Sea Surface Temperatures Off East Coast Of U.S. And Canada Remain Warmer Than Normal
Over a year has past since Hurricane Irene rolled up the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern coastline of the United States. While the storm caused considerable damage, and ended up being the seventh costliest hurricane on record in the U.S., it could have been far worse. Irene had a lot of things going for it at the time. Among them were sea surface temperatures, which usually run in the lower 70s off the Jersey shore, were running into the upper 70s.
Fortunately, dry air became entrenched in the storm, and prevented it from coming into the New York Metropolitan area as a strong Category Two storm or worse. However, Irene could be a sign of things to come for New Jersey. Twelve months after Irene, sea surface temperatures along the Jersey coast are running from the upper 70s to low 80s. Remember, tropical storms and hurricanes are energized by warm water that is 80 degrees fahrenheit, or 27 degrees celsius, or warmer.
The unusually warm water has been great for those journeying to the coastal towns in New Jersey. It has also been a curse for fishermen, and others who live off the sea. According to a recent article by Stephen Stirling of the Star-Ledger, Warmer waters have caused migration of fish into the area that have never been in this region before. Other fish that are more familiar in these parts such as fluke have moved further north. Meanwhile, in places such as Maine and Canada, Lobster harvests have been more than abundant, which has caused a drop in price for the very popular seafood, and that has made it difficult for lobstermen to make a profit.
Here at Hurricaneville though, the concern is about tropical storms and hurricanes. Warmer waters along the Jersey coast means more powerful storms and hurricanes being able to maintain themselves longer, and further north. Last year, the Garden State dodged a bullet with Hurricane Irene, and is still long overdue for a powerful hurricane of Category Two strength or better. Recently, Rick Schwartz of Mid-Atlantic Hurricanes.com indicated in his monthly column that the entire Mid-Atlantic from Virginia to New Jersey has been long overdue for a powerful land hurricane similar to Hurricane Hazel back in October 1954.
Climatologically, the region is due for a significant storm that can bring hurricane force wind gusts of 75 to 90 miles per hour east of the eye of the storm with some gusts reaching 100 miles per hour and between 50 and 75 miles per hour west of the eye. About every 57 to 58 years, a Category Three or Four storm has done this in the Mid-Atlantic going back to 1667, and that is originate in the Caribbean Sea, make landfall in North Carolina, and then pound the Mid-Atlantic region. So far in 2012, the East Coast of the United States has gone unscathed to date.
The statistical peak of the season, September 10th, has passed, and even though there have been 14 depressions, 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and one major hurricane, only several have made some sort of impact on the United States. Beryl, which made landfall near Jacksonville in late May and Isaac, which hammered Louisiana and Mississippi late last month. Recent storms such as Leslie, Michael, and Nadine have had tracks taking them well away from land. All of that could change with one storm. Like anywhere along our coastline from Maine to Texas, one storm is all it takes to change everything forever.
Remnants Of Tropical Cyclone Keila Brings Heavy Rains And Gusty Winds
While the Hurricane Season is winding down in the Atlantic Basin, things are getting interesting in the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, and Gulf of Oman region. Over the past few days, Tropical Storm Keila has dissipated into a remnant low, but it has been producing torrential rains and gusty winds along the Oman and Yemen border.
Of all the basins on the planet, the Indian Ocean produces the fewest storms in comparison to the Western Pacific, Eastern Pacific, and Atlantic. However, because of the low lying terrain that lies along the Indian Ocean including the shallow depth of water along coastlines. Places such as Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh are known for their devastating and deadly cyclones that have left tens and even hundreds of thousands dead. Such storms have been the reasons for wars in that part of the world.
