Hurricane expert reconsiders global warming's impact

As I previously reported in my post titled: Hurricane frequency and global warming NOT the cause of increased destruction, it appears that the “link” cited by Gore and others trying to equate global warming to hurricane frequency is rapidly evaporating. A new study published in BAMS has just gotten some press coverage.

We have this story from the Houston Chronicle:

One of the most influential scientists behind the theory that global warming has intensified recent hurricane activity says he will reconsider his stand. The hurricane expert, Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, this week unveiled a novel technique for predicting hurricane activity.

The new work suggests that, even in a dramatically warming world, hurricane frequency and intensity may not substantially rise during the next two centuries.

The research, appearing in the March issue of Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, is all the more remarkable coming from Emanuel, a highly visible leader in his field and long an ardent proponent of a link between global warming and much stronger hurricanes. His changing views could influence other scientists.

“The results surprised me,” Emanuel said of his work, adding that global warming may still play a role in raising the intensity of hurricanes but what that role is remains far from certain.

[…] Among the first to publish was Emanuel, who, just three weeks before Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, published a paper in Nature that concluded a key measurement of the power dissipated by a storm during its lifetime had risen dramatically since the mid-1970s. In the future, he argued, incredibly active hurricane years such as 2005 would become the norm rather than flukes. This view, amplified by environmentalists and others concerned about global warming, helped establish in the public’s mind that “super” hurricanes were one of climate change’s most critical threats. A satellite image of a hurricane emanating from a smokestack featured prominently in promotions for Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.

[…] In the new paper, Emanuel and his co-authors project activity nearly two centuries hence, finding an overall drop in the number of hurricanes around the world, while the intensity of storms in some regions does rise. […] By publishing his new paper, and by the virtue of his high profile, Emanuel could be a catalyst for further agreement in the field of hurricanes and global warming, Curry said.

LINKS:

See the news article excerpted above at the Houston Chronicle here.

Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit has a review of the paper here.

See the paper from the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society here.

 

 

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38 thoughts on “Hurricane expert reconsiders global warming's impact

  1. I know what it’s like to try and get things done with crumb-crunchers nipping at your heals, but I think it’s the Houston Chronicle. I couldn’t imagine this story in the SF Chronicle!
    Other than that, please keep up the good work.
    REPLY: My chronometer was off and I have chronic distractions. Thanks for reminding me it is the right chron and not the left chron. Fixed.

  2. All this wont really matter very much. We all know that when the next big hurricane hits the hysteria will start all over again reguardless of whatever facts there are.

  3. In spite of the evidence, Emmanuel still can’t be a true scientist and let go of his pre-conceived notion. He just has to say GW has something to do with it, he just doesn’t know what. That’s not very scientific.

  4. The AGW proponents were quick to accept and publicise his original paper. I wonder if they will be as quick to do the same with this one or will he now be considered a ‘crackpot’ scientist with no knowledge of climate.
    Also, I wonder if Roger Harrabin of the BBC will cover this story……

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  6. I live near Houston and most people that I know around here believe that it is very left leaning.

  7. In this year of remarkable events, what with a missing solar cycle (sort of expected) temperature drops (a happy? consequence?), falling CO2 levels at Mauna Loa (gobsmacked, but ultimately more informative than predictive), comes this news. I’ve been in the same auditorium with Emanuel and D’Aleo (it gets chilly!) and have heard Emanuel dismiss Gray as an empiricist. Of course, neither Gray nor Emanuel have done all that well in the forecasting department in the last couple of years.
    Emanuel, the theorist, simplifies a system and finds that a hurricane is an ideal heat engine. From that he concludes that warmer water (and cooler tropopause) means stronger hurricanes and refuses to see cycles in hurricane activity. Gray, firmly hanging on to the seat of his pants, looks for predictors in noisy records, relying on cycles Emanuel can’t see. Gray notes we’ve been through all this before and points to all the reasons why hurricanes often don’t reach the potential theory offers, e.g. wind shear and Saharan dust.
    The Houston Chronicle reports:

    Scientists wrangling with the hurricane-global warming question have faced two primary difficulties. The first is that the hurricane record before 1970 is not entirely reliable, making it nearly impossible to assess with precision whether hurricane activity has increased during the last century.
    The second problem comes through the use of computer models to predict future hurricane activity. Most climate models, which simulate global atmospheric conditions for centuries to come, are not sensitive enough to detect individual tropical systems.
    Emanuel’s new research attempts to get around that by inserting “seeds” of tropical systems throughout the climate models and seeing which develop into tropical storms and hurricanes. The “seeds,” bits of computer code, tend to develop when simulated atmospheric conditions, such as low wind shear, are ripe for hurricane formation.

