January 21, 2010

More or Less Intense Hurricanes?

[see update at bottom of post]

A new article has just been published in the January 22, 2010 issue of Science magazine which finds that there will be a large increase in the frequency of the strongest hurricanes in the Atlantic basin as the climate changes from increasing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. But a closer look at the results shows that this model-based result is produced by a hurricane model which under-simulates the frequency of strong storms in today’s climate. And that, despite the projected increase in intense hurricanes, the frequency of those storms projected by the model to occur by the end of the 21st century is considerably less than the frequency of intense hurricanes actually observed in the current climate. If the model doesn’t work for the present, why should we trust it for the future?


January 14, 2010

Listening to Johnny Chan

Filed under: Climate Extremes, Hurricanes

OK – who is Johnny Chan? Thanks to ESPN stations, many Americans have come to know Johnny Chan as one of the world’s best and most entertaining poker players. He is on television as much as Tiger Woods, still going strong since winning the championship event of the World Series of Poker in 1987 and 1988. Chan has won 10 overall World Series of Poker bracelets thereby tying him for second with the great Doyle Brunson in that category. Chan was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2002, and he appeared as himself in the movie Rounders. You might be wondering what Johnny Chan has to do with the climate change debate … well, it depends on which Johnny Chan we are talking about!

One of these men is Johnny Chan the poker expert and the other is Johnny Chan the hurricane expert – can you decide?


February 9, 2009

1,000 Years of Boston Hurricanes

Filed under: Climate Extremes, Hurricanes

The next highway from Boston to Los Angeles can be paved with articles at odds with the notion that hurricanes are becoming more fierce or frequent or longer-lived thanks to you driving an SUV or flying to Hawaii for a vacation. Our World Climate Report achive is so chalked-full of material on this subject, we wonder if it can stand any more? If the greenhouse crusade would for once say they are wrong on this subject, we would give it up. But with literally millions websites still loudly promoting the link between hurricanes and warming, we are going to stay in business for another essay on the topic.

A research team from the University of Massachusetts, the University of Pittsburgh, and institutions in Germany and Québec focused on hurricane activity near Boston over the past 1,000 years with substantial funding from NSF, NOAA, and UMass. Besonen et al. begin their article noting “The natural variability of hurricane activity on centennial and longer timescales is poorly known because instrumental records extend back just ~130 years, and aircraft reconnaissance and satellite observations only began in the mid-1940’s. Interest is heightened in light of studies suggesting that hurricane activity may increase due to anthropogenic global warming, and, more recently, that such an increase is already perceptible.”


December 30, 2008

Lesson of the Lesser Antilles

Filed under: Climate Extremes, Hurricanes

Are you tired of winter yet? How about a vacation to some warm tropical island with outstanding golf and scuba (excellent winter sports)? If we suggest the Lesser Antilles (also know as the Caribbees), you might immediately agree; a second later, you might realize the shortcomings of your geography training and wonder where on Earth you are going for this vacation.

As seen in the map below (Figure 1), the “Lesser Antilles” include islands that wrap around the eastern end and southern fringe of the Caribbean Sea. The names of the subgroups include the Leeward Islands in the north, Windward Islands to the south, and the Leeward Antilles north of Venezuela. You will find names like the Netherlands Antilles and the Greater Antilles – you will immediately get the “Antilles willies” trying to figure out what names correspond to the various islands! Columbus arrived in these parts in 1492 and thought he was close to India, and the term “West Indies” was the popular as well. Various European languages still refer to the Caribbean Sea as the “Sea of Antilles.” The origin of the word “Antilles” is still debated with some who believe it is related to “Atlantis” while others think it came from the Latin ante-ilha (i.e. “the island out before” or “the island in front of”). You decide!