The most deadly of these cyclones was the one that struck Bangladesh back in November 1970. Then called East Pakistan, the country was struck by a powerful cyclone that left between 300,000 and 500,000 dead. The geopolitical ramifications from this storm were tremendous. Due to the lack of response by the central government of Pakistan, which was based in the western part of the country, East Pakistan declared its independence, and war erupted. Neighboring India became involved, and the result of the conflict was the rise to power of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Recently, there have been some notable cyclones. One was in early June, 2007 when Cyclone Gonu threatened Oman. At one point, the storm was as powerful as a Category Five Hurricane with 160 mile per hour winds. It was rare to see such a powerful storm in that part of the world at that time of year because weather conditions in that part of the world are usually not favorable to such strong storms. In addition, Oman and Yemen are on the Arabian Peninsula, which is desert. Remember, tropical storms don’t like dry air. Another notable cyclone in the past few years was the one that struck the Myammar Republic in May 2008.
The cyclone struck as the equivalent of a Category Three Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale with 120 mile per hour winds. The storm may have left 100,000 dead, but the actual death toll is not know due to the very isolated military government in Myammar, which not only refused to help its own people, but also kept the media from coming in to cover the disaster. Returning to Keila, the storm has not had a very long life. It formed as a tropical depression on October 29th, and has basically hugged the coast of Oman over the past couple of days.
Keila has strengthened to become the equivalent of a minimal tropical storm before moving into the interior of Oman. According to the article on the web site, Earthweek: Diary of a Planet, the storm has left 6 dead from flash flooding. Tropical Cyclones are quite rare in the Arabian Sea region. Storms only form during two brief periods each year. However, there has been a growing concern that pollution created by the industries in the growing economic power of India is creating more favorable climatic conditions in the Arabian Sea for powerful storms like the one in June 2007.
Looking at the latest satellite imagery out of that part of the world, there appears to be another tropical disturbance in the making to the east of Keila in the heart of the Indian Ocean.
Flood Waters In Neighborhood The Worst Ever (40 Years!)
Good afternoon again everyone. For those of you, who may have seen the movie, “The Day After Tomorrow,” and recall the ending, you may find my latest blog post ironic. During the course of the morning since my last post, the flood waters in the neighborhood swelled and grew to their worst levels in the 40 years I’ve lived there.
Consequently, we had to have the gas and electricity shut off, and ultimately evacuated. As I write this post to you, I’m situated in a hotel off Route 27. It was a very traumatic experience for me. Having to decide what to take was very difficult. Very stressful. I made sure that I took my mobile gadgets with me so that I would be still able to communicate via the blog, and more importantly, be able to access the internet, and contact people at work to let them know of my situation.
I also made sure that I took essentials such as the medications I take as well as some of the food I bought at the store the other day. Good thing I did that. Obviously I grabbed whatever clothes I could get to take with me for this excursion. My family drove through a lot of South Plainfield, Edison, and Metuchen. Traffic lights were out at a number of locations throughout the area we drove through. Some trees were down including a couple right in front df the hotel we’re staying in. Branches and leaves were scattered about as well. A few roads were also flooded.
Before we fled the house, rainfall totals had reached five inches, and the barometer fell to 28.64 inches, which is the lowest pressure ever recorded by my weather station. Winds weren’t really bad, but they were bad enough to knock out the power, and combine with the flooding to down trees. Winds are still whipping outside in the storm’s wake. The eye went through at about 9:00 AM this morning, and thankfully the second half of the storm was like I said it would be, uneventful.
Other areas in my neighborhood were also hit very hard. Some streets were flooded that I never though would be flooded. Spring Lake has overflowed its banks, and as a result, the high school football practice field was inundated, and that was just all I could see. There may be more casualties from this storm. Right now, I will try to make the best of it here, and hope for the best. Thankfully, we have three straight days of nice weather coming up, which will help dry things out. However, with many if not all of the New Jersey rivers yet to crest, and the added storm surge from places such as Raritan Bay, it doesn’t look good.
Good afternoon everyone. Things continue to get going in the tropics, and I have been watching, but I wanted to take some time out to mention to you some of the books that I’ve read over the past several months. I hadn’t had much of a chance to read books in recent years due to my work schedule. However, I made it a point this spring to read several books that I bought.
