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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1941. IKE
9:32 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: MrNiceville at 9:27 PM CDT on July 25, 2007.
I just reviewed the last frame of the four spectra. I'm not inclined to say that it's going to amount to anything - 20kts to 30kts shear right now should supress any development. Otherwise - all other factors are there.


Looks like the high down on the Yucatan is centering further north each updated CIMSS shear map...the 30 knot shear is shrinking in size in the northern GOM. Still plenty of 20 knot shear out into the GOM...maybe that shear will let up as the high moves north.
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1940. Tazmanian
7:32 PM PDT on July 25, 2007
yes there is a Ignored List if there some one on this blog you dont like then this put them on your Ignored List

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1939. MrNiceville
2:32 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Ike! Tell me that I haven't dissapeared from your screen! Oh, the humanity....
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1938. IKE
9:27 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: texascanecaster1 at 9:25 PM CDT on July 25, 2007.
i don't quite get your answer taz. Does that mean that if i click the minus sign next to soembodys comment that means that nobody on this blog can see that comment anymore? Also if that isn't the ignore button what is?


No...if you click the minus sign...I think their rating goes down in the filter...like I posted earlier, I've got mine on show below average, which puts a few that have been minused so many times, hidden from me.

There isn't an ignore button. The filter works to ignore certain SN's based on their rating.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
1937. philliesrock
10:27 PM EDT on July 25, 2007
It actually has a chance at 98L, but only 30% according to me. Shear will prevent it from developing.
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1935. MrNiceville
2:21 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
I just reviewed the last frame of the four spectra. I'm not inclined to say that it's going to amount to anything - 20kts to 30kts shear right now should supress any development. Otherwise - all other factors are there.

Concerns are that:

1. The shear is forecast to decrease in the general vicinity over the next 72 hours.
2. The SSTs are above threshold.
3. Ample moisture in the atmosphere at all levels.
4. The third "blob" in as many nights is exiting into the BoC in the same general vicinity as the others and in an area of low shear (5 - 10 kts).

Comments from those who actually know somehting about Wx?
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1934. CaicosRetiredSailor
10:21 PM EDT on July 25, 2007
When it hits 2,000 comments, someone please turn out the lights.
Goodnight
CRS
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1933. texascanecaster1
2:23 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
i don't quite get your answer taz. Does that mean that if i click the minus sign next to soembodys comment that means that nobody on this blog can see that comment anymore? Also if that isn't the ignore button what is?
1932. Alec
10:09 PM EDT on July 25, 2007
there is really nothing out there that has potential to develop anytime soon. There isnt much to talk about except extremely weak tropical waves and a sheared system in the BOC. Perhaps the next tropical wave coming off Africa will not go "poof"

Basically what we have now.......I agree...
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1931. IKE
9:22 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
It's an IR loop...so maybe I'm not seeing something a visible would show....yeah the shear is around 20 knots.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
1930. MrNiceville
2:18 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Ike - looks like it's getting sheared, but not headed NW, wait - going back to look again...
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1929. IKE
9:20 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
I've got my filter on "show below average"...that eliminates a few on here tonight.
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1928. Tazmanian
7:14 PM PDT on July 25, 2007
evere one thats why you have the Ignored List start uesing it if you see some one on this blog you dont like
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1927. texascanecaster1
2:17 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
cool storm w. yove got mail but have a good sleep and don't worry about replying till tommorrow ok!
1926. IKE
9:17 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
Sometimes SK does have a short fuse with certain folks on here....

Reading this blog tonight, he's not alone....
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1925. MrNiceville
2:13 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
My gosh - what did eye say/do to rate "troll"? That's a pretty severe label to lay on someone...

BTW - hi folks - just checking in...
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1924. CosmicEvents
2:12 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Posted By: eye at 2:07 AM GMT on July 26, 2007.

Fortunately, there is really nothing out there that has potential to develop anytime soon. There isnt much to talk about except extremely weak tropical waves and a sheared system in the BOC. Perhaps the next tropical wave coming off Africa will not go "poof"
.
.
Ditto.
Of course, we have the peak of the season ahead of us, so those looking for action, which COULD lead to death and destruction, still have plenty to look forward to.
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1923. sporteguy03
2:14 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
TCC,
Its the way Stormkat talks to certain people though, such as Patrap, JPHurricane2006, thats why he gets ragged on, hes been ok to me but not to everyone.
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1922. moonlightcowboy
2:11 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Posted By: KoritheMan at 2:10 AM GMT on July 26, 2007.
He says they cover up important parts of the science to make it and to make storms be what they want them to be and this is why the nhc is wrong sometimes.

Well, the NHC is wrong even if that isn't true. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Even the NHC. The NHC is more conservative than most of us here are.


...lol, Kori-you think? Seriously, I think these guys give it 110 percent to get it right. Sure, they sometimes make mistakes; but, hey this is what they do and they know what's at stake! They do a great job!

Kori, I certainly enjoy your posts, too!

Have a good sleep, StormW!
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1921. IKE
9:14 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
If that disturbed weather in the western GOM is moving NW I must be blind.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
1919. texascanecaster1
2:11 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
ok guys thanks for the input on sk comment. I still think sometimes what he says is worth hearing and however ridiculous it sometimes may be freedom of speech never hurt anyone. So if you don;t liek what he says you can say you disagree with him but no raggin on im please. Thank you. also eye if you post one more bad comment i will have you banned.
1918. sonofagunn
2:09 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
My internet advice for the day:

When a random internet stranger emails you about a government conspiracy, ignore him.

