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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441. JLPR
11:50 PM GMT on Julio 24, 2007
hey guys what do u think?
if a little low were to develop around 35w 8n could it develop?
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439. CaicosRetiredSailor
7:39 PM EDT on July 24, 2007
Good evening,

StormW 7:29 PM EDT on July 24, 2007.

But, when preparing with the forecasts (this is from a power point presentation I have on Hurricane Charley), they recommend preparing for one category higher and landfall six hours sooner.


In that sentence, "they recommend preparing" who is the "they" and how is that recommendation promugated?

....I am involved with emergency mgmnt, and always looking for ways to raise the awareness of people here...

I am using backup pc this evening and may not be able to post easily, so do not be surprised if I don't reply quickly... I WILL be back.... soon if I can.
Thanks CRS
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437. scwindsaloft
11:47 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
July averages .6 hurricanes for the month.
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436. HurrMichaelOrl
11:35 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
Anyone wonder why July tends to be slightly less active on average than June, even though July is further into the hurricane season? It seems we often get one in June, none in July, and then it really starts in August.
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435. HIEXPRESS
11:41 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
tornado warnings too -
That makes sense, but these are usually kind of ropy & break up soon when it hits land - Don't really know about this one so take precautions.
Doesn't look like much on radar. Other storms north along that same general line have looked hooky earlier but no reports or warnings. Got a little jet support aloft.
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434. Hipdeep1
11:45 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
738 PM EDT TUE JUL 24 2007

...THE TORNADO WARNING FOR CENTRAL LAKE COUNTY IS CANCELLED...

AT 738 PM...THE SHERIFF`S DEPUTY TRACKING THE CELL THAT HAD PRODUCED
MULITPLE FUNNEL CLOUDS AND WATERSPOUTS NEAR FERNDALE AND OVER LAKE
APOPKA REPORTED THAT ANY TORNADIC ACTIVITY ASSOCIATED WITH THE CELL
HAD DISSIPATED.
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432. StormJunkie
11:44 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
Good to see you jp, stay safe!
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431. Melagoo
11:44 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
... boy is it hot out in the west Estavan Saskachewan was 106 F today.

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430. StormJunkie
11:43 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
Evening all ☺

Good to see ya winds and SW
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428. charley04survivor
11:37 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
tornado warnings too
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427. HIEXPRESS
11:33 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
Waterspout reported on Lake Apopka In Central Florida.
Radar
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426. charley04survivor
11:36 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
yeah...tell me about it. I have heard there were 185 mph wind gusts around here.
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425. scwindsaloft
11:35 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
Posted By: charley04survivor at 11:31 PM GMT on July 24, 2007.

Right, we thought at worst we'd get 80 mph winds here...


you did...and then some
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424. hurricaneman23
11:34 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
The overall set-up we have seen both in the upper-air pattern and lower atmosphere for the past few weeks is somewhat similar to the 1998 tropical season. In that year, we did not see any robust development until the second week of August. Then we had 10 tropical cyclones in less than 30 days across the Atlantic Basin. As stated earlier in the month, July is a very quiet month on average and the heart of the Atlantic tropical system occurs during August and September.
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423. charley04survivor
11:31 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
Right, we thought at worst we'd get 80 mph winds here...
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422. scwindsaloft
11:29 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
I agree StormW. 200% !!!
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421. JLPR
11:27 PM GMT on Julio 24, 2007
yup little spin at 8n
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419. charley04survivor
11:26 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
Many prepared, but just not to the level they would have had they known we would get a Cat 4 making a direct landfall. You have to remember they were calling for a Cat 2, to hit Tampa...which is way north of Punta Gorda.
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418. hurricaneman23
11:24 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
are u saying la has a bigger chance at a cat 5 than miami
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416. Tazmanian
4:20 PM PDT on July 24, 2007
loop eddy off the LA coast in the gulf if we are going to see a cat 5 land fall this year that where it will most likey be