One of the three books was related to hurricanes while the other two dealt with global warming and the Super Tornado Outbreak of 1974. Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming by Chris Mooney was the hurricane related book I read. It talked about the increased debate on the possible link between global warming and increased tropical activity worldwide. The debate was between two camps. One camp, led by Dr. William Gray and consisted of such proteges as Chris Landsea that developed ideas on hurricanes from empirical evidence while the other camp, led by Kerry Emanuel, Peter Webster, and Judith Curry based their beliefs on hurricanes mostly through computer models.
The book also goes into detail on the backgrounds of both Dr. Gray and Emanuel, and where they developed their schools of thought. Mooney also points out how the folks at the National Hurricane Center stood mostly on the sidelines while the debate was taking place. Storm World looks at how the debate became personal between Dr. Gray and others in the field including one of his prized pupils, Greg Holland, who originally felt that there wasn’t a link between global warming, and hurricanes, but as more and more evidence during the 2004 and 2005 seasons came in, began to change his thinking.
Storm World also looked at how the controversy began to make scientists more aware of how they needed to interact with the media about their studies and papers on the subject of global warming and hurricanes. It changed the way they communicated with the public. Some began to take the debate to message boards and other spots on the internet. After the stormy seasons of 2004 and 2005, the number of papers on the subject of global warming and hurricanes increased dramatically. The book also talked about the controversy between the Bush administration, NOAA, and researchers, who felt that they were being censored on the subject. Mooney does a great job of explaining all of this, and putting it all together to present a clear picture on the debate.
Another book on climate change that I read was by Dr. James Hansen, the director of the NASA Goddad Institute and adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. His book, Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity, discusses the long fight that he has had to overcome government censorship and apathy to get his message across that the planet is in peril. He discusses the different ways and methods that he used to convey his message to the public. He admits that his communication skills aren’t great, but he tries to improve that by doing such things as improving his vocabulary.
He cares very deeply about the subject, and is suspicious of politicians. He believes that money needs to be taken out of politics, and people, particularly our youth, need to get involved and ask the tough questions to our politicians so that the best possible candidates are elected. Hansen talks about how we need to get off coal completely, and that clean coal is just an oxymoron. He adds that if we are unable to get off of coal, we have no grounds to tell the leading oil producing countries such as Saudi Arabia to stop drilling for oil. Hansen has been taking on his battle since the late 1980s when he first warned Congress about climate change. He believes that the planet is at a critical point, and measures must be taken now in order to prevent the warming of the planet from getting out of control.
If you can get through some of his very scientific and detailed discussions on climate, you can find this book interesting, and feel empathetic towards Hansen. I greatly admired the way he tried so hard to get his message out. He tried publishing papers, talking to leaders in not only the United States, but also Great Britain, Germany, and Japan. Hansen also made public speeches, and talks about climate change. Most notably, he battled censorship from the Bush Administration, and refused to be silent. The final book I read was F5: One Town’s Survival of One of the Most Violent Tornado Outbreak of the Twentieth Century by Mark Levine. The book looked at how Limestone County in Alabama dealt with several deadly tornadoes that were spawned during the Super Tornado Outbreak of 1974.
Levine not only goes into vivid detail about the storms and their effects on the towns in that part of the world, but describes the people affected by the twisters. The book paints a picture of each of the participants before, during, and after the storm. Most importantly, though, not all of these stories have a happy ending, but Levine talks about how these people have endured and moved on since the outbreak. The story of the Super Outbreak of 1974 is given amongst a background of the political scandal that is Watergate, President Nixon’s ultimate resignation, and in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
Good evening. Sorry that I’ve been away from posting something in the Hurricaneville Blogosphere these past few days, but I’ve been busy with my job, and also work on another site that I do called GMC Hoops. The site is devoted to covering high school basketball in Middlesex County, New Jersey, and the summer league season is beginning to heat up. However, I continue to watch things in the news, and pass interesting stories I find on the internet to the readers on the Hurricaneville Mailing List. A couple of interesting articles caught my eye this week including the discovery of a new tool to predict hurricane season activity in the Atlantic, and another scientist’s findings in regard to the link between global warming and hurricanes.
