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Has Global Warming Made Hurricane Damage Worse?

  
By:  Que  •  Environment  •  last year  •  37 comments

Has Global Warming Made Hurricane Damage Worse?

 

Hurricanes are the most violent and destructive storms in nature. There’s a smaller, yet potentially destructive, storm raging between climate scientists and climate skeptics about the nature of hurricanes. The scientific evidence points to the fact that global warming  causes hurricanes to be more intense. Skeptics would like to convince everyone that global warming has not made any change in hurricanes, so there is no need to address global warming. Skeptics do have a point or two, but not many. Skeptics want absolute proof from the scientists, but science doesn’t work that way. The changes caused by a warming world have changed the  probability of the occurrence  of extreme weather events, and skeptics apparently don’t want to consider probabilities.

 

Skeptics say that the number of hurricanes in the Southern Atlantic is not increasing, and they’re probably right on that. Hurricanes begin as tropical storms, which occur at random depending on the weather conditions. Skeptics also say that the increasing economic damages done by hurricane is because of the increased construction along the coasts. That is partly right, but it is also right that the damage done by storm surges has increased because of increased sea level rise, which is a measurable consequence of global warming. Those who listen to the skeptics, and unwisely build in floodplains, are sure to experience more damage from storm surges.

 

Global warming has made the oceans much warmer, even later into the year. The water temperature must be above 82°F for a tropical storm to grow into a hurricane, and the warmer the ocean the more likely it is that the a hurricane, once formed,  will intensify. Hurricanes are much like a heat engine, they are driven by the warm air rising from the oceans much like a chimney effect. The greater the temperature difference between the ocean and the upper atmosphere, the faster the flow upward and the greater the wind speeds.

 

If you could slice into a hurricane, it would look something like the diagram below. It has a low pressure eye at the center, and the air drawn into it rises and circulates counterclockwise around the low pressure area, faster and faster as it nears the eye. The small red arrows show warm, moist air rising from the ocean, and forming bands of clouds around the eye. As the warm moist air produces rain, more heat is released, warming the air further and causing it to rise faster until it reaches the top of the storm. Reaching there, it has become cooler and dryer. The blue arrows show how the cool, dry air then sinks in the eye and between the bands of clouds. Remember that the bands of clouds are rotating very quickly, and the large red arrow show the rotation of the rising bands of clouds.

1173pxHurricaneen.svg.png

.                                                                                                                                                      Credit:  Kelvinsong

A hurricane is much like a heat engine. It is driven by the energy from the warm oceans and the cold temperature of the atmosphere above the storm. Because of global warming, that temperature difference is greater. The upper atmosphere receives its energy from the earth below. The increasing carbon dioxide between acts as a blanket, which causes the oceans to be warmer and the upper atmosphere to be colder. As in all heat engines, the greater the temperature difference, the more power the engine has. As a hurricane passes, it leaves the oceans cooler behind it as it sucks energy from the ocean. Because of global warming, the warmth goes deeper there is a greater area of warm water,  both factors which provide more heat to the hurricane and cause it to increase in size and intensify. The vapor pressure of water increases exponentially with temperature. In our warmer world, there is now 10 to 15% more water vapor in the rain bands moving around the hurricane.

 

When hurricane Harvey made landfall over Houston, it could be expected that Houston would receive increased rainfall. But by chance, Harvey stalled  over Houston and continued to pull warm moist air in from the Gulf, dumping over 50 inches of rain. Sea level rise has been measured to be several inches along the Gulf Coast. The extreme rainfall coupled with the sea level rise increased the storm surge and flooded much of the lower areas of Houston. The storm’s stalling was a chance event, and the skeptics are right when they say it should not have happened, but it did. Considering the storm’s intensity, the wind damage, the sea level rise, and the extreme rainfall, climate scientists attribute about 30% of the damage in Houston to global warming.

