If a hurricane dies in the middle Atlantic, does it make a sound?

Desperate de jour – trying to locate unreported hurricanes prior to the satellite era by looking through old seismometer records in an attempt to prop up the imagined “global warming equals more hurricanes” connection….which we know doesn’t exist and has been debunked time and again. Most recently is was falsified  yesterday with FSU’s ACE graph, showing hurricane levels at a 30 year low.

Seismograph

From a Geological Society of America press release:

Seismic Noise Unearths Lost Hurricanes

Boulder, CO USA – Seismologists have found a new way to piece together the history of hurricanes in the North Atlantic – by looking back through records of the planet’s seismic noise. It’s an entirely new way to tap into the rich trove of seismic records, and the strategy might help establish a link between global warming and the frequency or intensity of hurricanes.

“Looking for something like hurricane records in seismology doesn’t occur to anybody,” said Carl Ebeling, of Northwestern University in Evanston. “It’s a strange and wondrous combination.”

The research is attempting to address a long-standing debate about whether the warming of sea-surface waters as a result of climate change is producing more frequent or more powerful hurricanes in the North Atlantic. It’s a tough question to answer.

Before satellite observations began in the 1960s, weather monitoring was spotty. Ships, planes, and land-based monitoring stations probably missed some hurricanes, which tend to last for about a week or so, Ebeling said. This type of uncertainty poses a problem for scientists, who can’t identify trends until they know what the actual numbers were.

To fill in the historical blanks, Ebeling and colleague Seth Stein are looking to seismic noise, an ever-present background signal that bathes the surface of the Earth. Seismic noise derives its energy from the atmosphere and then gets transmitted through the oceans into the solid earth, where it travels as waves. Seismometers record the noise as very low-amplitude wiggle patterns with much larger, obvious signals that come from earthquakes. Subtle changes in seismic noise frequency and amplitude have long been ignored.

Ebeling and Stein analyzed digital seismograms dating back to the early 90s from two monitoring stations: one in Harvard, Mass., and one in San Juan, Puerto Rico. For this study, the researchers looked at seismograms recorded during known hurricanes in an attempt to see whether patterns produced during hurricanes look predictably different from patterns produced during regular storms or when there are no storms at all.

Their preliminary results suggest that hurricanes do indeed produce recognizable patterns, and the waves generated by hurricanes travel large distances. The Harvard station recorded signals from Hurricane Andrew more than a thousand kilometers away.

“There’s definitely something there that shows this can be workable,” Ebeling said. “This is something new and interesting.”

At least one major hurdle remains before scientists will be able to pull together a complete hurricane history out of the seismic records. For most of the 20th century, seismograms recorded data on rolls of paper. Those records, which contain hundreds of thousands of hours of data, will need to be digitized. Ebeling is looking for an efficient way to do that.

###

ABSTRACT:

View abstract at http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2009AM/finalprogram/abstract_161903.htm.

EXTENDING THE NORTH ATLANTIC HURRICANE RECORD USING SEISMIC NOISE

EBELING, Carl W. and STEIN, Seth, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Northwestern University, 1850 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208-2150, carl@earth.northwestern.edu

An ongoing debate within the climatological community centers on whether rising sea-surface temperatures due to global warming are changing the frequency or energy of North Atlantic hurricanes. The historical record makes it difficult to answer this question because before the advent of satellite-based observations in the 1960s, storms that did not make landfall may have gone unobserved, making an undercount likely.

To address this issue, we are developing a methodology to improve the record of the number and energy of North Atlantic hurricanes by analyzing their signals on decades of historical seismograms. Seismic noise—signals derived from natural sources and not related to earthquakes—is generated by atmospheric energy and so has been used as a proxy for oceanic wave climate and an indication of decadal-scale climate variability. Hence seismic noise should be usable to detect hurricanes that may have gone unobserved and to estimate their energy. As a first step in developing such a methodology, we are using digital data from the HRV (Harvard, MA) and SJG (San Juan, PR) seismic stations to calibrate seismic noise signals correlated with maximum wind speeds of well-characterized North Atlantic hurricanes and investigate the development of a hurricane discriminant.

Preliminary analysis of seismic noise power shows a variation by about two orders of magnitude between the low noise levels of the summer and the high noise levels between late September and May. Although a hurricane signature is not apparent in raw HRV power data, band-pass filtering of data recorded during hurricane Andrew (August 1992) reveals a signal correlatable with Andrew’s maximum storm wind speed. Because non-hurricane storms also generate signals in this band, we are investigating a discrimination algorithm combining data from the two distant sites.

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45 thoughts on “If a hurricane dies in the middle Atlantic, does it make a sound?

  1. The theory seems reasonable but….

    The signal they are looking for will have false positives and false negatives so there will be plenty of wiggle room for them to “tune” the signal parameters. This will inevitably mean they will have a wide range of results from which they can pick the “best” one to keep the grant money rolling in.

