Research suggests that hurricane forecasts on intensity could never be feasible

Quick- somebody tell Mike Mann:

Surprisingly regular patterns in hurricane energy discovered

Research suggests that hurricane forecasts on intensity could never be feasible

Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona via Eurekalert

Researchers at Mathematics Research Centre and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona have discovered the mathematical relation between the number of hurricanes produced in certain parts of the planet and the energy they release. The distribution is valid for all series of hurricanes under study, independent of when and where they occurred. The research, which is published on Sunday online edition of Nature Physics, suggests that the evolution of hurricane intensity will be very difficult to predict.

It is well known that there are less probabilities of a devastating hurricane developing than of a modest one. However, the exact relation between the number of hurricanes and energy released was not known until now. Researchers from the Mathematics Research Centre (CRM) and the Department of Physics of Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona have analysed data corresponding to tropical cyclones (generic name used for hurricanes) which have appeared in different parts of the planet between 1945 and 2007. Scientists have discovered that this relation corresponds to a power-law, a precise mathematical formula cyclones obey in a surprising manner, regardless of where on the planet and when they appear.

This fundamental discovery has led researchers to more general conclusions on the behaviour of hurricanes. The first conclusion states that a hurricane’s dynamics can be the result of a critical process, therefore making it impossible to predict its intensity. One of the aspects traditionally studied by organisations monitoring the danger of hurricanes is the prediction of their intensity, since this determines which alert and prevention systems are to be used in populated areas. Despite the efforts of scientists and resources invested, until now results have been very poor, although predictions on hurricane trajectory have improved considerably. The fact that hurricanes follow this power-law, as do other natural phenomena where large amounts of energy are released, e.g. earthquakes, questions the ability to predict the evolution of their intensity. In these types of processes, the dynamics behind large hurricanes are the same as those producing tropical storms of less importance and range. The way in which a small storm evolves and transforms into a catastrophic hurricane depends on whether the fluctuations amplifying the storm are stronger than those which tend to dissipate it. However, there is no specific aspect pointing to which will be the dominant fluctuations, since the system at that moment is in a critical situation, i.e. on the verge of either dissipating or growing.

The second conclusion of the study is related to the effects of global warming on the behaviour of tropical cyclones: a recent increase in activities in the North Atlantic has shown to follow the same pattern as other high-activity periods in the past. Although there has been a dramatic increase in the number of hurricanes occurring in the North Atlantic since mid-1990s when compared to the period starting in the 1970s, the distribution of hurricanes in the 1950s was similar to today’s activity level. Therefore, this increase cannot be explained solely on the basis of climate change. Even so, the research points to the existence of a relation between global warming and the distribution of tropical cyclones. The number of hurricanes is inversely proportional to the energy released, except for the highest values of energy, where the relation is suddenly interrupted. Researchers have observed that the cut-off point where the power-law does not represent the behaviour of hurricanes is influenced by factors such as average sea surface temperature and the El Niño phenomenon. Thus at a higher temperature, for example, the cut-off point rises to higher energy values.

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The research, which was published  in the online edition of Nature Physics, was carried out by Álvaro Corral, researcher at Mathematics Research Centre (consortium formed by the Institute of Catalan Studies and the Catalan Government, located at the UAB Research Park; CRM is also a CERCA center); Albert Ossó, UAB student in Physics; and Dr Josep Enric Llebot, professor at the UAB Department of Physics.

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31 thoughts on “Research suggests that hurricane forecasts on intensity could never be feasible

  1. I suspect the hurricanes depicted by alGore with reverse rotation will be much more intense.

  2. What was otherwise interesting of course had to be polluted by global waarming references. Indeed, isn’t it quite contradictory to say that it difficult to predict the intensity of a hurricane and yet predict more intense hurricanes

  3. Mod: I lost the blockquotes; do they work?
    [REPLY: Don’t use “blockquote cite”, just use the “blockquote” command in arrow brackets. ~dbs, mod.]

