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Katherine Still Can’t Get It Right

December 17, 2011

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Katharine Hayhoe seems determined to convince us that weather is becoming more extreme. As we have seen already, her claims about Texas don’t stand up to scrutiny. But she has also made similar claims about other regions of the USA, so are these borne out by the facts?

She says this about the South East :-

If you look at the Southeast, they are very vulnerable along the coastline to hurricanes and storms and also to sea level loss. And the reason why they’re vulnerable is they’ve built enormous cities along the coastline and very expensive vacation homes. But we have not maintained in many cases the natural buffer system that would have protected the coastline from those storms. So the latest projections are not for any more frequent hurricanes but for stronger hurricanes and more rain associated with them. So again climate change is increasing the seriousness of a risk that already existed.

Many things that Katharine says are actually very sensible and I would totally agree with her when she talks about maintaining the buffer system. But is there any evidence that stronger hurricanes are becoming more common?

Let’s look at what the National Hurricane Center has to say. This is the table they have produced for US hurricane strikes. (Their table runs to 2004, but I have updated through to 2010).

US Hurricane Strikes By Decade

Decade

All Hurricanes

Major (Category 3-5)

1851-60

19

6

1861-70

15

1

1871-80

20

7

1881-90

22

5

1891-00

21

8

1901-10

18

4

1911-20

21

7

1921-30

13

5

1931-40

19

8

1941-50

24

10

1951-60

17

8

1961-70

14

6

1971-80

12

4

1981-90

15

5

1991-00

14

5

2001-10

19

7

TOTAL

283

96

Average per Decade

17.7

6.0

The last decade is marginally higher than the average, but well within the normal range – 6 out of the previous 15 decades had as many major hurricanes or more.

The Hurricane Research Division at NOAA have identified that “earlier work had linked these cycles of busy and quiet hurricane period in the 20th Century to natural changes in Atlantic Ocean temperatures.” In other words, there tends to be more hurricanes when the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation is in a warm phase, as can be clearly seen below.

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Since about 1995 we have been in warm mode, so 19 strikes and 7 major strikes in the last decade is probably lower than would be expected. Of course, Katharine is predicting what might happen, but, if her models are correct, we would surely already have seen the trend she is forecasting.

I offer you a bet, Katharine. When the AMO turns negative, US hurricane strikes will decline back to the level in the 70’s and 80’s.

4 Comments
  1. Mike Davis permalink
    December 18, 2011 1:22 pm

    Paul:
    Before 1979 they did not have satellites to monitor open water for hurricanes and before the late 40s they did not have aircraft being sent out to inspect clouds to determine if a hurricane was closing. Every thing before the late 40s was extrapolated using proxies and WAG. And a lot before the satellites were extrapolated based on current conditions. IOW WAG.
    Sea level remains the same while the ground subsides. Most of the land along the ocean is delta, swap, wetlands, sand dunes, etc. When they built they destroyed the ability of the region to maintain is relationship to the ocean by deposition of new material as the ground subsided. There is not enough grass growing on concrete to hold the sand being blown there and there are fewer swamps to hold the debri being washed from the higher ground from natural erosion. The construction methods used actually promotes erosion. Use of the beaches also promotes erosion.
    Because they can not accurately predict the AMO, for one, they will have no skill predicting hurricanes.
    I expect to see many more 4 hour hurricanes in the coming years along with many 6 hour tropical storms.

  2. December 18, 2011 1:45 pm

    These are just hurricanes making landfall, Mike, so should not be affected by different methods of monitoring out in the Atlantic.

    What I do find interesting is that, if there is a correlation with ocean temperatures ( and the research suggests there is), then the fact that the last decade is on a par with earlier warm AMO periods suggests that Atlantic sea temperatures are no warmer than , say, 1930-50.

    Given the hugely unreliable methods of measuring SST back then, and the evidence from current ARGOS buoys that SST has not gone up in the last decade, there must be a very real possibility that this is the case.

    • Mike Davis permalink
      December 19, 2011 2:50 pm

      Paul:
      A couple of years ago they “Corrected Known Errors” in the Argo data because the results did not match what models projected the measurements should be. I was some what comfortable with Argo results until they decided corrections needed to be made and those corrections lead to less cooling of the ocean.
      With long term ocean atmosphere weather patterns there should be a cyclic pattern in Atlantic Hurricanes and from what I have seen there is, but more, better methods of observation are still needed. Or at least more reliable evaluations of current methods. It seems those evaluating the data have a agenda, or need to be driven by an agenda to receive funding.

  3. Mike Davis permalink
    December 19, 2011 3:30 pm

    Speaking of North Atlantic:
    http://theresilientearth.com/?q=content/any-way-wind-blows

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