    I guess I’m just a cynic.

  2. What is going on with the ice sites!!! Cryosphere (you dont have permission to access this server etc.., DMI totally disappeared for weeks now. Does someone know anything can we rely on JAXA? or even NORSEX.. Me thinks there getting really desperate now as most likely NH ice will hit “NORMAL” this year.

  3. If there method ends up showing significantly more hurricanes in the pre AGW period, what are the odds that we’ll ever here about it?

  4. So, 30 years of satellite data IS enough to show that melting Arctic ice is caused by AGW, but FSU’s ACE graph, showing hurricane levels at a 30 year low is NOT enough data. Go figure.

    A in PA

  5. The hockey stick hunting season has started. The best stick will be figures in the next IPCC hockey team. However, we might only know if it was the right hockey stick in maybe 10 years from now… patience my friends.

  6. It’s not that I want to be picky but if you want to be Frenchly correct, you should write “Desparate du jour”

  7. The Geological Society of America is an embarrassment for its policy position on Global Warming – to be highlighting this research is equally so.

  8. So let me see. We have records from seismographs that “need an Algorithm” to decide if the signal shows a hurricane. Fair enough if nobody ever crossed the Atlantic until satellites were invented. Since there was a LOT of ship traffic and I mean a lot from Europe to both Africa and North and South America from well before WW1, – how else do you get to another continent ? – why do they think the existence of a hurricane would be ignored. Just how many Hurricanes would have been missed ?. The amount of observers on the oceans of the world is staggering. Look at this site, http://www.gwpda.org/naval/stats005.htm for the number of ships over 500 tons on the oceans of the world in 1918 – 42 516 ships. Granted, that number has been greatly reduced, but even after WW2, the efficency of the weather organisations went up as it became more important for the air traffic. The use of seismographs is useless unless it is to provide justification for a research grant.

  9. Highly massaged seismograph records are probably better proxies for hurricanes than tree rings are for temperature.

    The first Nimbus satellite was launched in 1964 and there has been pretty much continuous satellite detection of hurricanes since then.

    Any additions to the hurricane history will most likely be pre-satellite, which is also before the most significant increases in C02 or other GHGs. So any adjustments to the hurricane record that come out of this study will most likely tend to reduce any positive correlation between CO2 and hurricanes.

    My guess is that the study will never see the light of day.

  10. KimW says “..Since there was a LOT of ship traffic and I mean a lot from Europe to both Africa and North and South America from well before WW1, – how else do you get to another continent ? – why do they think the existence of a hurricane would be ignored.”

    People that have seriously studied the issue do believe that there has been a systematic undercount bias in the pre-satellite record of hurricanes. A simple 1 page discussion by Landsea of NOAA is http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/Landsea/20thCenturyHurricanes.html

    One basic way of looking at the history is to look at the ratios of US landfalls vs. total hurricanes. A simple review of that ratio indicates that there was most likely an undercount of total hurricanes in the first half of the 20th century.

    Yes, there are lots and lots of ships in the ocean, but the ocean is very large. After having travels across the ocean several days seeing nothing but my wake, you could have easily convinced me that the ocean was infinite. :)

  11. KimW (16:37:33) :

    So let me see. We have records from seismographs that “need an Algorithm” to decide if the signal shows a hurricane. Fair enough if nobody ever crossed the Atlantic until satellites were invented. Since there was a LOT of ship traffic and I mean a lot from Europe to both Africa and North and South America from well before WW1, – how else do you get to another continent ? – why do they think the existence of a hurricane would be ignored. Just how many Hurricanes would have been missed ?. The amount of observers on the oceans of the world is staggering. Look at this site, http://www.gwpda.org/naval/stats005.htm for the number of ships over 500 tons on the oceans of the world in 1918 – 42 516 ships. Granted, that number has been greatly reduced, but even after WW2, the efficency of the weather organisations went up as it became more important for the air traffic. The use of seismographs is useless unless it is to provide justification for a research grant.

    Just a small quibble in support of your overall point, with which I agree. I checked your link, and the table is not entirely clear upon casual inspection whether the numbers in each and every column are tallying bottoms or deadweight tonnage. I think the final column in which the total is 42,516 is definitely refering to gross dwt times 1,000. Given that 10,000 dwt vessels were in common use at that time, but that there were also many small, coastal traders, and that the listing does not appear to include passenger vessels or tankers, it is safe to say that there were many thousands, if not tens of thousands of vessels plying the sea lanes. Every one of them kept detailed logs, including weather observations. I wonder if I could get a grant to study how many ships were actually plying the world’s sea lanes each year for the last 150 years, and what the available windows would be in each year for a hurricane to go undetected.