    Trying to use hurricane activity, at least North Atlantic activity, to demonstrate global warming was never a good idea, the historical record is poor or worse, and there are cycles. All told, the signal to noise ratio is just too high.
    In this year of phenomenal phenomena, wouldn’t be neat if the model writers could work with Gray. The writers could implement theory, Gray could study the output and point out stuff that just doesn’t fit the reality he’s seen for many decades. Those observations could help make a lot more progress than is being made now.
    Hey – we could call it a positive feedback loop. That would be a refreshing change from all the negative feedback in this crazy field.

  8. Of course, the other conclusion to be drawn from the data is that the Earth isn’t warming.
    BTW, Australia gets about the same number of tropical cylones and of equal intensity as the USA get hurricanes (same thing just different names).
    Models predicted a severe cyclone season just ended. In fact we had the quietest cyclone season in at least 20 years.
    Anyone have data for cyclone frequency at solar minimimum?

  9. Thanks to Anthony and the other weblogs
    for summing up Emmanuel’s newest paper, as I don’t have time to go through it myself (My wife already thinks I’m spending (wasting!) too much tinme on this).
    It is encouraging that Emmanuel is behaving according to the data he sees, and not the intolerant ideology of Gore’s Church of Carbonology.
    I still don’t understand how he can predict hurricane inetnsity and frequency in the future. Either he is factoring in solar cycles, or he’s ignoring them. In the case of the latter, then his study aint worth the paper it’s printed on.
    You can’t make climate predictions without weighing in solar cycles – Period!

  10. Philip B,
    I was wondering the same. I haven’t taken a close look at it, but it seems the worse hurricanes have hit when scientists were warning of global cooling, 1950s, 1960s.
    And here’s an icecap link concerning F3 – F5 tornadoes.
    http://icecap.us/images/uploads/F3F5Yearly.jpg
    Problem is, data before 1960 or so are not very reliable, and thus we’re forced to rely on anecdotal data.
    To generate big turbulence, you need temperature big differences…like cooling poles and warm tropics.

  11. The New York Times “Dot Earth” posted a piece on the paper. There is an almost overt admission in this post that the science is not settled.

  12. The Anthropogenics (they refer to themselves as “Poggies” in my neck of the woods) seem to be losing their grip over the reality of the matter. For openers, temperatures have been on a steady decline since 1998 with a larger than usual drop so far this year; sunspot activity has come to a virtual standstill, hurricane numbers and strengths have not met predictions, CO2 measurement at Mauna Loa have been falling, the UN chief admits their models are “slightly off,” and now this. In reaction, Gore has launched a $300 million pro global warming advertising campaign and those in the opinion forming media have become strangely quiet.
    Have we reached that dreaded “tipping point” when the public has finally wised up to this fraud?
    Jack Koenig, Editor
    The Mysterious Climate project
    http://www.climateclinic.com

  13. For what it’s worth, I’ve been monitoring the Houston Chronicle blog and am please to report the comments are running roughly 11 to 1 against global warming. I’m amazed by this since the HC has been considered a liberal, pro Pogie “newspaper.”
    Interestingly, the Pogies have launched their usual slanderous campaign aginst those with the audacity to speak negatively of their scam by claiming Emanual is in the pay of the oil companies.
    Hmmm…… I wonder why they didn’t claim so when he was promoting the GW-Hurricane link?
    Jack Koenig, Editor
    The Mysterious Climate project
    http://www.climateclinic.com

  14. This is a typical example of what I call the scientist’s tango. Go in one direction, and then suddenly change and go the other way, always with the same confident look. Now, they’ll tell you that this is how science works, that it is self-correcting, and so on and so on, but that, nevertheless, GW is real. But next they’ll tell you it’s still serious, but that a major catastrophe will be averted. Then, it will be that it’s not quite that bad. And subtly, they’ll all become quiet, until finally, they all change their tune, and claim there is a new paradigm, that we now understand climate, and it’s link with the Sun. GW will disappear from the language. They will never admit their mistake, or else they’ll find a couple of scapegoats, like Hansen and Mann, and blame it all on them.
    If you look at the history of science, you will find how, with each paradigm, it is rewritten. The heroes of the past become the villains. The much ridiculed “deniers” become the valiant, but misunderstood, precursors of the new theory. Look at continental drift, it’s a perfect example.

