Warmer Water, SUPER HURRICANES

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:33 PM GMT on July 24, 2007

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The July 2007 issue of Scientific American has an article called "Warmer Oceans, Stronger Hurricanes" (referred to as "Warmer Water, SUPER HURRICANES" on the cover). The article is written by Dr. Kevin E. Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and a lead author on the landmark 2007 climate report issued by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The article makes the case that "evidence is mounting that global warming enhances a cyclone's damaging winds and flooding rains." The article presents some solid evidence to substantiate that point of view, which I will share below. However, I was disappointed in the general tone of the piece, which was over-hyped and did not paint an objective view of the current scientific thinking on the global warming/hurricane issue.

The hype
First off, the reader is hit with a dramatic full-page artist's depiction of the global super-hurricane of the future--a massive 5000-mile diameter Caribbean storm the size of North America. The storm's 200-mile eye is wider than the Florida Peninsula! Whoa, I said when looking at the whopper "SciAmicane". No doubt many readers perusing the magazine, trying to decide whether to buy it, had the same reaction and plunked down their $5 to read about this grim threat. OK, lets talk reality here. The largest tropical cyclone on record, Supertyphoon Tip of 1979, had a diameter of 1380 miles--less than one third the size of the SciAmicane. A storm like the SciAmicane cannot physically exist on Earth unless the oceans were to super-heat to about 122°F (50°C). Only an asteroid impact or similar calamity could create such a hypercane. Even the most extreme global warming scenarios do not heat the oceans to 122°, so the SciAmicane is there to sell magazines, not to illustrate what global warming might do to hurricanes.


Figure 1. Comparison of sizes: the Earth, the largest tropical cyclone on record (Supertyphoon Tip of 1979, 1380 miles in diameter), and the recently discovered hurricane-like vortex on Saturn (the Saturnicane). The "SciAmicane" is about the same size as the Saturnicane--5000 miles across.

The article also calls attention to 2004, when "an unprecedented four hurricanes hit Florida, and 10 typhoons made landfall in Japan". I've erroneously made this statement, too, but the truth is that Japan was hit by only four typhoons in 2004. Ten tropical cyclones that were of typhoon strength at some point during their life did hit, yes, but six of these had decayed to tropical storm or tropical depression strength by the time they hit Japan. The article then refers to a "consensus explanation" emerging to explain recent hurricane activity patterns, and "that explanation forebodes meteorological trouble over the long term." I'd say that the issue is still very much under dispute. In fact, the consensus statement on hurricanes and climate change adopted by the World Meteorological Organization in December 2006, in response to the recommendations of a panel of 125 hurricane researchers was thus: "Though there is evidence both for and against the existence of a detectable anthropogenic signal in the tropical cyclone climate record to date, no firm conclusion can be made on this point." Trenberth's article gives a list of four publications to read in the "more to explore" section, but none of these include the recent articles that call into question the strength of the global warming/stronger hurricane connection. (I apologize for not reviewing the many excellent articles that have appeared on this subject of late!)

The good science
There's quite a bit of good science in the article, which is worth reading if one keeps in mind its biases. In particular, I like the discussion of how global warming has affected precipitation and atmospheric water vapor. The 0.6°C (1.0°F) rise in Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) globally since 1970 has increased water vapor in the atmosphere by 4%, thanks to increased evaporation. This in turn has led to an 8% increase in global precipitation. Trenberth makes the point that no given hurricane can be blamed on global warming, but one can say 8% of a given storm's rainfall is due to global warming. There's also a nice discussion about how weaker than normal trade winds over the tropical Atlantic in 2005 caused less evaporational cooling than normal, allowing the ocean to heat to record temperatures. Finally, the conclusion of the article is one I certainly agree with:

We would all be wise to plan for more extreme hurricane threats.

Both theory and computer models predict a 3-5% increase in hurricane winds per degree C increase in tropical SSTs, and there is concern that the actual increase may be much more than this.

Jeff Masters

For a technical treatment of hypercanes, see Dr. Kerry Emanuel's paper, Hypercanes: a possible link in global extinction scenarios.