 

Below is a satellite image of hurricane Irma on the right, compared in size to the smaller hurricane Andrew which struck Florida in 1992, killing 65 people, destroying 65,000 home, and doing $26 billion in damages. Andrew was the  the most destructive hurricane to hit Florida ever before, and Irma could have been much worse.    

irma1.JPG

 

Florida was extremely lucky that hurricane Irma, wider than the whole Peninsula, went up the western side of the Peninsula. The western side of the  Peninsula experienced very little storm surge. The winds on the leading edge of the Irma, circulating counterclockwise, blew the ocean water away from shore, leaving the ocean dry for several hundred yards out as it passed. The storm was so weakened that by the time the back of the storm made landfall, directing the water toward shore, that the storm surge was only a few feet. Had Irma gone up the east side of Florida, the storm surge at the leading edge of the hurricane could have been as much as 15 feet, completely inundating much of Miami.

 

There you have it. Global warming has increased the temperatures of the oceans and has increased the temperature difference between the oceans and the upper atmosphere, both factors which tend to make the hurricanes more intense. The warmer oceans put more moisture into the air, making the rainfall from the hurricanes greater, and sea level rise has increased the height of the destructive storm surges. This fall, there were five intense hurricanes which formed in the Southern Atlantic, all of them making landfall and doing extensive damage. That could just be a chance occurrence, as the skeptics claim, but it has never happened before.

 

(c) 2017 –  J.C. Moore

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Que
2  author  Que    last year

Global warming has increased the temperatures of the oceans and has increased the temperature difference between the oceans and the upper atmosphere, both factors which tend to make the hurricanes more intense. The warmer oceans put more moisture into the air, making the rainfall from the hurricanes greater, and sea level rise has increased the height of the destructive storm surges. This fall, there were five intense hurricanes which formed in the Southern Atlantic, all of them making landfall and doing extensive damage. That could just be a chance occurrence, as the skeptics claim, but it has never happened before.

 
 
 
†hε pε⊕pレε'š ƒïšh
2.1  †hε pε⊕pレε'š ƒïšh  replied to  Que @2    last year

Global warming brought the fist snow I've ever seen on New Year's Eve. 

 
 
 
Rex Block
2.2  Rex Block  replied to  Que @2    last year

Ocean temperatures depend upon location (mostly latitude), depth, season, and the currents. Hurricanes need warmer surface temperatures to start the evaporation process and cloud formation, but upper winds play a major part of hurricane formation. To make a blanket statement that the "oceans are getting warmer" is the sole determining factor in the strength or intensity of the hurricane is meaningless.Oh, and by the way, the seas are only rising about a tenth of an inch a year. Look it up. And as for the example of the recent strong storms, you have to remember that we haven't been keeping records for all that long.

Since intense hurricanes don't occur every year, perhaps global warming has nothing to do with it. Specific facts and figures need to be stated, and a causal link established to convince people that the climate change crowd knows what it is talking about.. It's refreshing to see the word skeptic used to describe us instead of the usual term "deniers"

 
 
 
Que
2.2.1  author  Que  replied to  Rex Block @2.2    last year

Science values the skeptics, since answering the skeptics questions make science stronger. Strangely enough, the ocean rise is not uniform and the East Coast and Gulf states have measured sea level rises much greater than the average. Weather is certainly a factor in the formation of hurricanes, and the article's premise is that once the hurricane forms, it is likely to become more intense because of the warmer oceans. The average temperature the oceans have only risen about 0.85°C, but that is not uniform either. It is likely warmer in in the southern Atlantic and the Gulf. I would like to have had the ocean temperature in the paths of the hurricanes, but those are difficult to find.

 
 
 
Citizen Kane-473667
2.3  Citizen Kane-473667  replied to  Que @2    last year
Sea level rise has been measured to be about 30 inches along the Gulf Coast.

Where?Was it temporary, driven by the hurricane parked on top, or is it a permanent rise? What is the source of your data? According to the report I've read, the average increase is 1/2" per year . Even that is calculated according to the height of the land mass, and Louisiana, where these changes are occurring, has a subsidence rate of almost 9mm +/-1 average per year (0.354331) brings that half inch down to 0.15 of actual rise in water level per year. So again, I ask you, where are you getting your data? Even the Alarmist over at the Union For Concerned Scientist don't support your claim . Oh, and in case you don't like my math above, here is some backup for my claim of actual sea level rise. Now if you are talking about the temporary rise created by Harvey, there has been much worse before (over a 100 years ago) , and I'm sure there will be even worse in the future.  Strike one.

but it is also right that the damage done by storm surges has increased because of increased sea level rise, which is a measurable consequence of global warming.