Earlier this week, a highly regarded American scientist, Tom Knutson, stated in a recent published study that there is no link between the recent increased tropical activity and global warming. As a matter of fact, Knutson believes that in the long run, tropical storm and hurricane occurrences will dramatically be reduced by warming although storms that do occur will be stronger and more devastating. In the study that was released on Sunday, Knutson, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fluid dynamics lab in Princeton, N.J., stated that by the end of the 21st century, the number of hurricanes will be reduced by 18 percent.
Furthermore, the number of tropical storms will decrease by about 27 percent. However, the number of major hurricanes, ones that reach an intensity of Category Three or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Scale will only fall by eight percent. Looking at this information, one would wonder how would that be possible. I gave it some thought, and while I didn’t read Knutson’s work, I logically deduced that he came up with the findings using a model that showed a relationship between the oceans increased temperatures due to global warming, and wind shear. Say for example, we have increased sea surface temperatures globally. Well, that means for the Atlantic that the Eastern Pacific would be more likely an environment that is similar to an El Nino episode, where warmer sea surface temperatures off Western Mexico, Central America, and South America would produce stronger hurricanes in the Eastern Pacific.
These storms in turn would come ashore in Mexico and Central America, and then bring its remnants across into the Atlantic bringing hostile upper level wind conditions that would hamper the development of fledgling storms such as tropical storms and minimal hurricanes. Wind shear for a developing tropical storm, or hurricane, can be a death sentence. Hurricanes need light winds aloft to help nurture its very delicate vertical cloud structure. You’ll often hear the term, vertically stacked when forecasters refer to the cloudy system of a hurricane, and that is because the storm produces towering cumulonimbus clouds that produce the rain and fierce thunderstorms. Consequently, we have the reduction in those numbers for developing storms. This idea has come up before during the constant and sharply contested debate on this subject.
In response to Knutson’s findings, MIT professor, Kerry Emanuel, who is author of the book, Divine Wind, admired Knutson as a scientist, but stated that one of the government’s top weather researchers was wrong in his analysis. According to the USA Today article that features the results of Knutson’s findings, Emanuel stated that his conclusion was, “demonstrably wrong” since it was “based on a model that doesn’t properly look at storms”. Another highly regarded researcher, Kevin Trenberth, also criticized Knutson’s model as being inadequate for assessing tropical weather, and “fails to replicate storms with any kind of fidelity.” Earlier this year, Emanuel issued results of another study that he had done on the subject that indicated he was at a quandry over some of the results since they demonstrated that global warming may not dramatically increase hurricane activity after all, which was a revision of his earlier thoughts from the summer of 2005 just weeks before Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Central Gulf Coast of the United States.
When the average person reads these stories, and the basic theme of these studies, he or she may wonder if the hurricane researcher has gone the way of their medical brethren. Often, you’ll hear on the news that the Journal of American Medicine has come up with a study that revealed the benefits that drinking coffee has on people only to have another one come up a year or so later that conflicts what they’ve previously found. Perhaps, this is the journey that is called learning. You’ll always find out new things. These things are ones that you’ve never considered before. Obviously, this global warming question in regard to hurricanes is still open ended. While there a consensus that global warming is occurring on the planet, there is still doubt on its impact on tropical storms and hurricanes. The moral of the story here is that residents along the coast from Maine to Texas need to be prepared for anything each and every year, and also doing things to fortify the coastline against the present threat from storms.
