Claim with a question mark: Hurricanes: Stronger, slower, wetter in the future?

From the NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION and the “could have, would have, and may lexicon, but at least they used a question mark in the title” comes this press release.

New analysis compares 22 named storms with possible hurricanes of the future

Scientists have developed a detailed analysis of how 22 recent hurricanes would be different if they formed under the conditions predicted for the late 21st century.

While each storm’s transformation would be unique, on balance, the hurricanes would become a little stronger, a little slower-moving, and a lot wetter.

In one example, Hurricane Ike — which killed more than 100 people and devastated parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2008 — could have 13 percent stronger winds, move 17 percent slower, and be 34 percent wetter if it formed in a future, warmer climate.

Other storms could become slightly weaker (for example, Hurricane Ernesto) or move slightly faster (such as Hurricane Gustav). None would become drier. The rainfall rate of simulated future storms would increase by an average of 24 percent.

The study, led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and published in the Journal of Climate, compares high-resolution computer simulations of more than 20 historical, named Atlantic storms with a second set of simulations that are identical but for a warmer, wetter climate that’s consistent with the average scientific projections for the end of the century.

A future with Hurricane Harvey-like rains

“Our research suggests that future hurricanes could drop significantly more rain,” said NCAR scientist Ethan Gutmann, who led the study. “Hurricane Harvey demonstrated last year just how dangerous that can be.”

Harvey produced more than 4 feet of rain in some locations, breaking records and causing devastating flooding across the Houston area.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), which is NCAR’s sponsor, and by DNV GL (Det Norske Veritas Germanischer Lloyd), a global quality assurance and risk management company.

“This study shows that the number of strong hurricanes, as a percent of total hurricanes each year, may increase,” said Ed Bensman, a program director in NSF’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which supported the study. “With increasing development along coastlines, that has important implications for future storm damage.”

Tapping a vast dataset to see storms

With more people and businesses relocating to coastal regions, the potential influence of environmental change on hurricanes has significant implications for public safety and the economy.

Last year’s hurricane season, which caused an estimated $215 billion in losses according to reinsurance company Munich RE, was the costliest on record.

It’s been challenging for scientists to study how hurricanes might change in the future as the climate continues to warm. Most climate models, which are usually run on a global scale over decades or centuries, are not run at a high enough resolution to “see” individual hurricanes.

Most weather models, on the other hand, are run at a high enough resolution to accurately represent hurricanes, but because of the high cost of computational resources, they are not generally used to simulate long-term changes in climate.

For the current study, the researchers took advantage of a massive new dataset created at NCAR. The scientists ran the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model at a high resolution (4 kilometers, or about 2.5 miles) over the contiguous United States over two 13-year periods.

The simulations took about a year to run on the Yellowstone supercomputer at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center in Cheyenne.

The first set of model runs simulates weather as it unfolded between 2000 and 2013, and the second simulates the same weather patterns but in a climate that’s warmer by about 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) — the amount of warming that may be expected by the end of the century.

Drawing on the vast amount of data, the scientists created an algorithm that enabled them to identify 22 named storms that appear with very similar tracks in the historic and future simulations, allowing the hurricanes to be more easily compared.

As a group, storms in simulations of the future had 6 percent stronger average hourly maximum wind speeds than those in the past. They also moved at 9 percent slower speeds and had 24 percent higher average hourly maximum rainfall rates. Average storm radius did not change.

Each storm unique

“Some past studies have also run the WRF at a high resolution to study the impact of climate change on hurricanes, but those studies have tended to look at a single storm, like Sandy or Katrina,” Gutmann said.

“What we find in looking at more than 20 storms is that some change one way, while others change in a different way. There is so much variability that you can’t study one storm and then extrapolate to all storms.”

But there was one consistent feature across storms: They all produced more rain.

While the study sheds light on how a particular storm might look in a warmer climate, it doesn’t provide insight into how environmental change might affect storm genesis. That’s because the hurricanes analyzed in this study formed outside the region simulated by the WRF model and passed into the WRF simulation as fully formed storms.

Other research has suggested that fewer storms may form in the future because of increasing atmospheric stability or greater high-level wind shear, though the storms that do form are apt to be stronger.

“It’s possible that in a future climate, large-scale atmospheric changes wouldn’t allow some of these storms to form,” Gutmann said. “But from this study, we get an idea of what we can expect from the storms that do form.”


The study co-authors include NCAR scientists Roy Rasmussen, Changhai Liu, Kyoko Ikeda, Cindy Bruyere and James Done, as well as Luca Garrè, Peter Friis-Hansen and Vidyynmala Veldore, all of DNV GL.

