Global hurricane activity at historical record lows: new paper

Hurricane Igor (2010)

During the past 6-years since Hurricane Katrina, global tropical cyclone frequency and energy have decreased dramatically, and are currently at near-historical record lows.  According to a new peer-reviewed research paper accepted to be published, only 69 tropical storms were observed globally during 2010, the fewest in almost 40-years of reliable records.

Furthermore, when each storm’s intensity and duration were taken into account, the total global tropical cyclone accumulated energy (ACE) was found to have fallen by half to the lowest level since 1977.

In his new paper “Recent historically low global tropical cyclone activity”, Dr. Ryan Maue, a meteorologist from Florida State University, examined the last 40-years of global hurricane records and found strikingly large variability in both tropical cyclone frequency and energy from year-to-year.  Since 2007, global tropical cyclone activity has decreased dramatically and has continued at near-historical low levels.  Indeed, only 64 tropical cyclones were observed globally in the 12-months from June 2010 – May 2011, nearly 23-storms below average obliterating the previous record low set in 1977.

On average, the North Atlantic including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea accounts for about 1/8 of total global tropical cyclone energy and frequency.  However in 2010, the Atlantic saw 19 tropical storms, of which 12 became hurricanes as expected (and forecasted) due to the intense La Nina event and continued positive Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO).  The Atlantic Ocean’s accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) corresponded to about 1/3 of the global calendar year output while the Western North Pacific typhoon season experienced a record few number.  Seasonal forecasters of Atlantic hurricanes expect a similar but somewhat tempered outcome for the 2011 season, which has yet to get underway.

While the North Atlantic continued a 16-year period of above-normal activity in 2010, the North Pacific including the warm tropical waters from China to Mexico experienced the quietest tropical cyclone season in at least 40-years of historical records.  Similarly, the most recent Southern Hemisphere cyclone season, except for the disastrous impacts of Yasi, was also notably below average.  All told through June 27, 2011, overall global accumulated cyclone energy and frequency has settled into a period of record inactivity.

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Abstract of paper:

Tropical cyclone accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) has exhibited strikingly large global interannual variability during the past 40‐years. In the pentad since 2006, Northern Hemisphere and global tropical cyclone ACE has decreased dramatically to the lowest levels since the late 1970s. Additionally, the global frequency of tropical cyclones has reached a historical low. Here evidence is presented demonstrating that considerable variability in tropical cyclone ACE is associated with the evolution of the character of observed large‐scale climate mechanisms including the El Niño Southern Oscillation and Pacific Decadal Oscillation. In contrast to record quiet North Pacific tropical cyclone activity in 2010, the North Atlantic basin remained very active by contributing almost one‐third of the overall calendar year global ACE.

Citation:  Maue, R. N.  (2011), Recent historically low global tropical cyclone activity, Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, LXXXXX, doi:10.1029/2011GL047711.

Figure 1: (Updated: June 1) Last 4-decades of Global and Northern Hemisphere Accumulated Cyclone Energy: 24 month running sums through June 1, 2011. Note that the year indicated represents the value of ACE through the previous 24-months for the Northern Hemisphere (bottom line/gray boxes) and the entire global (top line/blue boxes). The area in between represents the Southern Hemisphere total ACE.

Figure 2: (Updated: June 1) Last 4-decades of Global Tropical Storm and Hurricane frequency — 12-month running sums. The top time series is the number of TCs that reach at least tropical storm strength (maximum lifetime wind speed exceeds 34-knots). The bottom time series is the number of hurricane strength (64-knots+) TCs. The added red lines are linear trends, which serve the useful purpose of delineating the respective time-series mean, since they are flat and parallel. Updated through June 1, 2011.

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More evidence that the AGW hypothesis prediction is a failure.

Robert M

Evidence of a cooling planet? The spin doctors need to operate on this data stat, otherwise the patient, public belief in AGW, may die…

MikeA

Can someone explain the relationship between Tropical Cyclone Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) and Tropical Cyclone Activity?
[RyanM: Activity is a generic term. Accumulated Cyclone Energy is a well-used metric of tropical cyclone activity used by NOAA and even the EPA as a “climate indicator”. It is easily calc’d by taking the maximum wind speed reported by the NHC or JTWC every 6-hours and squaring it — then add up and divide by 10^4.]