As I mentioned in my previous post on the massive storm moving through the Eastern United States, there have been a number of important topics being discussed at the National Hurricane Conference in Orlando, Florida. Besides the fact that the idea of seasonal forecasts have been debated at the conference as I mentioned earlier in the week, attendees at the week long event have taken on such issues as insurance rates in Florida, global warming and hurricanes, and the National Hurricane Center has introduced an initiative of lengthening the forecast track from five to seven days.
In this era of increased activity, and with the recent devastation of past seasons such as 2004 and 2005 still fresh in everyone’s minds, the discussion of these topics are becoming more and more passionate. Take for instance, the issue of insurance, particularly in the Sunshine State, which receives the most in the way of impacts from tropical storms and hurricanes. For background, it has been two full seasons since a major hurricane, one of Category Three strength on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, has made landfall anywhere in Florida. While it is true that Florida survived the 2006 and 2007 seasons unscathed, it still has lingering memories from storms such as Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne, Dennis, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. However, insurance companies situated in that state have either discontinued policies of some residents, or raised premiums on those policies, which have frustrated a great many people.
The insurance companies contend that those, who choose to live along the coastline in Florida, have made the decision to live with great risk, and they must recognize and deal with the consequences of that fact. On the other hand, the Florida State Government determines these rates, and ensures that they are made affordable to the residents. However, the fear of a major hurricane such as an Andrew, Katrina, Rita, or Wilma has made many fear that it could devastate the economy with huge losses that far outweigh those of Andrew or Katrina. According to the article posted on Orlando station WESH’s web site, the tension exists on how to equally distribute the burden without heavily taxing those not affected by the storm while not singling out those living in coastal areas, and taking the greatest risk. The key to an improved policy will be how much stricter the building codes in Florida become. Recall that after Andrew, it was revealed that these codes had slackened due to complacency brought about by the fact that the Atlantic tropics had gone into a dormant state from 1970 to 1991.
Hurricaneville believes that this is a vital issue for those not only living in Florida, but throughout the Eastern United States coastline from Maine to Texas. With the revelation this week that the Florida Catastrophe Fund is encountering financial trouble due to the credit crisis that has gripped the nation’s economy, this issue becomes even more paramount. Many states such as New Jersey have attempted to follow in the path of Florida with a fund of their own thanks to the support and encouragement of organizations such as Protecting America. Take a look at what happened after Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi. Many in those affected states are still fighting insurance companies for what they feel is rightfully theirs. On top of that, residents in New England states such as Maine and Masschusetts have had policies modified by their insurance companies over the last two years in reaction to the heavy toll in losses brought about by Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.
Moving on with the other news from the conference, the subject of global warming raised its head again. Experts at the conference such as NOAA’s Chris Landsea and Colorado State’s Dr. William Gray continued to deny any link between global warming, and increased hurricane activity. As a matter of fact, they contend that it has actually caused it to go down. There are those, however, such as Greg Holland, a researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research that beg to differ citing that the rise in sea surface temperatures, which is a key component in increased hurricane activity and strength since these tropical systems are so dependent on warm water for fuel, and global warming are closely related.
Hurricaneville encourages everyone to keep in mind several things here: First, that there are probably a great deal of storms from over the years that have been left out from current records since there was no history of them. Second, the recent uptick in activity can also be attributed to the shift in the multi-decade cycle of tropical development in the Atlantic. Third, that while we have been contending with global warming, there have been two seasons of below average hurricane activity in the Atlantic. And, finally, both Landsea and Gray have been proponents of the idea that there has been no link between global warming and increased tropical activity, and their views should have been neutralized more in the article written in the Miami Herald.
The last major topic brought up by the conference was introduced by a team at the NHC led by Ahsha Tribble. An aggressive federal plan called the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project calls for the extension of the current five day forecast track to seven days by the end of the present decade. Starting with the 2001 Atlantic Hurricane Season, the NHC has been issuing five day forecasts as an improvement over the three day forecast, which had been the standard bearer for decades. The then expansion of the forecast was attributed to the steady improvement of forecast tracks since 1990 according to an article posted on the South Florida Sun-Sentinel web site. Over the past 17 seasons, the hurricane center has improved its forecast paths of storms by 50 percent.