  15. The New York Times “Dot Earth” posted a piece on the paper. There is an almost overt admission in this post that the science is not settled.

    But only concerning hurricanes, and not AGW in general, I’ll wager.

  16. CO2 measurement at Mauna Loa have been falling,

    I think it’s way too early to say anything like that.

  17. I don’t expect to see CO2 concentrations go down in my lifetime. With India, China and the rest of the world joining progress, emissions will increase. Cooling will absorb CO2, and so maybe we’ll see a more gradual slope upwards.

  18. The ocean is the worlds single largest source of CO2 and also the single largest CO2 sink.
    If the planet warms, the Ocean will release more CO2. I know the NASA robots say that there has not been a noticeable change in the Ocean’s temperature, but a rise of .00001 of a degree will have a huge impact on the disolvabilty of CO2 in the ocean water. Same as a lowering of .00001 degree. So while we may not be able to measure the difference in temperature change, it is there.
    So if the surface and atmospheric temperatures are decreasing, the CO2 will as well. The production of CO2 of all mankind in the past 100 years does not even come close to the production/absorption potential of the Oceans.
    On a side note, I wonder if the strength of the Sun’s magnetic field is linked to the severity and frequency of volcanic eruptions? It seems like it might be the case as our core is one giant ball of magnetic metal, an external magnetic field may have an effect on it. If anyone know of a correlation?

  19. Interestingly, the Pogies have launched their usual slanderous campaign aginst those with the audacity to speak negatively of their scam by claiming Emanual is in the pay of the oil companies.
    I would love to be in the pay of oil companies. To any oil companies out there that think they could make use of me, my services are available . . .

  20. AI:
    My thumbnail understnding is that atmospheric CO2 varies about 10ppm per degree C (atmosphere).
    This is sgnificant but I don’t think it’s too huge a factor.

  21. Francois – Regarding the scientist’s tango and paradigm-change, I seem to recall Al Gore bringing up the subject of continental drift in An Inconvenient Truth (or the excerpts I’ve seen of it), which I think is rather ironical. Alfred Wegener was pilloried by the scientists of his time – the “consensus” was definitely against him, as it currently seems to be against any scientist who does not comply with AGW. And yet Wegener was vindicated in the end, after almost half a century, when the evidence accumulated to the point where it could not be ignored. Let’s hope the current debate does not take that long to turn around.

  22. On Intellicast I watched a category five hurricane pass south of Cuba, cross the Gulf of Mexico and hit New Orleans dead on. I t never made landfall; it was over hot water all the way. I was in Toronto and I was shouting for people to get out of the way. The President of the USA asked people to evacuate. What happened? – it became a poster child for AGW, because of peoples immaturity.
    Our situation is hopeless unless we bombard the media with the truth. The media adore train wrecks – AGW and particularly carbon sequestration and gasohol are disasters for the poor and those on fixed incomes.
    I love your blogs and read and participate in many as possible , but hit the tabloid newspapers and you will get to the people.

  23. Said another way, How are a bunch of dixicrats able to listen to an authoritative republican President from Texas? How?

  24. Francis Mann: It may seem to be an easy thing to evacuate if you have the transportation and means to do so; if you don’t, it ain’t necessarily so easy (and given past false alarms it may not seem worth squandering whatever limited means you do have to so).
    As for what you saw on Intellicast, I am afraid your memory is playing tricks on you. The real Hurricane Katrina formed well north of the eastern tip of Cuba in the Bahamas, made landfall on Florida (I believe as a very weak hurricane…although it weakened a bit to a tropical storm while over land) and then restrengthened in the Gulf, tracking west and then making a turn toward the north. Here is a map of the track: http://www.hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/tropical/rain/katrina2005trk.gif (It was quite well-forecasted though and so it is true that the forecasters were warning of the very real possibility of it striking New Orleans for about 48 hours or so in advance.)

  25. Francis Mann: It may seem to be an easy thing to evacuate if you have the transportation and means to do so; if you don’t, it ain’t necessarily so easy (and given past false alarms it may not seem worth squandering whatever limited means you do have to so).

    As Martin said, if you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk, if you can’t walk, crawl. Many people waited expecting someone to come to their door and get them. That’s just stupid. They had notice, they chose not to go.