Where are your measurements to show how much increased sea levels have increased storm surges? To what extent has this affected the reach, breadth, and depth of storm surges? These are important factors if you are going to claim that the economic impact of global warming is being significantly increased by climate change. Matter of fact, even NOAA doesn't back this claim without some serious caveats--and so far, it isn't happening . Strike two.

This fall, there were five intense hurricanes which formed in the Southern Atlantic, all of them making landfall and doing extensive damage. That could just be a chance occurrence, as the skeptics claim, but it has never happened before.

Yep, we had a record setter of a year...sort of. Sure, we got hit by 5 hurricanes in a year, but the record for major hurricanes in a year is 8 and that happened in 1950 . Since we actually had 5 land on us, that beats the previous record of 4 in one year set in 1964. Funny thing about weather records, since we haven't been keeping them since Day 1, they tend to get broken on a fairly regular basis. But since you are making such a big deal about the 2017 season, here is a closer look at where it actually stands in rankings over the years. Looks like you need a better source for data . Strike three!

In the interest of Transparency though, if you pay me enough, I'll provide you with any research you want to back your claims...

 
 
 
Que
2.3.1  author  Que  replied to  Citizen Kane-473667 @2.3    last year

Climate change is not baseball, and a strike here and there does not change the outcome of the game. You're right on your first point, I think that was a future prediction rather than an actual measurement.. On your second point, do you think that sea level rise does not add to the height of the storm surge?. And on your third point, your reference does not list the category of the hurricanes. The formation and path of a hurricane is a rather unpredictable weather event, and it would not be unlikely that weather conditions were right several times in the past to spawn more hurricanes. 

So are you claiming that sea level rise does not add to storm surges, that global warming is not happening, and that there are no reasons that warmer oceans and a cooler upper atmosphere would have an effect on hurricane strength? Please write an article explaining your position, and I'll be happy to critique it for you. 

 
 
 
Rex Block
2.3.2  Rex Block  replied to  Que @2.3.1    last year
that global warming is not happening, and that there are no reasons that warmer oceans and a cooler upper atmosphere would have an effect on hurricane strength?
There is no evidence of global warming of oceans: facts, figures, charts, graphs, etc., would be helpful. Why would the upper atmosphere be cooler if the planet is getting warmer? Any evidence of climate change and global remains unconvincing and vague.

 
 
 
Citizen Kane-473667
2.3.3  Citizen Kane-473667  replied to  Que @2.3.1    last year
And on your third point, your reference does not list the category of the hurricanes.

All of that information is contained within the links provided including year, tracks, category, damages, and even the names or number. I made sure I provided detailed data sets.

So are you claiming that sea level rise does not add to storm surges

As pointed out by NOAA, there hasn't been enough of a rise in sea levels to significantly impact storm surges; again, contained within the supplied links.

that global warming is not happening,

Admitted and explained in Comment 5.1 on this thread--to which you have not replied.

there are no reasons that warmer oceans and a cooler upper atmosphere would have an effect on hurricane strength?

Nowhere have I stated such, but according to the research I have seen, while the intensities may increase by 6% up to 22%,  the tendency of warmer weather over greater regions would actually slow down the number being produced, not increase it, and they would generally tend to be milder. Not exactly the same thing as you are saying here in your claims that both frequency and strength increases are due to global warming. Once again, this is all contained within the links above. Read them first, and then ask me questions on the things you don't understand. I'll be glad to help you find your answers.

 
 
 
Que
2.3.4  author  Que  replied to  Rex Block @2.3.2    last year

here is a link ro an article with the data you are requesting: t http://jcmooreonline.com/2011/08/31/bits-and-pieces-10-global-warming-in-pictures/

 
 
 
Que
2.3.5  author  Que  replied to  Citizen Kane-473667 @2.3.3    last year

I don't think you have a consistent view of nature. Please write your views into an article so I can see what you believe.

I think I made it clear in my article that the conditions that spawn hurricanes are weather event, and that global warming has not necessarily made them  more frequent. . I did make the correction about sea level rise. Since you seem very interested and knowledgeable about that, why don't you write an article about it and explain why the sea levels are rising.

