what was reported at the time of the storm. Again, we need to be sceptical of preliminary data from hurricane landfalls.


Figure 1. Storm Surge heights measured in Ophelia.

Jeff Masters

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71. atomicskies
3:09 PM GMT on February 02, 2006
In reguards to minneapolis having the warmest january ever, yes it has been a quite warm and slushy month. Several counties had to ban vechicles from lakes, the ice sculptures in the St Paul winter festival were melting the day they were being made ( it was 45 degress last week on one day), and only a few inches of snow fell. this of course affects the pride of minnesotans being a hardy bunch of people who rough it through winter. So, even though outsiders would think we would behappy for this "warm" average january of 28.6 degrees, it provides us with a sense of worry.
Ten years ago this morning the coldest temperature in minnestoa was recorded in the town of tower, minus 60. In the twin cities it got down to minus 32. This year, there haven been no subzero nights yet (although there were a string of them in dec 2005). It looks as though as always, nature will TRY to even things out by bringing us a pretty damn cold febuary. Some predictions are single digit highs by midmonth. As one who sees the real possibility of global warmings existance, I hope mother nature does even things out. Climate change is all to real here.
70. TampaSteve
1:57 AM GMT on February 02, 2006
Yeah...Bush said some good stuff last night!

Bottom line is, we need a lot more nuclear power plants so we can support an infrastructure for hydrogen and electric vehicles, both of which require electricity. With nukes, we can generate gobs of power without burning a drop of fossil fuel or generating one whiff of greenhouse gasses.
69. CrazyC83
5:10 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
The Greek letters are expected to be dropped in favor of a backup name list (using human names)...so they are essentially all being retired.
Member Since: September 19, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 142
68. snowboy
4:03 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
wow folks, sounds like the State of the Union address was worth watching and I sure hope that it does mark a change in direction for your great country...
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 2547
67. snowboy
3:56 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
F5, I hear you but I see it differently.

For sure the scientific publishing and peer review process is not perfect, and I agree with your point that just because you have published peer reviewed articles does not make you infallable or beyond reproach, any more than not being peer reviewed makes you a simple hack or crackpot.

Nonetheless, a good starting point to assessing the merits of a scientific idea or theory (eg. something you find on the web when you google "ozone depletion" or "global warming") and the credibility of one who is advancing that idea/theory is to look at where they're coming from. If they haven't published in the field that they're expounding on, then they generally can not and should not be considered as reliable and authoritative a source of information as someone who has. That's all.

There are a lot of people churning out propaganda disguised as science in left wing, right wing, or other think tanks (or in the employ of vested interests) who get taken a lot more seriously than they should simply because they post the stuff on the internet.

We can all choose which scientific sources to consider when forming our opinions on an issue, and I'm advocating that if we want to be taken seriously ourselves then their credibility should be something we use to screen our sources.
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 2547
66. atmosweather
3:54 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
Its a great idea but it hasn't been put into place yet. Nothing has been started. We have to see if people are willing to do it. And if the President will follow through with it. If he does it will be amazing for the US and the world, but nothing has been done yet.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
64. Fshhead
3:44 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
Wow I feel like I hit the lotteryLOL This is a good point in our history to remember. This day will change our beautiful planet into a better place. With a much CLEANER America!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
WOW.....PROUD, PROUD,PROUD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Member Since: November 19, 2005 Posts: 9 Comments: 9960
63. ProgressivePulse
3:43 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
Third term I should say, sorry!
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5449
62. ProgressivePulse
3:42 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
I always thought the second leg of a presidents term is his best. It shows his true colors, he is not fighting for a second term, just for us.
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5449
61. Fshhead
3:41 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
HERE HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Member Since: November 19, 2005 Posts: 9 Comments: 9960
60. Fshhead
3:40 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
Thats what I am saying!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Real focus on the alternative energys to get away from the oil!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This WILL make the world better!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Member Since: November 19, 2005 Posts: 9 Comments: 9960
59. ProgressivePulse
3:39 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
A commitment to change.
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5449
58. ProgressivePulse
3:38 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
I am not exited about the timelines just happy that there has been a physical goal set and seems there will be a constant focus on making this happen.
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5449
57. Fshhead
3:37 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
& I gotta say..........
THAT MAKES ME PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!!!!!!
GOD BLESS THE U.S.A.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Member Since: November 19, 2005 Posts: 9 Comments: 9960
56. Fshhead
3:35 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
BTW.......
WOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Member Since: November 19, 2005 Posts: 9 Comments: 9960
55. Fshhead
3:35 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
Wow pulse i just watched it too......\I AM BLOWN AWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
switching to ethanol short term, reducing oil dependence by 75% by 2025
I think this is right direction for sure!!!!!!!!!!!!
I think I am starting to like the little cowboy LOL
Member Since: November 19, 2005 Posts: 9 Comments: 9960
54. theboldman
3:33 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
wOOt
Member Since: September 8, 2005 Posts: 25 Comments: 2
53. ProgressivePulse
3:29 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
State of the Union Address Snowboy, President dedicated funds to research to Electric and Hydrogen Vehicles. Said that we need to make this a non-petroleum country.
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5449
52. F5
3:23 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
Snowboy,

