Claim: warmer oceans will boost hurricane losses 70%

From the UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT and the “data to date says otherwise, so why trust a model” department (see after the article)

Warming seas could lead to 70 percent increase in hurricane-related financial loss

If oceans warm at a rate predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nation-sponsored group that assesses climate change research and issues periodic reports, expected financial losses caused by hurricanes could increase more than 70 percent by 2100, according to a study just published in the journal Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure.

The finding is based on the panel’s most severe potential climate change – and resulting increased sea surface temperature – scenario and is predicted at an 80 percent confidence level.

The results of the study, which focused on 13 coastal counties in South Carolina located within 50 miles of the coastline, including the most populous county, Charleston, are drawn from a model simulating hurricane size, intensity, track and landfall locations under two scenarios: if ocean temperatures remain unchanged from 2005 to 2100 and if they warm at a rate predicted by the IPCC’s worst-case scenario.

Under the 2005 climate scenario, the study estimates that the expected loss in the region due to a severe hurricane — one with a 2 percent chance of occurring in 50 years — would be $7 billion. Under the warming oceans scenario, the intensity and size of the hurricane at the same risk level is likely to be much greater, and the expected loss figure climbs to $12 billion.

The model drew on hurricane data for the last 150 years gathered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, then created simulated hurricanes under the two scenarios over 100,000 years and estimated the damage from every storm that made landfall in the study area.

Researchers then overlaid information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s HAZUS database, a zip-code-by-zip-code inventory of building types and occupancy. HAZUS sets out loss estimates according to wind speed for costs of repair, replacement, content and inventory, as well as costs resulting from loss of use, such rental income loss, business interruption and daily production output loss.

The researchers did not find that warming oceans will lead to more frequent hurricanes, only that warmer seas will lead to higher wind speeds and storms that are greater in size and therefore cover a larger area.

The losses are calculated based only on wind and wind-driven rain and do not include the large financial impacts of storm surge or flooding.

“The study shows that a significant increase in damage and loss is likely to occur in coastal Carolina, and by implication other coastal communities, as a result of climate change,” said one of the authors of the paper, David Rosowky, a civil engineer at the University of Vermont and the university’s provost.

“To be prepared, we need to build, design, zone, renovate and retrofit structures in vulnerable communities to accommodate that future,” he said.

The study was based on the IPPC’s Fifth Assessment, issued in 2013 and 2014. The worst-case ocean warming scenario the loss study is based on was not anticipated or included in the prior report, published in 2007.

“That suggests that these scenarios are evolving,” Rosowsky said. “What is today’s worst case scenario will likely become more probable in the IPCC’s future reports if little action is taken to slow the effects of climate change.”

The increasing severity of hurricanes will also affect hurricane modeling, Rosowsky said, and consequent predictions of damage and financial loss. In a postscript to the paper, which will also be published as a chapter in a forthcoming book, Rosowsky cites the three catastrophic storms of the current hurricane season, Harvey, Irma and Maria, as examples of events so severe they will shift the assumptions about the likelihood that such severe hurricanes will occur in the future.


But, the data doesn’t support the claim:


60 thoughts on “Claim: warmer oceans will boost hurricane losses 70%

  1. The concept is a warmer earth will generate stronger and wetter hurricanes. There is also science, which shows colder world is a stormier world. Classical examples to these are the pre-monsoon summer storms and the post-monsoon winter-storms (Northeast Monsoon season) in India. The post-monsoon experiencing more frequent storms compared to pre-monsoon.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

    • I would have thought that the differential between air and sea temperatures controls hurricanes.

      If that is the case, one might suppose a warming world of both atmospheric and ocean being affected would produce very little difference compared with tropical storms with today.



      • The origin of tropical storms is influenced by the differential between air and sea surface temperature, which is why they typically start at night.

        Tropical SSTs don’t change much between glacial and interglacial phases, but air temperature does more so. Hence, colder intervals produce more and stronger cyclones.

        Also windier for other reasons. Consider the katabatic winds which fall off the Antarctic ice sheets. The same would have happened off the NH ice sheets of glacial intervals.

  2. If, predict, scenario, model, expected, likely, simulated, worst case, assumptions, likelihood… bla-bla-bla…..
    Seems like most ‘scientists’ have the same B.S. generator.

