December 3, 2007

More on New York Hurricanes

Filed under: Climate Extremes, Hurricanes

Back in October, we reviewed an article dealing with hurricanes in New York over the past four centuries, and the researchers found that intense Big Apple hurricanes were more common during the much-colder Little Ice Age than today. We noted at the time that any hurricane striking New York will be greeted by the global warming advocates as the final nail in the coffin of the greenhouse scare, when in reality, such storms are relatively common and are possibly more frequent in cold periods, not warm ones.

Another article on New York hurricanes has appeared in Natural Hazards, and once again, we doubt the greenhouse crusade will be pleased with the results.

The article is by Stephen Vermette of Buffalo State University who begins the piece stating:

Tropical cyclones (including tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes) are massive storms formed in tropical waters, capable of producing violent winds, flooding, and heavy amounts of rainfall. These storms are prevalent in the north basin of the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico, and do make landfall in southern states bordering the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. While these storms form at tropical latitudes (5° N–30° N), and are a significant element making up the climatology of southern states, they do from-time-to-time extend poleward impacting states such as New York. New York State (stretching north to south from 45° N to 40.5° N, respectively) has experienced a number of high profile hurricanes—the West Indian Monster (1893), the Long Island Express (1938), Donna (1960), Gloria (1985), and Bertha (1996) to name but a few. These storms brought with them damaging winds, heavy rains, and even re-shaped coastlines.

Vermette has read the memo from the green crusade and notes “Global warming is postulated by some researchers to increase hurricane intensity in the north basin of the Atlantic Ocean. The implication is that a warming ocean may increase the frequency, intensity, or timing of storms of tropical origin that reach New York State.” He then states “There are two objectives to this study. The first objective is to provide an exhaustive characterization of the frequency, intensity, and timing of storms of tropical origin that have reached New York State between 1851 and 2005. The second objective is to determine if there is evidence of a recent change in this characterization that might be linked to a changing climate.”

Should a hurricane strike New York sometime soon, certain facts will be overlooked regarding how common such events have been over the years. Vermette shows that “The average frequency of hurricanes and storms of tropical origin (all types) is one in every 11 years and one in every 2 years, respectively. The shortest stretch between hurricanes was 1893 and 1894 (total of 3 hurricanes). Particularly active years (5 or more storms of tropical origin) occurred between 1876–1880, 1896–1900, 1901–1905, and 1951–1955. The longest stretch with no hurricanes was between 1895 and 1943 (49 years). The stretch of years between 1906 and 1946 experienced the fewest number of storms of tropical origin, as compared to other periods.” Just from these simple observations, we already sense that there will be no evidence for any greenhouse-fueled increase in New York storms of tropical origin.

The two plots below tell the story – there is simply no increase in tropical storm activity impacting New York in recent decades. Vermette states “the overall frequency of storms of tropical origin do not appear to be on the increase—the frequency and intensity of storms in the late 20th century are similar to those of the late 19th century. These findings support a multidecadal cycle in hurricane frequency and intensity.” More specifically, he notes “While the number and timing of storms of tropical origin is likely to increase, this increase appears to be attributed to a multidecadal cycle, as opposed to a trend in global warming.” He concludes “Yet unanswered is whether a warmer global climate of the future will take hurricane activity beyond what has been experienced in the observed record.”


Figure 1. Frequency of storms of tropical origin broken down by 50-year time periods (from Vermette, 2007)


Figure 2. Frequency of storms of tropical origin (1851–2005). Groupings which include hurricanes are shown as black bars, multiple hurricanes are noted. A flat trend line is shown (from Vermette, 2007).

We have presented dozens of reviews of articles that deal with trends in tropical storm activity that could be attributed to the buildup of greenhouse gases. Many of these articles have come from the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea, and in virtually every case, no empirical evidence was found to support the popular predictions for some unusual increase in the frequency and/or intensity of tropical storms. We have covered articles from Asia, Australia, southern Mexico’s Pacific coast, and even Africa, and we continue to see the same basic conclusion – trends in tropical storm activity do not seem out of the ordinary. In two months, two articles have appeared focusing on tropical storms that impact New York, and in both articles, no empirical is found for anything unusual in the wind.

We wonder how many more articles will be needed to finally dispel the notion that the buildup of greenhouse gases has caused some detectable change in tropical storm activity. Of course, we know the answer. One thousand articles in leading scientific journal could collectively say “it ain’t so,” but one photogenic storm that somehow looks out of the ordinary will provide all that is needed to keep the global warming – hurricane link alive and well.

Reference:

Vermette, S. 2007. Storms of tropical origin: a climatology for New York State, USA (1851–2005). Natural Hazards, 42, 91–103.




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