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1338. weathers4me
6:10 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Doesn't matter what comes of the African waves if the BH steering high turns them all out to sea. That gets back to my last 2 questions (which have been ignored) Where is the BH setting up and is it migrating W?
Member Since: May 24, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 118
1337. Drakoen
6:18 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: jphurricane2006 at 6:16 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.

thats what I said Pat but everyone ignored me, disagreed with me and started talking about the CATL wave lol


lmao
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30489
1335. Drakoen
6:15 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30489
1334. Patrap
1:14 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
Popcorn anyone?
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 128240
1333. Tropicnerd13
6:08 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
i agree tman. it looks healthy and aparently has a low asociated with it. i think it will form. does anyone know what the wind speeds within the system are? is it too early to find out?
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1332. NeverPanic
6:14 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Tropicnerd13 and anyone else interested,
here's a site with more links then you'll ever need....

http://jrscience.wcp.muohio.edu/coriolis/hurricanestext.html
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1331. Patrap
1:12 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
The most convection and potential is in the GOM.To concentrate on miniscule lil waves and 300hr model runs is crazy. Focus on the nearest potential always...anything in the C Atlantic is days out from even the Antilles....
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 128240
1330. Drakoen
6:13 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
tropicalman the wave at 30W.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30489
1329. hurricane23
2:12 PM EDT on July 25, 2007
NHC -2:05PM

TROPICAL WAVE IS TILTED ALONG 16N38W 11N40W 5N40W MOVING W NEAR
13 KT. THIS WAVE WAS ADJUSTED SLIGHTLY TO THE E BASED ON ITS
APPEARANCE IN VISIBLE SATELLITE IMAGERY THIS MORNING. A BROAD
ZONE OF LOW LEVEL CYCLONIC TURNING IS NOTED FROM 10N-15N BETWEEN
36W-44W. DEEP CONVECTION REMAINS MINIMAL.

Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13786
1328. amazinwxman
6:09 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
so what did they say about the 30W wave anything?
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1325. DaytonaBeachWatcher
6:07 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
funny that if you look at the avn loop of the GOM with the FRONTS checked Link
the 1008 low on mexico is right where the NAM says a low is gonna form and go north.
Link
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1324. Patrap
1:09 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
GOOGLE IT!
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1323. amazinwxman
6:05 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
what site do I go to to see the quickscat?
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1322. Patrap
1:08 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
Stuff
Link
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1321. ryang
2:06 PM AST on July 25, 2007
NHC finally saw the wave... but how can it be low amplitude?
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12432
1320. Tropicnerd13
6:04 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
oh im confused now so there's at least one low asociated with one of those african waves in or near the itcz and the one i am posting alot is one of the ones with a low? ok now i get it. the one behind it has circulation, too, right? the gfs shows one with major circulation and one with minor circulation. i didnt think the gulf one had squat i just thought it was interesting that a big blob that size came out of no where.
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1318. mgreen91
1:05 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
Last year was certainly a good year to remind us to either respect our elders or at least value a good lesson from history.

I pulled together the December forecasts made by Dr. Gray's group dating back to 2004 and put the actual results side by side for comparison. Also included, are the hyperlinks directing you to the original source:

December Forecasts and their Observed Totals

Climatology (in parentheses)
For 2004
Observed 2004
For 2005
Observed

2005
For 2006
Observed

2006
For 2007
Observed 2007

Named Storms (NS) (9.6)
13
14
11
23
17
9
14


Named Storm Days (NSD) (49.1)
55
88.75
55
103.25
85
50
70


Hurricanes (H) (5.9)
7
8
6
13
9
5
7


Hurricane Days (HD) (24.5)
30
45
25
45.25
45
20
35


Intense Hurricanes (IH) (2.3)
3
6
3
7
5
2
3


Intense Hurricane Days (IHD) (5.0)
6
23
6
16.75
13
3
8


Net Tropical Cyclone Activity (NTC) (100%)
125
228
115
249
195
85
140



The numbers are interesting and give much creedence to the following quote which was actually (satirically, perhaps?) included with Dr. Grays's 2004 Tropical Season Summary:

