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Increasing hurricane damages

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 9:53 PM GMT on December 05, 2008

A conference called the Hurricane Science for Safety Leadership Forum convened this week in Orlando to look at how we can better prepare for the inevitable hurricanes in our future. The conference brought together an interesting mix of experts--scientists from environmental groups like the National Wildlife Federation, insurance industry representitives, and a representative from the pro-business Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).

There are a number of interesting Powerpoint and video presentations posted on their web site, for those interested. The most eye-opening fact I saw came during a presentation done by Amanda Staudt of the National Wildlife Federation. In her presentation on the policy implication of hurricanes and climate change, she showed that the population of South Florida is projected to grow from a 1990 population of 6.3 million to a 2050 population of 15-30 million people. That's a startling increase in population. Higher and higher hurricane damage tabs are inevitable in coming decades, just from this huge increase in population. She goes further, showing that if the theoretical predictions for global warming by the end of the century come true--a 2-13% increase in hurricane winds due to ocean warming, a 10-31% increase in hurricane rainfall, and an increase in sea level of several feet--there is likely to be a huge increase in hurricane damage, and probably in deaths, as well.

I have a few comments on this. While I believe that hurricane damages will continue to grow primarily because of population increases, higher wealth, and poor land management, the contribution of increased damage due to global warming will start to become significant by the end of the century. The 5% increase in hurricane winds per °C of ocean warming theorized by hurricane researcher Dr. Kerry Emanuel (Emanuel, 2005) may not seem like much, it will make a significant difference in the destructive power of the strongest storms. A Category 4 hurricane does about four times more damage than a Category 3 hurricane, and 250 times more damage than a Category 1 storm (Figure 1). Given the expected increase of tropical sea surface temperatures of 1-2 °C by 2100, hurricane wind speeds should increase by 5-10%. Since the difference in wind speed between a Category 3 and Category 4 hurricane is about 15%, we can anticipate that the strongest hurricanes in 2100 will do 1 1/2 to 3 times more damage than they do now.

This may be an underestimate of the increase in damage, though. Global sea level rose about 0.75 feet last century, and is expected to rise 0.6 - 1.9 feet this century, according to the "official" word on climate, the 2007 report of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). A paper published by Pfeffer et al. in Science this year concluded that the IPCC underestimated sea level rise, and that the "most likely" range of sea level rise by 2100 is 2.6 - 6.6 feet. If true, we can expect greatly increased damage from hurricane storm surges. However, it is possible that there will be fewer hurricanes by the end of the century, thanks to an increase in wind shear over the tropical Atlantic (Vecchi and Soden, 2007).


Figure 1. Potential hurricane damage as a function of Saffir-Simpson category for U.S. hurricanes between 1925-1995. If the median damage from a Category 1 hurricane is normalized to be a "one", then Category 2, 3, and 4 hurricanes were 10, 50, and 250 times more damaging, respectively. Data taken from Pielke, Jr. R. A., and C. W. Landsea, 1998: "Normalized Atlantic hurricane damage 1925-1995" Wea. Forecasting, 13, pp.621-631.

Better building codes
Congressman Bennie Thompson, D-MS, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, helped to kick off the conference with opening remarks that underscored his intention to hold Congressional hearings on developing new building codes in hurricane-prone areas. He was hopeful that President-elect Obama and new incoming head of Homeland Security, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, would work to adopt new, tougher building standards. "Take a look at the homes on the Bolivar Peninsula in Texas that are still standing after the hurricane," Thompson said. "We know how to build stronger homes. Now we just need to do it." Thompson said that while such legislation had been introduced in the past but failed, chances were better under an Obama administration of passage.

I think it is essential that more stringent and comprehensive building codes get adopted in hurricane alley to reduce the inevitable huge price tags from future hurricanes.

References
Emanuel, K. 2005, "Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years", Nature, 436, 4 August 2005, doi:10.1038/nature03906.

Vecchi, G.A., and B.J. Soden, 2007, "Increased tropical Atlantic wind shear in model projections of global warming", Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L08702, doi:10.1029/2006GL028905, 2007.

Jeff Masters

Climate Change

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

checking the surge models looks like the NJ/NY coast will see blowout conditions (up to 2 feet below MLLW)wednesday afternoon and night then surge (.28ft above MAT) thursday afternoon

should be interesting

NOAA Extratropical Surge Model

Nice IKE I live on a rather large lake myself, totally frozen over already so the warming effects are disabled now.

