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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1091. Patrap
10:09 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
The NHC before the Mutineers claimed one of their own Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128259
1089. Drakoen
3:03 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: moonlightcowboy at 2:58 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.

What's the movement direction and speed? If a sfc low develops, chances of becoming Chantal?

Drakoen, then according to your map, it's stalled? And, would have time for further development, right?


the upper level winds to the north are 20kts. from the W-WSW. I think it has time to develop its not moving fast but i feel the upper level high is disrupting the shape to the north. The upper level high is also helping to generate the convection in the BOC. The steering currents suggest a movement of 5-10 mph.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30489
1088. IKE
10:07 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
Maybe Avila has 18 holes to play this afternoon!
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1087. Patrap
10:07 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
Ummmmmmm,...tropical talk..

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128259
1086. philliesrock
11:05 AM EDT on July 25, 2007
000
ABNT20 KNHC 251500
TWOAT
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
1130 AM EDT WED JUL 25 2007

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER AVILA

Jeez, he never forecasts anything to develop.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1085. IKE
10:05 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
weatherbrat....

I posted this a few minutes ago....

From Brownsville,Texas morning discussion.....

"One area of the NAM
guidance which is in disagreement with the rest of the model
guidance is the development of a closed tropical surface low in the
Bay of Campeche this morning. The NAM is the outlier for this
feature and will disregard this at this time."
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1084. CaicosRetiredSailor
11:04 AM EDT on July 25, 2007
...in case you wondered

ABNT20 KNHC 251500
TWOAT
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
1130 AM EDT WED JUL 25 2007

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER AVILA

Member Since: July 12, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6032
1083. sporteguy03
3:03 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
JP,
Why the high rain chances over FL?
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1082. moonlightcowboy
3:04 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
TWO, TWD "should" mention it then in our next update.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
1081. Patrap
10:03 AM CDT 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.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128259
1080. weatherbrat
3:01 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Could someone please post a LINK to what the models are saying about the blob in the BOC? I can't seem to find them.

Thank you!!
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1078. Patrap
10:01 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
Lotsa weather enthusist opinions. But the area is the closet and only area of interest.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128259
1076. Patrap
10:00 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
The current US frontal look..Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128259
1075. weathersp
2:59 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
If thing does form (Which it won't) then it just will be riped to shreds by the upper level jet that has been shearing off T-Storms into florida for the past couple of days.

Anybody have a Upper level winds model link.. Please..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1074. IKE
9:58 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
From Brownsville,Texas morning discussion.....

"One area of the NAM
guidance which is in disagreement with the rest of the model
guidance is the development of a closed tropical surface low in the
Bay of Campeche this morning. The NAM is the outlier for this
feature and will disregard this at this time."
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1073. moonlightcowboy
2:57 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
What's the movement direction and speed? If a sfc low develops, chances of becoming Chantal?

Drakoen, then according to your map, it's stalled? And, would have time for further development, right?
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
1072. Drakoen
2:57 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
heres what i am thinking. The red arrows show fast moving upper level winds. There is an upper level high over the yucatan peninsula stering the flow of the upper level winds in the GOM. the black dashes show where the tropical waves are. The blob is a little confined in my opinion.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30489
1071. weathersp
2:56 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Send some of that wet stuff over here to MD 4me! My grass is dirt and the crops are suffering too.
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1069. weathers4me
2:55 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
That's just what TX needs, more rain!!LOL
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1068. Patrap
9:55 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
4-panel ZOOM to SE LA..Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128259
1067. weathersp
2:55 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Yes Jp but will it last 36 hrs????
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1065. CaicosRetiredSailor
10:46 AM EDT on July 25, 2007
Morning all,
Happy to report I performed an operation on my flaky b/u pc (laptop)...lifted out keyboard, cut one ribbon cable...now works fine.

