Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies of Tropical Storm Chantal’s Forecasted Storm Track

INITIAL NOTE: This post has nothing to do with the Kerry Emanuel’s new climate model-based paper, Downscaling CMIP5 climate models shows increased tropical cyclone activity over the 21st century, but feel free to comment about it. The USA Today article here about Kerry Emanuel’s paper has interviews with Judith Curry and Roger Pielke, Jr., both of whom appear a bit skeptical.

We know that climate models cannot simulate the sea surface temperature anomalies of the past 31 years. See here. So why should we have any confidence in a climate model-based study of hurricanes that depends on flawed simulations of sea surface temperatures? We shouldn’t. Also, tropical cyclones are strongly impacted by El Niño and La Niña events, and climate models still can’t simulate El Niños and La Niñas. Kerry Emanuel’s new climate model-based paper is nothing more than computer-aided speculation, using models that can’t simulate fundamental components of the study.


NOAA announced the formation of Tropical Storm Chantal yesterday. The media reacted with headlines like USAToday’s Tropical Storm Chantal races toward Caribbean. Not to be outdone, WunderGround’s headline reads Tropical Storm Chantal: a Likely Harbinger of an Active Atlantic Hurricane Season.

This a quick look at the sea surface temperature anomalies along Chantal’s past and forecast storm track, using Reynolds OI.v2 sea surface temperature data. It was prepared in anticipation of the typical claims about the influence of global warming on tropical storms and hurricanes. I’ve divided the storm track into two regions shown in red in Figure 1. We’ll call the more southern region the Western Main Development Region. The more northern one will represent the sea surface temperature anomalies off Cuba and the East Coast of Florida. We’ll present the monthly and weekly sea surface temperature anomalies.

Figure 1

Figure 1

As a reminder, warm sea surface temperatures feed tropical storms, not sea surface temperature anomalies. Seasonal sea surface temperatures are obviously warm enough to sustain a tropical storm.


Figures 2 and 3 present the monthly and weekly sea surface temperature anomalies for the western Main Development Region. We’re using the coordinates of 10N-20N, 75W-50W. Sea surface temperatures in this region are above the base year (1971-2000) values, but they are nowhere close to the highs experienced a couple of years ago.

Figure 2

Figure 2


Figure 3

Figure 3


Monthly and weekly sea surface temperature anomalies off Cuba and the East Coast of Florida (20N-30N, 80W-70W) are below their respective 1971-2000 averages. See Figures 4 and 5.

Figure 4

Figure 4


Figure 5

Figure 5


For four years, I’ve been illustrating and discussing how ocean heat content and satellite-era sea surface temperature data indicate the oceans warmed naturally. That doesn’t stop climate change alarmists from making all sorts of nonsensical claims. If the natural warming of the oceans is new to you, refer to the illustrated essay “The Manmade Global Warming Challenge” [42MB].


There’s nothing unusual about the sea surface temperature anomalies of the western Main Development Region in the North Atlantic. There is, however, something unusual about the sea surface temperature anomalies off Cuba and the east coast of Florida. In a world where we’ve been told that greenhouse gases are responsible for global warming, the sea surface temperature anomalies off Cuba and the east coast of Florida are below their 1971-2000 averages.


The Sea Surface Temperature anomaly data used in this post is available through the NOAA NOMADS website:


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July 9, 2013 6:06 am

As Emmanuel’s new paper is on models and models are not science, why is it in PNAS?

Frank K.
July 9, 2013 6:07 am

Thanks Bob. I just hope Chantal doesn’t bring us more rain in the East. We’ve have a soggy summer already!

July 9, 2013 6:30 am

Downscaling? Not again!!!
With all this flogging of dead horses one can only surmise sadistic necroequinophilia is a common condition among media-star alarmists

July 9, 2013 6:30 am

The idea that hurricane can gain power from heat alone is the most anti-science idea that I see repeated everywhere. You need a differential to power something: a differential of temperature, a differential of pressure, a differential of water vapor pressure maybe???
Also, the vertical differential of temperature and pressure does not count. The air in high altitude might be colder and at a lower pressure. But if it was moved to the ground, its pressure would increase and the temperature would become higher than the temperature at ground level. So it cannot fuel a convection cell.
It is not impossible that the presence of very warm temperature in the track of a hurricane is highly correlated with colder temperature somewhere else. It could explain why hurricane often get stronger over warm temperature.