If he has knowledge and proof of any wrongdoing, he has a civic duty to make that knowledge public. There are plenty of media sources that would jump all over a chance to expose a government coverup at the NHC.
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1917. KoritheMan
9:10 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
We get it for the tenth time eye, you don't think anything will develop soon. Then why are you here posting the same thing over and over again?

That's because he is a troll. That alone proves it. He is posting material irrelevant to the discussion of development, when the NHC clearly states what is to be concerned with in their TWO. Their Tropical Weather Outlook says it won't develop due to shear, but when they say that, they usually mention the possibility of slow development a day later.
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1916. weatherboykris
2:09 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
TCC...the NHC does their best.When it comes to forecasting...they do not alter anything from what the forecasters truly believe.
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1915. KoritheMan
9:08 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
He says they cover up important parts of the science to make it and to make storms be what they want them to be and this is why the nhc is wrong sometimes.

Well, the NHC is wrong even if that isn't true. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Even the NHC. The NHC is more conservative than most of us here are.
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1914. RL3AO
9:08 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
We get it for the tenth time eye, you don't think anything will develop soon. Then why are you here posting the same thing over and over again?
1912. texascanecaster1
2:08 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
no drak i mean from the person who presses th button or everyone on the blog?
1911. KoritheMan
9:06 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
TCC....If they were in a hype mood,they woulda named 96L,IMO....

Actually, 96L was probably a TD, it just wasn't classified, and we see why now. The NHC saw what others didn't.
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1910. texascanecaster1
2:04 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
korithe he is saying that the government influences the nhcs forecasts and therfore they are not accurate. He says they cover up important parts of the science to make it and to make storms be what they want them to be and this is why the nhc is wrong sometimes. I do not know for sure but i beilev that the government may have at some point in time covered up one little minor unimportant fact and that is what he is talking about but that they would never do it again or on something or some scale like what he says. Can you give me your thoguhts on this? not just you korithe all of you guys.
1909. eye
2:04 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
unfortunately, there is really nothing out there that has potential to develop anytime soon. There isnt much to talk about except extremely weak tropical waves and a sheared system in the BOC. Perhaps the next tropical wave coming off Africa will not go "poof"
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1908. weathermanwannabe
10:04 PM EDT on July 25, 2007
Was turning off everything (had signed out from here) and just had to mention the "eye" looking feature on the latest GOM rainbow loop of the blob....Know there's nothing there but kind of wierd/cool looking.....
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1907. weatherboykris
2:03 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
TCC....If they were in a hype mood,they woulda named 96L,IMO....
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1905. bellestarr
9:00 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
Thank you everyone...kept thinking I should know what TWO stood for...guess I should have looked at the tropical weather outlook! lol
What is stormkat's occupation?
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1904. KoritheMan
9:04 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
They HAVE covered up stuff before but never anything weather related... so far as we know.

I doubt the NHC would hide weather-related stuff. People's lives are saved with the help of God and the NHC.
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1903. Drakoen
2:04 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Posted By: texascanecaster1 at 2:04 AM GMT on July 26, 2007.

drak when you hit the i dislike this handles comment bottom does it hide it from you or everybody?


It hides it from me...
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1902. texascanecaster1
2:03 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
drak when you hit the i dislike this handles comment bottom does it hide it from you or everybody?
1901. sonofagunn
2:02 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
eye, please let us all know what areas of the Gulf and Atlantic we're allowed to discuss.

Thanks in advance!
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1900. KoritheMan
9:01 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
watch the NHC carefully this year you will see the hype they are going to put on this season....if you would like to know how i know all of this is because i work for the feds...i know what goes on what they hide from the people everyday...

Again, he acts psychic. Even working for people like that, there is no way he knows what the NHC is going to say and when they are going to say it. No offense to stormkat, but he needs to stop acting like God, and realize God Himself can bring judgment upon those who think that they ARE God.

If he doesn't think that, sorry for saying it, but it's pretty obvious to me that he does. No way he can know what the NHC is going to say and when they are going to say it, unless it's like a TWO or something.
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1898. weatherguy03
10:02 PM EDT on July 25, 2007
BTW StormW. Your analysis is always top notch. Thanks again.
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1897. texascanecaster1
2:01 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
... any comments on this? Does anybody see any truth to what he said please everbody on here share your thoguhts cause what he said about the goverrnment worried me. They HAVE covered up stuff before but never anything weather related... so far as we know.
1896. Drakoen
2:02 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
good thing there is an ignore button.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30694
1894. weatherguy03
10:01 PM EDT on July 25, 2007
When we get something going I will drop by here alittle more, right now its alittle crazy. You can always catch me in my blog StormW. Have a good night.
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1893. eye
2:01 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Drak, here is my prediction with the wave you are looking at, this time Thursday it will be extremely scattered thunderstorms and into the ITCZ.
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1892. texascanecaster1
1:59 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
ok this is why stormkat has said all those things over the years he has been on here. this is why he thinks about tropical weather the way he does:
this was the thing he said to me:
stormkat said:

watch the NHC carefully this year you will see the hype they are going to put on this season....if you would like to know how i know all of this is because i work for the feds...i know what goes on what they hide from the people everyday...

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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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