My point is not to denigrate those who have articles that have been peer-reviewed. However, just because you have published peer reviewed articles does not make you infallable or beyond reproach, any more than not being peer reviewed makes you a simple hack or crackpot.

Here are some links to articles that describe some if the problems with peer-review.

Link

Link

This link is a great read on the global warming debate and and example of where an article was submitted to Science but was rejected without even being reviewed, yet was reviewed twice and published in another magazine.

Link

So, when I say it means diddly-squat, to non-scientists, it doesn't really mean anything at all, whether you are peer reviewed or not, because of the issues outlined in some of these articles. For a scientist, it likely means more internally, but doesn't make one infallible or above reproach. That's my point.
51. snowboy
3:22 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
Progressive, you're sounding pretty inscrutable there - could you please elaborate?
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 2547
50. ProgressivePulse
2:53 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
Finally a commitment to Electric and Hydrogen vehicles
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5449
49. Inyo
2:31 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
Katrinarita, that is probably just an erroneous reading, maybe a dust devil came and sucked on the barometer or something :)

and to whoever said earlier that california was having anomalous weather.. we aren't. It is dry in southern california now and wet in northern california. this isn't unusual though. LA has already had more rain than its driest year on record and the rainy season is barely half over. According to one old timer i talked to (who judging by a conversation i heard was also not a believer in human-caused warming) the winter weather has been warmer than average in the sierras, but also snowier than average. That in and of itself is consistent with climate warming. But as for precipitation trends, the state's climate is already so extreme and widely fluxuatitive (is that a word?) that it will take a lot more than a few storms to prove anything.
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 873
48. ForecasterColby
2:09 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
Incredibly tenacious cyclone in the Indian - it hit Madagascar and dissipated, and has now regenerated near Africa and is going back to schmak the lemurs again.
47. taco2me61
1:31 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
Snow
Me too I will chat with all L8R

Play nice everybody... :0)
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 3261
46. snowboy
1:27 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
sure has, anyway I'm off for now will be back in later... ciao
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 2547
45. taco2me61
1:23 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
Snowboy
Yes this is true because I am one of them but I do check in from time to time just to see what was being said during off season... All I can say is WOW but it has been for some good reading late at night LOL :-)
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 3261
44. snowboy
1:16 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
hey Taco they (hurricanes) will come for sure, though I hope not in the numbers or intensity we saw this year... and once they do this will be a blog transformed - on-topic and humming... at least half the people who are here for hurricane season are not on now, taking a well-deserved break
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 2547
43. taco2me61
1:14 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
Hey Everybody I did not mean to stop the Blog you all can start bloging again... :-)

and as for myself I can't type that well because I should have said "by the end of July" not buy July.... Sorry for the type-o :-) :0)
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 3261
42. taco2me61
12:49 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
Well I was not going to say anything because I have been busy reading all of this junk that is on here, but here it is...
I know we don't have much to say because there are no storms to track but just wait Hurricane season will start in about 4 months and then buy July we will have had 2 maybe 3 by then and all of us will be saying where will the next one hit... Everybody be paitent they will come and anyone on the Gulf Coast and East Coast just be ready... It may or may not be as bad as last year but they are going to come... :-)

Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 3261
41. Skyepony (Mod)
12:44 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
what's your source~ not seeing that here (scroll domn to pressure)
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 173 Comments: 38140
40. KatrinaRitaWilmaZeta
12:37 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
29.06 in / 984.0 hPa
29.03 in / 983.0 hPa
17.72 in / 600.0 hPa
29.80 in / 1009.0 hPa
28.50 in / 965.0 hPa
26.90 in / 910.8 hPa

ok now some in is not right her and dos any one see a 17.72in that is 600mb what in the hell is going on her and that is from ca
39. RL3AO
12:16 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
I just wanted to add this

In Minneapolis, January 2006 was the warmest January ever recorded (and guessed to be the warmest since 1843)

The Average temp for January 2006 was 28.6 degrees.