July 9, 2013 6:47 am

As you say anomalies are a little confusing with regard to this story. For example if those highs that you point to from a few years back occur outside the hurricane season then they would be irrelevant to the issue. So it might be better to show the anomalies just for the hurricane season months so that we aren’t distracted by unimportant data.

July 9, 2013 7:00 am

It looks to me like Chantal’s falling apart and turning back into an open tropical wave. However when the wave gets north of Cuba on Saturday I’ll be keeping an eye peeled. Just because that water is “below normal” doesn’t mean it isn’t warm enough to feed a storm. And Marc77 is right about surrounding situations being more important.
It’s still early in the season. What puts me on guard later in the season is a nice, strong, juicy Bermuda High like we have now, giving way to a refreshing blast of dry polar air here in New England. Although it seems counter-intuitive that a polar high could mean “there’s a storm a-comin’,” if you look at the old maps of conditions just before Carol in 1954, that’s what you see. In fact if you look at the map a couple days before Carol you’d think, (or at least I’d think,) “There’s no way that sucker’s coming up here.”
My Grandfather always stressed what a wet summer it was before the 1938 hurricane, so the fact its been pretty wet up here this summer has me on guard.

July 9, 2013 7:07 am

“Downscaling CMIP5 climate models shows increased tropical cyclone activity over the 21st century,”
Shows? WTF?
Models don’t show. Models predict. Models claim.
Data show.
The fact that these #@^!tards keep telling lies like that with impunity is a fundamental reason to disregard anything they say. The little lies belie the big lies. Any journal editor that allows such manipulation of vocabulary deserves to be fired.

Dr. Lurtz
July 9, 2013 7:20 am

This is the last gasp of Solar Cycle 24. With the Flux averaging 110 and trending downward, very little Solar input to feed future storms. While presently at 120, the normal monthly oscillation of Flux/Spots is going downward. In addition, the Atlantic ocean is cooling in the tropical region. Check out the “La Nina” like effect off of the Coast of Gabon extending almost to South America.
1) The storm loses power and reverts to a tropical depression.
2) The Weather Channel will ramp-up the hype to try to get additional viewers.
3) NOAA will continue to predict increased Solar activity [Sun Spots]. They have a poor understanding of Solar physics and continue to project “statistics”.

Tom in Florida
July 9, 2013 7:26 am

Marc77 says:
July 9, 2013 at 6:30 am
The source of a hurricane’s power is very warm water, above 80F. Hurricanes become self sustaining systems that create their own internal temperature and pressure differences. The only way to stop a hurricane is to shut off it’s supply of warm, moist air which just happens to be present over very warm water. When cooler, dry air enters the circulation, or it moves over land or into colder water, a hurricane will lose those tropical self sustaining characteristics and become extra tropical. Also, tropical systems need a good upper atmosphere outflow to intensify while strong wind shear retards development. So, yes, heat alone won’t cause a hurricane to gain power but it is certainly the major factor.
Now, for all those who will poo poo the lesser winds of a named tropical storm, understand that these systems are dangerous because they are a living, breathing thing that can grow very strong very quickly. That is why they bear watching early even though it appears many times that they are over hyped. It is far better to be over prepared than under prepared as it only takes making that mistake once to cause great harm, i.e Sandy.
Luckily, this time Chantal is not forecast to gain hurricane strength while off Florida but it is too far out to be sure. So prepare we must and hope for the best. Unluckily for me, I have to travel to Tampa International Airport on Saturday afternoon to pick up my wife who will be returning from a family visit in Connecticut. I hope the winds stay low enough so they don’t close the Sky Way Bridge which will make me travel all the way around Tampa to get to the airport. As they say, timing is everything and bad timing sucks.

July 9, 2013 7:40 am

lts not a part of the world l follow closely, but going from my watching of the fulldisk satellite lmage during June. What looks to of helped to cause the cooler waters around Cuba is the way the airflow had seemed been blowing up from around Cuba and looks to of been feeding warm moist air up along the eastern side of the USA to fuel all the heavy rain they have been having. Plus was there a high was sitting around Bermuda and it was causing a lot of wind shear, which was drawing a lot of the energy out of the storm activity around that area.

