Super-Power Hurricanes: How Much More Proof Do You Need?

There’s a lot we don’t know about hurricanes, and a helluva lot we don’t know about how climate change is going to affect them.

Will they happen more or less often? There’s no scientific consensus, we just don’t really know. When they do happen — will they be stronger or weaker on average? A consensus has emerged that they’ll get stronger, more cat4 and cat5 hurricanes compared to cat1 and cat2. Will we see a whole new class, the fierce cat6? Just speculation.

But there’s one thing we can put in the “fer-sure” category, and that’s this: hot ocean water superpowers hurricanes. Talk to the National Hurricane Center. Talk to Kerry Emanuel at MIT.

It happened to hurricane Michael, increasing its wind speed by 45mph in just 24 hours as it passed over gulf waters, where an extra “few” degrees turns out to be a helluva big deal. That’s “rapid intensification” according to the National Hurricane Center. It happened to hurricanes Harvey and Irma and Florence. It happened to Maria, wind speeds increasing 80mph in a 24-hour period before killing thousands while flattening Puerto Rico.

It’s simple, really. Global Warming ==> higher ocean temperatures ==> more “rapid intensification”. Both theory and observations agree. Accept the truth.

Michael is the proof we needed because it has finally dawned on people that the chain of reasoning is correct. Alas, to get here we had to endure not just Michael, but Harvey and Irma and Maria and Florence. And heat waves this summer all over the world, sending 20,000 Japanese to hospitals while raising death rates enough to overflow the morgue in Montreal. And “fire tornados” raging through Redding, California, with fires out of control throughout the U.S. west, in Greece, even Sweden, inside the Arctic Circle no less. How many homes, businesses, how much property and critical infrastructure destroyed? How many millions without power for days, weeks, even months? How many people left destitute? How many injured, how many dead?

We have to accept the truth, or we can’t prepare for what’s to come. How do we prepare? I only know step one: replace the politicians who won’t accept the truth.

Because what’s at stake isn’t polar bears or French champagne or the sea ice. It’s homes and businesses and property and infrastructure and power and destitution and injury and death.

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12 responses to “Super-Power Hurricanes: How Much More Proof Do You Need?

  1. I worry that all US voters can see is that the economy is temporarily doing well, so nothing else seems important. I expect the midterms to be a tepid victory for the Democrats at best. Kakistocracy will continue at least until we get a recession and finally throw the bums out.

    [Response: I don’t share your pessimistic viewpoint.]

    • rhymeswithgoalie

      I was disheartened by Jacob Soboroff’s video showing only one person at a bus stop full of students saying he was planning on voting.

  2. rhymeswithgoalie

    It happened to hurricane Michael, increasing its wind speed by 45mph in just 24 hours as it passed over gulf waters, where an extra “few” degrees turns out to be a helluva big deal. That’s “rapid intensification” according to the National Hurricane Center.

    I was following a blog full of hurricane nerds and they were all surprised at how the wind shear didn’t keep it lower. Perhaps if it weren’t for that level of wind shear, it would have gone well past minimum Cat 5.

  3. AGW has turbocharged hurricanes. If a person can’t see it, they are missing the obvious. I hope you are right about the midterm elections, T. Our elections are a real mess with gerrymandering, unlimited money, vote suppression and black box vote counts. Plus, we have the inherent undemocratic nature of how senate and representative seats are tilted in favor of small population redstates. It would be good to see a large dem victory. wait and see, I guess.

  4. Coincidence, Portugal/Spain were just hit by Leslie, first time one is know to hit the Peninsula since 1842. Leslie had been randomly wandering the Mid-Atlantic for a few weeks before setting sail to Southern Europe. On land wind speeds up to 176kmh were recorded, damage caused but no known fatalities as of now.

  5. The Atlantic hurricane ‘message’ does have a couple of down-sides.
    Firstly, the North Atlantic basin isn’t as stock-full of cyclones as is the Western Pacific. (Compare the two in this graphic of tropical cyclone tracks 1985-2005.) When the ‘storms of relevance’ are further narrowed by considering only major hurricanes making US landfall, the possibility of future ‘hurricane droughts’ is quite possible.
    Secondly, the lack of really startling views* of the aftermath (or even the low levels of fatalities) will be used to suggest that today’s storms aren’t as powerful as they once were, the opposite of the evidence. So we find Tony Whatever-he-calls-himself-these-days using pictures of demolished shanties from the early 1900s and a Panama City met station reading to do just that. Add in more recent storm damage so the really bad destruction isn’t all ancient history (as he did – the first image in this 1992 hurricane Andrew collection) and you begin to see the way he operates. (He also does his best to diminish the rated power of old storms, Andrew being apparently “officially less intense” despite Andrew having higher wind speed at landfall & almost identical pressure – 145kts as against 135 kts, 922mbar as against 919mbar.)
    *On the lack of startling Michael views, this one from here entitled “An entire neighborhood between 40th Street and 42nd Street in Mexico Beach, Fla. was wiped out by Hurricane Michael, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018.” looks quite startling. Mind, it looks like the beach can be seen in the bottom right corner of the photo so the destruction may be due less to the wind and more to the waves.

    • I’m puzzled by the idea that there’s a ‘lack of really startling views’ of Michael. We’ve seen quite a few here, both online and on network TV. The videos and stills amply justify comments like “it’s like a war zone” and “it looks like a bomb went off.”

      For instance:

  6. 21 days and change. Share this graphic, talk up the issue, write about it, volunteer to get out the vote.

    Do *something* or STFU.

    apparently Hurricane Michael has moved the needle with NC republicans and more now believe that climate change is real and is a problem. It is unfortunate, but I think first-hand, painful experience of global warming is the way that the republicans will slowly come to their senses. It is way late now to do anything about the longterm hurricane impacts on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, but it is not too late to limit other impacts that are not yet baked-in with the warming that we have already produced.

    • “It is way late now to do anything about the longterm hurricane impacts on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts…”

      That’s a bit ambiguous, but clarifying: the storms will keep getting stronger on average, little by little, with continued warming. So while we can’t reasonably expect to ‘dial back’ the current hurricane impacts unless and until ‘net-negative’ happens, we can reduce future ones with present and near-future emissions reductions.

      • to be clear, if we were to stop adding CO2e to atmosphere, the current level of hurricane ferocity that will arrive with landfall from today/yesterday forward is amazingly destructive and cannot be easily “dialed-back” into the range of hurricane strength that the infrastructure of the gulf and atlantic coast is designed to withstand. So, from now until we see the CO2e dialed back, we are looking at hurricane landfalls in these two regions that are significantly different from historic hurricane activity. Apparently, this change is apparent to a significant chunk of NC republicans who believed (like Trump) that climate scientists had an agenda, but have now experienced two of the current day hurricane experiences expected with AGW and have suddenly become believes. Seeing is believing. I have said for many years that nothing much can be done until republicans choose to address AGW. The dems can’t/won’t do much on their own. It is sad that the republican soundbite machine has produced so much suspicion about mainstream climate science, but that is what we have today. We may be able to move the US needle on AGW action when a certain number of republicans around the country have been hit hard by AGW climate-related disasters that overcome the republican ideology. It is happening. Look at the numbers in regions who have been hit hard. Many republican voters will require repeated hits before they accept the science and recognize the need for action. Some will require a single major hit. Some will hear the analysis by republicans in regions that have been struck and will abandon the anti-science ideology. We have to be ready to embrace these converts with open arms, no “I told you, so” type stuff and forge a bipartisan alliance to address AGW if we want to reduce the future damage that we commit to as we allow CO2 to continue to rise.