Digital Diatribes

A presentation of data on climate and other stuff

2009 Hurricane Season Update

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on September 10, 2009

We’ve currently got a couple hurricanes brewing: Fred (Atlantic) and Linda (Pacific).

This may be a good time for a look into what has occurred so far and compare them to the expectations that were set coming into the year. Keep in mind that the season isn’t over yet. Here’s a nice link that summarizes normal activity. I will borrow from that in this post.

The Season is officially 6-months long, beginning June 1 and ending November 30. These dates encompass 97% of all major Tropical Storm activity. The Atlantic basin shows a very peaked season from August through October, with 78% of the tropical storm days, 87% of the minor (Saffir-Simpson Scale categories 1 and 2) hurricane days, and 96% of the major (Saffir-Simpson categories 3, 4 and 5) hurricane days. Maximum activity is in early to mid September.

hurricane_season

Hurricane Distribution



2009 Forecast

Let’s take a look at how the experts anticipated the season we’re currently in. The gurus at Colorado State University said on December 10, 2008:

We foresee a somewhat above-average Atlantic basin tropical cyclone season in 2009. We anticipate an above-average probability of United States major hurricane landfall.

ATLANTIC BASIN SEASONAL HURRICANE FORECAST FOR 2009
Forecast Parameter and 1950-2000 Climatology (in parentheses)
10 December 2008 Forecast for 2009
Named Storms (NS) (9.6) 14
Named Storm Days (NSD) (49.1) 70
Hurricanes (H) (5.9) 7
Hurricane Days (HD) (24.5) 30
Intense Hurricanes (IH) (2.3) 3
Intense Hurricane Days (IHD) (5.0) 7
Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) (96.1) 125
Net Tropical Cyclone Activity (NTC) (100%) 135

PROBABILITIES FOR AT LEAST ONE MAJOR (CATEGORY 3-4-5) HURRICANE LANDFALL ON EACH OF THE FOLLOWING COASTAL AREAS:
1) Entire U.S. coastline – 63% (average for last century is 52%)
2) U.S. East Coast Including Peninsula Florida – 39% (average for last century is 31%)
3) Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville – 38% (average for last century is 30%)
4) Above-average major hurricane landfall risk in the Caribbean

Source: http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/Forecasts/2008/dec2008/dec2008.pdf

Then, on April 7, 2009:

We foresee average activity for the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season. We have decreased our seasonal forecast from our initial early December prediction. We anticipate an average probability of United States major hurricane landfall.

ATLANTIC BASIN SEASONAL HURRICANE FORECAST FOR 2009
Forecast Parameter and 1950-2000 Climatology (in parentheses)
Issue Date 9 April 2009
Named Storms (NS) (9.6) 12
Named Storm Days (NSD) (49.1) 55
Hurricanes (H) (5.9) 6
Hurricane Days (HD) (24.5) 25
Intense Hurricanes (IH) (2.3) 2
Intense Hurricane Days (IHD) (5.0) 5
Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) (96.1) 100
Net Tropical Cyclone Activity (NTC) (100%) 105

PROBABILITIES FOR AT LEAST ONE MAJOR (CATEGORY 3-4-5) HURRICANE LANDFALL ON EACH OF THE FOLLOWING COASTAL AREAS:
1) Entire U.S. coastline – 54% (average for last century is 52%)
2) U.S. East Coast Including Peninsula Florida – 32% (average for last century is 31%)
3) Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville – 31% (average for last century is 30%)
4) Average major hurricane landfall risk in the Caribbean

Source: http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/Forecasts/2009/april2009/apr2009.pdf

Then, on June 2, 2009 (A day after the initial start of the season):

We foresee slightly below-average activity for the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season. We have reduced our seasonal forecast from our early April prediction. We anticipate a slightly below-average probability of United States and Caribbean major hurricane landfall.

ATLANTIC BASIN SEASONAL HURRICANE FORECAST FOR 2009
Forecast Parameter and 1950-2000 Climatology (in parentheses)
Issue Date 2 June 2009
Named Storms (NS) (9.6) 11
Named Storm Days (NSD) (49.1) 50
Hurricanes (H) (5.9) 5
Hurricane Days (HD) (24.5) 20
Major Hurricanes (MH) (2.3) 2
Major Hurricane Days (MHD) (5.0) 4
Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) (96.1) 85
Net Tropical Cyclone Activity (NTC) (100%) 90

PROBABILITIES FOR AT LEAST ONE MAJOR (CATEGORY 3-4-5) HURRICANE LANDFALL ON EACH OF THE FOLLOWING UNITED STATES COASTAL AREAS:
1) Entire U.S. coastline – 48% (average for last century is 52%)
2) U.S. East Coast Including Peninsula Florida – 28% (average for last century is 31%)
3) Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville – 28% (average for last century is 30%)

PROBABILITY FOR AT LEAST ONE MAJOR (CATEGORY 3-4-5) HURRICANE TRACKING INTO THE CARIBBEAN (10-20°N, 60-88°W)
1) 39% (average for last century is 42%)

Source: http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/Forecasts/2009/june2009/jun2009.pdf

But wait! There’s another one on August 4, 2009 (two months into the season…)

We have reduced our forecast slightly from early June due largely to the development of an El Niño. We continue to call for a below-average Atlantic basin tropical cyclone season in 2009. We also anticipate a below-average probability of United States and Caribbean major hurricane landfall.