July 9, 2013 8:17 am

“higley7 says:
July 9, 2013 at 6:06 am
As Emmanuel’s new paper is on models and models are not science, why is it in PNAS?”
very simple. climate studies are an observational science. You cannot do controlled experiments. We can’t warm or cool the ocean in a controlled fashion and see the results.
There are two ways to make predictions in observational science.
A) observe the past and use statistics.
B) build a physics model
For people who think that A is “science” they need to understand that all statistics, repeat that ALL STATISTICS, relies on models. When you “fit” a straight line to data or calculate ‘a trend’ you are in fact assuming a model, a linear model. B also relies on models. In fact, all data collection, all of the scientific method, human thought itself relies on models. Even the notion that there is “data” over here and “model” over there is a model.
So Kerry’s paper gets in PNAS because it is science. If you are asked the question, “will there be more hurricanes in 2100?’ there are three and only three responses
1. I dont know
2. Use a statistical model
3. Use a physical model
Answer 1 means you are not doing science. Science is about making predictions using the tools available to us. Its true that we dont know, but skepticism is a tool of science not a scientific position.
Answer 2 uses simple models, but models nonetheless.
Answer 3 uses physics models.
Over the historical course of an observational science you will see scientists try both 2 and 3 but the goal is always to move toward 3.
Put another way His paper is in PNAS because it’s science. and all science is a model. the only thing that is not science is shrugging your should and saying “i dont know, we’ll never know, its too complex” bad science, the worst model, beats shoulder shrugging every day of the week.

July 9, 2013 8:38 am

I don’t mind the reporting that says warm water is helping to fuel hurricanes what I do mind is when they say “Unusually” warm water is helping to fuel these hurricane when the sea surface temperature charts show there is nothing unusual about them. For many years now the media has been making actually that claim very rarely have they been right about the anomalies being very high.

Scott Scarborough
July 9, 2013 8:41 am

Models can be validated. Kerry’s are not.

Mike Maguire
July 9, 2013 9:11 am

You make some good points, including this one:
“tropical systems need a good upper atmosphere outflow to intensify while strong wind shear retards development”
I will also point out this statement as being a bit of a contradiction:
“The only way to stop a hurricane is to shut off it’s supply of warm, moist air which just happens to be present over very warm water”
Related to this and modeling as Steve Mosher stated, is this article about the “Loop Current”.
Those that have followed hurricanes for awhile, can recall instances when a hurricane passed over the warmer loop current and strengthened fairly quickly.
“The Loop Current is the dominant feature of the circula-
tion in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the formation region
of the Florida Current-Gulf Stream system. It originates at
the Yucatan Channel”
Rita and Katrina intensified over the Loop Current but Ivan did not:

July 9, 2013 10:17 am

Steven Mosher says:
Answer 1 means you are not doing science. Science is about making predictions using the tools available to us.

Science is about developing an understanding of the way the world works, and demonstrating whether or not you have that understanding by making predictions and testing those predictions against observations.
Emmanuel’s bullshit paper does not test predictions. Instead, it simply makes predictions and calls those predictions knowledge. He pretends to know what he does not, and pretends that his predictions are observations. “Models show”. That is not science. It is propaganda masqerading as science. And THAT is why it is in PNAS.

July 9, 2013 10:43 am

Mosher says: “…the worst model beats shoulder shrugging every day of the week.”
Not if it’s based on lies and used as a political tool to advance totalitarianism. Science is supposed, above all, to be about truth. The honest statement, “We don’t know,” is far superior to Lysenkoist science 180° away from the truth.

July 9, 2013 10:51 am

Despite Mosher’s ivory-tower hand-waving, the KE paper isn’t science as we understand it on this planet. It’s propaganda: “Conflict of interest statement: The technique used here to estimate the level of tropical cyclone activity in CMIP5-generation climate models is also used by a firm, WindRiskTech LLC, in which the author has a financial interest. That firm applies the technique to estimate tropical cyclone risk for various clients.”

July 9, 2013 11:10 am

Will there be more hurricanes in 2100?
There is only one correct response: I don’t know.
Any other response leads to tenuous and weakly supported argument. This type of science is known in the vernacular as junk science. Junk science is not embraced by those who uphold good, old-fashioned scientific rigor. It is embraced by those who have a supreme ideological purpose.
Regarding observations, these are the first step in scientific inquiry. Observations are paramount, and theory must be adjusted to account for observations. Some scientists think that this basic premise can be ignored, and often do. They never make very good scientists.
“All of science is a model”- this is a most extravagant statement and is most definitely not true.
The trouble with junk science such as climate models is that it gets fed into the AGW propaganda mill and becomes the basis of public policy. Then we all suffer.

Mark Bofill
July 9, 2013 1:25 pm

Steven Mosher says:
July 9, 2013 at 8:17 am
Thanks for explaining this. I have often wondered why you advocate so powerfully for models that fall short of the expectations of (relatively) uniformed persons such as myself. This helps.