Long read to catch up, yes Patrap,
Trust me on this..if the cloud pattern were seeing in the BOC ....
It would have been much deeper do-do here this am
lol CRS
Member Since: July 12, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6032
1064. moonlightcowboy
2:52 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
LOL, Patrap!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
1063. Patrap
9:51 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
Redneck?..more like Cajun Coonazz in my area.. Fla a country all its own here. LOL
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128259
1062. moonlightcowboy
2:49 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Thanks, then needs?

1. sfc low
2. spin
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
1061. MrNiceville
2:38 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
LOL Pat!!!

Us rednecks on the Northern GOM don't rate much concern...
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1059. weathers4me
2:46 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Any chance of development in the GOM or BOC? Did they say that the BH is going to situate itself further to the west? No comments on my Charile video. I guess I should I should post some popular action movies instead. LOL
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1058. moonlightcowboy
2:46 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Jp, think we'll get something out of this GOM blob? What's got to happen other than getting a sfc low? What is the likelihood of that? Where would it go?
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
1056. Patrap
9:37 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
Oooooo,I smell waffles with pecans..later.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128259
1055. Patrap
9:35 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
Heres the NDBC page with ALL the Buoys Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128259
1054. Drakoen
2:35 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
the pressure not low. Not much going on at the SFC.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30489
1053. guygee
2:25 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
On the current BOC disturbance: Station 42055 - Bay of Campeche (22.01N 94.05W) reporting south winds 29 kts gusting to 35 kts and a rather anemic 29.93 pressure.

Right now there seems to be an ULH centered over extreme Western Cuba induced by the trough to the North and the Easterlies to the south. IMHO, anything lifting out of the BOC is going to get caught up in the fast W-WSW flow in the Gulf, getting sheared with little time to organize.

Off to get some work done, cheers everyone!
Member Since: September 16, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3167
1052. Patrap
9:33 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
Trust me on this..if the cloud pattern were seeing in the BOC and GOM was SE of Miami..or in the Bahamas..the Cry would be CAT-5 is immiment!
Is that a pinhole EYE! OMG!

7
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128259
1051. IKE
9:33 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
Here's that BOC buoy.........


"Wind Direction (WDIR): S ( 180 deg true )
5-day plot - Wind Speed Wind Speed (WSPD): 29.1 kts
5-day plot - Wind Gust Wind Gust (GST): 35.0 kts
5-day plot - Wave Height Wave Height (WVHT): 3.6 ft
5-day plot - Dominant Wave Period Dominant Wave Period (DPD): 5 sec
5-day plot - Average Period Average Period (APD): 3.7 sec
5-day plot - Atmospheric Pressure Atmospheric Pressure (PRES): 29.93 in
5-day plot - Pressure Tendency Pressure Tendency (PTDY): +0.03 in ( Rising )
5-day plot - Air Temperature Air Temperature (ATMP): 79.0 F
5-day plot - Water Temperature Water Temperature (WTMP): 84.7 F
5-day plot - Dew Point Dew Point (DEWP): 75.4 F
5-day plot - Heat Index Heat Index (HEAT): 82.8 F"
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1050. Patrap
9:32 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
Robots Hypnotized!
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128259
1048. C2News
10:31 AM EDT on July 25, 2007
Thanks patrap I find the info very useful
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1046. IKE
9:29 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
392...you wouldn't be from Texas would you?

Specifically...Dallas, Texas?

You're so obvious.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1045. Patrap
9:29 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
Ive been posting GOM info looks for an Hour almost.All Im getting in response is Transformers and History lessons..LOL!
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128259
1044. Patrap
9:28 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
The Atlantic BIG RED LOOK...

Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128259
1043. 900MB
2:18 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
What are people thinking on the BOC (Bay of Campeche) disturbance?
Latest buoy measurements in the area show 29kt sustained winds and gust to 35kts..
Member Since: June 11, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 684
1041. hcubed
5:49 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
"Posted By: WiSHcAsTeR392 at 11:38 PM CDT on July 24, 2007.

Yes, I bet 5 grand on it. 16+ storms needed to win me the money, less needed for me to lose my money."


I, for one, pray for less. Then maybe you'll think twice before betting on nature. Bet on a sure thing - the Mavs losing it all...
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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.