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May 22, 2018 7:29 am

CO2 is amazing… can do all this without changing temperature or anything else

Bill Powers
Reply to  Latitude
May 22, 2018 8:18 am

Well it is greening the planet. Give it some credit.

joe - the non climate scientist
May 22, 2018 7:30 am

Shortly after Katrina – the AGW consensus was more frequent and more intense
After a few years with no major hurricanes – The AGW consensus was less frequent but more intense.

Reply to  joe - the non climate scientist
May 22, 2018 8:52 am

joe – the non climate scientist
And only last week we were told they would grow faster but be smaller.
So now it’s faster, stronger, longer, wetter, slower, bigger, smaller………
Have they covered all the bases yet?

Reply to  HotScot
May 22, 2018 9:12 am

Not yet – more study is require, please send $$. But, they published a paper!

Reply to  joe - the non climate scientist
May 22, 2018 9:56 am

And, thanks to Harvey reaching historic rain falls, now they’ve programmed in additional rainfall amounts.

May 22, 2018 7:32 am

Simply agonizing to read this shytte. Learned-speak. Says absolutely nothing.

May 22, 2018 7:37 am

Real card carrying scientists would have at least scaled the problem by including six storms run under a 3 degree C cooler climate. After all it was taxpayer money, not coming out of their pocket. Write a complaint letter to your Congress Critter today.
Sandy, Minister of Future

joe - the non climate scientist
May 22, 2018 7:37 am

The AGW consensus is that the warming waters (SST – sea surface temps) will cause an increase in the intensity of hurricanes,
With numerous peer reviewed studies showing why this will occur.
However, since circa 1750, the oceans have had a steady increase in the SST while have a flat line in accumulated hurricane energy (ACE) after adjusting for observational deficiencies (pre satellite – pre radar, etc).
Somehow the Great Scientific minds of the AGW scientists – have been able to ascertain the climate gods will unleash greater and more powerful hurricanes due to warming SST’s contrary to the flat line trend of the last 250 years.

Reply to  joe - the non climate scientist
May 22, 2018 9:14 am

You would think some sort of a differential would be required: warm vs cold, high vs low. If we’re all in a warm bathtub there wouldn’t seem to be much to sotrm about.

Jacob Frank
May 22, 2018 7:50 am

This reminds me of staring at clouds and seeing horses and ducks and snoopy. Welcome to sciences new ride “Imagination Station”. Be sure to keep your grant secure before the ride takes off.

May 22, 2018 7:54 am

Looks like what could be the first TS of the season will come out of the Caribbean this week and eventually come ashore along the Gulf coast.

Reply to  Rah
May 22, 2018 8:28 am

right now…there is zero circulation;-80.7;5&l=temperature-2m

Reply to  Latitude
May 22, 2018 8:53 am

NHC has taken notice as an INVEST. Joe Bastardi thinks it will strengthen though he has not been specific as to how much.

Paul Johnson
May 22, 2018 7:58 am

“the second simulates the same weather patterns but in a climate that’s warmer by about 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) — the amount of warming that may be EXPECTED by the end of the century.” (Caps mine)
Once again, the most far-fetched RCP 8.5 scenario is touted as “expected”. As a result, none of the results are even plausible. It’s classic “garbage in, garbage out”

Tom Halla
Reply to  Paul Johnson
May 22, 2018 8:35 am

The alarmists do love RCP 8.5, no matter how unlikely it is.

Mike Slay
Reply to  Paul Johnson
May 22, 2018 8:36 am

My thoughts exactly. 5 degrees Celsius?!? Absolutely no one is forecasting anything like that.
If you’re not going to care about being reasonable, why not simulate 50 degrees Celsius of warming? That would have yielded even more attention getting headlines. More clicks means more credibility, right?
But the ultimate irony is that they mention, “the high cost of computational resources.”
Have they considered bitcoin mining?

Mike Slay
Reply to  Mike Slay
May 22, 2018 8:38 am

Yikes! I should have googled RCP 8.5 before posting. Wow. Just wow.

Reply to  Paul Johnson
May 22, 2018 9:17 am

If you need to forecast 5C of warming before your model can find an impact, you might as well give back your grant and admit defeat.

May 22, 2018 8:00 am

They don’t have a clue, but to get paid handsomely, they have to dress it up as “science”.

Reply to  Curious George
May 22, 2018 8:52 am

Kind of like putting lipstick on a pig. Then give it a cute bonnet and a flowered dress. Forget washing the sh*t off.
It’s worser than we thought! It’s too big to stop! It roots deeper and gets bigger and pees much more! Scream hogzilla before it’s too late and you’re overcome by the grunting sounds!

May 22, 2018 8:06 am

When using the output of one model to feed a second model, shouldn’t you try and make sure that the first model is accurate first?

Reply to  MarkW
May 22, 2018 9:16 am

“Output…to feed a second” How does that affect the propogation of errors?