ATLANTIC BASIN SEASONAL HURRICANE FORECAST FOR 2009
Forecast Parameter and 1950-2000 Climatology (in parentheses)
Observed Activity Through July 2009
Forecast Activity After 1 August
Total Seasonal Forecast
Named Storms (NS) (9.6) 0 10 10
Named Storm Days (NSD) (49.1) 0 45 45
Hurricanes (H) (5.9) 0 4 4
Hurricane Days (HD) (24.5) 0 18 18
Major Hurricanes (MH) (2.3) 0 2 2
Major Hurricane Days (MHD) (5.0) 0 4 4
Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) (96.1) 0 80 80
Net Tropical Cyclone Activity (NTC) (100%) 0 85 85

POST 1-AUGUST PROBABILITIES FOR AT LEAST ONE MAJOR (CATEGORY 3-4-5) HURRICANE LANDFALL ON EACH OF THE FOLLOWING UNITED STATES COASTAL AREAS:
1) Entire U.S. coastline – 46% (average for last century is 52%)
2) U.S. East Coast Including Peninsula Florida – 27% (average for last century is 31%)
3) Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville – 26% (average for last century is 30%)

POST 1-AUGUST PROBABILITIES FOR AT LEAST ONE MAJOR (CATEGORY 3-4-5) HURRICANE TRACKING INTO THE CARIBBEAN (10-20°N, 60-88°W)
1) 37% (average for last century is 42%)

Source: http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/Forecasts/2009/aug2009/aug2009.pdf

OK, the intent here is not to disparage or ridicule. I once joked about this with a colleague by saying: “I sure wish I had a job where I could predict things, be wrong, and then just update the numbers and just say, ‘hey, I wasn’t wrong, we just got some more information.’ Oh… wait…” (<==Actuarial humor, for those of you who aren't aware that this is exactly what we do)

But it does pretty much highlight the fact that we pretty much can't peg anything until we're actually right in the midst of the actual hurricane season.

So, as of now, we're on the 5th named storm, Fred. Nothing has been remotely close to a major hurricane, and we've only had a couple threats of landfall, but nothing direct has occurred.

I did a Google search on "lack of hurricanes caused by global warming" and didn't see anyone making this claim. But I did see many humorous links about how frequency and intensity has skyrocketed due to global warming.

Well, I suppose it may be true. Which might mean that our fairly mild seasons since 2005 could be due to something else?

Nah. That's crazy talk. Right?

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6 Responses to “2009 Hurricane Season Update”

  1. Mike said

    Good article. I always find global warmers comments about storms to be very odd and show a fundamental lacl of understanding of basic physics and the climate. Hurricanes and the more common but similar general low/high pressure systems are part of the cooling system of the earth … in fact a hurricane is really in scientific terms a heat engine, driven by a warm source and cold sink. I remember well, my own experience playing around with stirling engines. Not only was it important to have a sufficient hot source of heat, it was also crucial to have a very good sink to take away the excess heat so as to allow a heat flow.

    NOTE: HEAT !!!!FLOW!!!!

    So, the faster the engine goes (the more we get hurricanes) the higher the heat flow must be. So, on the face of it, an increase in storm levels …

    No, … I forget, most people see low pressure areas as things that suck in wind. So, here’s a bit of basic physics: the air that goes into low pressure, doesn’t disappear!!! In fact low pressure sprews out as much air as it gets in, except the hot rising air that goes into a low pressure gets pushed out at high levels, where it then cools down (by radiating its heat .. REMEMBER FOR LATER ..RADIATING its heat) the air, cools down and then sinks in areas which we call “high pressure” where we get the opposite of warm wet air being sucked in and instead get cool, dry air being pushed out. This air then picks up heat, gathers together and rises causing low pressure areas, where it then is able to loose heat at high level … a natural cooling system for planet earth!

    So, on the face of it, if this cooling system goes faster, it means that planet earth is going to cool a lot faster, so in fact, if you were worried about global warming, you’d actually worry far more if there were a LACK of storms.

    So, why might we be seeing less apparent cooling at a time of lowering temperatures? Well, the key to the natural convective cooling system that takes heat above the normal (insulating) cloud layer and above most of the rest of the atmosphere, is the LOSS OF HEAT BY IR. Afterall, there isn’t much way for hot air to loose heat at high altitudes so that it can then return nicely cooled to complete the cycle other than IR emissions.