  12. @Charlie (16:39:04) :

    “Highly massaged seismograph records are probably better proxies for hurricanes than tree rings are for temperature. […]”

    Yeah, I hear ya. I just don’t want to hear that they’re going to reconstruct temperatures from the data. (But it wouldn’t surprise me if someone got a grant to try.)

  13. You know we are going to lose this one, don’t you?

    If, as will most likely happen, they find hurricanes really are at an all-time low, that will just become more evidence of global warming. (“Hurricanes put oxygen into the water”, “Hurricanes help dispel heat cells”, “The planet is losing one of its major temperature control mechanisms” – that kind of thing.) If they can seriously put out longer growing seasons, crops being grown further up mountains, species extending their ranges, etc., as bad news, they’ll spin the hurricane facts to their advantage, no sweat.

    Which brings me back to another point: invaluable as the scientific evidence that Steve et al have marshalled, invaluable as Anthony’s surface stations project is, winning the logical argument is only half the battle. We have to find ways to win hearts too. I think the facts are on our side heart-wise too, because starving the planet of CO2 necessarily starves the poor, wildlife, and so on. We have to make that case. I have written some thoughts about the emotive, religious aspect of all this here.

  14. vg (15:33:10) :

    I’ve had no problems with those sites.

    Maybe it’s something on your PC!

    Maybe you’re accessing from work, that is my first thought.

    DaveE.

  15. Interesting Copenhagen 2009 tactic: question the “proof” that AGW is not causing increased hurricane activity. Then provide a methodology that will take years to digitize the records for proper computer analysis. I won’t go into model development!

  16. Wow, that’s a good idea.
    We take the historical tropical storm database, merge it with the earth quake data base and start our latest computer program that presents all the data in a magnificent three dimensional full color hockey stick graph.

    This will shake our politicians up and blow their minds, even without smoking dynamite.

  17. BEWARE! It´s from the Rome of Global Warming Church: Boulder, Colorado.

    Now that hurricanes have almost disappeared, is this a method to find and name Ghost-Hurricanes.

    They are about to detect even when you take a shower in your home!

  18. Too bad that those ancient seismic records are not also a proxy for the prevailing sea surface temperatures, concurrent with their recording of a missed hurricane. Without that, we are back to the pre 1980 ship measured temperatures which we now know are BS.

    But you have to admire the ingenuity of these folks in finding clever ways to extract more research grant money from taxpayers; who is going to call you out when there aren’t other records to verify your shake, rattle and roll claims.

  19. Why would AGW types do research that could only add to the number of hurricanes in the past ? Seems that would be like GISS adjusting early temp records upward instead of down. Counterproductive to their agenda.

    Finding extra ancient hurricanes would hurt the alarmist argument, while failing to find them would evince (yeah, I looked it up) nothing but the failure of the technique. Lose/lose either way for them.

  20. Landfall hurricanes may indeed show cycles that are different than ocean limited hurricanes (as in where the storm tracts lay as a function of the jet stream meeting the Atlantic gulf stream). Which may also show cyclic differences from overall number of hurricanes (as in AMO cycle). Hurricane strength may be yet another kind of cycle. I find this seismometer data source fascinating. For it to be truly informative, it needs to be viewed/collated in terms of weather conditions and atmospheric conditions at the time of each event.

  21. “Although a hurricane signature is not apparent in raw HRV power data, band-pass filtering of data recorded during hurricane Andrew (August 1992) reveals a signal correlatable with Andrew’s maximum storm wind speed. Because non-hurricane storms also generate signals in this band, we are investigating a discrimination algorithm combining data from the two distant sites.”

    As a geophysicist, this reminds me of joke – which anyone in the oil industry would be familiar with (or some variation similar to this). As a background, the 3 main technical divisions in the upstream part of the industry are Engineers, Geologists & Geophysicists.

    So, an Engineer, a Geologist & Geophysicist are in a room with the Boss. The Boss asks the Engineer “What’s 2+2?” The Engineer replies “4.0000”. Then the Boss as the Geologist the same question. The Geologist replies” Oh, somewhere between 3 and 5″. Finally, the Boss ask the Geophysicist the same question. The Geophysicist replies ” What would you like it to be?”

    As a geophysicist, I can tell this joke & tell you there is a lot of truth in this. Seismic data is comprised of noisy, low resolution & undersampled datasets – thus giving Geophysicists the wiggle room to produce a variety of potential interpretations or causes of various data observations – basically solutions in geophysics are commonly non-unique. This would be especially true for the study discussed above – an extremely low resolution, under sampled data set

    Clearly, the methodology of the article (with the “appropriate filtering” ) smacks of “What would you like it to be?”. Not that the answer is necessarily wrong, it needs to be taken with a grain of salt & recognized for what it is.

