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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1240. IKE
12:05 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: hurricane23 at 12:05 PM CDT on July 25, 2007.
CMC 850mb output...


Interesting!
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
1239. whirlwind
5:01 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Wind shear is dropping big time across the ATL. It all comes down to where the steering currents has it going.

By tonight we should see a LLC.
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1238. ryang
1:05 PM AST on July 25, 2007
I think DR.Master's should post a new blog.
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12453
1237. IKE
12:04 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: amazinwxman at 12:02 PM CDT on July 25, 2007.
I know you all are going to think I'm crazy but I'm excited not alarmed I so would like to have a TC hit NC thats what got me interested in weather and made me go to school to be a met.


U want one to hit NC? OMG!
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
1236. CaicosRetiredSailor
1:04 PM EDT on July 25, 2007
pottery2
Good to see you back, sorry Trinidad is dry... my cisterns full here.
CRS
Member Since: July 12, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6069
1235. hurricane23
1:00 PM EDT on July 25, 2007
CMC 850mb output...

cmc
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1234. Drakoen
5:03 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
amazinwxman you may get more than what you bargain for. The global models cannot accurately predict Tropical cyclone strength. You could be in for a hurricane, not saying that you are getting one. There are alot of thing invovled with a forecast that far out timing is the key.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30727
1233. amazinwxman
4:58 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
I know you all are going to think I'm crazy but I'm excited not alarmed I so would like to have a TC hit NC thats what got me interested in weather and made me go to school to be a met. When Fran came through NC I was in high school and was out in the yard trying to study and write down the pressure, winds, and all that stuff and from then on I wanted to be a met and work for TWC then become a tropical expert and head of the NHC (before they kicked out their leader).
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1232. ryang
12:58 PM AST on July 25, 2007
Some moisture near the islands, and some to the SW of the system.

map
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1231. Drakoen
4:59 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Hurricane23 the CMC is showing development. Can you cut out the graphic from the CMC 12z run like you did with the GFS please...
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1230. guygee
4:52 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Interesting tangent...QuickSCAT is being used as part of JPLs Global Volcano Sensorweb...for now.
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1229. hurricane23
12:56 PM EDT on July 25, 2007
Some more model support and we may have game in the atlantic in the next week or two.Big change on the GFS.

ffff
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1228. ryang
12:56 PM AST on July 25, 2007
I still think, SAL will slow develpment for now.
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12453
1227. wederwatcher555
4:57 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
anytime theres even a smigen of a chance of a system...thats good enough for me...of course i want development eventually..
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1226. Drakoen
4:56 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: ryang at 4:56 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.

And the CMC isn't showing anything? Something's wrong...LOL


Look at the 12z run 850mb it is showing something definately. CMC now has development.
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1225. Patrap
11:55 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
Its shows that the frays are soon to come..steering and UL winds will determine the outcomes of any CV storm.They Always do...
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1224. Drakoen
4:55 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
lol whirlwind calm down....
I want to see what the other models think at the 12z run.
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1223. ryang
12:53 PM AST on July 25, 2007
And the CMC isn't showing anything? Something's wrong...LOL
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1222. moonlightcowboy
4:51 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
...I think any CATL wave development will take place closer to the islands, between 40w and 50w.

Warmer waters and probably furtherest away from the dominiating Atl high. jmiho!

...out til later this evening. Hold the fort down, gang and keep the doors closed! Have a good day!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
1221. whirlwind
4:53 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Alarmed..whos alarmed. Get excited!!!

Can u imagine a Cape V system this early in the season? OMG. Imagine the hype and the hysteria... LMAO. this is freakin great...
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1220. Drakoen
4:54 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Guess we have some blob watching to do.
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1219. hurricane23
12:53 PM EDT on July 25, 2007
Kris you could be right look at this!

ffff
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1218. ryang
12:51 PM AST on July 25, 2007
Very interesting Hurricane23...
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1217. Drakoen
4:52 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
That why we always trust the reliable models for development. GFS, NOGAPS, UKMET. I think the UKMET and the GFS were the first ones to pick it up.
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1216. weatherboykris
4:52 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
NOGAPS is out to 48h.Shows nothing.
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1215. weatherboykris
4:51 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: Patrap at 4:50 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.