July 9, 2013 1:57 pm

I would agree that models don’t “show”. Models suggest or models predict. I started to say “unless the statement is the agreement of models with data “show” would work but even then, suggest is better.

July 9, 2013 2:09 pm

ENSO certainly has shown to influence tropical cyclones and this is often discussed unless you are a James Hansen type talking to the media. What I rarely see is any discussion on the West African Monsoon which also influences Atlantic cyclones. So just like ENSO, shouldn’t more research be done on the WAM and it be accurately modeled (never seen it discussed in models) before even attempting to predict future hurricane frequency and intesity?

July 9, 2013 5:47 pm

Bob Tisdale says, “For four years, I’ve been illustrating and discussing how ocean heat content and satellite-era sea surface temperature data indicate the oceans warmed naturally.”
This line is a good rebuttal to all of those claiming that global warming has stopped.

July 9, 2013 6:46 pm

If the oceans have warmed, how could global warming have stopped?

Gary Pearse
July 9, 2013 8:23 pm

Steven Mosher says:
July 9, 2013 at 8:17 am
“…..very simple. climate studies are an observational science.”
Science is a process. One may have an idea of a cause, a tentative hypothesis regarding some observed phenomenon rooted in some background knowledge – “Physics” as it tends to be called. Hansen, for example, observing the conditions on Venus and noting that we are increasing the CO2 in the atmosphere here on earth was struck with the idea that, Gee, if we filled the atmos with CO2 we could end up with a Venus-like surface temperature. Then, hey, we don’t need 500 C to be a problem, maybe only 5 C would do us all in. This is still science to this point and knowing that CO2 absorbs part of the LWIR end of the spectrum, we have a pretty good hypothesis to begin with. Predictions were then made about the West Highway along the Hudson being underwater by 2003 (15 yrs) and the temperature being up a couple of degrees. This is still scientific.
But science died, not when the predictions turned out to be overly pessimistic, but when, as the best before date approached, they began adjusting temperatures down for the first half of the century and up (although constrained somewhat by satellite data) for the second half to at least salvage part of the predictions. And then, emboldened by the late Dr. Schneider (he of the world is going into a deep freeze in the 1970s) who took up the CAGW cause with the same zeal and encouraged proponents to exaggerate, fiddle with the truth, and hide uncertainty in the science from the public, all pretence at science collapsed. Leading scientists began flattening out the 1930s warm records that still reigned by the century’s end, killing off the LIA, the MWP, the RWP etc. to fashion the hockey stick. Temperature proxies were inverted if it gave the right answer. Professors of the wrong stripe got fired, journals were boycotted and editors given the bum’s rush if they published a ‘contrarian’ paper. Data series were thrown out, the FOIA law was flouted. Whitewash flowed in the streets of East Anglia and State College, PA while Stevenson screens turned grey. The science was settled (scuttled). The Russians have a saying something like ‘gulet tak gulet’ if you’re going to party, then go for it. With the walls breached, the fringy psychologists, sociologists, political scientists, the butchers, bakers and candlestickmakers all saw it as fair game. Hot became cold, dry became wet, ice started flowing away in square Manhattans, and melting in Gigaswimming pools. Springs came early and then late, people began barbecuing in the rain and cold. The Met Office forecasts were perfect but the UK weather was disappointing. Model run “data” became observations……..
At least one effect to be found most commonly in natural and engineering systems was also propounded upside down at the beginning, or it might all have been saved – the idea of the negative feedback. Why with all the complexity and interlocked systems to be found in climate that negative feedback was so rationed out in miniscule quantities by climate scientists. How to explain a variation of only 7 to 10 degrees over more than a billion years in a climate with so little negative feedback and so large positive feedbacks. How can the SST be capped at 31C? How can be go dipping in and out of ice ages. That all by itself is enough to make a thinking person a skeptic. It is still being clung to even though they have had to whittle climate sensitivity down from 4-7C to about 1. Observations, science?