We have been down to single digits recently. Those numbers are from my PWS at my house. Had to call the wifey for them LOL, one of these years I will get the station online LOL
The SPC has upgraded to a "Moderate" threat area:


Photobucket
DAY 1 CONVECTIVE OUTLOOK
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
0656 AM CST TUE DEC 09 2008

VALID 091300Z - 101200Z

...THERE IS A MDT RISK OF SVR TSTMS OVER PARTS OF NRN LA AND SRN AND
CENTRAL MS...

...THERE IS A SLGT RISK OF SVR TSTMS ACROSS PARTS OF THE LOWER MS
VALLEY...

...SYNOPSIS...
MAJOR TROUGH CONTINUES TO EVOLVE OVER CENTRAL U.S. LEAD S/WV HAS
RACED RAPIDLY NEWD FROM SRN PLAINS TO LOWER MO VALLEY OVERNIGHT WITH
STRONG WIND MAX/TROUGH CONTINUING TO DIG SEWD FROM AZ/NM INTO S TX
TONIGHT. THIS WILL MAINTAIN A STRONG SWLY FLOW FROM S TX TO LOWER
MS VALLEY INTO TONIGHT. COLD FRONT WRN MO SWWD TO SWRN TX WILL
CONTINUE SEWD MOVING OFFSHORE TX COAST LATER THIS EVENING.

LOW LEVEL MOISTURE FROM WRN GULF CONTINUES TO INCREASE NWD THRU ERN
TX INTO LOWER MS VALLEY TODAY IN ADVANCE OF THE COLD FRONT. ACTIVE
THUNDERSTORMS INCLUDING SUPERCELLS CONTINUE TO DEVELOP WELL IN
ADVANCE OF THE COLD FRONT IN THE ZONE OF FAVORABLE SHEAR AND
INSTABILITY.

...LOWER MS VALLEY...

BASED ON GREATER INSTABILITY THAN EARLIER EXPECTED A SMALL AREA OF
LA AND MS HAS BEEN UPGRADED TO A MDT RISK.

VERY STRONG SHEAR PROFILES EXPECTED TO REMAIN IN PLACE MUCH OF LOWER
MS VALLEY THRU THE DAY...SUPPORTIVE OF ORGANIZED THUNDERSTORMS
INCLUDING POTENTIAL TORNADIC SUPERCELLS. WARM SECTOR AIR MASS WILL
SPREAD NWD THRU ERN AR/MS AS 50-60KT SLY LLJ SHIFTS SLOWLY EWD FROM
LA/AR INTO MS/WRN TN BY THIS EVENING. DEWPOINTS RISING INTO LOW/MID
60S THRU LA INTO SRN HALF OF MS...WILL LEAD TO MLCAPES FROM
1000-1500 J/KG. THIS IS SUPPORTED BY THE 12Z LCH SOUNDING
CHARACTERIZED BY STEEP MID LEVEL LAPSE RATES AND MLCAPE IN EXCESS OF
1500 J/KG. LESSER INSTABILITY FURTHER N IN WARM SECTOR SUCH THAT
MUCH OF SEVERE THREAT WILL BE MAINLY S OF A CENTRAL AR/NRN MS LINE.

ONGOING STRONG/SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS FROM AR SWWD INTO ERN TX/NWRN LA
WILL SPREAD EWD WITH INCREASING THREAT OF TORNADIC SUPERCELLS...
PARTICULARLY NRN LA/FAR SRN AR INTO W CENTRAL MS WHERE STRONG
TORNADOES ARE POSSIBLE BY THIS AFTERNOON.
THUNDERSTORMS WILL TEND
TO DEVELOP INTO MORE OF A LINE LATER THIS AFTERNOON AS THEY MOVE EWD
ACROSS LOWER MS VALLEY. PRIMARY THREAT WITH A LINEAR MODE WILL BE
DAMAGING WINDS AND HAIL. INTENSITY SHOULD GRADUALLY DIMINISH AS
STORMS BEGIN TO OUTRUN FAVORABLE LOW LEVEL INSTABILITY TN VALLEY SWD
THIS EVENING. HOWEVER SEVERE THREAT WILL LIKELY CONTINUE AFTER DARK
ACROSS PARTS OF MS.

..HALES.. 12/09/2008
Good morning, Bone!

I'm trying to temper my excitement being that the new Euro package shows an inland track to low pressure moving up the coast but I still prefer the American suite. Typically trying to move a coastal front inland is notoriously hard so the inland runner scenario doesn't seem plausable, only possible.

