Stronger SST-intense hurricane link?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:53 PM GMT on April 12, 2006

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A link between global warming and increased intense hurricane activity is a very hot topic in hurricane research right now, and many new papers on the subject will be published this year. The latest paper, published March 15 in the on-line version of Science, Science Express, finds stronger evidence that the increasing number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes globally since 1970 is directly linked to increases in Sea Surface Temperature (SST). The paper by Hoyos et al. was called, "Deconvolution of the Factors Contributing to the Increase in Global Hurricane Intensity". Two of the co-authors--Peter Webster and Judith Curry of Georgia Tech--were also authors of a paper published in Science magazine in 2005 that reported a worldwide increase in the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes of 80% in the past 30 years. The paper, (Webster et al., 2005), titled "Changes in Tropical Cyclone Number, Duration, and Intensity in a Warming Environment", linked the rise in storms to increasing sea surface temperatures and concluded that "global data indicate a 30-year trend toward more frequent and intense hurricanes." As I reported in my blog on the subject, their findings should be considered as preliminary evidence that the global incidence of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes may be increasing. There are some severe problems with the quality of the data set used to, and there are good reasons to believe that the actual increase in Category 4 and 5 hurricanes is far lower than the 80% increase found by Webster et al.

The new paper by Hoyos et al. uses a mathematical technique called information theory to study the relative effects of SST, wind shear, humidity, and wind patterns on global incidence of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes. The study found that only SST can explain the observed increase in these storms. One thing I like about the new study is that it directly addesses the issue of data quality in the record of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes, something the authors neglected to do in their previous paper. The authors write, "Recently, the quality of the hurricane data has been questioned and even a reanalysis of the tropical cyclone databses has been suggested in order to ratify that the results of recent studies are not due to problems in the data." The authors go on to say that they performed their analysis without using suspect data from the North Indian Ocean, and found no difference in their results. Well, that's not too surprising, since the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes in that ocean basin represents only about 2% of the global total. What I would have liked to have seen was the analysis re-done using the latest reanalyzed results for typhoons from the Western Pacific, which accounts for 48% of global Category 4 and 5 hurricanes. In a paper accepted for publication but not yet finalized, Knaff and Zehr (2006) make convincing arguments that typhoon intensities during the 1973-1986 period were too low due to measurement error, and the number of Category 4 and 5 storms in the region have been roughly constant for the past 50 years. Dr. Knaff and Charles Sampson have performed a preliminary re-analysis of maximum typhoon intensities for the period 1966-1987 based on the Knaff and Zehr (2006) results. In a paper to be presented at the upcoming 27th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology (April 24-28, 2006), they show that after correcting for the measurement errors, the number of Category 4 and 5 typhoons during the 1966-1987 period increased by 1.5 per year, leaving only a slight upward trend in Category 4 and 5 typhoons during the period 1970 - 2004. The 16% increase in Category 4 and 5 typhoons found by Webster et al. during the past 15-year period is reduced to just 3%. I suspect that if the information theory techniques of Hoyos et al. were applied to this modified data set, the connection between SST and an increase in global Category 4 and 5 hurricanes would be much weaker.

The realclimate.org blog has more information on the paper, along with links to quotes in the media from many of the scientists involved in the hurricanes/global warming debate.

My next blog will be on Friday. Apparently, NHC has "found" a new Atlantic subtropical storm that formed in 2005, bringing the total for the season to 28 named storms. If the final report on this new storm has been issued, I'll discuss that.

Jeff Masters

references
Hoyos, C.D., P.A. Agudelo, P.J. Webster, and J.A. Curry, "Deconvolution of the Factors Contributing to the Increase in Global Hurricane Intensity", www.scienceexpress.org, 16 March 2006, 10.1126/science.1123560.

Knaff, J.A., and R.M. Zehr, "Reexamination of Tropical Cyclone Wind-Pressure Relationships", accepted to Weather and Forecasting, 2006.

Webster, P.J., G.J. Holland, J.A. Curry, and H.-R. Chang, "Changes in Tropical Cyclone Number, Duration, and Intensity in a Warming Environment", Science, 309, 1844,1846, 16 September 2005.

Alpha Chi Omega missing a wall (Arian)
The twister tore a whole wall from the sorority house and detroyed everything around it.
Alpha Chi Omega missing a wall

