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An overestimated hurricane

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 1:18 PM GMT on January 31, 2006

Back in December, I speculated that five or six hurricanes from 2005 would get their names retired, easily besting the record of four set in 2004. Certainly, Katrina, Dennis, Emily, Wilma, and Stan will have their names retired, but what about Ophelia? The December preliminary report on Ophelia put her damage at $1.6 billion, perhaps high enough to get her name retired. Well, the National Hurricane Center has released its final report for Hurricane Ophelia, which brushed North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane on September 14-15, 2005. It turns out that damage estimates and the estimated height of the storm surge were both considerably overestimated at the time of the storm. The Insurance Information Institute put out a preliminary estimate of $800 million in insured damage for Ophelia, which translated into a total damage estimate of $1.6 billion, based on the rough rule of thumb that total damage is double the insured damage. However, the final damage reports for Ophelia only added up to $35 million in insured damage ($70 million total damage), making it very unlikely that Ophelia will get her name retired. The $1.6 billion damage estimate was based on a model used by the insurance company. Considering that the model was off by a factor of over 20, I think we can take future preliminary damage estimates from hurricanes with a healthy dose of scepticism!

Initial storm surge heights were also considerably off, which likely let to a good part of the error in the damage estimates. If you go back to my blog from September 15, 2005, I reported: "storm surge values ranged as high as 10 - 12 feet in some of the smaller creeks in the Neuse River near New Bern, a remarkably high storm surge for what was a tropical storm for that area." This information was based on Local Hurricane Statements released by the National Weather Service at the time of the storm. I prepared a map(Fig. 1) showing the estimated storm surge from these Local Hurricane Statements. However, the NHC official storm report lists maximum storm surge height of only 4-6 feet, about half of what was reported at the time of the storm. Again, we need to be sceptical of preliminary data from hurricane landfalls.


Figure 1. Storm Surge heights measured in Ophelia.

Jeff Masters

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

first, the tunnels aloowed this to happen
For those who missed it, F5 has now started to debate whether there's problem with the ozone layer. See the last posts in yesterday's blog for all the gory details.
Err no offense new topic people.

As far as the topic itself:

I agree with the good Dr. that after a major event (yes a hurricane is a major event reguardless of how powerful or if it hits a major city or a spare patch of land). The first round of data is going to have a high rate of bias and errors and should not be taken as fact until their has been a couple rounds of detail analysis of the event.

No matter what IMHO the Hurricane season of 2005 will stand out as one of those "what where you doing when it happened" events of my just almost 3.5 decades of living.
How about we argue if the world is flat?

Link

and the science behind it

Link
Wow, very interesting. I agree Dr. M.
Cregnebaa,

The world is flat and anyplace past 100 miles off the US coast lies the place labeled "Here be Monsters". I should know I kill some with my vorpal sword and a couple of crits on the ole d20 (LOL).

Seriously how about we debate would butter toast fall butter side up if the toast was tied to a cat ie:

\/ \/
---( CAT )>
________
|Toast|
--------
Butter

LOL darkwood
My point is people will believe anything and can find information to back what they belive if they look hard enough.
The information we use to aid in our thoughts are all subject to assumptions we may not know about ie I know the earth is not flat, but only because of others research and information.
Hence many people in the US do not believe in human induced global warming, yet the majority of other developed countries do and are willing to commit to reduce green house gases.
Would they really do this if, as chaser states, there is no evidence. Why would they hurt their economies, just because to make the Us look bad? come on.
Note that I also realise my thinking is the product of the UK media, which has been telling us for years green house gases cause global warming.
Oh and tried the butter thing with my cat and strangely the toast lands butter side up?
Cregnebaa,

OIC, point well taken. And with the internet you now have access to a dozen sources that probably support your point.

As far as global warming, I made a ramabling post about that in the prior blog entry (been sick the last couple of days so my grasp on reality is a little looser than usual. Side note, not for the faint of heart my personal get better quicker thing is what I call Voodoo tea:

quart of Tea (cheaper the better)
1/4 shot of strong liquor (my personal choice is everclear)
1 bag of Thera-Flu
1/4 shot of NyQuil
sugar to taste

In short what doesn't kill you will make you stronger, and stuff is not to be drank when you need to operate machiney.