  22. Magma flowing under/through a volcano gives a distinctive trace, different than an eruption, even a slow one. There are other traces on seismographs that have known signals. I can imagine that hurricanes would give a distinctive trace. Remove the traces that already have known trace patterns to them, see what’s left, correlate with known hurricane events, actively measure the time lag of a current one, especially between two sensors at different distances, and bingo, signature found. Very cool.

  23. Let me get this straight, they’re looking to find more/missing hurricanes from the past. Since the 60’s we have a satellite record that if anything would show more hurricanes than the shipping lines. And we are definitely at the lowest ‘ACE’ in 30 years, so are they trying to show hurricanes have decreased relative to pre-satellite days, or that there were as many hurricanes in the old days? How are they going to cherry pick their data to prove AGW causes more and more intense hurricanes, obviously they mean today because the science is settled.

  24. Norm/Calgary (21:21:55) : “Let me get this straight, they’re looking to find more/missing hurricanes from the past…How are they going to cherry pick their data to prove AGW causes more and more intense hurricanes(;) obviously they mean today because the science is settled.”

    {sarc} You haven’t been paying attention, Norm. What they will do is construct a “robust” parallel hurricane history based on models and Seismo-vudutology and Mann-o-matic Statistics. Then they will take this new history, and “homogenize” the old hurricane history by removing “false hurricanes” from the official records. Vwallah! “Global Warming has been shown to cause more hurricanes… worse than we thought… QED… nyah-nyah-nyah.” {/sarc}

  25. Its just amazing. Massaging, creating or just making up information to prove something …… no doubt it will come out … a wild proxy measurement which wlll prove there were less hurricanes in the past …. and will then completely igonore the one robust data set we ave whoch is hurricances whioch ake landfall – particularly the 150 year record of the US Atlantic coast. Which shows there were more hurricanes during some of the past decades.

  26. Come on people where is your wonder? Some kids want to see if they can tease more information from old records. I think Pamela is right, this sounds cool.
    More information is always good for us all. It’s how it is massaged later by others that might be a problem.

  27. There is much that still needs to be understood about hurricanes, and if using this proxy produces better historic information then it has to be good for science.

    Trying to understand hurricanes and putting things in place to mitigate their destructive effects is much more worthwhile than wasting trillions in a futile attempt to change climate by reducing man-made CO2.

  28. Who wants to bet these idiots will produce a seismic hurrican proxy that insists that there were fewer hurricanes than the actual weather records show? Money on how quickly the IPCC adopts this proxy while ignoring the weather record?

  29. I agree with Pam and PG. Collecting data is never a bad thing. Biased interpretation is the problem. This study can only add to our overall knowledge.

    Kowledge and wisdom, however,are not interchangeable.

  30. April Fool! What do I know, I just an engineer whoi works to 4 decimal places! (Actually, it’s more like – “that’s near enough”!)

  31. If the warmists believe that warming causes more hurricanes, then perhaps they’d agree that the current 30 year low in hurricane activity is proof that we now have global cooling.

  32. Go ahead and let them find all the old storms they want. That will make the current decrease in activity even more pronounced. What they need to do to help their flimsy case is lose a few old storms…..

  33. Go ahead and let them find all the old storms they want. That will make the current decrease in activity even more pronounced. What they need to do to help their flimsy case is lose a few old storms…..
    Sorry, forgot to add great post! Can’t wait to see your next post!

  34. Pfft. Sounds like homeopathic methods with seismic data. A tincture of a tincture of a dataset. If you know what you’re doing, you can maybe find the most powerful current hurricanes, assuming you know where to look, start and end points, and have identified the other signals so you can eliminate them as factors. But *finding* an unknown event from a spotty, noisy record full of other, louder events?

    I call horseshit.

  35. “Looking for something like hurricane records in seismology doesn’t occur to anybody,” said Carl Ebeling, of Northwestern University in Evanston. “It’s a strange and wondrous combination.”

    Is this like looking for temperature records in bristle cones????

  36. Since we have current seismic activity on record, can that be matched to the real hurricane activity to prove/disprove this idea??

  37. I imagine it would not be too hard to use this proxy to get rid of a lot of hurricanes that did not make landfall. Many hurricanes will only have been reported by one or two ships that just passed on the outskirts of the hurricane (those that were hit dead centre probably did not have any opportunity to report anything afterwards).

    “The absence of any seismic record is robust evidence that this storm never reached hurricane strength, it was just a tropical storm”

    Easy, particularly since seismographs back in the pre-satellite era were pretty insensitive.

  38. Something just tells me that the paper rolls and original data will ultimately disappear leaving us with only the ‘homogenized data’ that proves global warming causes more hurricanes.

  39. Has anyone noticed the trend for all the reports coming out of Colorado whether it is hurricanes, or ocean heat, or midge studies or ….

    There seems to be an orchestrated theme coming out of there … or is it just me that has noticed this.

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