Even if sea level rise is only a few inches, it is significant. If your seawall is 10 foot high, and the storm surge is 10'8" high because of sea level rise, you're going to get pretty soggy.

 
 
 
Citizen Kane-473667
2.3.6  Citizen Kane-473667  replied to  Que @2.3.5    last year
I don't think you have a consistent view of nature.

I have a very consistent view of Nature. It's chaotic. I also have a very consistent view of Man. He will say and do whatever he feels like if it is in his best interest. The Alarmist  in this whole Global Warming...er; Climate Change debate has their own reasons for believing and endorsing the blaming of Man for the so-called "problem". Sometimes it is as simple as the coal dust from the mines dirtying their freshly washed and waxed car. Sometimes it is the politician whose pockets are being lined more heavily by the "Green" energy lobby. The Academia who are getting 100's of millions of dollars for research into the "cause" must justify that money by pointing the blame at someone, or something, in order to keep those dollars rolling into their Universities--or else they get fired.

Yes, the climate is changing. It is in a warming period as we move out of the last Little Ice Age towards the apex of the interglacial period; at which point there will be sub-tropical plants growing as far north as the Canadian border. Guess what? It's a normal cycle of Earth heating and cooling. So many things affect this cycle, that it would literally take an article so long and boring that no one would willingly read it.  This is why I don't bother to write an article. If I did, you wouldn't read it; and IF you did read it, I doubt you would understand half of it; and IF you DID understand half of it, it still wouldn't change your mind about the effects of CO2 on the atmosphere. You are convinced by the greedy charlatans that we need to DO something about all that damn carbon in the air when what we SHOULD be focusing on instead are the toxins and poisonous particulates that affect our major cities making it unhealthy to go outside. IOW's we should be focusing on REAL pollutants, not carbon! But you have been convinced to watch that Right hand while the Left is slicing your throat from behind...

 
 
 
Citizen Kane-473667
2.3.7  Citizen Kane-473667  replied to  Que @2.3.5    last year
Even if sea level rise is only a few inches, it is significant. If your seawall is 10 foot high, and the storm surge is 10'8" high because of sea level rise, you're going to get pretty soggy.

Not if you keep elevating that sea wall to keep pace with the rising water levels, although I for one, would actually build them a little higher than that to stay ahead of the game! :)

 
 
 
The Magic Eight Ball
3  The Magic Eight Ball    last year

as a builder I spent my life being in and or chasing hurricane damage around the USA

are hurricanes getting worse? short answer is NO.

are con artists like al gore getting rich from playing on peoples fears?  of course.

 
 
 
Shepboy
4  Shepboy    last year

Cant win for losing , if temps are warmer than normal. its global warming..  If temps are way below normal , like they are right now.. its global warming..

Its called Weather.. it changes all the time, it has changed long before industrial age , ice ages.. all kinds of crazy weather patterns.. cant blame the population for them..

It is a money making scheme playing on peoples fears.

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
4.1  Sean Treacy  replied to  Shepboy @4    last year

Yep, the "theory" can never be disproved, because all possible evidence supports it. And as Karl Popper explained, theories that can't be falsified cannot be classified as scientific. 

 
 
 
Que
5  author  Que    last year

Please read the first link  in the article, which explains how extremely cold weather does not prove global warming false. According to Popper, theories must be falsifiable by evidence and reason.The skeptics problem is that they have very little evidence and none that is conclusive.

 
 
 
Citizen Kane-473667
5.1  Citizen Kane-473667  replied to  Que @5    last year
The skeptics problem is that they have very little evidence and none that is conclusive.

We're coming off an Ice Age, we're going to continue to warm up. Yes, human activity does contribute to rising temperatures. As a matter of fact, I believe our effect is calculated at 3% with Mother Nature with all her forests, plate tectonics, solar winds, tilt of the Earth,  and volcanoes accounting for the rest. Break out the handcuffs! Let's go bust her ass!

 
 
 
Que
5.1.1  author  Que  replied to  Citizen Kane-473667 @5.1    last year

Climate scientists attributed about 30% of the damage done in Houston to global warming. I'm not sure what you are claiming 3% of. The Earth's temperature is now about 288.5° Kelvin. 3% of that would be 8.6°C. That is outside the range of current predictions.

The water and food supply we need to sustain our civilization can exist in only a very narrow range of temperature, and we are nearing the top of that range.