    But as any global warmer will tell you, the normal atmosphere lacks the ability to interact with IR – it lacks the ability to block it, and the flip side of this, is that it lacks the ability to emit IR. So, along comes the nicely complex molecule of CO2, which has a high IR profile – it both blocks IR by absorbing it and heating up, and the flip side, is that CO2 is fantastic and cooling down because being able to absorb IR, means it is also very good at emitting IR when it is warmer than e.g. the cold of outer space.

    And, whilst the CO2 molecules will cool quickly by emitting CO2, there is far more normal air which does not have the same ability to emit IR … but fortunately it can heat up the CO2 molecules which can quickly emit the IR cool down, and then receive even more heat. So, adding CO2 to the atmosphere, provides a pathway for heat to get emitted from planet earth. Each molecule can cause far more heat to be emitted than it actually carries up into the higher atmosphere. It’s a bit like putting a small hole in a pool, the hole may be very small, but it can drain the whole pool. Similarly, even a small amount of CO2 at high levels acts as a vector to enable far more cooling than its apparent IR interaction would suggest.

    So, paradoxically, the reducing level of storms may be a consequence of increased levels of CO2, because CO2 may be IMPROVING the cooling rate of the atmosphere, leading to less air needed to go through the convective cycle in order to cool planet earth.

    And just for fun here is a couple of amusing stories:-

    CO2 not “ONLY” cause of warming – http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/cif-green/2009/sep/11/co2-other-cause-climate-change (The guardian is very very pro-Global warmers)

    Copenhagen: UN treaty melts into climate sideshow http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/KI12Ad03.html

    • Mike said

      Oops, forgot to mention that CO2 having a higher specific heat capacity, also means that for a given volume of air, the amount of heat being taking through the cooling cycle is increased. Or to put that another way, if you have a higher specific heat capacity, for the same flow of heat, you’d expect to see less air being moved (i.e. less dramatic flow into low pressure areas!)

  2. The Diatribe Guy said

    For somebody dumb like me, is it fair to summarize the following?

    1) When the CO2 molecule is warmer than surrounding air, it is very effective at emitting heat, thus stabilizing temperature
    2) When the CO2 molecule is cooler than surrounding air, it is very effective at absorbing heat, thus stabilizing temperature
    3) When things start getting a little out of sorts, there are built-in correction mechanims that start working to speed up the stabilization process
    4) One such mechanism is the hurricane, which uses excess heat energy of the ocean, assisting in a cooling process. The bigger the hurricane, the more energy is used, and the more it assists in cooling

    So, wouldn’t the conclusion be that the AGW community is correct in that warming does lead to more severe storms, but what they are failing to recognize is that the storms are part of the process that corrects an overabundance of warming? And they would further be correct that CO2 contributes to warmer temperatures when there would otherwise have been a drop in temps, but they are missing the fact that CO2 is actually mitigating the speed with whcih we could be warming because it is absorbing extra heat energy?

    • Mike said

      That’s a fair summary.

      But there is another principle worth bearing in mind, and it is this: any system that is unstable (unstable equilibrium) will very quickly move away from its current situation (runaway …)

      So, if CO2 could cause runaway global heating, then there are a multitude of mechanisms that could have added to CO2 levels, and if those CO2 levels caused heating and more CO2, then if runaway global warming was going to happen, it would have happened a long long long long (… billion times …) long time ago.

      It therefore follows (unless the world has vastly changed) , that a small increase in CO2 cannot cause runaway global warming. The suggestion, therefore seems to be that far from CO2 causing global warming. Any warming causing CO2 outgassing from the oceans (the same outgassing you get when you boil water – heating causing the water to be less able to hold gases) … any warming, causing CO2, must result in some kind of stabilising effect whereby the CO2 actually acts to cool down the planet.

      Now, we must be sick to death hearing the “runaway warming” properties of CO2, but that flies in the face of the fact that there have been warm periods in the past, and there has not been run away global warming, so there must be some mechanism that tends to stabilise the temperature of the earth …

      …. and parodixically, that stabilising mechanism MAY (can’t say is, I’m a scientist) be CO2!!!

  3. The Diatribe Guy said

    Thanks for your insights, Mike. It’s a great contribution. Another reader, Bob Heiderstadt, wrote a guest post discussing this very subject – that the feedback needed to cause runaway warming has simply not been demonstrated as claimed. (As an aside, Bob has graciously offered a couple other worthy write-ups that I will put up as guest posts. It is only my utmost laziness and other attempts to catch up that have so far kept me from posting them. My public apologies to Bob.)

  4. The Diatribe Guy said

    Oh, and you can find Bob’s post on the subject easily by clicking on “Feedback Effects” under the subject categories. It seems I neglected to include it under the Guest Posts category. I’ll try to remember to correct that, but for now I’m heading up north for the weekend. We’ve actually had summer weather her for over a week. It’s been glorious. Too late for the garden to completely recover, but we’re trying to get some enjoyment out of it nonetheless.

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