  3. The most devastating damage can be resolved, perhaps even to the satisfaction of most parties concerned, by reassigning WMO, UNEP, IPCC and UNFCCC staff members and experts into plating trees, shrubs and flowers in the countries financing the budgets concerned.

    [The mods point out that one could save significant metal costs if the platers were to plant trees, shrubs and bushes instead. 8<) .mod]

  4. The dollar amount of damages due to hurricanes and severe storms inevitably goes up anyway – but I’m fairly certain it’s mostly due to inflation. They could reduce the amount of damage if people would just stop building on flood plains.

    • Then they would also have to stop building in tornado prone areas, ice storm prone areas, wild fire prone areas etc, etc, etc. BTW, flood plain is too general a term. Most areas near any water are in flood plains. It is the likelihood of flooding in those areas that is the real concern.

      • @ Tom in Floriday “Then they would also have to stop building in tornado prone areas, ice storm prone areas, wild fire prone areas”
        The reason I applied it only to flood plains is because they are more or less fixed areas where flooding happens over and over again. Things like tornadoes and ice storms can happen anywhere and are unpredictable. Unavoidable. Building on river bottom land is entirely avoidable.

      • “The reason I applied it only to flood plains is because they are more or less fixed areas where flooding happens over and over again”

        Again you are misusing the term “flood plain”. Flood plains have flood zones which indicate the likelihood of flooding. I live in a flood plain, over 1 mile from the Gulf of Mexico but my zone is X-500 which indicates a very low risk of flooding. Now, almost all new construction in flood zones are build in ways to take the risk out of the building being flooded. So restricting building in flood zones is not the answer, building to mitigate flood damage is and that is how things are done now. Most of the damage these days is done to older buildings that have been there a long time and were build without consideration of flooding.

        “Things like tornadoes and ice storms can happen anywhere and are unpredictable”

        Well, we certainly know where tornadoes hit the most often. And we know where ice storms are most likely to happen. But that was my point. You cannot prohibit building in areas where natural disasters happen, that would encompass most of the U.S.

    • Absolutely. In fact, absolute damages would rise strongly even if adjusted for inflation. That’s because we’re richer today and we have much more valuable stuff that can be destroyed by hurricanes.
      The graphs shown above are both normalised to account for this (e.g. a proportion of GDP).
      Established organisations and even scientists have sometimes shown data which is not correctly normalised, thus giving the false impression that things are getting worse, no doubt due to climate change. This practice is close to fraudulent.

      • Tom in Florida
        Your comment has mertit – but do beware moving into a new development, a little lower than those surrounding it, if the roads have names like ‘Winterbourne’; ‘Brookside’; ‘Water Meadows’ and others similar.

        Auto – halfway up a hill!

      • I was wondering if they had normalized the graphs. In addition to inflation, they are building homes where people never would have considered doing so before. In ag class back in the 70’s, one of the first things they taught us was “Don’t build on flood plains.” Apparently they didn’t teach the same thing in real estate development class, lol.

  5. If the risk is higher that losses will occur, then the value of seaside constructions will diminish. That will in turn lower the value of what is destroyed. I am not sure they thought this alarming claim through.

    The dollar value of what is at risk surely depends on the sale value of that item. Higher risk of damage, lower inherent value.

    It is also quite possible that with a 10% increase in storms, say, and a 10% increase in storm power, that a small increase in construction costs will completely eliminate such additional risk of loss. Having a more expensive building ‘at risk’ that is constructed to withstand ten times the energy means it is not really ‘at risk’ of any damage at all.

    Again, their argument seems not to reflect the reality that people adapt to new circumstances in such a manner as to minimize risk.

  6. 70% indeed.
    That’s just fantastic – a self fulfilling prophecy if ever I saw one. ‘cept all the govmn’t cronies like bankers, financiers and insurance types will simply put a zero onto that number.

    I’d say there are somewhere between 96 and 98 faeries dancing on my pin this morning. In’t that good?
    I don’t think the pin could take the weight of 960 of them though, not unless they give up on the chocolate and ice-cream.

    But otherwise one of those most example of GHG theory blowing its own foot off..