This giant step forward began to take shape with the great success of the forecast tracks issued during the course of the 2007 season. The forecasters at the NHC have all but mastered the 24 hour prognostication by being able to predict highly accurately the position of a particular storm within 60 nautical miles of landfall. More significantly though, the hurricane center was able to accurately predict the final landfall position of a storm, or hurricane to within 290 nautical miles of actual impact. Furthermore, there is great urgency to have the forecast track time span expanded since many in emergency management and state and local governments are trying very hard to get as much lead time as possible to properly inform the public, and have them ready to evacuate when called upon to do so. Hurricaneville applauds this effort and advancement, but cautions that this many open up a whole new variety of problems as scenarios with Hurricane Elena in 1985, Felix in 1996, and Dennis in 1998.
Good early morning to everyone. Sorry that I didn’t update the site during portions of the day and evening. On Monday, I began training for a new job, which ran from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. In addition, when I got home, I was up until about a bit past 7:00 PM EDT, and fell asleep. As you can see, my sleeping patterns are adjusting from the three years of night shift work I did in computer operations. Anyway, I’ve just gotten myself up to speed on the latest with Hurricane Dean, and as expected, it became a Category Five Hurricane a bit after the 8:00 PM Advisory. The National Hurricane Center issued an update at 8:35 PM EDT on Monday night.
At 5:00 PM EDT, maximum sustained winds were still at 150 mph with a minimum central pressure lowering to its previous lowest point at 918 millibars, or 27.11 inches of Hg. Still a strong Category Four storm on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, Dean raised its intensity a notch three hours later with 155 mile per hour winds, and a minimum central pressure of 915 millibars, or 27.02 inches equaling that of Hurricane Isabel back in September 2003. A little more than a half hour after that, Dean was reclassified as a Cat Five storm as its winds were bumped up to 160 mph. Pressure then dropped another millibar, but seemed to stabilize at the 11 PM EDT advisory. The storm appears to be pushing toward a landfall in the area of the Southern Yucatan near Belize. More specifically, the coastal area some 20 miles to the east of the town of Chetumal, which according to CNN, has a population of about 100,000 people.
With Dean becoming a Category Five Hurricane, we’ve had seven such monster storms in the Atlantic since 2003: Isabel (2003), Ivan (2004), Emily, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005, and Dean. In addition, Hurricane Mitch was a powerful Category Five Hurricane prior to coming ashore in Honduras, and dumping torrential rains that produced devastating and deadly floods and mudslides that claimed the lives of an estimated 11,000 people in October 1998. So, this active cycle has produced more than its share of monster storms. All seven of these highly dangerous storms are ranked in the top dozen of all time Atlantic hurricane powerhouses including the strongest ever recorded (Wilma), and five in the top ten (Wilma, Katrina, Rita, Mitch, and Ivan). Cat Five systems are usually a rare breed since they represent the optimal condition of a tropical system. These storms require the most ideal conditions to not only develop, but to maintain itself. However, since 1970, there has been an increasing number of powerful storms not only in the Atlantic, but throughout the world according to Kerry Emanuel, a professor at MIT.
Once again, this raises the debate on whether or not the occurrence of more Category Four and Category Five Hurricanes is due to the increased presence of global warming, or is this just a part of the periodic, decadenal cycle that we are going through. Obviously, one key contributor to this debate is the fact that researchers, forecasters, and even the general public have more data and information to go on these days than in past years. As mentioned many times on this web site, the 1933 Atlantic Hurricane season, which had the previous high for most named storms with 21, may have had more named storms, and perhaps hurricanes and major hurricanes had the technology we enjoy today been around then. Satellites didn’t come about until the Tiros I was launched in 1961, and Radar wasn’t used until World War II. In addition, reconaissance flights weren’t routine until the 1950s although there had been some during the 1940s. These tools are also a big reason why we are so much more aware of the presence of such storms well before they come ashore, which has saved numerous lives over the years.