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206. louastu
6:03 PM EDT on April 13, 2006
Wow, I thought 81 was bad, but that is rediculous.
205. ForecasterColby
9:50 PM GMT on April 13, 2006
204. ForecasterColby
9:22 PM GMT on April 13, 2006
Yeah, last year was crazy.
203. rwdobson
9:23 PM GMT on April 13, 2006
It's 97 in Wichita right now...man that is waaay to hot for April 13.
Member Since: June 12, 2002 Posts: 0 Comments: 1574
202. rwdobson
9:19 PM GMT on April 13, 2006
Record-setting warmth in the KC area today...low 90s!
Member Since: June 12, 2002 Posts: 0 Comments: 1574
201. KShurricane
8:42 PM GMT on April 13, 2006
Here's something interesting. According to this, last year the North Atlantic actually had more storms than the Northwest Pacific (28-24)! The Pacific had one more hurricane (or typhoon) and two more majors, but the Atlantic had twice as many cat 5s. And according to wikipedia, the lowest recorded pressure in the Pacific was 898 mb (Super Typhoon Haitang), which was exceeded by both Rita and Wilma in the Atlantic. I don't ever remember a time where the Atlantic has ever outdone the NW Pacific like that before. Here's hoping for a nice quiet '06.
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200. ForecasterColby
6:41 PM GMT on April 13, 2006
Arr, that be a subtropical cyclone.
197. ForecasterColby
5:05 PM GMT on April 13, 2006
The dryness here is typical of a very westerly bermuda high and a La Nina.
196. rwdobson
5:04 PM GMT on April 13, 2006
susie, if you look at the drought monitor, much of the eastern 3/4 of the country is in some level of drought...except for the northern reaches (Minn, Mich, Maine) and the Tennessee and Ohio River Valleys, which have been getting pummeled by tornados.
Member Since: June 12, 2002 Posts: 0 Comments: 1574
195. floridasusieq
4:30 PM GMT on April 13, 2006
Any thoughts on the odd weather northwest Florida is having? Just .25 inches of rain since February... Do you think these series of highs will stick around throughout the summer?
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194. DAVIDKRZW
4:25 PM GMT on April 13, 2006
Levi32 thank you
193. Levi32
8:20 AM AKDT on April 13, 2006
Really David? That was quite a forecast. Good for you.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26454
192. DAVIDKRZW
4:16 PM GMT on April 13, 2006
28 storms of the year of 2005 wow i was all most raight and i did say we may see 30 storm fro 2005 i was off by 2 storms coool
191. turtlehurricane
3:00 PM GMT on April 13, 2006
this one is going torwards the north atlantic, it really has no shot at anyone besides some rain in the bahamas
Member Since: July 22, 2005 Posts: 227 Comments: 469
190. Cregnebaa
9:36 AM EST on April 13, 2006
Posted By: turtlehurricane at 8:13 PM EST on April 12, 2006.
i just looked at all anlysises. it appears it may form a surface low but, it will only do this when the cold front hits it and thus, it would be barciclonic. its more of a nontropical gale center forming and it has absolutely no chancem of hitting the u.s.

Please let us remember there are other people not in the US affected by storms
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189. turtlehurricane
2:23 PM GMT on April 13, 2006
the disturbance has no chance at all now, a frontal boundary is giving it the boot.
Member Since: July 22, 2005 Posts: 227 Comments: 469
188. seflagamma
9:47 AM EDT on April 13, 2006
Dr Masters,
Thank you so much for answering my questions. I would assume you have to pick and chose which of the many conferences you can attend. I just thought about you as I read all of the updates about the one in Orlando this week.

And thanks for keeping an eye on the system to the east of us. We really need the rain here in Florida but don't really want an early start to the "season" !!!
Appreciate your reply!
Gamma
Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 294 Comments: 40839
187. JeffMasters (Admin)
8:59 AM EDT on April 13, 2006

Posted By: seflagamma (68.223.184.243) at 5:05 PM EDT on April 12, 2006.
Dr Masters, thanks for the info.
Been meaning to ask you,
did you attend the 2006 National Hurricane Conference in Orlando this week. It started last Monday. Been several write ups in our local paper about some of the stuff.
Wondered if you attended or sent someone from your staff?


I'm skipping the Orlando conference, but am excited to be attending four days of the April 24-28 27th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology in Monterey, which will have over 500 scientific papers presented on the latest research in the field. This is the premier scientific conference in the world on hurricanes, and it's been many years since I've been able to attend it.

As for the possible developments in the Atlantic shown by some of the models over the next few days, I imagine wind shear will be too high to allow anything tropical to develop, but I am keeping an eye on things.

I'll post tomorrow on "Should-have-been-Tammy", the new 28th storm of last year's hurricane season.