  26. Emmanuel’s stuff, with Spencer’s stuff, and Willis new agnosticism about oceanic modeling, unsettle scientific foundations.
    =====================================

  27. Alex Cull,
    It took an entire generation of scientists before continental drift could even make it to scientific journals. The first to revive it were not geologists, that just couldn’t be. It was physicists, namely Sir Peter Blackett and close collaborators, who studied magnetism in rocks (and how it changed over time, indicating drifting continents). When Harry Hess put everything together to form a coherent theory, he didn’t even dare present it as a serious piece of work. He called it “an essay in geopoetry”. Everybody had to be very cautious, because there was such anathema on continental drift.
    Given the current over-politicized context, no scientist in his right mind could come up with a full-fledged theory that would overthrow the current “consensus”. But they can first cautiously backtrack from the most outrageous claims (like Emmanuel did). Then reduce estimates of sensitivity, putting more and more emphasis on the lower values. You can bet that those who dominate the field, all the Kerry Emmanuel’s of this world, will make sure that they maintain their lead position whatever happens. Emmanuel could sense the tide turning. You will see the same disgracious ballet (or tango) performed by many others. The wording of the IPCC is very clever: it leaves plenty of exit doors: to be 90% sure that a “majority” of the warming is of “human” origins can mean anything.

  28. @Evan Jones
    Where did you learn that CO2 only varied by 10ppm?
    If this is true, then where did the CO2 come from in the past? We have had CO2 levels up to 20 times higher then they are now. And as an aside, if you look at the ice core data CO2 goes up 600 years after temperature goes up, which correlates with how long it takes for atmospheric temperature differences to effect the temperature of the oceans.
    Also, the atmospheric content of Methane, Nitrates and a few other water soluble gases increased at the same rate as the CO2.
    This points, to me anyways, that all of the major atmospheric changes in the past had to do with the solubility of the gases in the ocean.

  29. It was from Ferdinand E. from a thread a ways back.
    If this is true, then where did the CO2 come from in the past?
    It comes out of the oceans as the temperatures warmed and is dissolved back in as the temps cool. Total variance c. 100 ppm. The CO2 change lags behind the temperature change by 800 – 1300 years, so it is the temps driving the CO2, not the other way around.
    Not much big-picture correspondence, really. The minor 100 ppm ups and downs correspond with the Milankovitch cycles.
    We have had CO2 levels up to 20 times higher then they are now
    To be more explicit, we had 5000 – 7000 ppm during the Cambrian period. It dropped off to under 500 ppm by the Carboniferous and remained until toward the end of the Permian, at which point it spiked up again to c. 2000 – 3000 ppm until the beginning of the Cretaceous. It has been dropping steadily ever since to its current levels.
    During this time temps have bounced up and down from 22°C to 12°C. Of the 4 big drops, CO2 dropped twice and rose twice.
    The minor 100 ppm variance corresponds with the Milankovitch cycles.

  30. Have they discovered where the “extra” CO2 came from during the Cambrian period, and where it disappeared to? Seems like that is a huge swing in CO2 to go from 5000 down to 500 then back up to 2000 ppm. I did not know the exact numbers, but I had known that the CO2 levels on this planet reached about 20 times our current levels, and I assumed it came from the oceans.
    You know what they say about assuming though. 🙂

  31. Have they discovered where the “extra” CO2 came from during the Cambrian period, and where it disappeared to?
    I don’t know. Maybe from the initial “animal”-then-“plant” dynamic? Or leftover from the initial moon-formation collision?
    A t a wild guess, it was absorbed by land and sea.
    Seems like that is a huge swing in CO2 to go from 5000 down to 500 then back up to 2000 ppm.
    Yes. Biggest die-off ever around then.
    I doubt think it (mostly) came out of the ocean at that time. Maybe from the earth itself, as a result of volcanic activity or a meteorite strike?
    But all this is guesswork.

  32. According to a research the poorest people in the world’s poorest countries will suffer the earliest and the most from climate change, according to this year’s edition of the Environmental Review. The report says that, due to their geographical location, low incomes, and low institutional capacity, as well as their greater reliance on climate-sensitive sectors like agriculture, the poorest countries and people are suffering earliest and are poised to suffer most.

  33. According to a research the poorest people in the world’s poorest countries will suffer the earliest and the most from climate change, according to this year’s edition of the Environmental Review. The report says that, due to their geographical location, low incomes, and low institutional capacity, as well as their greater reliance on climate-sensitive sectors like agriculture, the poorest countries and people are suffering earliest and are poised to suffer most.

    Since the global climate always has and always will change, the above is pretty much an empty statement.
    It’s also a reminder why those countries should be allowed to generate wealth so they’re no longer poor and can survive periods of relative climatic differences.
    Of course, one reason they remain poor is because they cling to ancient superstitions and religions which cause them to make very bad decisions.

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