    Yes yes yes, we all remember, as kids. watching Carl Sagan on TV telling us the ‘warm water powers hurricanes’
    But the water was warmed by the atmosphere which originally was warmed by the water.
    Which came first?
    Apart from the not so slight difficulty that if the atmosphere gave the water 10 Joules of energy, it would cool by 20degC and the water would warm by 0.000097degC. Or thereabouts. (Pedants feel free, see if I care)

    Oh hang, what’s that you say Monsieur Le Carnot?
    Que est que ce Le Temperature Difference qu’ll fait Les Hooricannes?
    Blesse vous pour parlay du sense thermodynamique. Carl Sagan never mentioned that.
    Tres bien, merci beucoups and avez une bonne jour.

    Ah. Yes, That makes sense. Water warms a bit, the air cools a lot and that creates a hurricane.
    Simple. We’ve got warm water AND a hurricane. What’s not to like if you’re an insurance salesman/person or breathless blond bimbo on the 24 hour news channel?

    Except that the air has cooled and ‘in the air’ is where the temperature gauges are and they all say, plus of course the Star Trek Technology Sputnik (and ffs, who’s gonna argue with Kirk, Picard, Spock or Data) – they all say that the air has warmed.

    No matter, no problemo, I know noffin – just run it through our very Best Moshing Machine with some hodgeriazation in the soap dispenser, plus a new conditioner tax (or 2) on the drying cycle and it’ll all be sorted.

  7. As I recall. back during Katrina some journalist asked the hurricane experts at the hurricane center what the effects would be if the oceans were 2 degrees C warmer and I believe he said that would increase the max wind speed by 5 to 10 MPH. Not a whole lot.

  8. IPCC models to date have been wrong so anything related to them will be wrong as well. These confidence values come out of thin air and are totally meaningless.

  9. The Katrina Factor will have to be applied to future U.S. responses. By
    the time we finish with Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida, there may be a revision
    of the trend line. Political aversion to criticism will force us to err on the high side.

  10. “Claim: warmer oceans will boost hurricane losses 70%”

    “Losses” are to the great extent a function of where a hurricane goes. Doesn’t matter how intense a storm is if it does not effect land then the losses will be limited to vessels and perhaps aircraft. And so now the climateastrologists are not only saying that they can predict more intense hurricanes but that those more intense hurricanes will make landfall at more developed regions.

  11. Did they simulate the financial impact after assuming building codes adjust to meet their new reality?
    Seriously, the reason the 1900 Galveston hurricane destroyed so much more than the recent ones is not that it was so much more powerful – its that we make stuff just plain better. So we have more property loss, but much less life loss. Now that the life loss is down to 40/4,000,000 in a major huricane from 8,000/40,000 (a 99.995% reduction in fatality rate) we will probably focus building codes more on capital preservation.
    Let’s imagine a case where future houses need to not just be able to protect residents in the event of a hurricane, but be habitable after a category 4. That is – Metal storm shutters, 150mph roof, water tight doors, and so on. Now how much damage?

  12. When data and models disagree, according to the rules of post-normal science, you must always assume that the data is faulty.
    After all the model was run on a computer.

  13. Question why do people think that data from 150 years ago , when there was no housing can be compared to 2017 when the same area is full of housing , when it comes to costs ?

    Oddly 150 years ago there was no damage to aeroplanes or cars either , while now there is much damage to both of these as a reults of hurricanes now. So this must be clear proof of ‘climate doom ‘ what else can explain it !

  14. “If oceans warm at a rate predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change …”

    Typical warmist rhetoric. Presume something false, reinforce it with a strawman and then hype the presumption as much as possible to instil the maximum amount of fear in an otherwise scientifically ignorant population.

    What we need is a more scientifically literate population and then then ideologues would not be able to pull this kind of crap.

  15. It is all really bizarre. First that a university in Vermont is getting paid to do hurricane research. Second, that we now have a whole industry created to tell us how bad things will be if the UN-IPCC reports are correct. Third, such researchers seldom mention that the IPCC predictions have so far proven to be incorrect as best and totally BS at worst. Having been through Camille, though I have not gone back to check SST anomalies at the time, we were briefed by the Navy afterwards, some four hours. NOAA NWS had much less data since most of their equipment was destroyed, apparently not built to withstand cat 5 conditions. If I remember correctly once SSTs reach a certain level they will feed a tropical cyclone but it takes other parameters to increase strength dramatically, not just higher SSTs. The fourth thing I find bizarre is that several tropical cyclone experts, once associated with the IPCC, all bailed, complaining their research was been misconstrued and misused. At least two pointed out that so far there is not indication of any change in tropical storm frequency or strength. We are facing basically normal cycles well documented back over a hundred years.

