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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1141. FormerFloridian
11:51 AM EDT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: hurricane23 at 11:42 AM EDT on July 25, 2007.
Thunderstorm activity with the wave in the central atlantic has been on the increase over the past couple of hours as it moves westward towards the islands.

Nothing to get worried about just something to keep an eye on.


I'd be more worried about this than the ones in the BOC. The ones in the BOC will bring a lot of rain to Texas but nothing more.
1140. Ivansvrivr
3:50 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Those who "yearn for a blow" often change their minds once they get what they asked for.
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1138. philliesrock
11:50 AM EDT on July 25, 2007
Anyone know why FSU is not updating the GFS?

It does weird things sometimes, like never showing the GFS 12z run on the main page.
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1137. StormJunkie
3:43 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Afternoon all.


Yep 23, that is the wave I think will make a TD at some point. There was some thought that the forward part of that area would develop, but that back portion which is just coming in to the good sat view is what interests me.

Anyone know why FSU is not updating the GFS?
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1136. Drakoen
3:48 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
...DISCUSSION...
GULF OF MEXICO...
LARGE DEEP LAYERED LOW REMAINS OVER THE E US AND THE FAR W ATLC
TO THE N GULF COAST WITH A SHORTWAVE TROUGH DIPPING S OVER
TEXAS. REMNANT SCATTERED SHOWERS/ISOLATED THUNDERSTORMS ARE
WITHIN 120 NM OF THE COAST FROM NE MEXICO N OF 24N TO THE
FLORIDA PANHANDLE NEAR PANAMA CITY. LARGE UPPER HIGH IN THE W
CARIBBEAN DOMINATES THE REMAINDER OF THE GULF AND IS ENHANCING
THE SCATTERED SHOWERS/THUNDERSTORMS S OF 25N INTO THE BAY OF
CAMPECHE BETWEEN 90W-96W.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30563
1135. Ivansvrivr
3:41 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Anyone who thinks this season is dead because of a quiet July is out of their mind.
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1134. bluehaze27
3:46 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
I love how morbid curiosity brings people here and then causes these same people to feign incredulty over an over enthusiastic yearning for a blow.
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1133. guygee
3:42 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Drakeon - What is needed is an explanation for the observable phenomena. We need to explain steering of the thunderstorms over the Yucatan and Eastern Cuba over the past few hours. Obviously at the steering level the center of the high is not as shown in the GOES analysis.
Link
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1132. Drakoen
3:42 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
yea hurricane23. What i like about it is the outflow, Looks healthy.
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1131. bluehaze27
3:42 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Inyo, the season hasn't even started yet. It really doesn't start until August 1st.
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1130. hurricane23
11:39 AM EDT on July 25, 2007
Thunderstorm activity with the wave in the central atlantic has been on the increase over the past couple of hours as it moves westward towards the islands.

Nothing to get worried about just something to keep an eye on.
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1129. Drakoen
3:41 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Whoose wishcasting lol???
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1128. bluehaze27
3:40 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Jp, it's ironic he said that considering the story I just posted and, well, climatology.
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1127. Drakoen
3:39 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Guyee upper level high south of the blob. look at this chart.
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1125. Drakoen
3:36 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: ryang at 3:35 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.

Hmmm 10N 31W Drak.


Looks ok...We will have to see what the models do with it.
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1124. guygee
3:20 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Regarding the current BOC disturbance I am mostly in agreement with Drakoen except I place the center of the mid-upper level high that is providing steering over Western Cuba, since the storms currently over the Yucatan are moving north, while storms that formed over Eastern Cuba have been blown South and then West below the Isle of Youth (aka Isle of Pines). I invite anyone to take a look and give their opinion: Link

The circulation of the ULH seems to extend over most of the BOC and looks to be blowing the tops off of the convection there. If any remnant of the current convection does does get left behind in the BOC I think it would be severely weakened and unlikely to pose a threat of development withing the next 48 hours (as NHC also believes).