"METEOROLOGISTS ARE KNOWN TO BE ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT AT RECONSTRUCTION AND EXPLANATION OF PAST WEATHER EVENTS.... BUT BE SURE NOT TO BRING UP QUESTIONS ABOUT TOMORROW'S RAINFALL"
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1316. Drakoen
6:04 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
...THE ITCZ...
ITCZ AXIS IS CENTERED ALONG 14N16W 11N35W 8N35W 9N43W 11N58W.
SCATTERED MODERATE/ISOLATED STRONG CONVECTION IS OVER THE COAST
OF AFRICA AND ADJACENT WATERS FROM 11N-15N BETWEEN 14W-18W.
SCATTERED MODERATE ALSO FROM 8N-11N BETWEEN 20W-23W. SIMILAR
CONVECTION IS WITHIN 120NM EITHER SIDE OF THE AXIS BETWEEN
28W-34W...WHICH MAY BE ASSOCIATED WITH A LOW AMPLITUDE TROPICAL
WAVE.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30489
1315. tampahurricane
6:03 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
can some one post the sterring currents
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1314. Tropicnerd13
5:57 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
ok thanks. it seems the wave behind the catl wave i posted a billion images of is the one to watch, sinse the gfs shows it has circulation and the rainbow images show it has convection. any thought on it?
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1313. ryang
2:02 PM AST on July 25, 2007
Nerd Here.
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1312. Patrap
1:02 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
Im most certainly confused..LOL
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1311. Drakoen
6:00 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
the weather channel yesterday said the wave of Africa had a low with it.
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1310. weatherboykris
5:59 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
The wave has a low.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
1309. gthsii
5:58 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
ugh...they got the firewall so plugged up here at work cant connect to the wxchat...

the last two frames of the SSD wide certainly makes you think there is a start of turning...will have to watch a couple more frames
1308. weatherboykris
5:58 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
No,when I said no low,I meant no low with the gulf system,not the African wave.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
1307. Tropicnerd13
5:52 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
wbk, i thought that someone said there was a low asociated with one of those african waves/blobs. that's why i assumed it was the one that had the look of a td. i didnt realize that there wasnt any circulation at all. i guess that the clouds just are making it look like it has circulation.
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1306. NeverPanic
5:53 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Tropicnerd13,
Heres a link for the model runs
http://moe.met.fsu.edu/tcgengifs/
Sorry your goin to have to C/V it.
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1305. weatherboykris
5:53 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: Tropicnerd13 at 5:52 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.

is there a sight that shows the e pac and w pac sattelite images? can someone post them for me, too?


The floaters are available from SSD,but no wide images.Try searching "GOES West".
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
1304. weatherboykris
5:52 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: Tropicnerd13 at 5:35 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.

there is some circulation with a ull and a mll WAY north of trinadad and tobago. what are those called? extra tropical?


Yes,extra tropical or cold cored,whichever one you prefer.Extra tropical would likely be more accurate in this instance,though.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
1303. Tropicnerd13
5:49 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
is there a sight that shows the e pac and w pac sattelite images? can someone post them for me, too?
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1301. weatherboykris
5:50 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: Tropicnerd13 at 5:20 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.

what's that thing in the gulf? rain for texas or mexico? nvmnd. that wave we are watching looks like a great td. why isnt it categorized yet? no flights able to reach it i guess.


The flights could reach it,there's just no surface low.No development will occur.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
1299. weatherboykris
5:49 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Fair enough,I could've been more polite.I've just been reading him complain about us ignoring him for a week now and I finally snapped.Sorry,no one's ignoring you.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
1298. TexJonnie
12:47 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
Amazinwxman... I tried to say something in chat but couldn't get anything to type... sorry about that... hope y'all don't think I was rude.

TJ
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1297. gthsii
5:48 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
weatherbrat: i dont think they track blobs...once it becomes an invest or TD and better then forecasts tracks are produced.
1295. Tropicnerd13
5:43 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
well sorry just no one really answers my questions so i think you dont care. anyway, go to this link and see the low i was talking about. wbk, sorry. not trying to be whiny, but just wanted to know the reason why no one was answering. can someone post the website to get the model runs please? i just want to see where you get those.
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1294. mgreen91
12:47 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
The African dust cloud doesn't seem to be disipating anytime soon either, just like in 2006. It cuts off any chance of storm convection.
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1293. Drakoen
5:46 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: weatherboykris at 5:41 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.

tropicnerd,stop being a whiny little brat everytime you come in here.No one's ignoring you,all you post is satellite images.There's no real responses you can make to them.No one's ignoring you,we just,well,have nothing to say to you.


LOL.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30489
1292. mgreen91
12:46 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
Globe warming must be on hold in the tropical Atlantic?

Forecaster cuts 2007 hurricane outlook
Tue Jul 24, 2007 8:56PM EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The 2007 hurricane season may be less severe than forecast due to cooler-than-expected water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic, private forecaster WSI Corp said on Tuesday.
The season will bring 14 named storms, of which six will become hurricanes and three will become major hurricanes, WSI said in its revised outlook. WSI had previously expected 15 named storms of which eight would become hurricanes and four would become major hurricanes.
"Because the ocean temperatures have not yet rebounded from the significant drop in late spring, we have decided to reduce our forecast numbers slightly," said Todd Crawford, a WSI seasonal forecaster.
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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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