Jason Bair

But I was told that hurricanes are getting worse and more numerous!

goldie

As I understand it, weather is more about relative differences in temperature in the atmosphere as opposed to absolute temperature, which, theoretically is the domain of climate. So I’m not sure what this proves except, of course, that the prediction was wrong. Has anybody come up with a view on this? [RyanM: yes, everything is relative. it is a great unanswered question in meteorology, why the number of storms is what it is … ]

tokyoboy

I bet even the historically low global tropical cyclone activity will instantly be blamed on AGW by some people.

mike sphar

I’ll be looking to see this highlighted at Dr. Master’s hurricane blog since he didn’t mention it in conjunction with his year of horrific events.
[ryanm: Masters will not cite my work.]

MikeA

Oh and the relationship to Global Hurricane activity might be interesting as well.

Brian D Finch

It’s worse than we thought.
All our evidence has blown away.
Must have been a storm…

JPeden

Another CO2 = CAGW failure of prediction divergence toward even the opposite of what the allegedly ever present “climate change” has been ordered to do by the “the physics” and “data” represented by the GCM Models. Sadly for the Anthropomorphizing Anthropogenic Anthrowbacks, the climate seems to be in a kind of denial too.

John F. Hultquist

Thanks, Ryan. Very interesting (and a lot of work). But still, Al Gore “sees” hurricanes. Okay, his spin the wrong direction, produce negative energy, and cause ACE to be historically low. It is hard to compete with good fiction:
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/19/not-finding-any-gore-airbrushes-in-hurricanes-for-his-new-book/
Ryan’s post, but see comment #2 by rxc.

mike sphar says:
June 26, 2011 at 9:30 pm
I’ll be looking to see this highlighted at Dr. Master’s hurricane blog since he didn’t mention it in conjunction with his year of horrific events.
[ryanm: Masters will not cite my work.]
===========================
What? He will not cite your work?
So…. Dr Jeff Masters…you are a scientist, right?
But yet you will not cite Dr. Maue’s work?
What are you afraid of?
[PS the fact that you ignore anything contrary to you is very very similar to the problem that Ayn Rand expounded upon more than a half century ago.
When Ellsworth Toohey was confronted with the incontrovertible evidence of Howard Roark’s brilliance, Ellsworth said simply: “Well I just don’t notice him.”
Res ipsa loquitur.
Chris
Norfolk, VA, USA
[RyanM: Masters had a post in early April about the global decline in TC activity — which coincidentally occurred 3-days after I gave a presentation about it … and of course, a simple google will show that I keep track of such TC related things…Masters is a self-admitted ideologue at this point in his scientific career. He doesn’t publish research that I know of.]

goldie

Thanks RyanM, I thought I was going mad.

Colin in Mission BC

Remember when snow was going to be a thing of the past 10 years ago? Yet, record snowfalls these past two winters were deemed “consistent with” CAGW conjecture.
Same deal here. The koolade drinkers will come up with some contrived explanation how fewer storms is “consistent with” CAGW.
That’s when you know CAGW is more religious cult than science: it cannot be falsified. Even in the face of multiple failed predictions, the true believers cling true to their doctrine.

Ryan if you have a chance read The Fountainhead. The book was written at the median of the last century but gets EXACTLY at what is wrong with everything.
Probably the most important book written in the 20th century.
Oh wow….the 20th century….that is a relic. LOL
Chris
Norfolk, VA, USA

Gary Hladik

Jason Bair says (June 26, 2011 at 9:28 pm): “But I was told that hurricanes are getting worse and more numerous!”
Despair not, ye faithful! No doubt the good Prof(it) Dr. Michael “Siltdown” Mann shall soon turn his attention to this blasphemous data, and lo! A blessed Hockey Stick shall miraculously appear and smite the heathen disbelievers! And the almighty See-O-Tou shall once again smile upon his flock and bless them with taxpayer money.
/sarc

rbateman

Seems like the hurricanes are suffering from a lack of energy.
I see some hint of Solar Cycle minimum mixed in there, as well as Neutron Counts, but it is on for one cycle, and out of phase the next. Fascinating.