I'm glad you understand that human activity is making global warming worse. If we are causing it, then we could likely change it if we had the political will to do so. 

 
 
 
Rex Block
5.1.2  Rex Block  replied to  Que @5.1.1    last year
Climate scientists attributed about 30% of the damage done in Houston to global warming.

How exactly did they do that? Show us the facts and figures, the math and science. Unattributed and unproven statements are worthless.

 
 
 
Rex Block
5.2  Rex Block  replied to  Que @5    last year
The skeptics problem is that they have very little evidence and none that is conclusive.

The same can be said of global warming/climate change true believers. The actual events are not following what the models predict.

 
 
 
Que
5.2.1  author  Que  replied to  Rex Block @5.2    last year

Global warming was predicted back as far as 1890 by Lavoisier. The climate models have gotten better and better, and we have seen many of the early predictions come true. Predicting the future is always a bit chancy, but this article has evidence that what the scientists were predicting long long ago is now happening and measurable: http://jcmooreonline.com/2011/08/31/bits-and-pieces-10-global-warming-in-pictures/

 
 
 
cjcold
5.2.2  cjcold  replied to  Rex Block @5.2    last year

Actually it's warming faster with more extreme weather events than most models predicted. Go to NASA or NOAA or NSIDC or any number of actual science sites for real information instead of some right wing anti-science blog funded by the fossil fuel industry.

 
 
 
Rex Block
5.2.3  Rex Block  replied to  cjcold @5.2.2    last year

Well, if it is supposedly warming faster than predicted, then it shows that their models were wrong then, and continues to be. And how is "extreme" weather defined, and by whom?? Been a lot of extreme weather events in the 4.58 Billion years that Earth has been around. "Snowball Earth", very high levels of CO2 at times, ice ages, etc. Remember, the plates have shifting since like forever, and what is now Colorado was sea floor bottom and South of the Equator at one time in the distant past. Many scientists think our inter-glacial period might have peaked and that we could be heading back into another Ice Age.

 
 
 
charger 383
6  charger 383    last year

Root cause is overpopulation

 
 
 
Que
6.1  author  Que  replied to  charger 383 @6    last year

That is so true. Do you have a solution?

 
 
 
charger 383
6.1.1  charger 383  replied to  Que @6.1    last year

Start with awareness of it and encouragement of smaller families, provide birth control and abortions. Of course this will meet resistance.   

 
 
 
It Is ME
7  It Is ME    last year

Has Global Warming Made Hurricane Damage Worse?

NO !

Constant building makes Hurricanes look worse !

The more that gets built...the more damage you WILL see ! geek

kinda makes you wonder how good construction is. Look at the buildings that were built before the so-called codes came into effect. Most are still standing to this day !

 
 
 
Explorerdog
7.1  Explorerdog  replied to  It Is ME @7    last year

After a landfall the most significant damage is to structures that predate hurricane mitigation techniques, roofs become airborne, interiors flooded, regardless of how well built some storms will smash them. Where are you looking to see such renowned construction hundreds of miles inland? If the ingredients exist for the formation of a hurricane and the water temps are higher that means more available energy and a reasonable expectation of a bigger stronger storm.

 
 
 
It Is ME
7.1.1  It Is ME  replied to  Explorerdog @7.1    last year
Where are you looking to see such renowned construction hundreds of miles inland?

Florida.

Cracker houses that have stood through every Hurricane for the last few hundred years.

My Grandfathers home withstood "Andrew", and it was built in 1941. 

Our Old home was built in 1962, and had No Structural Damage either.

 
 
 
Citizen Kane-473667
7.1.2  Citizen Kane-473667  replied to  Explorerdog @7.1    last year
After a landfall the most significant damage is to structures that predate hurricane mitigation techniques

Only from about 1970 forward. If you go back to structures built 100 years ago, you'll find they are much more resilient than practically anything we build now, and if we compare building materials side-by-side, you'll find those older homes are MUCH better built.