November 21, 2008

Hurricane History Lessons

Filed under: Climate Extremes, Hurricanes

Here we go again – hurricane season has come to an end and yet another year has failed to produce the widespread pain and suffering that can reinforce the claim that the buildup of greenhouse gases is the root cause of all the damage. We have covered this topic dozens of times in the past, but the literature on the subject never seems to stop oozing right through the distortion of the greenhouse crusaders. We get tired of writing about this subject over and over and we suspect you see this as another in a very long line of essays on the topic…we feel each other’s pain. The hurricane story should have been destroyed a decade ago, but for whatever reason, the global warmers continue to insist that hurricanes are increasing in frequency, intensity, and/or duration and the blame should sit squarely on carbon dioxide emissions from the United States. If you want more on the subject, visit literally FIVE million websites on the subject!

One of many recent articles on this subject was produced by a pair of prolific scientists with the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University who “acknowledge funding provided by NSF Grant ATM-0346895 and by the Research Foundation of Lexington Insurance Company (a member of the American International Group).” Sounds like “Big Insurance” is involved here, so be aware! Of course, never mind that these guys also secured research dollars from the incredibly competitive National Science Foundation.

Klotzbach and Gray begin by noting “There has been a considerable increase in Atlantic basin tropical cyclone (TC) activity since 1995. Also, the very active seasons of 2004 and 2005 produced record amounts of damage in the United States. This increase in both Atlantic basin activity as a whole as well as U.S. landfalling activity had been anticipated by as early as the late 1980s. Considerable debate has ensued over the past few years as to the causes of this increase.” Once again, we wonder how a major professional scientific outlet like the Journal of Climate can allow anyone to suggest “Considerable debate” continues on anything related to global warming – isn’t the debate over?


November 3, 2008

Natural or Anthropogenic Effects on Atlantic Hurricanes, Past, Present, Future?

Filed under: Climate Extremes, Hurricanes

We have often discussed the observed patterns of Atlantic tropical cyclone activity and what may lie behind them, and we generally have concluded, based upon both our analysis of the data, along with a thorough review of the scientific literature, that identifying a statistically significant and robust human signal in the observed history of Atlantic basin tropical cyclones, whether over the past 100+ years, or in recent decades, is untenable.

We have largely come to this conclusion as the observed increases in hurricane activity in recent decades far exceeds that generally projected by climate models run with observed changes in anthropogenic emissions, and there is ample (and growing) evidence that the Atlantic hurricane record is characterized by multi-decadal oscillations that are tied to multi-decadal oscillations in ocean circulation, atmospheric circulations, and patterns of sea surface temperature variability. That these multi-decadal oscillations can be traced backward in time for at least several centuries, is strong indication that they are a natural part of the earth’s climate system, rather than being primarily driven by human alterations of the earth’s atmosphere.

This conclusion has important implications for the future, as it suggests that as the sign and strength of the natural cycles controlling hurricane behavior wax and wane, so to will the future activity of Atlantic tropical cyclones, both in frequency and intensity. The contrary conclusion—that anthropogenic “global warming” is largely controlling the activity of Atlantic tropical cyclone activity—portends, conversely, an ever stormier future.

While we have tried to present clear evidence that the scientific tide seems to be turning in the direction of a predominately “natural” origin of past, present, and future, Atlantic tropical cyclone variability, there are still many prominent groups, including the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that choose to rely on out-dated findings to support their claims of a significant anthropogenic impact on current and future Atlantic hurricane activity in their current draft versions of climate change summary documents. As public reviewers of these documents, we have continually stressed that their conclusions are ill-founded and out-of-date and must be amended and modified to reflect the current state of scientific knowledge on this topic. We hope that they will choose to do so in when the final versions of these documents are released.

As further support to our contentions concerning the underlying influences on Atlantic tropical cyclone behavior, hurricane researchers Gabriel Vecchi, Kyle Swanson, and Brian Soden published a ‘Perspectives’ piece in this week’s Science magazine which summarizes their view of the subject.


October 31, 2008

Atlantic SSTs and Saharan Dust (and Hurricanes)

In our last World Climate Report article, we described new findings that verified older findings that the patterns of sea surface temperature (SST) variations in the Atlantic Ocean (including in the tropical Atlantic region which is the birthplace of Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes), are largely a reflection of natural variability, with some anthropogenic warming thrown in for good measure.

