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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1890. IKE
8:58 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: texascanecaster1 at 8:56 PM CDT on July 25, 2007.
wrong ike he is 50.


I was close!
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1889. eye
1:58 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
if you can tell me why it will turn into a TD or TS I will tell you why it will not....deal?
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1888. Drakoen
1:58 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
ok eye whatever. I really can't take the senseless arguement and discussion in the blog.
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1887. RL3AO
8:59 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
1030 PM EDT WED JUL 25 2007

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

CLOUDINESS AND SHOWERS PERSIST IN THE WESTERN GULF OF MEXICO IN
ASSOCIATION WITH A WEAK TROUGH OF LOW PRESSURE. THIS SYSTEM IS
EXPECTED TO MOVE GENERALLY NORTHWESTWARD OVER THE NEXT DAY OR
SO...WITH LITTLE DEVELOPMENT EXPECTED DUE TO UNFAVORABLE
UPPER-LEVEL WINDS.
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1884. weatherguy03
9:56 PM EDT on July 25, 2007
Those are Invests they are a dime a dozen!! Hey Alec, I am gonna charge you for using my material!!..LOL

StormW. I stay away from here some nights! It can get alittle crazy!!
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1883. eye
1:57 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
but Drak, it wasnt labeled that so it wasnt. It was a naked swirl most of its life.
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1882. RL3AO
8:56 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
TWO = Tropical Weather Outlook, a 6-hour update put out by the NHC.
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1880. KoritheMan
8:55 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
i asked stormkat some questions throguhwu mail and if you like i can post the answers. There is one thing he said.... that has soem truth behind it and conerns me. Do you guys want to hear it?

No offense, but stormkat acts psychic.

eye, still waiting for you to tell me why you think future waves will dissipate.
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1879. Drakoen
1:56 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
lol bellestarr that why we have the ignore button.
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1876. eye
1:55 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
i am not being a troll, stating facts, dont get mad because I am against making a mountain out of a mole hill.....there is really nothing out there at this time that shows any organization(no mater how much wishcasting or staring at a loop until you see some lil swirl)
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1874. bellestarr
8:49 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
What does "TWO" mean?

EYE, you are irritating and I'm not easily irritated...
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1873. Drakoen
1:54 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Posted By: eye at 1:52 AM GMT on July 26, 2007.

and what happened to 97L...choked and sheared, wasnt even a TD


Actually at its best 97L could have been a TD.
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1872. KoritheMan
8:53 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
and what happened to 97L...choked and sheared, wasnt even a TD

Oh brother, troll... I wonder why? It was early July; not much different from June. Duh... It's obvious. You can throw up in my face that waves haven't developed thus far, and I'll tell you some honest answers using real data, rather than using words to troll to try and prove my point.
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1871. eye
1:53 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
an invest is hardly anything, that doesnt support your arguement, it is just a area of persistant thunderstorms, that is all.....I dont see TD's or TS's or hurricanes just popping up all of a sudden(maybe once in awhile but it is rare)
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1870. IKE
8:54 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
Posted By: texascanecaster1 at 8:52 PM CDT on July 25, 2007.
i reapeat. How many of you guys know how old stormkat is and what his job is.


I think he's in his 40's and he use to be a policeman.
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1869. guygee
1:48 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Wow, this blog sure moves too fast sometimes. I don't like it when people leave with hard feelings.

I hope the GOM disturbance ends up gently in AL or somewhere where they need the rain.

On the CATL wave, I noticed it sure has a huge high to the west running guard for it right now.

Time for the gamer shift to come in, so goodnight all.
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1867. Buhdog
1:49 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
son of a gun......nice post. I agree...blob watchin can be fun. It is the process of blob to TD that I find the most interesting as there are so many possibilities. when something happens when nothing should is what I find the most fascinating.
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1866. Tazmanian
6:52 PM PDT on July 25, 2007
and noted the baning on it looking so far
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114914
1864. KoritheMan
8:52 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
Taz, how many nice waves have gone "poof"(every one of them so far)

Give me a good reason why you think the future ones will do the same thing. Until you can, your opinions mean nothing to me, no offense of course, but they don't.
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1862. KoritheMan
8:51 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
I am not saying that they developed, I'm just stating how fast TWO's can change. And they are from the NHC, no doubt...
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1861. eye
1:51 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
and what happened to 97L...choked and sheared, wasnt even a TD
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1860. Alec
9:51 PM EDT on July 25, 2007
pardon me bob, but let me post an earlier post, which explains this situation:

Posted By: weatherguy03 at 8:56 PM EDT on July 25, 2007.