Should the current model depictions (American models) of the low pressure come to fruition I should be looking at a foot of snow or more here. That'll certinaly give me a leg up on the Michigan guys in our snow mountain contest and might bring my seasonal total close to 30" by the end of the week (already at 15.1" thus far)

* forgot to include the 0.3" that fell overnight
Tornado hatch area:


Photobucket
Anyone notice the 06z gfs has a significant swath of snow across southern Mississippi and into Ala for Thursday? How odd!
PUBLIC SEVERE WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
0716 AM CST TUE DEC 09 2008


...SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS EXPECTED OVER PARTS OF THE LOWER MISSISSIPPI
VALLEY TODAY...

THE NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER IN NORMAN OK IS FORECASTING THE
DEVELOPMENT OF A FEW STRONG TORNADOES OVER PARTS OF THE LOWER
MISSISSIPPI VALLEY TODAY.

THE AREAS MOST LIKELY TO EXPERIENCE THIS ACTIVITY INCLUDE

MUCH OF NORTHERN LOUISIANA
MUCH OF CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI

ELSEWHERE...SEVERE STORMS ARE ALSO POSSIBLE ACROSS THE REMAINDER OF
THE LOWER MISSISSIPPI VALLEY TODAY AND EARLY TONIGHT

A STRONG UPPER TROUGH IS DEVELOPING EWD ACROSS THE SRN PLAINS
PRECEEDED BY AN INCREASINGLY MOIST UNSTABLE FLOW OFF THE WESTERN
GULF OF MEXICO. STRONG/SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS HAVE BEEN OCCURRING
OVERNIGHT ACROSS PORTIONS OF ERN TX/OK INTO AR AND WILL BE
DEVELOPING EWD ACROSS LOWER MS VALLEY DURING THE DAY. WITH DAYTIME
HEATING AND CONTINUED INCREASING GULF MOISTURE...SEVERE
THUNDERSTORMS EXPECTED TO INCREASE IN NUMBER AND INTENSITY.
SUPERCELLS INCLUDING THE POSSIBILITY OF STRONG TORNADOES ARE
POSSIBLE GIVEN THE STRENGTH OF THE WINDS FIELDS ALONG WITH THE
EXPECTED INSTABILITY.

THOSE IN THE THREATENED AREA ARE URGED TO REVIEW SEVERE WEATHER
SAFETY RULES AND TO LISTEN TO RADIO...TELEVISION...AND NOAA WEATHER
RADIO FOR POSSIBLE WATCHES...WARNINGS...AND STATEMENTS LATER TODAY.

..HALES.. 12/09/2008
This out of the JACKSON MS NWS.

.LONG TERM...THE EXTENDED FCST IS A HIGH RISK HIGH REWARD FCST...SO
YOU CAN FIGURE THAT THIS MEANS THERE IS A GOOD BIT OF UNCERTAINTY
WITH THE POTENTIAL FOR A BUSTED FCST. I WILL TRY TO COVER THE
POTENTIAL . THE GFS AND ECMWF HAVE PRETTY MUCH SWAPPED SIDES IN
REGARD TO TIMING. NOW THE GFS IS THE SLOWER MDL(PROBABLY TOO SLOW)
AND THE ECMWF IS PRETTY CLOSE TO LAST NIGHTS GFS TIMING. THE MDLS GET
INTO DECENT AGREEMENT HEADING INTO THE WEEKEND BUT BY NEXT WEEK THEY
REALLY START TO DIVERGE.

THE BIGGEST CONCERN IS WED NIGHT AND THU. THIS IS GETTING A LITTLE
RIDICULOUS AS THE MDLS CONTINUE TO BOUNCE BACK AND FORTH WITH THE
POSSIBILITY OF SNOW AND THIS TREND CONTINUED TONIGHT. THE LATEST GFS
AND ECMWF BOTH SHOW THE POTENTIAL FOR SNOW...AND POSSIBLY A PRETTY
SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT IF THINGS LINE UP RIGHT.