Scary thing is I am writing code while drinking it (LOL))

Sorry I ramable, bottom line is global warming via humankind vs nature may or may not be happening but something is going on with the climate and needs to be studied and if needed preventative measures put in place.

BTW check your mail?
Thanks Dr.M..I need to keep this post around so I can review it with people after the first hurricane goes by..LOL..
I agree I think we should have more numbers in before we say if it should be retired or not.
Dr Masters
Does this mean that the overall estimates for Katrina,
will be considerably less then first reported???
whitewabit,

Reguardless of pork projects that will spring up around the Katrina issue like weeds. I think 200 billion is about right, a major US city/port is destoryed or will not be ready for full use for the near future (ie I fiqure 3 - 5 years before NOLA is anywhere near where it was as a city, and yes I will say what everyone dances around, the flavor of NOLA is gone forever. Their are many people that do not have the means, will not expose themselves to that risk or will refuse to come back).

NOLA is a big chunk however you have to remenber with Katrina over 400 miles of coastland was altered, serveral small towns have been wiped off the map. The real scary part is Katrina didn't even hit at full strenght. If she did NOLA would have been a US Alantis.
13. F5
No Snowboy, you have once again distorted what I said in another lame attempt to simply bash me.

The study I posted the link to purported that natural releases of bromide into the atmosphere may be the cause of the annual holes that appear over the N and S poles. That doesn't mean there isn't a problem, only that it may not be a manmade problem. In addition, the ozone hole only occurs in the upper levels of the stratosphere, where there isn't much ozone to begin with. Interestingly enough, although levels of chlorine in the upper atmosphere have not yet peaked, the ozone level in the same layer is not being destroyed nearly as fast as it was previously, indicating that there may be questions as to whether banning CFC's will really resolve the problem.

In the lower stratosphere, where 80% of the ozone resides, the destruction there may be anthropogenic and may not. There are a number of sources Link that can contribute to ozone destruction, of which CFC's may not have played a large role.

However, feel free to simply ridicule what I say. It appears to be the only thing you are really capable of. People are free to agree with or rebutt my comments. Again, that's what discussion is all about. You don't seem capable of doing that. All you can do is attempt to belittle me. Sad for you really. It's no wonder no progress can be made on any issues. Any possibilities that don't agree with what you think are simply dismissed out of hand and you attack the person instead of the idea.
14. Inyo
So f5, do you think the ozone hole was always there? If so, perhaps there is a way to prove this fact. Does snow retain evidence of UV rays? If you could somehow core antarctic ice and determine the amount of UV rays over time you could determine if the hole was there before us (and thereby not caused by CFCs)
Cregnebaa wrote:

"Hence many people in the US do not believe in human induced global warming, yet the majority of other developed countries do and are willing to commit to reduce green house gases.
Would they really do this if, as chaser states, there is no evidence. Why would they hurt their economies, just because to make the Us look bad? come on."

Hey...billions of people believe in a God for which there is even less evidence than for global warming...
Hey...billions of people believe in a God for which there is even less evidence than for global warming...

Oooohh, now you've stepped in it.
Hey Cregnebaa, I wonder if those flat-Earth links are accessible if you're using a satellite Internet connection? :-)
you jewish steve?
Hey, Tampa unless you are going to start a new blog this is really not the place to start that sort of discussion. We just got out of a huge fight about global warming and tunnels and I really do not have to filter through another one. I think it should be a rule on here that if you want to talk about something contraversial on here, you should do it on your own blog. (unless Dr. Masters brought it up first in his blog that is)
That was my temper tantrum for the day. I now have a blog partially inspired by the global warming debate.
you jewish steve?

Very un called for as well!!

Yes KS I totally agree with you!!.But once hurricane season begins again, I think everything will get back to "normal"..LOL..Let's hope!!
hey F5, if I'm coming across as attacking you personally then please accept my apologies. I'm aiming at the "facts" and issues, and if my aim has been off and you're feeling personally attacked then that was not my intention. Sorry.

I agree with others here that we should try to keep discussion on issues raised by Dr. Masters (as opposed to ozone holes, tunnels, God, politics or what have you), and am aware that I have at times trangressed myself. Again sorry.

