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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991. hurricane23
09:43 EDT le 25 juillet 2007
Posted By: weatherboykris at 09:43 EDT le 25 juillet 2007. (hide)
I think what we can all agree on is that tracking and studying them is fun.Nothing gets adrenaline pumping more than tracking a hurricane heading your way.

No doupt on the adrenaline but its just that some here on WU sound like they want hurricanes and in all honestly i think we have had enough devastation the past couple of years.
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13841
990. Drakoen
1:45 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: weatherguy03 at 1:43 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.

JP. So far this season there has only been one side!..LOL Its better then making up stuff!..LOL


Whoose making up stuff?
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988. weatherguy03
9:44 AM EDT on July 25, 2007
Oh relax Kris. You feeling alittle guilty..LOL That was directed towards anyone in particular.
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987. weatherboykris
1:43 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: weatherguy03 at 1:43 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.

JP. So far this season there has only been one side!..LOL Its better then making up stuff!..LOL


Am I making stuff up?No,and actually,I haven't seen jp foing that either.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
986. Patrap
8:42 AM CDT on July 25, 2007
GOES IR Loop GOM Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129805
985. weatherboykris
1:42 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
I think what we can all agree on is that tracking and studying them is fun.Nothing gets adrenaline pumping more than tracking a hurricane heading your way.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
984. weatherguy03
9:43 AM EDT on July 25, 2007
Which again, is pretty normal for this time of year.
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983. weatherguy03
9:42 AM EDT on July 25, 2007
JP. So far this season there has only been one side!..LOL Its better then making up stuff!..LOL
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982. weatherboykris
1:41 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: weatherguy03 at 1:39 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.

Actually Adrian(Hur 23), has been more accurate then alot of the posters here since the season started.


Oh no,he has been,quite frankly I prefer his posts to most other's on here,but I'm just saying,he does have a bias towards wanting a slow year.That's not a bad thing though,and people shouldn't slam him for it.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
980. hurricane23
09:37 EDT le 25 juillet 2007
Hurricanes ruin and destroy lives and to be honest i wish the quite times could continue for the next couple of years.
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979. weatherboykris
1:39 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Anyway,I'll BBL.Bottom line,I'll stick with 13-15 storms this year.
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978. weatherguy03
9:38 AM EDT on July 25, 2007
Actually Adrian(Hur 23), has been more accurate then alot of the posters here since the season started.
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977. weathers4me
1:37 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Link

OK, I posted this yesterday, but did not know if I did it right. Here is some footage from Huricane Charlie. Enjoy.
Member Since: May 24, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 118
976. gthsii
1:37 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
my bad on the slow blog...my pic was WAY TOO BIG...
975. weatherboykris
1:37 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: hurricane23 at 1:37 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.

When you go through 160mph winds things change...


So what...you've got a phobia or something?
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973. hurricane23
09:34 EDT le 25 juillet 2007
When you go through 160mph winds things change...
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972. weatherboykris
1:36 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: jphurricane2006 at 1:35 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.

its fine kris but shouldnt we look at both sides of the coin when talking about tropical weather?



Do you jp?
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
970. weatherboykris
1:34 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Actually,I've been noticing a slight decrease in dust over the past week.Still not low enough to allow development,but perhaps a sign of things to come,if the GFS is to be believed.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
969. ryang
9:32 AM AST on July 25, 2007
Dang, the blog is really slow now, no worry though.
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12453
967. weatherboykris
1:33 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
And as far as adrian being conservative,and prefering to post images favoring a quiet year...so what?I prefer active years,he prefers quiet years.Everyone has different types of fascination with the weather,and he's entitled to his opinion.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
966. gthsii
1:22 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
just stitched this together from the eumetsat 1200GMT dust image...click on it for the full size version
image was way too big...sorry
965. hurricane23
09:28 EDT le 25 juillet 2007
I enjoy tracking tropical systems but it would great news if we could enjoy another slow season in 07.We'll see what the coming months bring and as always prepare for the worst and hope for the best this season.
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964. Drakoen
1:31 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
No, not sarcasm LOL. What your pictures suggested.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30823
963. weatherboykris
1:30 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: Drakoen at 1:29 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.

thank you for that weatherboykris.


Sarcasm?Did I stretch the blog or something?
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962. Drakoen
1:28 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
thank you for that weatherboykris.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30823
961. Drakoen
1:26 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: hurricane23 at 1:25 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.