That is 15.4 degrees above normal
38. snowboy
12:15 AM GMT on February 01, 2006
In fact F5, whether or not a scientist publishes in peer-reviewed journals is a key part of separating the wheat from the chaff (ie. the crackpots and hacks, from the good scientists) on any given issue.

It is not a personal attack to ask if a "scientist" making statements on an issue has published articles in a peer-reviewed journal on the issue. It is a straightforward way of trying to determine the extent of their credibility on the issue.

I am a scientist, and have published articles in peer-reviewed journals. On the issues which I covered there (water contamination issues), I am considered an expert by virtue of having submitted my ideas to the scrutiny and challenge of my peers. On other issues (eg. global warming, air pollution or the ozone hole) I may be knowledgeable/informed/interested but for sure not an expert.

This is not to say that you can't be an expert without publishing, but it is the most common method of quickly assessing the credentials of a scientist. To say it means "diddly squat" is first of all disrespectful to the profession and more importantly off the mark. I would recommend looking more closely at the backgrounds of your sources F5, it can't hurt.

By the way, I hadn't seen Dr. Masters' ozone article (thanks skyepony!), which was quite informative. Still can't believe F5 that you're skeptical on this issue - it is perhaps THE issue on which the world scientific and political community came to rapid consensus on the need for action, and actually did what needs doing.
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 2547
37. F5
10:37 PM GMT on January 31, 2006
LOL skyepony,

I did read that from Dr. Masters, but that wasn't the basis of the origin of the discussion. I think it's quite clear what Dr. Master's position on the subject is. I do find it quite amusing though, that instead of attacking the position of the "skeptics", he attacked them instead, using all the usual methods...they aren't qualified, they are supported by industry, they are conservative hacks, etc. Talk about trying to discredit...geez. If the criticism of research is based on bad science, then use that to support your position. However, to make a claim just because someone is not considered a "top climate scientist who publishes in peer-reviewed journals" sounds high and mighty, but in reality it means diddly squat. It's just a lame personal attack.

Anyway, I have enjoyed the debates, and we'll just have to move them to somewhere more appropriate. I've spent too much time on here the past couple of days, but I think I'll try to get my blog updated with some thoughts later this week.
36. gippgig
10:26 PM GMT on January 31, 2006
B storm #2 (Beta) briefly reached cat. 3 but weakened to cat. 2 before making landfall (in Nicaragua not Mexico), was very small, & didn't do much damage so it is unlikely its name would have been retired.
Member Since: December 5, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 64
35. Skyepony (Mod)
10:21 PM GMT on January 31, 2006
After this i'll be heading back to todays blog topic, but since this was wrote by Dr Jeff Masters~ & well hey F5, it's been fun, ~Sceptics vs. the ozone hole. I wonder if his blog inspired him on the topic.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 173 Comments: 38140
34. KatrinaRitaWilmaZeta
10:04 PM GMT on January 31, 2006
this is in ca i do not think that is right or is it


27.14 in / 919.0 hPa
33. michalp
10:01 PM GMT on January 31, 2006
tunnels could prevent the erroneous preliminary reports. ;-)
32. F5
9:59 PM GMT on January 31, 2006
Fair enough snowboy. I don't mind it if people attack the positions I've taken. That's what a debate is all about. Without debate, how can we ever expand our knowledge of the world around us. On the ozone issue, I hold no illusion that I am 100% correct. I could be partially correct, or completely off-base. My point was more to demonstrate that there are alternative theories, based on research and/or critique of research, for ozone depletion as well as global warming. They should not be dismissed out of hand, nor simply blamed on crackpots, right-wing (or left-wing) idealists, industry hacks, etc, just because they disagree with the position you (or I) have taken. We can debate the merits of said research (and/or critique of research), articles, posts, etc., without attacking each other.