It also looks good because it is right under an Upper Level Ridge now. You can see the winds moving rapidly from west to east to the North of the system. This is where 20 to 30 kt shear is, due to Upper Trough over Texas.
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1857. KoritheMan
8:49 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
guys how many of you know how old stormkat is and what his occupation is?

I don't know that information, and don't care to. Stormkat isn't all he puts himself out to be. Trying to say this in a nice way, btw. He really doesn't know everything like he says. It's easy to say the tropics will be quiet until August, because that's normal; it doesn't prove he has knowledge about when a storm will form.
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1856. eye
1:50 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Taz, how many nice waves have gone "poof"(every one of them so far)
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1855. Drakoen
1:50 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Taz they always look like that on land then die out...
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1854. weatherguy03
9:50 PM EDT on July 25, 2007
Ummm, 96L and 97L didn't develop. Unless I missed something.
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1853. Tazmanian
6:47 PM PDT on July 25, 2007
take a look at this nic wave about to come off in a day or so


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1852. KoritheMan
8:47 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
well, trust the NHC which says no development through Sat, which means..NOTHING IS OUT THERE THAT HAS POTENTIAL AT THIS TIME AND FOR THE FORSEEABLE FUTURE

The NHC isn't perfect, you know. They may be the best source for information we have out there, but they are far from perfect. Every single person on this earth makes mistakes, and not just once in a blue moon either. That's going to continue to occur, as well, so get used to it. They said 97L wouldn't develop initially, then they changed it and said it could develop. They did the same on 96L, so there.

Please stop acting like you know everything that is going to unfold in hurricane season, because you don't. It doesn't mean anything just because models predict nothing 5 days out.
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1851. weatherguy03
9:48 PM EDT on July 25, 2007
StormW, you are quick. I thought noone noticed me!!..LOL
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1850. Drakoen
1:47 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
looks like i left at a good time...
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1848. sonofagunn
1:44 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
eye is a troll.

I think most people here would acknowledge that development of the BOC blob is unlikely and the CATL wave still has some work to do before it becomes anything special.

However, this is a tropical weather forum focused primarily on the Atlantic and Gulf and those two things are all we have to talk about.

Furthermore, tropical systems are unpredictable so the unexpected could easily happen.

Further-further-more, even the NHC is talking about the blob in the Gulf, so it's definitely something worth talking about.

Further-further-further-more, if you don't think talking about anything in the tropics is appropriate right now, THEN WHY THE HECK ARE YOU HERE ON S TROPICS FORUM?
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1846. stoormfury
1:43 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
The elongated area of low pressure in the CALT is now contracting into a circle and appears to be getting organised




Link
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1844. weathermanwannabe
9:46 PM EDT on July 25, 2007
Good Night All.......We'll see what the Gomex looks like tommorow...
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1843. guygee
1:46 AM GMT on July 26, 2007
Posted By: sonofagunn at 1:35 AM GMT on July 26, 2007.
Some ships have reported winds with a Westerly component around 27N
I'm seeing
ID T1 TIME LAT LON DIST HDG WDIR
SHIP S 0000 27.20 -91.90 182 48 200

that ship is 182 Nautical miles ENE of of buoy Station 42002, putting the ship at 204 miles ENE of Galveston TX. That is not where we are looking for a west wind related to the West Gulf disturbance. Non-sequitar.

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1842. RL3AO
8:45 PM CDT on July 25, 2007
Then leave until Saturday eye.
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1841. Alec
9:43 PM EDT on July 25, 2007
I guess I should have clarified.....I meant something that actually develops into a TD/S in the short term.......I didnt specify a time period in the future BTW....LOL


Lets all be nice.....=)
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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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