FIRST OFF LET ME SAY THAT CONFIDENCE IS LOW AND I AM HAVING A HARD
TIME BELIEVING THAT WE WILL GET MUCH SNOW BUT THE TRACK OF THE UPPER
LOW IS FAVORABLE. FIRST IT WOULD LEAD TO DYNAMIC COOLING AND BOTH
MDLS ARE SHOWING QUITE A BIT OF THIS. ALSO IT PUTS THE CWA UNDER THE
DEFORMATION ZONE. COMBINE THAT WITH A DEVELOPING TROWAL...WHICH IS
ADVERTISED BY THE GFS...AND YOU HAVE THE INGREDIENTS FOR MODERATE TO
HEAVY SNOW. ALSO FCST SNDGS BY BOTH THE GFS AND ECMWF SHOW THE COLUMN
AT SOME POINT COMPLETELY BELOW FREEZING WITH THE GFS INDICATING QUITE
A BIT OF LIFT IN THE DENDRITIC LAYER. RIGHT NOW I AM GOING TO TAKE A
BLEND OF THE MDLS AND JUST ADD LIGHT SNOW MIXING IN WITH RAIN DURING
THE OVERNIGHT HRS WED AND ON THU BUT WE MAY HAVE TO MAKE THAT
MODERATE SNOW IF THE MODELS REMAIN CONSISTENT. THE OPS RUN OF THE GFS
IS NOT OUT OF LINE WITH THE GFS ENSEMBLES AND THIS IS GIVING A LITTLE
MORE CREDIBILITY TO THE GFS. IF THE GFS ACTUALLY VERIFIES THEN THERE
WILL BE A STRIPE OF SIGNIFICANT SNOW ACROSS OUR CWA...BUT IF THAT
OCCURS THE LOCATION IS JUST TOO DIFFICULT TO PREDICT AT THIS TIME.
ALL IT TAKES IS A LITTLE DEVIATION IN TRACK OR STRENGTH IN THE UPPER
LOW AND THAT THIN STRIPE COULD BE DISPLACED 50 MILES OR SO. THAT LITTLE
CHANGE COULD ALSO BE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GETTING SNOW OR KEEPING
EVERYTHING COMPLETELY LIQUID. SECOND IF THE DYNAMIC COOLING IS NOT AS
IMPRESSIVE AS THE MDLS ARE INDICATING THEN WE WILL LIKELY STAY
COMPLETLY LIQUID. ONE MORE NEGATIVE ASPECT...IT IS STILL EARLY
DECEMBER AND CLIMATOLOGICALLY SPEAKING THIS IS NOT THE BEST TIME FOR
US TO GET SNOW STORMS. NOW IF THIS WAS JAN OR FEB THEN WE WOULD
LIKELY BE TALKING ABOUT A SIGNIFICANT WINTER STORM.

PRECIP SHOULD COME TO AN END THU EVENING/OVERNIGHT AND SKIES WILL
START TO CLEAR OUT. TEMPS ARE A DIFFICULT PROPOSITION RIGHT NOW B/C
A LOT WILL DEPEND IF WE HAVE SNOW ON THE GROUND. IF THERE IS THEN
LOWS FRI MORNING WILL BE COLDER THAN EXPECTED. DUE TO THE
UNCERTAINTY I WILL JUST STICK WITH THE MEX GUI FOR NOW. HIGHS WILL
ALSO BE BELOW NORMAL WITH SOME LOCATIONS POSSIBLY QUITE COOL IF(BIG
IF THERE) IS SNOW ON THE GROUND
Quoting BahaHurican:
I agree with that. The thing about this whole argument is that by the time we have enough data to prove anything one way or the other


LOL... I think you need to really read up on the science; "need more data to prove"? LOL (yes, some things are still a bit uncertain but we know enough to know if it is happening and what the cause is)...

Some useful links:

http://www.aip.org/history/climate/summary.htm
http://www.aip.org/history/climate/timeline.htm (insight into just how established the science overall is)
http://www.realclimate.org/ (you can actually talk to actual scientists here; ask them if we are certain)
http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/pressoffice/myths/
http://www.skepticalscience.com/

Also, many of the things that have been predicted have actually occurred as well, and/or are happening up to 100 years sooner than expected.

Quoting Seastep:
Note: longest term graphs (last three) read right to left in time.

The big picture:


It should be noted that all of those changes were over geological timescales and have virtually no relevance to what is happening today (incidentally, in association with the ice age cycles, we should be cooling right now because we passed the peak of the interglacial 6,000 years ago). Also, it is very well accepted that climate changes naturally (including as a result of changes in greenhouse gasses, see my posts last night on this, and in both directions - we can thank a big bloom of plants in the Arctic Ocean for the current ice age climate) - we can also determine why the climate changed and compare the current warming with past episodes; the current climate change simply cannot be explained by any natural factors (unless you think the increase in greenhouse gasses due to humans burning fossil fuels is natural because living organisms have caused drastic changes before; i.e. the first organisms to produce oxygen in a then-unoxygenated world; of course, we have intelligence and should know better, unlike algae). Perhaps a good comparison to what may happen in the future if we don't do anything is the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (even already evidence of methane clathrates degassing).
512. JRRP
.