  1. Older homes built before drywall had plaster and lathe walls, making them structurally more sound and more soundproof.
  2. Wood frames were built using old growth timber with a high density of growth rings making it much stronger than what you see today. As a matter of fact, many homes were built using cypress and oak rather than white pine like we do now. This hardwood construction is a definite plus when it comes to durability and strength.
  3. Old homes are always floored with tongue and groove wood planks, not OSB subflooring. Again, these floors were generally oak or cypress which is much more resistant to water damage than OSB subflooring. 
  4. Old roofs were either shake, slate, or tile. While shake roofs are very uncommon and IMO less durable than shingle, the other two materials added weight that help hold the roofs down during high winds. Their design means you usually only loose a few pieces, not the entire roof during storms.
  5. These homes were built to last not just ONE lifetime, but for generations to come by their owners who planned to spend their entire lives in that spot and hand it down to their children and grandchildren. They were built by craftsmen who regarded their work as an art, not just a job. The techniques they used were not only more labor intensive, but also add to the structural integrity of the home. Today's homes are built by contractors paying as little as possible to their laborers who are just their to collect a paycheck.

These are just a few reasons why 100 year old homes still remain standing after a storm passes through while our modern day, built-to-code homes are floating by in the streets. Anyone who has ever lived in 100 year old plus buildings know that, and wise homeowners actively seek them out to buy just for those reasons. They may not be full of modern conveniences like central AC, but that can be added cheaply compared to trying to add quality to the construction.

 
 
 
It Is ME
7.1.3  It Is ME  replied to  Citizen Kane-473667 @7.1.2    last year

Back then, a 2x4 was actually a true 2" x 4". Now it's 1 1/2" x 3 1/2".

 
 
 
Que
7.1.4  author  Que  replied to  Explorerdog @7.1    last year

That is so true, and there are many things that can be done with construction to help buildings withstand hurricane force winds.We have rather unwisely been building in floodplains, and the flooding along the oceans are going to be worse because of Increasing moisture in the air because of warmer oceans and sea level rise. It doesn't matter so much about the construction if the water outside your door is 6 foot deep.

 
 
 
Explorerdog
7.1.5  Explorerdog  replied to  Citizen Kane-473667 @7.1.2    last year

How many roofs are tiled today, take a look around, many. I could not care less if the floor is tongue and grooved because when the roof flies it matters not. How many of the older buildings that were in vulnerable locations are long gone. My Florida house circa 2002 survived Irma with only a single wind driven leak from under the eaves, my oak trees suffered my pines did not. Good engineering increases the survival rate and a half inch difference on a 2 x 4 does not make up for inadequate spacing, bracing, proper tie downs. 1970s boats were built with super thick fiberglass, logic should show a greater lifespan compared to the lighter weight newbies and it doesn't. A structure that takes an unprecedented hit or experiences a storm greater than any it has been exposed to before is at risk. The Luddite mentality that they used to do everything better in the old days simply fails under scrutiny. Cars are better, safer, faster, quieter and more efficient than ever before yet there are those that disagree. 

 
 
 
It Is ME
7.1.6  It Is ME  replied to  Explorerdog @7.1.5    last year
Good engineering increases the survival rate

What is good engineering ?

We couldn't afford what is considered "Good" engineering when it comes to simple homes. That is why architects and engineers only design to what the code says they should design to. Those houses still have issues in even the smallest of hurricanes.

 
 
 
Citizen Kane-473667
7.1.7  Citizen Kane-473667  replied to  Explorerdog @7.1.5    last year
How many of the older buildings that were in vulnerable locations are long gone.

Fewer than the "new" construction buildings.

BTW, us "Luddites" know and agree that there are definite improvements that have and can be made in building construction but there is also no denying a building is only as good as the materials and craftsmanship of the work, like the Steam Punks try to do.

 
 
 
magnoliaave
8  magnoliaave    last year

Some people forget the devastation caused by hurricanes in the Southeast.  I have been through many.  It is never a pretty sight. 

When they enter the Gulf of Mexico to the warm waters it is only guess work where they will land.  It is always at night when you hear the pines breaking and wonder if it your house it lands on.  The constant wind and banging goes on and on.  No electricity for sometimes weeks.  No water.  And, it is always hot.  You get out and start cleaning.  You haul trees, cut obstacles down, you share food, YOU ARE MISERABLE!  But,you lived through it.

 
 
 
Tacos!
9  Tacos!    last year

Government needs to subsidize research into next-generation umbrella technology.