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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941. Drakoen
1:12 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
lol wishcaster
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30213
938. Drakoen
1:08 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
The only way i would believe this would develop is if it sits there and continues to fire and forms a SFC low. Right now i don't see development.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30213
936. hurricane23
09:08 EDT le 25 juillet 2007
From CPC long-range forecast as of yesterday:

PROGNOSTIC DISCUSSIONS FOR 6 TO 10 AND 8 TO 14 DAY OUTLOOKS
NWS CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER CAMP SPRINGS MD
300 PM EDT TUE JUL 24 2007

6-10 DAY OUTLOOK VALID FOR JUL 30 - AUG 03, 2007

TODAYS AVAILABLE ENSEMBLE MEAN SOLUTIONS ARE IN FAIRLY GOOD AGREEMENT ON THE EXPECTED MEAN 500-HPA HEIGHT PATTERN OVER NORTH AMERICA. A RIDGE IS FORECAST OVER THE SOUTHWESTERN CONUS EXTENDING NORTHWARD TO THE NORTHERN ROCKIES AND NORTHERN PLAINS. TROUGHS ARE FORECAST OVER THE EASTERN CONUS AND THE GULF OF ALASKA/WESTERN CANADIAN COAST.
[...]
8-14 DAY OUTLOOK FOR AUG 01 - 07 2007:

FOR WEEK 2 THE GFS SUPERENSMEBLE MEAN INDICATES VERY LITTLE CHANGE TO THE OVERALL LONGWAVE PATTERN EXPECTED OVER THE CONUS COMPARED TO ITS FORECAST FOR THE 6-10 DAY PERIOD ALTHOUGH THE EASTERN TROUGH IS FORECAST TO DEAMPLIFY AND HEIGHTS ARE FORECAST TO RISE SLIGHTLY OVER THE SOUTHERN CONUS.

Confidence for both forecast are given as "4 ON A SCALE OF 1 TO 5. DUE TO GOOD MODEL AGREEMENT."

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.

It seems to me that the long-awaited pattern change and the demise of the persistent East CONUS/West Atlantic trough needs to be pushed back at least until late first week or second week of August according to the current forecasts.

Thank you.
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934. guygee
1:05 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
From CPC long-range forecast as of yesterday:

PROGNOSTIC DISCUSSIONS FOR 6 TO 10 AND 8 TO 14 DAY OUTLOOKS
NWS CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER CAMP SPRINGS MD
300 PM EDT TUE JUL 24 2007

6-10 DAY OUTLOOK VALID FOR JUL 30 - AUG 03, 2007

TODAYS AVAILABLE ENSEMBLE MEAN SOLUTIONS ARE IN FAIRLY GOOD AGREEMENT ON THE EXPECTED MEAN 500-HPA HEIGHT PATTERN OVER NORTH AMERICA. A RIDGE IS FORECAST OVER THE SOUTHWESTERN CONUS EXTENDING NORTHWARD TO THE NORTHERN ROCKIES AND NORTHERN PLAINS. TROUGHS ARE FORECAST OVER THE EASTERN CONUS AND THE GULF OF ALASKA/WESTERN CANADIAN COAST.
[...]
8-14 DAY OUTLOOK FOR AUG 01 - 07 2007:

FOR WEEK 2 THE GFS SUPERENSMEBLE MEAN INDICATES VERY LITTLE CHANGE TO THE OVERALL LONGWAVE PATTERN EXPECTED OVER THE CONUS COMPARED TO ITS FORECAST FOR THE 6-10 DAY PERIOD ALTHOUGH THE EASTERN TROUGH IS FORECAST TO DEAMPLIFY AND HEIGHTS ARE FORECAST TO RISE SLIGHTLY OVER THE SOUTHERN CONUS.

Confidence for both forecast are given as "4 ON A SCALE OF 1 TO 5. DUE TO GOOD MODEL AGREEMENT."

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.

It seems to me that the long-awaited pattern change and the demise of the persistent East CONUS/West Atlantic trough needs to be pushed back at least until late first week or second week of August according to the current forecasts.
Member Since: September 16, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3148
931. hurricane23
09:04 EDT le 25 juillet 2007
Upper level winds are to high for anything to get going in the GOM and infact will increase as another trof of low pressure moves into the southeast in the coming days.
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930. 28feetabovesealevel
12:46 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: jphurricane2006 at 12:12 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.

we have a ball of convection (literally lol), that is flaring up in the Bay of Campeche

it has some model support and for the most part favorable conditions, development is possible over the next two days

it should head in the direction of Northern Texas by this weekend

Just freaking lovely!

