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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2141. NeverPanic
6:58 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Only claim to something close to a H is the Columbus Day storm back in the 60's. Still remember my dad try'n to take down the TV antenna from the roof.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbus_Day_Storm
Extratropical...but oh boy they can be just as bad....
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2140. NeverPanic
6:50 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Cant say much about the rotten weather here but can say that if you have ever been.....you get use to it.
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2139. RL3AO
1:50 AM CDT on July 26, 2007
here ya go Panic

An invest in the WPac, 2 in the SHem and a storm in the EPac.
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2138. NeverPanic
6:46 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
RL3AO....Got a link?
It realy doesnt matter where the systems are weather is weather.
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2136. moonlightcowboy
6:46 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
RL3, that was sneaky!!!


NP, I hear you have great beaches! Sounds like a fun place. Gets cold, too, heh?
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29596
2135. RL3AO
1:45 AM CDT on July 26, 2007
NEW INVEST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!





...in the southern hemisphere
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2134. NeverPanic
6:43 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
moonlight, Nah just stuck here in Vancouver BC....Where not much weatherwise happens..lol
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2133. NeverPanic
6:35 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
JFLORIDA,
Read the artical you posted. Especialy liked the quote "This is a classic example of every cloud having a silver lining,"
Love em or hate em...We wouldn't be here but for the forces we seek to understand.
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2132. moonlightcowboy
6:39 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
NP, where are you in the PTZ?
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29596
2131. NeverPanic
6:30 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Ahhh moonlight...see your still on the job.LOL
only 11:35 here and seems we have the room to ourselves.
I have to stop watching the weather...like watin for a kettle to boil.
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2130. moonlightcowboy
6:28 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Tropicdude, go here for updated CV and SAL info with current maps, etc...
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29596
2129. NeverPanic
6:22 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
tropicaldude298, ask and you shal recieve...but you have to copy and paste the links...sorry bout that
Africa...http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/met8/eatl.html
SAL...http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/tropic/real-time/wavetrak/sal.html
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2127. NeverPanic
6:05 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Sorry for delay, had to keep watching and slowing down things...but looking at all the Af sats, IMO the next wave will push a liitle further N if it makes it. Hard to tell with so little info and to much time between sat updates. When is the NHC goin to put a little more instrements where things start cookin.
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2125. moonlightcowboy
6:07 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Yeah, lots of things to keep up with...but, I think we're still going to get a named storm before month's end.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29596
2123. moonlightcowboy
5:56 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
I keep expecting to see a sfc low develop off the SA coast, maybe off Venezuela; then, trek through the Carib and GOM.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29596
2121. moonlightcowboy
5:48 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Yeah, you could be right. TCHP is unreal now, more than even 2005. Anything developing/entering there is gonna be like throwing gas on a fire! Trouble!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29596
2119. moonlightcowboy
5:40 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
JFl...but, it looks like the GOM is getting 20-30 kt upper shear...hard for anything to develop like that. JMHO
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29596
2118. moonlightcowboy
5:37 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Tropical weather discussion
NWS TPC/National Hurricane Center Miami FL
205 am EDT Thu Jul 26 2007

Based on 0000 UTC surface analysis and satellite imagery through
0415 UTC.

...Tropical waves...
tropical wave is along 28w S of 18n moving W 10-15 kt. Low
amplitude low level inverted-v signature is observed covering
the area from 23w-31w. Small clusters of scattered moderate/
isolated strong convection are embedded within the ITCZ from
12n-15w between 25w-30w.

Tropical wave is along 42w S of 15n moving W near 20 kt. Very
low amplitude
low level inverted-v signature is observed
covering the area from 39w-45w. Small clusters of scattered
moderate/isolated strong convection are within 60 nm of line
from 12n42w to 11n46w.

Tropical wave is along 65w/66w S of 15n moving W near 25 kt.
Wave has weakened over the past 24 hours as it entered the
Caribbean with shallow low level inverted-v signature covering
the area from 65w-72w. No associated deep convection with
isolated showers from 13n-15n between 66w-71w.

Tropical wave is along 90w S of 25n moving W 15-20 kt. Any
satellite signature is masked by a large upper high centered
over the Yucatan Channel. Any convection associated with this
wave is inland over Central America/Mexico and in the E Pacific
region.

Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29596
2116. moonlightcowboy
5:35 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
The image http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/PS/TROP/DATA/gparm/xyrfpr.gif cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

CATL getting higher real time marks for development.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29596
2115. moonlightcowboy
5:30 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
More CV and SAL updated info here.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29596
2114. NeverPanic
5:13 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Lot of WV in front, little dust, shear down next while, good temps...she holds up to get off the coast this will be the one to watch
Reminds me of that old Toto song..
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2113. moonlightcowboy
5:12 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Yeah, Panic; but looking at the latest sfc map, it's coming off "under" the itcz which is incredibly higher than it's been so far this season. Not sure what that means for development, but definitely different from what we've been seeing so far.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29596
2112. bluehaze27
5:11 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
yeah the next wave looks pretty intense.
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2111. NeverPanic
5:02 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Hey moonlight,
Welcome to the nightshift..
Seems the wave in the catl has settled down some...but the next one commin off the Af coast about this time tommorow is a beeeeut...
sorry forgot link
http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/met8/eatl/avn.jpg
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2110. bluehaze27
5:04 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
hello all
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2109. moonlightcowboy
5:01 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
lol...don't Panic...understand!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29596
2108. NeverPanic
4:56 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Best part being on PST time, Still up while things are happinin out there...
Worst part being on PST...Your all asleep...

Till tommorow, have a good one and keep one eye open
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2107. moonlightcowboy
4:57 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
BOC blob being blasted by 20-30 kts upper shear.

Link
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2106. thunder01
4:54 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
00z control run of GFS has hurricane off of East Coast...
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2105. moonlightcowboy
4:51 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Have a good sleep, Keeper!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29596
2104. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
4:47 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
later all got to sleep atlantic appears to be asleep so i check tomorrow g night all
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2103. KoritheMan
11:41 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
LOL!
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2102. hcubed
11:38 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
"Posted By: TropicalMan07 at 8:42 PM CDT on July 25, 2007.

- and to answer that persons question i use bold on all of my post's because then i dont feel like im being ignored."


I'm sorry, did someone just say something?


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2101. KoritheMan
11:34 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
Agreed. Also Florence did some minor damage to Bermuda. Nothing like Fabian though.

I enjoyed watching Jim Cantore's coverage of Hurricane Florence in 2006, actually. I always do like his coverage. Florence was actually pretty impressive (at least to me) bringing 100 mph wind gusts to western Bermuda even though it was only a Category 1.
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2099. moonlightcowboy
4:32 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Never mind...latest sfc map apparently updated. We DO have a New wave just sw of the CV islands. Wasn't on the sfc map a lil earlier, I know...am I getting cross-eyed again? lol
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29596
2097. KoritheMan
11:31 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
Nice link, tropicalman... To an error! >_>

Even if Gordon didn't make landfall, it came close enough that the Azores were greatly effected by it, and Europe for that matter. Not enough to merit extreme damage or retirement, but nonetheless, still a potent storm.
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2091. moonlightcowboy
4:29 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Wow, Keeper...does that make you a Viking? lol, jfk!

Glad you watch the blog like you do. Like your posts!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29596

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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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