  4. I’m not very impressed with the details. Some of the generalities are okay, but some of them are well know. Also, the press release can’t make its mind up about whether it’s talking about forecasting an individual hurricane or seasonal forecasts of number, intensity, and landfall.
    Various items:
    Prediction of track vs. intensity – we’re much better at predicting track. Intensity predictions have improved, but not as much. I think a lot of that is due to how quickly a storm can change intensity and how local the effects can be. Track is more determined by larger entities like low pressure troughs and high pressure ridges.
    “that there are less probabilities of a devastating hurricane developing than of a modest one.” Okay, English is their second language, but this should be there is a lower probability of….
    However, this is nigh on useless in telling you how a wave coming of the African coast is going to mature. Much more important are SSTs, high level temps, dust blown off the Sahara, wind shear and humidity. Overall, the probabilty of all these coming together is low, but for a particular storm, the probability is quite different. This is not news. “The first conclusion states that a hurricane’s dynamics can be the result of a critical process, therefore making it impossible to predict its intensity.” This is vague, bordering on useless.
    And aside – It is really spectacular to watch an intense hurricane swallow some dry air at low levels. That cuts the power of at the knees in hours and can take days to recover.
    … “the distribution of hurricanes in the 1950s was similar to today’s activity level.” Two brownie points for this. Many theoreticists haven’t figured that out.

  5. During such sunspot cycles fro 1934 to 1964 and from 1975 to 2007, the number of hurricanes on averaged nearly doubled over the milder cycles in the early part of the 1900s.
    We have entered a solar minimum. The present predictions of strong seasons by the professionals are too high. They should cut their numbers in half.
    Paul Pierett

  6. Perhaps a different acronym would be appropriate.
    I wouldn’t want to confuse Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona with University of Alabama Birmingham.

  7. It’s like watching a card counting scam …
    The downside is the people pay for the forecast, their insurance rates go up based on these ‘forecasts’. Insurance companies love it.

  8. Scientists have discovered that this relation corresponds to a power-law, a precise mathematical formula…

    This breathless discovery should be regarded as routine; many phenomena follow the well-known power law, the analagous situation of earthquakes being a good example.

  9. 65 years is not an acceptible sample size to use for claiming they can see a long term trend.
    I can provide the stats on the number of stories started on climate progress by Joe Romm about Governor Palin when the North american temperatures are near normal.
    Discussion of hurricanes lends itself to drama and emotional viewpoints.

  10. See Edward Lorenz’s Chaos Theory with “strange attractors” per his so-called “butterfly effect” of sensitive-dependence-on-initial-conditions (1964). Add in Benoit Mandelbrot’s Fractal Geometry bruited c. 1974, whereby complex dynamic systems (those of three or more interacting variables) become self-similar on every scale. Follow with 1977 Nobelist Ilya Prigogine’s depiction of “irreversible dissipative structures” aka Catastrophe Theory, and you will find that Barcelona’s analysis of hurricane intensity reflects mathematical advances dating back nigh sixty years.
    Climate hysterics and researchers of integrity alike conspicuously avoid citing Lorenz, Mandelbrot, Prigogine, plus standard information theory (Claude Shannon, 1948), probably because the math goes ‘way beyond statistics and entails concepts foreign to quasi-mechanical constructs of astronomical, atmospheric, plate-tectonic or oceanic change. For whatever reason, climate-dynamics as a complex, high noise-level “transmission system” figures not at all in long- or short-term meteorological studies.

  11. Ken Hall, that wonderful image of the Eifel Tower minus a leg and supported by a Lego column will be engraved forever on my brain. I will smile broadly whenever I recall it.

  12. “Scientists have discovered that this relation corresponds to a power-law, a precise mathematical formula cyclones obey in a surprising manner, regardless of where on the planet and when they appear.”
    No, not a “precise” mathematical formula. These scaling laws are approximate mathematical formulae, which may nevertheless give a good fit over many orders of magnitude. However, the fractal dimension (the exponent or power in the “power law”) will tend to change gradually from one end to the other. At the upper end the spectrum steepens, at the lower end the spectrum flattens (it has to do this to avoid infrared and ultraviolet catastrophes where the integral under the curve diverges). The “cut-off” they mention is this well-known spectral steepening.

  13. The ESSC Prediction is based on “the assumption that the current extremely warm sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly (1.34 C from NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch, see SST anomaly image here) in the Main Development Region (MDR) in the North Atlantic will persist throughout the 2010 hurricane season.”
    Bad assumption. The lag time of the North Atlantic in response to ENSO events is well documented. The SST anomalies are no longer near the 1.34 deg C value on which they base their forecast. It is presently 1 deg C, and there is no reason to believe that it will not continue to drop.
    http://i26.tinypic.com/291ffpw.jpg

  14. Researchers at Mathematics Research Centre and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona have discovered the mathematical relation between the number of hurricanes produced in certain parts of the planet and the energy they release.
    However, what and whence the energy input?