June and july represent quite times in the tropical atlantic in a normal hurricane season and activity picks up quickly once we get in mid august.Alot of factors need to be taken into account when it comes to tropical cyclone development and one that i'll be watching is the SAL factor how will be in 3-6 weeks.SST'S are look below normal in alot of places across the tropical atlantic.Here is a article that came out suggesting a slower season in 07 due to cooler sst's.

Posted By: Drakoen at 1:14 PM GMT on July 25, 2007. (hide)
Hurricane23 always comes in and throws everything the way he likes it. Its a bit too conservative though...

Honestly some of you sound like you want a cat5 into your neigborhood....Iam basically stating my opinion on the current tropics and your perfectly in your right to disagree.Ive always fully respected everyones opinion on this blog.No need to get smart.


lol, i'm just keeping it real.
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959. weatherboykris
1:27 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
.
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958. Tazmanian
6:26 AM PDT on July 25, 2007
: Drakoen oh my
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957. Tazmanian
6:22 AM PDT on July 25, 2007







her you all go

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956. hurricane23
09:19 EDT le 25 juillet 2007
June and july represent quite times in the tropical atlantic in a normal hurricane season and activity picks up quickly once we get in mid august.Alot of factors need to be taken into account when it comes to tropical cyclone development and one that i'll be watching is the SAL factor how will be in 3-6 weeks.SST'S look below normal in alot of places across the tropical atlantic.Here is a article that came out suggesting a slower season in 07 due to cooler sst's.

Posted By: Drakoen at 1:14 PM GMT on July 25, 2007. (hide)
Hurricane23 always comes in and throws everything the way he likes it. Its a bit too conservative though...

Honestly some of you sound like you want a cat5 into your neigborhood....Iam basically stating my opinion on the current tropics and your perfectly in your right to disagree.Ive always fully respected everyones opinion on this blog.No need to get smart.
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13841
955. FloridaRick
1:17 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
I'm no expert but I agree with JP. This Blob in BOC is the best looking thing in the last several weeks. The conditions are ripe down there, convection is deep, sheer is weak, water temperature is hot, the only thing we are missing is LLC. I am curious to see it later this afternoon.
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954. eaglesrock
9:23 AM EDT on July 25, 2007
I just posted a new blog with my analysis on tropical happening right now, including the BOC blob.
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953. ryang
9:20 AM AST on July 25, 2007
Taz can you post the EATL SAT?
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952. Drakoen
1:19 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Taz that area is going to get some more convection soon. There is a tropical wave in the Caribbean and some of the convection is heading in the GOM.
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951. guygee
1:10 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Sorry, I wasn't even keeping track of the current events on this blog, I was more interested in the convection in the BOC and that lead me to look at the mid-upper level heights and forecasts, then on to the longer term. The persistence of the East CONUS trough is a blessing for most of FL and the entire US Atlantic Coast, and its breakdown would open up the East Coast for any dangerous Cape Verde hurricanes that may develop this year.

The pattern in 2006 was dominated by a lot of shear over the tropical and sub-tropical Atlantic, and the CPC forecast cited does not address that issue at all.
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950. Drakoen
1:17 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Jp my problem with convection firing in the day is that, like some waves we have seen, the convection dissapates at night.
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948. Tazmanian
6:17 AM PDT on July 25, 2007
take your pick

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946. Tazmanian
6:13 AM PDT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: jphurricane2006 at 6:06 AM PDT on July 25, 2007.

CMC doesnt show development with this system


thats another reason to believe we will see it form lol

also Adrian, stop man really, its a pipe dream to hope for a season like 2006, everyone said 3 days ago that the GFS switched and forecast the troughs, the DR M came on with the next model run and said that the pattern would not set up like 2006 based on the latest GFS

well said JP i been trying to tell him that too
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944. Drakoen
1:14 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Hurricane23 always comes in and throws everything the way he likes it. Its a bit too conservative though...
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30823
943. FormerFloridian
9:12 AM EDT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: jphurricane2006 at 9:12 AM EDT on July 25, 2007.
lol you guys crack me up


this system has way more of a chance than any of the other pieces of crap you have been watching the last 3 weeks lmao


anyway im off to work, have fun


not likely.

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942. gthsii
1:09 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
500 MB Heights over FL are forecast by MLB NWS to begin falling again tomorrow through the weekend, then to begin to slowly rise through the end of the fcst period next Tuesday.

Someone please enlighten me: what does this statement mean exactly? More rain, less rain? More instability in the atmosphere?
941. Drakoen
1:12 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
lol wishcaster
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30823

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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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