Jeff Masters
186. HurricaneKing
9:02 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
THE CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE ATLANTIC OCEAN WEST OF 60W...
AN UPPER TROUGH TO THE E OF THE GULF RIDGE HAS BEEN STUCK IN THE
NW CARIBBEAN MUCH OF THE WEEK. THIS TROUGH APPEARS TO HAVE
BECOME SOME-WHAT CUT-OFF IN THE AREA. A 1011 MB SFC LOW IS
LOCATED IN THE E BAHAMAS NEAR 22N71W AND SITS ON A STATIONARY
FRONT WHICH EXTENDS NEWD FROM THE LOW TO BEYOND 32N56W. AN UPPER
LOW IS CENTERED TO THE W OF THE SFC LOW IN THE CENTRAL BAHAMAS.
UPPER LEVEL DIVERGENCE AND SFC FORCING IS PRODUCING A SHIELD OF
OVERCAST SKIES...SCATTERED SHOWERS AND POSSIBLE TSTMS FROM
21N-32N BETWEEN 59W-73W. THE MOST ORGANIZED SHOWER ACTIVITY IS
WITHIN 200 NM OF THE STATIONARY FRONT AND THE NEAR THE UPPER LOW
N OF CUBA. A SFC TROUGH IS DRAPED FROM THE LOW SWD OVER
HISPANIOLA. SAN JUAN DOPPLER RADAR INDICATES A BATCH OF SOLID
MODERATE RAIN WITH EMBEDDED TSTMS TO THE W OF THE ISLAND.
CONSIDERABLE MOISTURE IS DRAWN NWD FROM THE EPAC AND S AMERICA
ON THE E SIDE OF THE TROUGH AXIS AND IS RACING NEWARD MOVING
INTO THE DEEP MOISTURE N OF THE CARIBBEAN ISLANDS. VERY
DRY/STABLE AIR IS TO THE W OF THE TROUGH AXIS ACROSS THE NW
CARIBBEAN KEEPING SKIES MOSTLY CLEAR FROM CUBA TO NICARAGUA.
GFS SUGGESTS THAT THE SFC LOW WILL BEGIN TO PULL NEWARD THU
NIGHT AS THE UPPER TROUGH BEGINS TO FLATTEN.
THE UNSETTLED
WEATHER WILL CONTINUE TO SHIFT SLIGHTLY EWD TOMORROW BEFORE
BECOME SOMEWHAT DIFFUSE BY THE WEEKEND. THE DEEPEST MOISTURE
WILL CONTINUE TO BE MAINLY TO THE N OF THE ISLANDS.
Member Since: July 6, 2005 Posts: 71 Comments: 2449
185. LpAngelRob
3:47 AM CDT on April 13, 2006
This sort of conclusion just sort of seems obvious to me. What I'm interested in is if there's anything out there that cites either a neutral or negative correlation; warmer SST's = no change or less energy. Or is the study just to establish how much of a factor warmer SSTs affect hurricane intensity?
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183. DAVIDKRZW
4:27 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
and i do not need the rain lol
182. ProgressivePulse
4:25 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
Posted By: ProgressivePulse at 2:04 AM GMT on April 13, 2006.
<--- See's the defensive line from the early 90's Bears progressing through FLA

Above statement still applies.
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181. ProgressivePulse
4:22 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
Still going the wrong way Skye, we need rain.
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180. DAVIDKRZW
4:18 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
you give me the nic 70s and 80s i give you all the nic rain you all want over there
179. Skyepony (Mod)
4:10 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
the 2nd link you can check the lat/lon. Seems to begin forming 23-24n 70w or there abouts ~area your eye'n.

see the gfs forecasted #85?

The models as a conglomerate seems to be showing things are a little unsettled, but they aren't in any kind of agreement.
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178. bocaman
4:16 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
Very small chance of that blob turning into anything. We could use the rain though.
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177. bocaman
4:14 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
We need more rain in boca raton. Canals are low, grass is getting brown.
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175. DAVIDKRZW
4:10 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
do not for get we have Tropical Cyclone 22s
174. ProgressivePulse
3:58 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
Sorry, I am new with the links you are providing but isn't that pretty far south east from where the system is at now?
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173. DAVIDKRZW
3:56 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
any one like to have 5ft of rain or so we are water long over her
172. DAVIDKRZW
3:53 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
i give you the rain in ca lol
171. weatherguy03
3:49 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
It will be a cold core system once it moves out. Yes I wish it would move over Florida and park itself there for a week..LOL Oh well.
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170. ProgressivePulse
3:46 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
It is going the wrong way though, WE NEED RAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!
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168. DAVIDKRZW
3:47 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
Posted By: ProgressivePulse at 3:45 AM GMT on April 13, 2006.
The 24n 71w has my interest.


oh why you have a link to it
167. Skyepony (Mod)
3:40 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
Thanks Michael, 2 runs, just the last at abit of asymmetric warm core~ not very exciting, yet.

Pulse check out those Nogaps links I posted, the second isn't gonna help ya if ya have dial up. Apparently you & the Nogaps are seeing the same thing.
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166. ProgressivePulse
3:43 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
The 24n 71w has my interest.
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164. DAVIDKRZW
3:43 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
: taco2me61 would you like to come to my blog for a bit and talk?
163. DAVIDKRZW
3:42 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
hmmm what dos dr M have to say about what we are all talking about?? you think
162. taco2me61
3:40 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
Hey David,

Here in Mobile it starts out mild then gets warm by the afternoon then cools back off by dark 30 if you know what I mean...:0)

Although it has not rained for months now and we need it BAD
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161. ProgressivePulse
3:38 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
51W is a little far away from what we are looking at Micheal?
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160. ForecasterColby
3:38 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
I really see nothing more than a little curvature on a front. I am, however, greatly interested that the NOGAPS now shows a system.
159. DAVIDKRZW
3:38 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
i see a sipn in the low that we are all talking about all it this need is low winds shear and t-storm around it and there it gos

Link

link to see what i mean
158. ProgressivePulse
3:36 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
No Clue Skye, I have just been looking at WV and VIS loops. I don't know about what you are talking?
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156. DAVIDKRZW
3:35 AM GMT on April 13, 2006
taco2me61 come to my blog and we can talk

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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.