Regardless of what side you are on in the global warming debate, one thing is for sure. These are dangerous times we are living in along the coast. With populations increasing year after year, and people wanting to have a nice view of the ocean, risk is increasing. Consequently, there is a chance for a large loss of life as we saw with Katrina and Rita back in 2005, and even more importantly, monumental costs in property damage. Insurance companies are going to find it tougher to stay in business, and those difficulties will be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher rates, or an unwillingness to provide coverage. Emergency management officials at all levels will also feel the strain since evacuations will become more troublesome, and shelters will not be equipped to handle the increased number of people.
Good afternoon everyone. I got another interesting news article in my e-mail box today that I shared with those on my mailing list. The article was courtesy of WLOX, a television station out of Biloxi, Mississippi that is an ABC affiliate, and it discussed a new study that was done by a researcher from NOAA, and another from the University of Miami. This particular study found that global warming could produce increased wind shear in both the Eastern Pacific and the Atlantic.
What does this have to do with tropical storms and hurricanes you ask? Well, if you look at the factors that are critical to tropical formation, light upper level winds are right up there when it comes to hurricanes. The reason for that is because tropical cyclones are vertically stacked systems, meaning that the cloud structure around the center of low pressure, or the eye of the storm, build high on top of each other, and it’s vertical profile is not slanted or sloping like that of mid-latitude cyclones. Light upper level winds or low wind shear is important especially for fledgling tropical systems, which are trying to put the right ingredients in place to blossom and mature into the intense storms that we are familiar with.
The NOAA researcher involved in this study is Gabriel A. Vecchi, which works at GFDL, the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey. Both Vecchi and Brian J. Soden of Miami’s Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science put forth their findings after using 18 different computer models to “anticipate the effects of global warming in the years 2001-2020 and 2018-2100.” Wind shear is defined as the difference in winds at different levels in terms of both speed and direction. Both researchers found that vertical wind shear increased in the two basins adjacent to the United States when all other factors such as increased sea surface temperatures are all equal. But, in a situation with global warming, you have a scenario in which all other factors are “not equal.” However, other studies included those by MIT professor and Divine Wind author, Kerry Emanuel conclude that increased ocean temperatures have been linked to more powerful storms since 1970.
In addition, the study done by Vecchi and Soder did not find similar changes occurring elsewhere in other basins such as the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans. According to this article, “The models projected that the west and central Pacific should become more favorable to development of the storms, called typhoons in those areas.” Emanuel also believes that the finding on wind shear may be overrated. The MIT professor stated that “storms’ sensitivity to wind shear may be overestimated.” He believes that the increase in sea surface temperatures that was the basis for his study, has a much more significant impact on tropical development than increased wind shear. Meanwhile, Chris Landea from the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA contends that this was an important study. Landsea, who has worked with Dr. William Gray of Colorado State in putting together seasonal Atlantic Hurricane forecasts called the research, “a very important contribution to the understanding of how global warming is affecting hurricane activity.” Keep in mind though that Landsea and Gray are supporters of a natural cycle of increased hurricane activity while Emanuel is a proponent of the global warming impact on sea surface temperatures and increased tropical activity.
What are my thoughts on this? Well, I believe that global warming is happening, and that the climate change is already making an impact in certain parts of the world. However, I also believe that while we need to do something about the environment now to prevent the climate problem from continuing to decline, we need to do something about the upcoming season, and years in the immediate future. We need to deploy practices and policies in coastal areas to protect those that are in harm’s way now. Now, while I believe that this research and Emanuel’s findings are important, and must continue, the media and the federal government must do more to call attention to protecting coastal areas, and discourage building and increased population in those regions. In addition, other parts of the world that are not as well off as the United States, are even more in peril as the Indonesian Tsunami of 2004, devastating floods in Central America caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, and catastrophic flooding in Venezuela in 1999 proved.