This time, we report on new research that finds that rather than a large dose of anthropogenic warming, a decline in the amount of dust coming off of the Saharan desert may have collaborated with multidecadal natural oscillations to produce the observed warming trend in Atlantic tropical SST over recent decades. An implication of this finding is to further lessen any impact than human emissions of greenhouse gases may have had on the observed behavior of Atlantic hurricanes, including the recent upturn in activity.


October 29, 2008

A Further Look into the AMO (and Atlantic Hurricanes)

Filed under: Climate Extremes, Hurricanes

There is a degree of disagreement among climate scientists as to whether or not a phenomenon known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) is a true physical mechanism operating in the Atlantic Ocean (e.g., Delworth and Mann, 2000; Knight et al., 2005; Zhang, 2007), or whether it is largely a manifestation of the pattern of the anthropogenic influence on the earth’s climate (Mann and Emanuel, 2006). The subject is of considerable interest in that many researchers have identified other climate phenomenon that seem to be related to the patterns of the AMO—primary among which are the patterns of Atlantic hurricane activity (e.g. Goldenberg et al., 2001). Thus, the source of the AMO likely sheds light on the source of Atlantic hurricane frequency and intensity fluctuations—are they primarily natural in origin, or are they primarily caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols?


June 26, 2008

Let’s Revisit Katrina, Again

Filed under: Climate Extremes, Hurricanes

Are we ever going to put Katrina to bed? We have covered no end of articles clearly showing that hurricane activity is not increasing and likely will not increase in frequency or intensity due to the ongoing buildup of greenhouse gases. Virtually every prominent scientist involved in hurricane research agrees that it is brutally unfair to blame any one event on global warming, and yet to this day, almost every global warming presenter hints around that we caused Katrina, or at least we substantially added to its strength. As time passes, you would think this storyline would die. However, the recent tragedy in Myanmar associated with Cyclone Nargis left tens of thousands dead and reinvigorated the “global warming equals bigger hurricane” crusade.

Incredibly, more than a million websites come up for a search of Myanmar and Katrina! Countless titles appear such as “Cyclone’s path through Myanmar resembled Katrina’s wrath” or “Myanmar cyclone, Katrina, People in Glass Houses” or “ABC Calls Myanmar Cyclone ‘Asia’s Katrina’” or “Are devastating storms like Hurricane Katrina and Myanmar Cyclone a sure sign of global warming?” Throw in some pictures of Al Gore, and the connection is made loud and clear between global warming and hurricanes all over the world.

Yet another article has appeared in a major journal (Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems) entitled “Tropical cyclone variations in Louisiana, U.S.A., since the late eighteenth century.” The work was done by Cary Mock of the University of South Carolina and the research was funded by the National Science Foundation. Mock notes that “the current Atlantic Basin record is too short to encompass the full range of temporal variability needed to calculate accurate probabilities and recurrence intervals essential for long-range hurricane prediction and hazard assessment. A longer temporal perspective of hurricane activity would be quite reassuring, particularly since the characteristics of climatic forcing mechanisms of the previous centuries, as well as the last few decades, are different, and because increased coastal development and population is likely to continue in conjunction with anticipated future climate change.” We doubt anyone would argue that longer term records of hurricane activity would be very useful at this point.


May 29, 2008

Tropical Cyclones Down-Under

Filed under: Climate Extremes, Hurricanes

We have written so much about the link between climate change and hurricanes (a.k.a., tropical cyclones, TCs) that we sometimes wonder if there could be anything new to report. No sooner than we have such a thought, yet another article on the subject appears in some leading scientific journal. A sentence in the abstract from this new article really caught our eye as we read “For the 1981/82 to 2005/06 TC seasons, there are no apparent trends in the total numbers and cyclone days of TCs, nor in numbers and cyclone days of severe TCs with minimum central pressure of 970 hPa or lower.”


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