Eugene WR Gallun
July 9, 2013 9:39 pm

Stephen Mosher july 9 6:06am says
“Put another way his paper is in PNAS because it is science. And all science is a model. The only thing that is not science is shrugging your shoulders and saying, “I don’t know, will never know, its too complex”. Bad science, the worst model, beats shoulder shrugging every day of the week.
The above is ludicrous nonsense. MOSHER, TRY TO THINK!
Admittedly there is a thing called “reality” and then there is our “conception” of reality. (To posit otherwise is to claim that the universe exists only in the imagination of the one person, right now, who is reading this. All others and all the universe itself only seem to exist because the person reading this is the only “real” thing in the universe and he or she imagines all else including what I have just written.) In that sense — that there is a “real” universe which we do not (and cannot) know completely — all our thinking is modeling. We are constantly guessing about what is actually going on “out there”.
But people are extremely bad at this. But some people claim to “model” the world around them rather well.
I got news for you, Mosher, bad models — put into action — are worse than no models at all. Most people would posit that modeling does indeed have a place in climate science — but not the prominent place now given to the ridiculously inept models being fostered on the public by “climate scientists”. The harm that these models that “misrepresentation the world” are doing has the potential to be catastrophic. Formulate policy based on their inept nonsense??? — don’t make me laugh.
If climate modeling had been regulated to obscure journals it would probably be doing more good than harm — but used so prominently in politics — to stifle the development of civilization — as they are being used today — makes them far more harmful than no models at all.
So you are right when you say all things are models and you are right to end saying that shrugging your shoulders and “not modeling” is not a solution. Where you screw up is that middle part where you implicitly imply that — “bad science, the worst model” is better than no model at all.
If climate scientists would present their models and say — we don’t really know but based on the incomplete and inaccurate data we do have this is our best guess as to what may happen but no one with wisdom would take our predictions too seriously — then they would be good scientists doing science. But instead we hear “the science is settled”.
So now do you understand, Mosher — “bad science, the worst model” can actually have devastating effects on real people. Climate scientists need to curb their self-aggrandizing mouths.
Eugene WR Gallun

July 9, 2013 10:00 pm

sceptical says:
If the oceans have warmed, how could global warming have stopped?

Yet another warmist that thinks they have the power to divine the minutia of irreducably complex global systems, despite the fact that correct understanding of verb tense remains beyond their grasp.
BTW, ‘global warming’ was defined, parameterized, and sold to gullible twits like you as a phenomenon of globally averaged surface temperature. This was done over the objections of many of us, who have argued that 3D heat content was the appropriate metric for such a task. You don’t get to switch media ad hoc, simply because the metric of your choice isn’t currently behaving the way your predictions said it would. Accept that your half assed theory has failed. If you want to adance a new theory then start from first principles withthe demonstration of that.

July 10, 2013 2:29 am

Back on the topic of Chantal…
I’d say you can put a fork in it:

July 10, 2013 4:45 am

Emmanuel has no shame, scruples or science.

July 10, 2013 4:47 am

Steven Mosher,
Bad models are costing Americans billions of dollars a year in increased insurance premiums.

July 10, 2013 10:03 am

When did the ocean warming stop? Was it 16 years ago? The figures in this post, especially 1 and 2, makes it look like warming has taken place within the last 16 years. Based on the above figures, it appears you would be saying the oceans warming stopped in 2010. Is this when it stopped?

PeterB in Indianapolis
July 10, 2013 12:00 pm

Science is the use of actual observations followed by calculations (data analysis) to see if the actual observations support a proposed hypothesis. If “all science was a model” then organic synthesis” wouldn’t be possible… or at least it wouldn’t be considered “science” under that hazy, ridiculous definition.
Models are not observations. Models are an attempt to MODEL a system which is sufficiently complex that it is impossible to isolate the variables of the complex system to the point where the individual variables can be operated upon and meaningful observations made.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the climate, the models are still pretty darn crude, and don’t handle many of the critically important variables very well at all. You cannot trust the output of a model unless the model is a reasonably good representation of the actual system being modeled. In my opinion, “climate models” do not model the actual climate system very well at all, so their output is representative of not much of anything in reality.

PeterB in Indianapolis
July 10, 2013 12:06 pm

“Good Data” in ———> Good Model = reasonable ASSUMPTIONS out (not “reality” and certainly not “data”, just reasonable assumptions).
Garbage in ———> Good model = Garbage Out
“Good Data” in ———> Garbage model = Garbage Out
Garbage in ————> Garbage model = hideously bad trash out.
Far too much of climate science falls into example 4 above in my opinion. The real data have been manipulated and “homogenzied” to the point where the “data” doesn’t resemble the actual data anymore, and the models don’t account very well for the vast majority of the really important variables, so, as I said in my post above, their output is not representative of much of anything in reality.

July 10, 2013 12:21 pm

“sceptical” – If you are going to advocate for belief in ‘global warming’, perhaps you should figure out what that is first.

July 11, 2013 11:20 am
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