Dr. Killpatient

If you listen carefully, you will hear the prayers of the Gaya worship-freakamonks desperately hoping for just one deadly hurricane to hit the US mainland.
Celebrations to follow immediately thereafter.

SSam

I think it’s a great set of data. I was fiddling around with just the Atlantic basin a few years ago and was intrigued by the trends. I stopped when I found out that an actual researcher was doing real research on it. The only part about it that I was unhappy with was the lack of availability of the data in either table or csv data format.
That it’s being seriously looked at makes me happy. I can live with that.
Bravo Zulu.

It kinda runs in the face of the “worse than we thought” doctrine of wildly escalating superstorms and the like, doesn’t it? Heaven forbid, While Al Gore implodes, so does his silly theory.

tokyoboy

If a Mann works a Tijlander magic on those beautiful graphs …………….

J. Felton

rateman said
” Seems like the hurricanes are suffering from a lack of energy.”
* * *
IMO, you hit the nail on the head.
And thanks Ryan, for a very interesting study. If I had to wager a guess, ( pretty much the only thing I’m qualified to do on this issue), is that after a period or year of strong highs, as evidenced by the graphs, ( 94, 98, 06) it seems to taper off a bit, into a period of lower activity and intensity.
Like rbateman says, this could be due to a lack of energy, which seemed to be expended during the last “high” period.
Of course, this is all speculation, and I could be completley off my rocker.
Anyways, thanks Ryan, for a very through study. Very pleasant to read. I just hope you didnt have to be in the middle of any cyclones to record it. Very nasty pieces of business, they can be.
[ryanm: doubtful, i live near Anthony in California…]

Yet more proof of …. a new Maunder minimum?
… OK, only kidding! But, even now I can see how something like this will be used in a few years when the “heat” is off and the “cool” topic is … global cooling and the Maunder minimum.
Somehow I know we are going to get just as sick to death of the “is it more proof of an impending ice age” as we were with the “is it more smelly socks from mann”!!

Ryan, congrats…… and well done. To see some realism in some research work is a breath of fresh air.
Other than the obvious oscillating events and Nino/Nina, have you noticed any other precursors to an active season?
[ryanm: yeah, the TC heat potential — or the heat content down to the 26C isotherm below the surface: see http://www.coaps.fsu.edu/~maue/SST/tcheat_atl_epac.html and look at the individual years’ anomalies, as of today…]

kim

BDF @ 9:34
Oooh, excellent. My only suggestion would be to remove ‘our’ and ‘has’ from the middle line.
===========

kim

Eye of Chris Mooney.
Ideology? Science?
Let him write ‘Calm World’.
==============

kim

Ryan, in May, 2009, I had all the pleasure of presenting your graph of ACE to a literary group’s discussion of Mooney’s ‘Storm World’. A cloud modeler moderated the discussion. Needless to say, I had fun that evening. Thank you.
==========
[ryanm: mooney is a moonbat leftist, i applaud your efforts in injecting some sanity]

Jit

Well – if I was one of the faithful, I’d spin it like this:
“Tropical storms rely for their creation on the difference in temperature levels between the equator and (sub)tropics. The low number of cyclones and their low energy indicates that the (sub)tropics, mid-latitudes, etc, are getting warmer. This reduces the energy gradient and less storms result.”
One of the original objections to the “more storms with global warming” was the observation that temperature gradients cause storms, not temperatures per se. However, the “more storms” meme was the more interesting, and the one that easily took hold. Less storms (“it’s not as bad as we thought”) doesn’t grab the imagination of the faithful and the MSM.
[RyanM: as the planet warms, we go back to the tropical cyclone activity levels of the 1970s when the earth was cooler… conundrum]

Tenuc

Looking at the bottom NH line of the top ACE graph, it looks like levels are heading down to those seen during the 70’s. Another sign that the Earth is losing energy and we can expect more cold NH winters?

goldie

Yup good paper – started with no pre-conceptions and left us wanting more. Have you tried bundling a whole bunch of global met, climate, seasonal and oceanic data together and seeing if a principal components analysis gives you anything useful. I know that’s not how you are supposed to do stats but it might allow you to formulate a hypothesis for testing.