    • Edwin October 13, 2017 at 8:33 am
      It is all really bizarre. First that a university in Vermont is getting paid to do hurricane research.

      Why do you think that a Civil Engineering Dept in Vermont shouldn’t do such work?

      • No reason at all but it depends on the experience of the people involved.

        Where you live can affect your basic assumptions. In particular people who live in temperate zones associate hotter weather with drier conditions. Those who live in the tropics associate hotter weather with the onset of the wet season.

        Just look at all the assumptions in the alarmist literature and have a guess how many live in the tropics.

  16. Building codes can affect coastal hurricane damage as can population density, inflation, honesty of damage claims, the price of plywood and I’m certain a few other things so … why allow ‘them’ to steer the conversation on this basis in the first place? PDI and ACE are scientifically far more accurate ways of measuring hurricanes than trying to assess storm losses.

    Even in this cherry picked graph from the EPA that purposefully ignores data before 1950, the correlation of PDI to SST looks pretty convincing …. up until about 2004 when it stopped correlating and we got a record long period of only category 2 or weaker storms hitting us despite experiencing the highest SST in modern history.

    To believe that a warmer ocean causes stronger hurricanes but then also believe that the absence of them during a record warm period was caused by ‘something else’ requires belief in magic where the “something else” can only act in one direction. It requires belief that the presence of the “something else” can cause a lack of strong storms but the absence of the “something else” cannot possibly cause an increase of them.

  17. The data doesn’t support the claim.. Oh I dunno, I think hurricane losses have been 70%at least. We didn’t have any landfalls at all for 12years.

    • Gary Pearse October 13, 2017 at 11:31 am
      The data doesn’t support the claim.. Oh I dunno, I think hurricane losses have been 70%at least. We didn’t have any landfalls at all for 12years.

      Who’s ‘we’? Certainly not the US, South Carolina, the topic of the paper, had one last year for example.

      • Gary meant no major hurricanes. Sandy was a tropical storm when it made landfall in NYC and Matthew came ashore in SC as a Cat 1.

      • Sandy was a post tropical storm when it hit NYC so technically spoken that wasn’t even a category 1 hurricane (though it was equivalent to a category 1 hurricane)

        Ophelia in ireland is just an example of this but that’s far from unusual. To be honest it is very normal to have here post tropical hurricanes when the season is active.

        A lot of people forget 1966 where hurricane Faith struck the Faroer… as a hurricane

        but for one time wikipedia is handy to show how many hurricanes do strike europa as post tropical storm

        What makes hurricane faith the more exceptional is that she came by after a series of very harsh winters in europe…

  18. I stopped reading the article when I read “If oceans warm at a rate predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” because everyone knows that the IPCC does not make predictions, they make projections. Obviously the whole article is therefore based on a false premise.

  19. The Rockport Pilot just had an article about Copano Cove, a badly (~50%) damaged area mostly from wind, with some from a tidal surge from Copano Bay of maybe over 2 meters in places. The bay has a topographic trap at its south end where a new, lightly populated built too low subdivision also exists at the extreme. Many destroyed or badly damaged structures are subject to being forced to be elevated, not a high priority of someone living in a tent. The situation and some of the damage can be seen on Google Earth.

    This is part of a “resilience‘ concept, the idealistic future, not so simple in the details.
    The county (Aransas) depends heavily on property tax, a sore point for years, and the loss of revenue is a serious problem, even if well spent.

    This a quote from a local history book, “Aransas” from a few years ago deceased member of an old family.
    “I guess one of the greatest fears I have is the ultimate hurricane. We’re going to get it one of these days, and its going to alter this town severely. It has in the past and its going to do it again.” Rockport was a major port lost to the higher land Corpus Christi, mostly from the 1919 storm. Developers here are meeting not only the hurricane threat, but an expanding whooping crane population and windmills marching north from Corpus Christi.

    The response to Harvey has been exceptionally competent at all levels, this as one example which is difficult to believe without seeing it.
    Whether the future resilience is properly executed is the subject of a lot of informed speculation including the trajectory of the costs.

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