I do agree with the others though, that Dr. Masters blog is probably not the best place, unless it is related to the topic he has posted. Yesterday I felt was appropriate, given the subject of his entry. It is a little difficult to separate, since the majority of his blog entries relate to hurricanes, and we have a great deal of uncertainty regarding the current global warming trend and its effect on hurricanes. So, in one sense they are related. However, we should probably differentiate between for example anthropogenic global warming vs natural climate variability debates and global warming as it may or may not affect hurricanes.
31. snowboy
9:42 PM GMT on January 31, 2006
jcasey I agree that Ophelia was an interesting storm - the last season had SO many unique storms that we could keep armies of PhD students busy on them...

I never bought that inflated damage estimate - just didn't seem there was enough happening to justify it.
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 2547
30. Cregnebaa
9:38 PM GMT on January 31, 2006
Bret only managed 40mph max as a tropical storm
Member Since: October 19, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 323
29. jcasey
9:36 PM GMT on January 31, 2006
Retired name or not, Ophelia was one of the most interesting hurricanes I've ever seen. It sat in one place for a very long time, and maintained just enough intensity to be worrisome, but not enough to stir up the cold water and quench itself. I'm sure there are several Ph.D. theses in meteorology to be had from it.
28. KatrinaRitaWilmaZeta
9:34 PM GMT on January 31, 2006
what about the B storm # 2? what are thr ch on that one i think it made land fall in mx as cat 2 or cat 3 any one?
27. CrazyC83
9:08 PM GMT on January 31, 2006
My estimated chance of each named storm (not counting Greek letters, which are essentially all being retired) being retired:

Arlene - 2%, Bret - 2%, Cindy - 5%, Dennis - 95%, Emily - 90%, Franklin - 1%, Gert - 2%, Harvey - 1%, Irene - 1%, Jose - 5%, Katrina - 99%, Lee - 1%, Maria - 5%, Nate - 1%, Ophelia - 15%, Philippe - 1%, Rita - 95%, Stan - 85%, Tammy - 3%, Vince - 5%, Wilma - 99%.
Member Since: September 19, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 142
26. CrazyC83
9:01 PM GMT on January 31, 2006
Also among the names of storms likely to be retired that you mentioned, you forgot Rita.
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25. CrazyC83
9:00 PM GMT on January 31, 2006
There was an awful lot of uncertainty in the damage figure for Ophelia anyway...and the 2-to-1 estimate for total damage may be a difficult one to use here, as the bulk of the damage was done to beach houses that are sometimes tough to get insured. I'd say the real damage is in nine figures, but certainly not $1.6 billion.

Still, even if that was the real figure, retirement would not be certain. Now, it is very likely that Ophelia will be back in 2011.
Member Since: September 19, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 142
24. Cregnebaa
8:55 PM GMT on January 31, 2006
I'll agree to keep things on topic of the blog too, sorry.

May be overestimates of the damage the storm can do is used to make people take it more seriously and evacuate if need be.
Member Since: October 19, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 323
23. Cregnebaa
8:52 PM GMT on January 31, 2006
Steve

I agree with your point to a certain extent, but would you be happy if the majority of leaders from development countries decided to sign an agreement stopping all state spending as god can look after everyone.
It would not happen, my point is the likes of Tony Blair must have info we have not seen or considered to have signed the kyoto, they are their advisors are not stupid.
Member Since: October 19, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 323
22. snowboy
8:04 PM GMT on January 31, 2006
hey F5, if I'm coming across as attacking you personally then please accept my apologies. I'm aiming at the "facts" and issues, and if my aim has been off and you're feeling personally attacked then that was not my intention. Sorry.

I agree with others here that we should try to keep discussion on issues raised by Dr. Masters (as opposed to ozone holes, tunnels, God, politics or what have you), and am aware that I have at times trangressed myself. Again sorry.

F5, if you'd like to continue the ozone discussion, let's do that on your blog if you're game. I appreciate your tenaciousness and admire your conviction, and have been forced to read up and have learned new things through our back and forth. I still think you're off the mark on the ozone issue, but I respect your right to your opinion.
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 2547
21. weatherguy03
7:28 PM GMT on January 31, 2006
you jewish steve?

Very un called for as well!!

Yes KS I totally agree with you!!.But once hurricane season begins again, I think everything will get back to "normal"..LOL..Let's hope!!
Member Since: July 5, 2005 Posts: 592 Comments: 29705

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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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