Any more rain and I'm gonna be looking for an ark!
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929. ryang
9:03 AM AST on July 25, 2007
LOL... The probadbility map shows around 25W as really interesting...
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12429
927. hurricane23
08:57 EDT le 25 juillet 2007
Posted By: jphurricane2006 at 08:56 EDT le 25 juillet 2007. (hide)
lol people are so closed minded lmao


Adrian talk to Dr M, he completely disagrees with you lol

Here are the models i looked at last night.Those models are a bit old but basically just making a comment on what i saw.JP when a model keeps pushing an event more and more into the future my confidence continues to drop.Hopefully the pattern change wont happen at all and eveything stays out to sea as we saw in 06.
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926. ryang
9:02 AM AST on July 25, 2007
The GFS develops a 1012 MB low with a wave in a few days.
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12429
925. Drakoen
1:01 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: ryang at 1:00 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.

What about the Cade Verde tropical development?


the CMC, GFS, and UKMET show some type of SFC feature.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30213
924. eaglesrock
9:00 AM EDT on July 25, 2007
Updating my new blog now...will be done in 10 minutes. I'm giving a complete analysis on the BOC blob, as well as the Cape Verde action, and of course, no eaglesrock blog is complete without probabilities of systems developing.
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923. sporteguy03
12:59 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Hurricane23,
What about the BOC? Is that quiet?
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922. ryang
8:59 AM AST on July 25, 2007
What about the Cade Verde tropical development?
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12429
921. Drakoen
12:57 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Jp this doesn't really have model Support. the GFS and the NAM are the only two models.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30213
920. ryang
8:56 AM AST on July 25, 2007
LOL JP...
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12429
917. Drakoen
12:53 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Whatever moisture is there should move right into Texas.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30213
915. hurricane23
08:54 EDT le 25 juillet 2007
Good morning...

Looking at some GFS ensembles late last night and they continue to show trofiness to continue of the eastcoast of the united states in the coming week or two.Iam not 100 percent on this pattern change actually happeing as it keeps pushing this event futher now into august.

Overall the tropics are quite with another trof of low pressure forcasted to move into the southeast into friday-saturday time frame.Looks wet for south florida in the coming days 60-70 percent of thunderstorm activity as our winds will once again shift and thunderstorms will move towards the area.Adrian
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912. sporteguy03
12:51 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
JP,
Would the convection move towards the Central or Eastern Gulf? I checked Adrian's steering maps
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911. borlando
12:48 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
even a wave would be bad for central texas.... that area off the yucatan looks safe but those other two look somewhat ominous for this time of year. I don't know though.
908. weathers4me
12:48 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
What does BOC stand for? Sorry, haven't had my coffee yet.
Member Since: May 24, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 118
906. ryang
8:45 AM AST on July 25, 2007
Morning everyone...

What's up today? Weather wise...LOL
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12429
903. eaglesrock
8:46 AM EDT on July 25, 2007
900
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901. borlando
12:42 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
that blob that looks like it's part of the front.... NE of the BOC blob. everyone sure it's part of the old front? i know shear is modest...
900. melwerle
12:42 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
ok everyone - i guess it's kind of slow - back to painting the house. I'll check in later. JP and all - have a great afternoon.
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899. Drakoen
12:42 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: jphurricane2006 at 12:40 PM GMT on July 25, 2007.

scroll down a bit Mel, you will see a comment I made about that


morning Drakoen, you get to take the reigns now Im at work lol


lol ok.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30213
898. Drakoen
12:40 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
I don't see any rotation on the area in the BOC. It might run out of time before it can develop into anything significant.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30213
896. stoormfury
12:37 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Eastern ALT wave looks quite large and surrounded by lots of moisture. It will be interesting to see what evolves during the course of today
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895. eaglesrock
8:37 AM EDT on July 25, 2007
The BOC blob has a chance, if it can develop a surface low. Satellite imagery already shows some rotation in that blob. Shear is low enough, and SSTs are hot enough for a cat. 5, so I wouldn't be surprised if this became TD 3 or even TS Chantal.
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894. Drakoen
12:36 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Morning everyone...
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30213
893. melwerle
12:37 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
Morning JP - doing well. (hope no one took my commment SERIOUSLY...)

Anything to watch out for this morning or same old same old?
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891. melwerle
12:30 PM GMT on July 25, 2007
I don't believe that anyone could be so concerned with the BOC when Lindsay Lohan was arrested again yesterday...
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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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