her the forcast

Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115435
415. charley04survivor
11:20 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
Well now we know not to pay attention to the black line so much. They kept saying it was going to Tampa.
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414. hurricaneman23
11:20 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
the wave coming off africa looks pretty impressive
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413. Dakster
11:15 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
jlpr,

looks like a little spin to me although it is not picked up by any of the wind overlays... The only spin they pick up is the one between 50-55 and way north in the Atlantic, but that one looks extra-tropical.
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412. scwindsaloft
11:14 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
from wicklipedia...
Around two hours before its actual landfall, the National Hurricane Center issued a special advisory with Charley as a 145 mph (230 km/h) Category 4 hurricane with predicted landfall in the Port Charlotte area. [11] As a result, numerous people in the Charlotte County area were unprepared for the hurricane, despite the fact that the track was well within the forecast's margin of error.
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411. Dakster
11:09 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
Drak Dakster

Different people, although maybe the same sense of humor (or lack thereof).

I'm in the weather chat as well.
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410. scwindsaloft
11:10 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
charlie04..... according to wicklipedia, you were well within the strike zone. Where was the mix up. I know it took a last minute jog, but why were so many unprepared?
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409. JLPR
11:08 PM GMT on Julio 24, 2007
have you guys looked the itcz
there seems to be a little turn to it around
35w
RGB

and i know guys maybe im going crazy
lol
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408. charliesurvivor
11:04 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
cs04 nice meeting you,gotta run please keep the user name im looking forward to responding to your posts!
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407. charley04survivor
11:03 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
I wish we were better prepared. I found out about it going to Publix when they were shutting the doors to evacuate. I was like why would we evacuate, its going to Tampa. Boy was I wrong.
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406. Gatorxgrrrl
11:02 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
Hey guys - lots of storming and much lightning right now. We need the rain, but I hate the lightning.
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405. charliesurvivor
10:57 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
We did too.I still resent Max Mayfield for it.I noticed a Northward motion when it came off Cuba the day before,they were still saying it was going nnw and I knew it was going to come closer than what they were saying.My co-workers thought I was a worrywart when I told them to take it seriously
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403. CapeCoralx3
6:57 PM EDT on July 24, 2007
Sportsguy03 I received the same email today about 4:30 from his office.
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402. charley04survivor
10:55 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
Yeah very bad... we weren't expecting it. We thought it was going to Tampa until just a few hours before.
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401. charliesurvivor
10:51 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
CS04,I live in Estero,Fl.Charlie paralleled us about 10 miles offshore,was supposed to make landfall here,but took a small jog to the north before coming ashore,good for me(but still awfull)really,really bad for you!
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400. Drakoen
10:52 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
Look like the wave is still holding together somewhat. You can also note come convection starting to firing around the low.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30687
399. JLPR
10:51 PM GMT on Julio 24, 2007
it seems that most models except the ngp want to develop something from 20w to 40w but the one that most shows it is the gfs both in the

sea level presureLink

and in the 850mbLink
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398. RL3AO
5:49 PM CDT on July 24, 2007
ABPW10 PGTW 242000
MSGID/GENADMIN/NAVPACMETOCCEN PEARL HARBOR HI/JTWC//
SUBJ/SIGNIFICANT TROPICAL WEATHER ADVISORY FOR THE WESTERN AND
/SOUTH PACIFIC OCEANS REISSUED/242000Z-250600ZJUL2007//
RMKS/
1. WESTERN NORTH PACIFIC AREA (180 TO MALAY PENINSULA):
A. TROPICAL CYCLONE SUMMARY: NONE.
B. TROPICAL DISTURBANCE SUMMARY: NONE.
(1) THE REMNANT CIRCULATION OF TD 06E PREVIOUSLY LOCATED NEAR
15.6N 178.0W, IS NOW LOCATED NEAR 16.3N 179.3W, APPROXIMATELY 810 NM
EAST OF WAKE ISLAND. ANIMATED INFRARED SATELLITE IMAGERY DEPICTS
IMPROVED CONSOLIDATION WITH PERSISTENT DEEP CONVECTION NEAR THE
PARTIALLY EXPOSED LOW LEVEL CIRCULATION CENTER. BANDING CONVECTION
HAS CONTINUED TO ORGANIZE OVER THE PAST 06 HOURS. UPPER LEVEL
ANALYSIS CONTINUES TO INDICATE MODERATE, WESTERLY VERTICAL WIND
SHEAR AND THIS REMAINS THE PRIMARY LIMITING FACTOR. MAXIMUM SUTAINED
SURFACE WINDS ARE ESTIMATED AT 15 TO 20 KNOTS. MINIMUM SEA LEVEL
PRESSURE IS ESTIMATED TO BE NEAR 1006 MB. BASED ON THE IMPROVED
ORGANIZATION, THE POTENTIAL FOR DEVELOPMENT OF A SIGNIFICANT
TROPICAL CYCLONE WITHIN THE NEXT 24 HOURS IS UPGRADED TO FAIR.