F5, if you'd like to continue the ozone discussion, let's do that on your blog if you're game. I appreciate your tenaciousness and admire your conviction, and have been forced to read up and have learned new things through our back and forth. I still think you're off the mark on the ozone issue, but I respect your right to your opinion.
Steve

I agree with your point to a certain extent, but would you be happy if the majority of leaders from development countries decided to sign an agreement stopping all state spending as god can look after everyone.
It would not happen, my point is the likes of Tony Blair must have info we have not seen or considered to have signed the kyoto, they are their advisors are not stupid.
I'll agree to keep things on topic of the blog too, sorry.

May be overestimates of the damage the storm can do is used to make people take it more seriously and evacuate if need be.
There was an awful lot of uncertainty in the damage figure for Ophelia anyway...and the 2-to-1 estimate for total damage may be a difficult one to use here, as the bulk of the damage was done to beach houses that are sometimes tough to get insured. I'd say the real damage is in nine figures, but certainly not $1.6 billion.

Still, even if that was the real figure, retirement would not be certain. Now, it is very likely that Ophelia will be back in 2011.
Also among the names of storms likely to be retired that you mentioned, you forgot Rita.
My estimated chance of each named storm (not counting Greek letters, which are essentially all being retired) being retired:

Arlene - 2%, Bret - 2%, Cindy - 5%, Dennis - 95%, Emily - 90%, Franklin - 1%, Gert - 2%, Harvey - 1%, Irene - 1%, Jose - 5%, Katrina - 99%, Lee - 1%, Maria - 5%, Nate - 1%, Ophelia - 15%, Philippe - 1%, Rita - 95%, Stan - 85%, Tammy - 3%, Vince - 5%, Wilma - 99%.
what about the B storm # 2? what are thr ch on that one i think it made land fall in mx as cat 2 or cat 3 any one?
Retired name or not, Ophelia was one of the most interesting hurricanes I've ever seen. It sat in one place for a very long time, and maintained just enough intensity to be worrisome, but not enough to stir up the cold water and quench itself. I'm sure there are several Ph.D. theses in meteorology to be had from it.
Bret only managed 40mph max as a tropical storm
jcasey I agree that Ophelia was an interesting storm - the last season had SO many unique storms that we could keep armies of PhD students busy on them...

I never bought that inflated damage estimate - just didn't seem there was enough happening to justify it.
32. F5
Fair enough snowboy. I don't mind it if people attack the positions I've taken. That's what a debate is all about. Without debate, how can we ever expand our knowledge of the world around us. On the ozone issue, I hold no illusion that I am 100% correct. I could be partially correct, or completely off-base. My point was more to demonstrate that there are alternative theories, based on research and/or critique of research, for ozone depletion as well as global warming. They should not be dismissed out of hand, nor simply blamed on crackpots, right-wing (or left-wing) idealists, industry hacks, etc, just because they disagree with the position you (or I) have taken. We can debate the merits of said research (and/or critique of research), articles, posts, etc., without attacking each other.

I do agree with the others though, that Dr. Masters blog is probably not the best place, unless it is related to the topic he has posted. Yesterday I felt was appropriate, given the subject of his entry. It is a little difficult to separate, since the majority of his blog entries relate to hurricanes, and we have a great deal of uncertainty regarding the current global warming trend and its effect on hurricanes. So, in one sense they are related. However, we should probably differentiate between for example anthropogenic global warming vs natural climate variability debates and global warming as it may or may not affect hurricanes.
tunnels could prevent the erroneous preliminary reports. ;-)
this is in ca i do not think that is right or is it


27.14 in / 919.0 hPa
After this i'll be heading back to todays blog topic, but since this was wrote by Dr Jeff Masters~ & well hey F5, it's been fun, ~Sceptics vs. the ozone hole. I wonder if his blog inspired him on the topic.
B storm #2 (Beta) briefly reached cat. 3 but weakened to cat. 2 before making landfall (in Nicaragua not Mexico), was very small, & didn't do much damage so it is unlikely its name would have been retired.
37. F5
LOL skyepony,

I did read that from Dr. Masters, but that wasn't the basis of the origin of the discussion. I think it's quite clear what Dr. Master's position on the subject is. I do find it quite amusing though, that instead of attacking the position of the "skeptics", he attacked them instead, using all the usual methods...they aren't qualified, they are supported by industry, they are conservative hacks, etc. Talk about trying to discredit...geez. If the criticism of research is based on bad science, then use that to support your position. However, to make a claim just because someone is not considered a "top climate scientist who publishes in peer-reviewed journals" sounds high and mighty, but in reality it means diddly squat. It's just a lame personal attack.