There even isnt an invest yall..relax and observe the data..nothing to get in a wad about in the Atlantic...


It's still cool.It could happen.I doubt if this particular run will be correct,but the trend is interesting.
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1214. weatherboykris
4:50 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Can't wait for those other 12z models...CMC should be out soon...NOGAPS too.
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1213. Drakoen
4:50 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
yea hurricane23. thanks for that graphic.
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1212. ryang
12:49 PM AST on July 25, 2007
Convection still increasing, looks good!!

map
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1211. HurricaneKing
4:49 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
GFS has the Carolinas being hit by a storm and another storm in the central atlantic.
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1210. Patrap
11:49 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
There even isnt an invest yall..relax and observe the data..nothing to get in a wad about in the Atlantic...
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129444
1209. pottery2
12:30 PM AST on July 25, 2007
Hi. Checking in after a few days absence !Not a lot going on ? Except in England, India ect weatherwise.
It has certainly been unusualy dry here for a July!
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1208. Drakoen
4:49 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
amazinwxman don't get alarmed models change. The GFS has been showing consistency in terms of cyclogenesis.
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1207. hurricane23
12:48 PM EDT on July 25, 2007
New 12z GFS looks interesting and infact deepens the system to the lowest i think we have seen out in that area so far in 2007.

gfs
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1206. IKE
11:48 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: amazinwxman at 11:48 AM CDT on July 25, 2007.
GFS aims what at the Carolina's! Thats where I am! What does the GFS has it at strength wise?


That's 2 weeks out...means almost nothing at this point.
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1205. amazinwxman
4:46 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
GFS aims what at the Carolina's! Thats where I am! What does the GFS has it at strength wise?
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1204. Drakoen
4:47 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: weatherboykris at 4:47 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.

12z GFS shows the Cape Verde 'cane train pullin' out of the station!


yea. It develops out the little wave.
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1203. Patrap
11:46 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
More in depth on Quickscat,for those interested
Link
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1202. weatherboykris
4:47 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
We'll see what the other 12z models say,but this is the first time this year it's shown succsessive Cape Verde systems like that.
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1201. IKE
11:46 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
The last time the GFS had it all the way across the Atlantic, it curved it well east of the US.

Now it's further west. See how it does in the coming days.
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1200. Drakoen
4:47 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Usually i use the GFS 144 hours and then stop looking at it cause after that you really just get garbage...
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1199. MahFL
12:43 PM EDT on July 25, 2007
I beleive Quicksat is fully operational. It is however on its backup transmitter and backup power circuit, or something like that, and if either of these fails it's dead.
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1198. weatherboykris
4:46 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
12z GFS shows the Cape Verde 'cane train pullin' out of the station!
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1197. IKE
11:45 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
GFS aims it at the Carolina's in about 2 weeks. Has another system heading north of the islands.
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1196. ryang
12:44 PM AST on July 25, 2007
We'll see what happens this evening/tonight.
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1195. Patrap
11:45 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
Answers to commonlly asked Quickscat questions

Link
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1194. NeverPanic
4:44 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
11.3N and 31.5W shows just on edge of last QuickSat Descending Pass.
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1193. guygee
4:36 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: amazinwxman at 4:32 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.
"Question: is quicksat missing areas have to do with it being near needing replacement or even if it was new or fairly so would it still be missing areas? And I don't remember quicksat missing areas before or is this something that has started happening recently."

amazinwxman - QuickSCAT covers the majority of the globe every 24 hours, what is missed on the ascending pass is picked up on the descending pass. What this means is sometimes you have to wait 24 hours for data from a particular region of interest.

I think what was meant the the area around the CATL wave was missed on the last pass, so we have to wait for the next pass.

To the best of my knowledge QuickSCAT is fully operational at this time.

P.S Edit. Actually, from the products page, the data may be up to 22 hours old, not 24.
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1192. Drakoen
4:40 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
possible. i am impressed but not enitrely. Looking for deeper convection.
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1191. Patrap
11:40 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
The satelitte is confined to orbital mechanics and its field of view.
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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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