Ralph

>>goldie says: June 26, 2011 at 9:29 pm
>>As I understand it, weather is more about relative differences in temperature
>> in the atmosphere as opposed to absolute temperature
Which is one reason you can get massive planetry-wide dust storms on frigid Mars. But the wonderful climate computer model said that more heat equates to more hurricanes. And this is the same wonderful computer model that predicts huge tax rises in the future huge temperatue increases in the future.
The only benefit we have is that, unlike in the 16th century, we are free to believe what we want to believe, without being burned on a funerary pyre.
.

Hector Pascal

Thank you very much Dr Maue for showing un-varnished data. It is greatly appreciated by this geologist and ex-academic research scientist.

sandyinderby

[RyanM: Activity is a generic term. Accumulated Cyclone Energy is a well-used metric of tropical cyclone activity used by NOAA and even the EPA as a “climate indicator”. It is easily calc’d by taking the maximum wind speed reported by the NHC or JTWC every 6-hours and squaring it — then add up and divide by 10^4.]
Where did the formula come from?
Thanks
Sandy
[ryanm: originally a State of the Climate report from 2000. Bell et al. — it has been used since. Kerry Emanuel devised a similar metric — v^3 and called in Power Dissipation Index for his Nature 2005 paper]

Hoser

Here’s a thought, not much of one, probably. It seems deep water upwelling might dominate the Pacific. We know the surface water from 400 to 700m is quite warm, while deep water is around 3 °C. Apparently [see ref], sea water gets denser until it freezes, so deep ocean current water could potentially be colder than -1 °C. It takes over 1000 years to travel from the North Atlantic to the Eastern Pacific. While water is incompressible, the current could widen and narrow over the centuries depending on the volume sinking, like a deep water tsunami. Pulses of more or less cold water upwelling could coincide with solar activity producing synchronized heating or cooling effects.
I’m assuming the temperature doesn’t change much given the large volume and limited mixing potential of the denser current. I would expect too much mixing would sap energy through turbulence and slow or stop the flow. The outflow of warmer surface water from the Pacific into the Indian draws up the colder deep water.
The point is, events 1000-1600 years ago that affected the amount of cold water entering the global conveyor could reinforce or cancel out solar-driven events now. If we knew the volume of cold water in the pipeline and about to make an appearance, we might have a chance of doing some better prediction. Can we determine whether the water coming up in the Pacific sank during the Dark Ages, or perhaps the Medieval Warm Period? If recent upwelling is actually from the tail end of the Roman Warming, that suggests more cold water from the Dark Ages would be coming up soon. Tie that together with a napping sun, and we might be in for some cold times in the Pacific.
Do any temperature fluctuation patterns in Eastern Pacific water temps seem to match temperature estimates in the North Atlantic 1000+ years ago? Can we get any indication from Greenland ice cores (maybe δ18-O)? Does colder Greenland temp mean colder water sinking and more volume? Is there any way to date the water coming up (apparently [see ref], there is a way to date ocean water using 231Pa/230Th). Can we compare Indian Ocean sediment cores to Pacific Ocean sediment cores to confirm conveyor circulation time differences and surface temperature changes?By looking at the Indian Ocean, we might be able to predict what the Pacific will do.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermohaline_circulation

Robertvdl

They could better change their crystal ball.