Anyway, I have enjoyed the debates, and we'll just have to move them to somewhere more appropriate. I've spent too much time on here the past couple of days, but I think I'll try to get my blog updated with some thoughts later this week.
In fact F5, whether or not a scientist publishes in peer-reviewed journals is a key part of separating the wheat from the chaff (ie. the crackpots and hacks, from the good scientists) on any given issue.

It is not a personal attack to ask if a "scientist" making statements on an issue has published articles in a peer-reviewed journal on the issue. It is a straightforward way of trying to determine the extent of their credibility on the issue.

I am a scientist, and have published articles in peer-reviewed journals. On the issues which I covered there (water contamination issues), I am considered an expert by virtue of having submitted my ideas to the scrutiny and challenge of my peers. On other issues (eg. global warming, air pollution or the ozone hole) I may be knowledgeable/informed/interested but for sure not an expert.

This is not to say that you can't be an expert without publishing, but it is the most common method of quickly assessing the credentials of a scientist. To say it means "diddly squat" is first of all disrespectful to the profession and more importantly off the mark. I would recommend looking more closely at the backgrounds of your sources F5, it can't hurt.

By the way, I hadn't seen Dr. Masters' ozone article (thanks skyepony!), which was quite informative. Still can't believe F5 that you're skeptical on this issue - it is perhaps THE issue on which the world scientific and political community came to rapid consensus on the need for action, and actually did what needs doing.
I just wanted to add this

In Minneapolis, January 2006 was the warmest January ever recorded (and guessed to be the warmest since 1843)

The Average temp for January 2006 was 28.6 degrees.

That is 15.4 degrees above normal
29.06 in / 984.0 hPa
29.03 in / 983.0 hPa
17.72 in / 600.0 hPa
29.80 in / 1009.0 hPa
28.50 in / 965.0 hPa
26.90 in / 910.8 hPa

ok now some in is not right her and dos any one see a 17.72in that is 600mb what in the hell is going on her and that is from ca
what's your source~ not seeing that here (scroll domn to pressure)
Well I was not going to say anything because I have been busy reading all of this junk that is on here, but here it is...
I know we don't have much to say because there are no storms to track but just wait Hurricane season will start in about 4 months and then buy July we will have had 2 maybe 3 by then and all of us will be saying where will the next one hit... Everybody be paitent they will come and anyone on the Gulf Coast and East Coast just be ready... It may or may not be as bad as last year but they are going to come... :-)

Hey Everybody I did not mean to stop the Blog you all can start bloging again... :-)

and as for myself I can't type that well because I should have said "by the end of July" not buy July.... Sorry for the type-o :-) :0)
hey Taco they (hurricanes) will come for sure, though I hope not in the numbers or intensity we saw this year... and once they do this will be a blog transformed - on-topic and humming... at least half the people who are here for hurricane season are not on now, taking a well-deserved break
Snowboy
Yes this is true because I am one of them but I do check in from time to time just to see what was being said during off season... All I can say is WOW but it has been for some good reading late at night LOL :-)
sure has, anyway I'm off for now will be back in later... ciao
Snow
Me too I will chat with all L8R

Play nice everybody... :0)
Incredibly tenacious cyclone in the Indian - it hit Madagascar and dissipated, and has now regenerated near Africa and is going back to schmak the lemurs again.
49. Inyo
Katrinarita, that is probably just an erroneous reading, maybe a dust devil came and sucked on the barometer or something :)

and to whoever said earlier that california was having anomalous weather.. we aren't. It is dry in southern california now and wet in northern california. this isn't unusual though. LA has already had more rain than its driest year on record and the rainy season is barely half over. According to one old timer i talked to (who judging by a conversation i heard was also not a believer in human-caused warming) the winter weather has been warmer than average in the sierras, but also snowier than average. That in and of itself is consistent with climate warming. But as for precipitation trends, the state's climate is already so extreme and widely fluxuatitive (is that a word?) that it will take a lot more than a few storms to prove anything.
Finally a commitment to Electric and Hydrogen vehicles
Progressive, you're sounding pretty inscrutable there - could you please elaborate?
52. F5
Snowboy,

My point is not to denigrate those who have articles that have been peer-reviewed. However, just because you have published peer reviewed articles does not make you infallable or beyond reproach, any more than not being peer reviewed makes you a simple hack or crackpot.