Good chance the leftover moisture gets torn in two, with most riding the WSW upper flow and remnant low-level moisture moving towards the NW Gulf Coast.
IMHO.
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1123. Inyo
3:31 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
mars doesn't affect our weather in any way. Saying it does is like saying that a chicken in Singapore caused the Northridge earthquake in California. Compared to other factors involved, the effects of mars are far from even measurable. It does NOT cause EL Nino.

You can't run a car off of compressed air that refuels itself using movement indefinitely, unless the car has the power to violate the laws of physics.

no one in Europe doubts anthropomorphic global warming because the changes are much more severe and because they aren't subjected to our media. Someone should keep track of all of the adamant, uneducated doubters (as opposed to the very FEW valid scientists who believe it isnt happening... there are some doing good science to support that view but it is very rare) so that they can all apologize for their poor voting later.

The Atlantic is dead this year. The wishcasting in here is insane.
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1122. Ivansvrivr
3:26 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Tropicalman07
Too much shear over gulf. By the time anything
develops, it will be too close to Texas. All it means is more rain as if those poor folks need any more.
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1121. bluehaze27
3:34 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Here's another story from Reuters. Hurricane season is doing exactly what it has always done considering it doesn't even start until Aug 1st in my opinion.

Worst of Atlantic hurricane season still to come
Wed Jul 25, 2007 10:47AM EDT
Email | Print | Digg | Reprints | Single Page [-] Text [+]
Featured Broker sponsored link

Power. Price. Service. No Compromises.By Jim Loney

MIAMI (Reuters) - Nearly eight weeks have passed since the last tropical storm in the Atlantic-Caribbean region faded away, but banish any notion the 2007 hurricane season has been unusually slow and beware the coming months, experts say.

The peak of the six-month season is just around the corner and forecasters are still predicting a busy one.

"There's absolutely nothing out of the ordinary," Gerry Bell, a hurricane forecaster for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said of the Atlantic season's first two months. "It's not slow. It's not fast."

On average, June and July produce zero to two named storms or hurricanes. So far this year there have been two. Andrea formed in early May, Barry on June 1.

There's plenty of evidence the first two months are meaningless as an indicator for the rest of the season.

In 2004, the first storm didn't form until August 1. It ultimately became Hurricane Alex and kicked off one of the worst Atlantic seasons in decades.

By mid-August that year, there had been five storms. The entire 2004 season saw 15 storms, including nine hurricanes.

Four of them, Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne, hit Florida. Each caused more than $6 billion damage and all four rank among the top 10 costliest storms in U.S. history.

In 1998, the first storm didn't form until July 29. That season produced 10 hurricanes, including 155-mph (250-kph) Georges, which battered Key West, and 180-mph (290-kph) Mitch, which killed more than 9,000 people in Central America.

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew, the first storm of the season, didn't form until August 17. It devastated southern Florida to the tune of $25 billion and until Katrina in 2005 was the costliest hurricane in U.S. history.

STORMY SEPTEMBER

Historically, the Atlantic hurricane season peaks on September 10 and the period from August 20 until October 14 produces the greatest number of storms.

From 1851 to 2006, September was the top storm-producing month, with 459, followed by August with 344 and October with 280, according to NOAA records.

Forecasters have predicted 2007 will see an above-average number of storms. The averages for the past 40 years are 10.9 storms, 6.1 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes with winds above 110 mph (177-kph).

A Colorado State University team led by forecasting pioneer Bill Gray has predicted 17 Atlantic storms, with nine becoming hurricanes and five reaching intense strength.

NOAA's forecast calls for a range of 13 to 17 storms, seven to 10 hurricanes and three to five intense hurricanes. London-based Tropical Storm Risk predicts 14.7 storms, 7.9 hurricanes and 3.5 intense hurricanes.

Private forecaster WSI Corp. on Tuesday lowered its forecast to 14 storms from 15 and to six hurricanes from eight.