Reply to  Cube
May 22, 2018 9:18 am

We have built our models so that errors cancel.
By the law of large numbers, if we use enough models we will have a perfect forecast.

May 22, 2018 8:08 am

I find it amazing that they continue to make these claims. Humans have been generating CO2 from fossil fuels for at least 200 years, with no evidence of increasing trends in hurricanes, according to NOAA. But they continue to predict such a trend. The question to ask is if the trend hasnt shown up in 200 years, when do they expect it to show? Every time someone makes the claim, above is the response to make. Below are the highly credible sources:
“Once an estimate for likely missing storms is accounted for the increase in tropical storms in the Atlantic since the late-19th Century is not distinguishable from no change.”

joe - the non climate scientist
Reply to  dbakerber
May 22, 2018 8:13 am

Dbarkerber – “for at least 200 years, with no evidence of increasing trends in hurricanes, according to NOAA. But they continue to predict such a trend. The question to ask is if the trend hasnt shown up in 200 years, when do they expect it to show? ”
I have pointed out the same facts at Skeptical science – They were very belligerent that peer reviewed models were vastly superior to my pointing out actual empirical evidence – especially since I was not a scientist

Reply to  joe - the non climate scientist
May 22, 2018 9:20 am

“when do they expect it to show?”
Usually sometime after they are safely retired.

Bill Illis
May 22, 2018 8:10 am

Who would name a climate model supercomputer after Yellowstone. We know that it just blows up eventually.

May 22, 2018 8:21 am

These “are (fill blank) getting worse?” crap deflects attention from real issues — actually preparing for (fill blank). Instead the insinuation is that driving your car less or turning off lights or supporting goobermint regulations actually helps (fill blank).

May 22, 2018 8:29 am

The hurricane season in the Atlantic this year will be weak due to low solar activity and meridional jet stream. However, the convection in North America will be high.comment image

Reply to  ren
May 22, 2018 8:36 am

The temperature of the equatorial Atlantic is very low.comment image

Reply to  ren
May 22, 2018 9:30 am

An intelligent call based on SST. However they are not the primary driver.
Atmospheric pressure pulses particularly after the solstice when the sun makes it’s return run to the equator provide the impotus.
So far this year the pressure bias has been to the SH, note the Antarctic Blozone activity, near constant dilution under 220DU.
SST are secondary to trapped pressure.

Reply to  ozonebust
May 22, 2018 9:48 am

Just in the last week the blocking mechanisms in both hemispheres moved above mean. They may also go down.
It is the atmosphere that is trapped between these blockers that increases pressure, and when there is a pressure pulse, bingo.

May 22, 2018 8:48 am

AGW is on it’s last leg. The N. Atlantic now cooling rapidly as overall sea surface temperatures continue in a cooling trend.
Solar is now very weak ,geo magnetic field weakening translation more explosive volcanic eruptions, more global cloud coverage/snow coverage translation higher albedo lower global temperatures.
This year is running cooler then last year thus far for global surface temperatures.
Hurricanes are not going to change in strength.

michael hart
May 22, 2018 8:58 am

“While each storm’s transformation would be unique, on balance, the hurricanes would become a little stronger, a little slower-moving, and a lot wetter.”

They form at sea and also have a finite lifetime So, if slow-moving, they might weaken and dissipate before reaching land. I haven’t seen any mention of duration. Which brings us to hurricane tracks. Might they track North to cooler Atlantic water more often? Where a hurricane is, and where it is going to be, is just as important as the other factors.

Reply to  michael hart
May 22, 2018 9:22 am

The longer they last, the more heat they transfer from the oceans to space.

May 22, 2018 9:08 am

Not much of a geologist or even weather person, but as I fly over the plains states on a clear day it sure appears that there were some periods of very heavy rain for many years. The directions of erosion do not appear to be away from melting glacier cover or broken ice dams. And as you fly over the major rivers you can see that these rivers have cleared out wide, flat valleys, several miles wide. And still see traces of where the river was many, many years ago, far longer than the 200 plus years that we have mapped these rivers.
IMHO it would take many storms like Harvey each season for several seasons to cause these rivers to move the distance they did.

May 22, 2018 9:12 am

At least we have a large body of questionable research and modeling time to use in the opposite direction for global cooling.

J Mac
May 22, 2018 9:28 am

This is no better than climate seance, staring into their digital crystal ball, trying to glimpse the future.
“The future is cloudy…cloudy, rainy, and whirling about!”
Eight co-authors produced this pathetic piece of parameterized phantasy….. Ugh! What a waste.

May 22, 2018 9:32 am

I tell my model to make my hurricanes wetter and then when they do, I can prove hurricanes will be wetter.

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