Robertvdl

The only benefit we have is that, unlike in the 16th century, we are free to believe what we want to believe, without being burned on a funerary pyre.
Ralph says: June 27, 2011 at 12:21 am
I think It should be : we are still free to believe

Caleb

What I find interesting about the ACE is that there is less variation year-to-year than one would imagine, when one focuses on the Atlantic alone. In the Atlantic you can notice fairly wild swings from over twenty storms one year to down around ten the next, but these wild swings don’t appear in the world-wide data.
Therefore, because the ACE is low now, you can be fairly sure it won’t be high for the next few years.
However it only takes one hurricane to spoil a summer. Just because the ACE is low doesn’t mean that a single hurricane couldn’t clobber New England.
I was looking at the tree rings on a hillside that was recently clear-cut, here in southern New Hampshire, and I noticed that most of the stumps were from trees that began growing between 1950 and 1958. I wondered if any tree that was larger than a sapling on that hillside was flattened by Carol in 1954.

Stephen Wilde

Less active sun, more meridional jets, more cloud, higher global albedo, less energy into the oceans, less Accumulated Cyclone Energy.

Jimbo

My memory probably fails me but I thought we were promised stronger and more frequent hurricanes due to global warming. We have just had over 30 years of ‘man-made’ global warming, the ‘hottest’ 10 years on the record, and the 2 ‘hottest’ years on the record.
The result:

“global tropical cyclone frequency and energy have decreased dramatically, ”
“the fewest in almost 40-years of reliable records.”
“the total global tropical cyclone accumulated energy (ACE) was found to have fallen by half to the lowest level since 1977.”

Promises promises
Gore, Dr. Hansen et al.
Dr. James Hansen
Dangerous human-made interference
Observations trump theory every time – “The facts don’t lie”. This is what happens when you let an astronomer / venus observer become a climate scientist.

Jimbo

Jason Bair says:
June 26, 2011 at 9:28 pm
But I was told that hurricanes are getting worse and more numerous!

It’s part of the disinformation campaign because the AGW theory continues to be falsified by observations.
See more of their never ending failed predictions / forecasts / projections.

richard verney

Don’t expect to see this paper highlighted any time soon in the MSM still less on the BBC. One can expect the BBC to carry on reporting the very opposite.

Thanks for this info Ryan, our local BOM NW Australia prediction was for above average numbers of cyclones for the last three years, then went quiet, the predicted numbers did not happen. We did however have a couple of Category 5 that missed towns and fizzled rather quickly. This while temperatures were 1-2C above average. This year is 2-3C below average so far, it will be fascinating to see what happens from November with cooler seas.

KnR

Not to worry the models cover this , as they do rains of fish and the second coming of the Lord 😉

Dr. Killpatient says:
June 26, 2011 at 10:19 pm
If you listen carefully, you will hear the prayers of the Gaya worship-freakamonks desperately hoping for just one deadly hurricane to hit the US mainland.
Celebrations to follow immediately thereafter.

Well, the last major hurricane to hit New York was 1938. The New England area has had many hurricane strikes in the past. So it is possible for a strong hurricane to hit New York City. If a strong hurricane hits New York and if it arrives at high tide then the storm surge could cause severe flooding. That would be the Gaia dream, because many lives would be lost, especially the homeless, and because nobody remembers all those hurricanes that hit New York in the past.

Bill Illis

Congrats Ryan,
You got a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters about hurricanes without blaming it on global warming or GHGs. Things must be really changing on the hurricane front with the community finally accepting that tropical storms and hurricanes are driven by something else.
Your paper shows some linkage to the ENSO and the PDO, but there are probably other factors to explore as well (ie keep it coming).

wayne Job

As an observer of things logical and real I have noted that not one -prophecy- scientific statement uum prognostication consensus fact from the AGW camp has proven in any way to be close to the facts of real world observation. They have newspeak nailed, hot is cold and more equals less, Today big brother gives us the good news that the chocolate allowance will be increased by minus twenty percent.

PearlandAggie

Mike Sphar–Welcome! Glad to see you made it over to this neck of the internet woods. If you still visit that alarmist site and see Atmoaggie, tell him I said hi! 🙂
Dr. Maue–Thanks for the update! I find your work extremely interesting, especially considering that it has been over 1000 days since any hurricane hit the U.S. (the longest such streak since before the CIvil War, if I’m not mistaken). Now, if you could find a correlation between OHC/shear and ACE, then you might have a way of more accurately predicting storm numbers.