Others may do likewise because sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic have cooled 1-2 degrees Fahrenheit after running well above normal for the last few years.

"We're near average for sea surface temperatures," said Jeff Masters of online weather company Weather Underground. He says heavy Saharan dust has kept sunlight from heating the ocean, depriving potential storms of fuel.

Gray's CSU team is scheduled to update its forecast on August 3. NOAA's mid-season update will be released on August 9.

Researchers say the El Nino warm water phenomenon in the eastern Pacific, which strengthened unexpectedly and dampened Atlantic hurricane activity last year, is neutral and should have little or no impact this year.



Reuters 2007. All rights reserved.


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1120. ryang
11:34 AM AST on July 25, 2007
Hmmm 10N 31W Drak.
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1118. Drakoen
3:30 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
I just looked at the RAMSDIS imagery and it shows the pressure at 1014mb.
Sporteguy coordinates please?
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1116. sporteguy03
3:28 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Drakoen,
Central ATL Wave looking better on Satelite?
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1115. Drakoen
3:25 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
you can see by the shape of the blob that the upper level high is in control of the shape of the blog. Given its elongated appearance.
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1114. DudeTheMath
3:15 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Patrap, thanks for the suggestion; however, there's no "site info" to google in the original post of the probabilities.

I had googled the title, and got only retail sites & reviews; nothing seemed to lead me to any supporting information on the book itself.

Perhaps I'll check the local library.
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1112. Drakoen
3:22 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
900mb thats due to the vorticity, which is weak at this point.
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1111. CJ5
3:20 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: weatherbrat at 3:19 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.
2nd Request....could someone please post a LINK to what the models are showing for the blob in the BOC?

Thank you!
Link

Here bookmark and you will always have it.

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1110. 900MB
3:08 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Last frame of the GOM shows clouds with a definitive "C" shape on the East side of the blob link
This indicates some rotation. Also nice high tops form a circle.
Has a chance.
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1109. HIEXPRESS
3:14 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: weathersp at 3:00 PM
Anybody have a Upper level winds model link.. Please..

ADDS
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1108. CJ5
3:12 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Welp, four waves and nothing really to note. Other than speculation on the BOC disturbance it appears we must look to Africa for the next threat. CMC still showing a development in 88hrs, though.

I just want a good invest to talk about, anything is better than Bruce Willis. Keep the humor coming Pat.
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1107. weatherbrat
3:18 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
2nd Request....could someone please post a LINK to what the models are showing for the blob in the BOC?

Thank you!
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1106. Drakoen
3:18 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
ok heres the picture lol
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1105. ryang
11:17 AM AST on July 25, 2007
Oh JP... Just wondering...
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1103. ryang
11:16 AM AST on July 25, 2007
Drak, wrong pic...LOL
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1101. ryang
11:15 AM AST on July 25, 2007
JP... Are you on lunch break?

LOL...
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1099. Patrap
10:15 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
No those are NOT tunnels in the background..LOL!
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1098. Drakoen
3:14 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
hurricanehunter shear in the BOC is 5-10 kts and gets higher to the north and west. Confined little blob. You can see the shear to the north here.
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1097. Patrap
10:14 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
Patrap invest,Mid GOM..95 Link
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1095. Patrap
10:14 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
Scroll up or down to come up to speed..
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1093. Drakoen
3:12 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
no problem MLC.
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1092. moonlightcowboy
3:07 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: Patrap at 3:05 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.
Reason for concern...

70,000 folks still in FEMA trailers along the Northern Gulf Coast.

First and foremost....lead time even for a strong TS is problamatic.
No immediate concern..but the area should be monitored closely for development.


...understand time period now, thanks, Patrap!

...and God help us (w/70,000)!!!

Thanks, Drakoen!
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1091. Patrap
10:09 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
The NHC before the Mutineers claimed one of their own Link
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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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