Here are some links to articles that describe some if the problems with peer-review.

Link

Link

This link is a great read on the global warming debate and and example of where an article was submitted to Science but was rejected without even being reviewed, yet was reviewed twice and published in another magazine.

Link

So, when I say it means diddly-squat, to non-scientists, it doesn't really mean anything at all, whether you are peer reviewed or not, because of the issues outlined in some of these articles. For a scientist, it likely means more internally, but doesn't make one infallible or above reproach. That's my point.
State of the Union Address Snowboy, President dedicated funds to research to Electric and Hydrogen Vehicles. Said that we need to make this a non-petroleum country.
wOOt
Wow pulse i just watched it too......\I AM BLOWN AWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
switching to ethanol short term, reducing oil dependence by 75% by 2025
I think this is right direction for sure!!!!!!!!!!!!
I think I am starting to like the little cowboy LOL
BTW.......
WOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
& I gotta say..........
THAT MAKES ME PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!!!!!!
GOD BLESS THE U.S.A.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am not exited about the timelines just happy that there has been a physical goal set and seems there will be a constant focus on making this happen.
A commitment to change.
Thats what I am saying!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Real focus on the alternative energys to get away from the oil!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This WILL make the world better!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
HERE HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I always thought the second leg of a presidents term is his best. It shows his true colors, he is not fighting for a second term, just for us.
Third term I should say, sorry!
Wow I feel like I hit the lotteryLOL This is a good point in our history to remember. This day will change our beautiful planet into a better place. With a much CLEANER America!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
WOW.....PROUD, PROUD,PROUD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Its a great idea but it hasn't been put into place yet. Nothing has been started. We have to see if people are willing to do it. And if the President will follow through with it. If he does it will be amazing for the US and the world, but nothing has been done yet.
F5, I hear you but I see it differently.

For sure the scientific publishing and peer review process is not perfect, and I agree with your point that just because you have published peer reviewed articles does not make you infallable or beyond reproach, any more than not being peer reviewed makes you a simple hack or crackpot.

Nonetheless, a good starting point to assessing the merits of a scientific idea or theory (eg. something you find on the web when you google "ozone depletion" or "global warming") and the credibility of one who is advancing that idea/theory is to look at where they're coming from. If they haven't published in the field that they're expounding on, then they generally can not and should not be considered as reliable and authoritative a source of information as someone who has. That's all.

There are a lot of people churning out propaganda disguised as science in left wing, right wing, or other think tanks (or in the employ of vested interests) who get taken a lot more seriously than they should simply because they post the stuff on the internet.

We can all choose which scientific sources to consider when forming our opinions on an issue, and I'm advocating that if we want to be taken seriously ourselves then their credibility should be something we use to screen our sources.
wow folks, sounds like the State of the Union address was worth watching and I sure hope that it does mark a change in direction for your great country...
The Greek letters are expected to be dropped in favor of a backup name list (using human names)...so they are essentially all being retired.
Yeah...Bush said some good stuff last night!

Bottom line is, we need a lot more nuclear power plants so we can support an infrastructure for hydrogen and electric vehicles, both of which require electricity. With nukes, we can generate gobs of power without burning a drop of fossil fuel or generating one whiff of greenhouse gasses.
In reguards to minneapolis having the warmest january ever, yes it has been a quite warm and slushy month. Several counties had to ban vechicles from lakes, the ice sculptures in the St Paul winter festival were melting the day they were being made ( it was 45 degress last week on one day), and only a few inches of snow fell. this of course affects the pride of minnesotans being a hardy bunch of people who rough it through winter. So, even though outsiders would think we would behappy for this "warm" average january of 28.6 degrees, it provides us with a sense of worry.
Ten years ago this morning the coldest temperature in minnestoa was recorded in the town of tower, minus 60. In the twin cities it got down to minus 32. This year, there haven been no subzero nights yet (although there were a string of them in dec 2005). It looks as though as always, nature will TRY to even things out by bringing us a pretty damn cold febuary. Some predictions are single digit highs by midmonth. As one who sees the real possibility of global warmings existance, I hope mother nature does even things out. Climate change is all to real here.