  15. The Pacific Ocean is too cold to bring about the necessary conditions for Gulf area hurricanes strong enough to mimic an overall return to cat 5’s. The American continent, from coast to coast, is strongly affected by the Pacific Ocean as its spawned weather systems collide with those produced by the Atlantic, together with the influence of the loops in the Jet Stream bringing Arctic systems into play.
    How the lull in the Sun plays into this is beyond me and I don’t care to speculate unless a fairly detailed mechanism can be reasonably presented, which so far, in my opinion, has not been presented at WUWT.
    Overall, ENSO parameters (especially El Nino/neutral/La Nina events and conditions), a decidedly intrinsic Earth bound system, remain the most useful indicator in predicting the overall hurricane season activity level within the Gulf of Mexico area versus the Eastern Seaboard. Individual development and strength is another thing all together.
    Re “critical point”. I understood this point quite well and did not find it vague. Tornadic funnel clouds and rotating storm cells also have critical points thus disallowing useful prediction of their individual development, as do the tornadoes themselves.

  16. I guess the researchers never heard of tropical cyclone heat potential?
    There is a well-defined thermodynamic understanding of the maximum hurricane strength a given body of water can produce. There are other factors that mitigate whether a storm will form, where it will go, and whether it can strengthen, and those are highly interrelated and pretty well understood now.

  17. After a first read, this work looks like science. We have physicists creating theories, though low-level at this time, that describe some natural regularities that underly some important aspects of the behavior of hurricanes. We’ll have to wait and see how these theories play out, but that is part and parcel of science. Climategaters should attempt to do this kind of work.

  18. @ Sean Peake says: July 15, 2010 at 6:33 am
    “So, can this be used to predict the intensity of rants from a blowhard like Mann?”
    A classic! (Wipes coffee off screen).
    Personally I would be extremely sceptical if Meltdown Mann predicted that tomorrow will be Friday. I’d have to check at least two calendars and phone a friend.

  19. Without question, a major factor of hurricane intensity is temperature, a check against a monthly temperature series confirms that heat is a prime issue with larger events;
    http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/hurdat/ushurrlist18512009.txt
    The 1990`s was not that unusual with event numbers or intensity, there was was one extreme event in 1992; http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/Landsea/deadly/Table4.htm
    and a high number in 1995; http://www.weather.unisys.com/hurricane/atlantic/index.html
    Overal numbers are up this decade, but the intense events are confined to 2004-5, 2000, 2001, 2006 and 2009 had no US landfall at all. There are mostly 5, category 3 or above US landfall each decade, last decade had 7, the 1930`s had 8. Total numbers of landfall were equalled with last decade in the 1950`s, and greater in the 1910`s and the 1880`s.

  20. Does anyone know of a source of DAILY ACE VALUES data for tropical storm activity, for as many years as possible I could down load and plot as I have tornado production.
    http://research.aerology.com/severe-weather/lunar-declinational-affects-tornado-production/
    With an eye toward whether daily Lunar declination changes have any correlation to the past patterns, of storm intensity.
    Individual storms like Camile, Katrina, and Rita seem to repeat to similar conditions and I would like to plot the relationships in the separate basins and global total for at least several (preferably as many as data is available) years of daily data of ACE strength numbers compiled by a Known reliable source to base my work from.
    I think there will appear in the plottings some pattern, whether consistent or not I would like to find out, in case there is enough strength of correlation to base some strength consideration forecasts on in the future.
    If any one could drop a link to the tabulated data I would much appreciate it. Google searches don’t do the job it seems, too far off the beaten social media pathways.
    Thanks Richard Holle

  21. My April 6th forecast; Season starts off slow but winds up big starting with first small Hurricane Aug 14-24th,
    another three much bigger ones from September 13th through 28th, and after thoughts first and last weeks of October, for a total of
    8 real named and three more fudged but really almost too weak
    3 hurricanes
    3 total, 1 making landfall in Florida, 2 across Georgia/ Alabama from the gulf side, mid September.

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