(2) NO OTHER SUSPECT AREAS.
2. SOUTH PACIFIC AREA (WEST COAST OF SOUTH AMERICA TO 135 EAST):
A. TROPICAL CYCLONE SUMMARY: NONE.
B. TROPICAL DISTURBANCE SUMMARY: NONE.
3. JUSTIFICATION FOR REISSUE: UPGRADED AREA IN PARA 1.B.(1) TO FAIR.
FORECAST TEAM: ALPHA//
NNNN

397. charley04survivor
10:49 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
Where were you? We didn't think we'd live through it. Once the front window went the roof was gone and then a couple of the walls. Very scary.
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396. sporteguy03
10:47 PM GMT on July 24, 2007

Senator Bill Nelson's response to my email on supporting a new better Quicskat, not sure if its Generic or personalized, I did this email a month or so back when Dr.Masters said to email your Senator on this issue:

I sent a copy to Dr.Masters on this also.




Thank you for contacting me regarding hurricane preparedness. Florida is better prepared than many States, but we must be vigilant in learning more about these storms and preparing our response should disaster strike.

Hurricanes are our nation's most expensive natural disasters, and we are not doing enough to study these complex systems. Senator Martinez and I recently reintroduced the National Hurricane Research Initiative (NHRI) Act (S. 931) that would initiate a multi-agency effort to improve research in hurricane prediction. The NHRI would increase funding for hurricane observation, GPS technology, and unmanned aerial vehicles, and would coordinate research between the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other agencies.

The National Weather Service (NWS) is a branch of NOAA and the primary source of weather data, forecasts, and warnings to the United States. Although there have been recent controversies within the NWS National Hurricane Center, we are working to ensure that forecasting systems are prepared for this year's hurricane season. I will continue to work for adequate funding and equipment for hurricane forecasting, while ensuring necessary oversight so that these funds are used efficiently. I have sponsored legislation to fund the development and launch of a next-generation hurricane tracking satellite to replace the aging QuikSCAT satellite, which was launched in 1999 and designed to last just three years.

I also will continue to work for increased funding for the Florida National Guard so it can replace equipment that could be necessary in the event of a storm emergency. I am a cosponsor of the National Guard Empowerment Act, which would help coordinate the Guard with other Federal and State agencies, such as FEMA, to enhance planning and execution of emergency response.
I appreciate your taking the time to be involved in an issue that is so important to Florida. Please know that I will keep your views in mind. Do not hesitate to contact me in the future.
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395. charliesurvivor
10:47 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
Please keep the name you earned it
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394. Murko
10:43 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
Posted By: JFLORIDA at 10:27 PM GMT on July 24, 2007.
Strange, the number thirteen is probably more avoided in our historically Christian society due to its association with witchcraft


It's also code for marijuana.
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393. TayTay
10:45 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
Cosme will not die!
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392. charley04survivor
10:47 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
I was in Punta Gorda, but lost my home, so I am in Riverview FL now...just outside of Tampa.
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391. charliesurvivor
10:44 PM GMT on July 24, 2007
Sorry if I was brash cs04.What city are you in?
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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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