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Increasing Number and Power of Hurricanes

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The National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration predicted yesterday that this year may set a record for number and intensity of hurricanes. Global warming, the greenhouse effect, the hole in the ozone layer, an atmospheric stew of hydrocarbons and cfc’s that were announced back in the hippy days when “Earth Day” was begun and Rachel Carlson published The Silent Spring have come to get us. Now the hippies have turned into retiring stock brokers, The big topic is the housing bubble , the price of oil and the use of as much of it as possible. It may become the weather.

According to a Miami Herald article by Martin Merzer“, The accumulated power of Atlantic hurricanes has more than doubled in the past 30 years, with a particularly dramatic spike since 1995, and global warming likely is a major cause, according to a study published this week.

Though a connection between global warming and hurricane ferocity might seem logical, the report by a reputable climatologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the first to draw a statistical relationship between the two…”

Another explanation or factor is that NOAA scientists also concluded that we are in the midst of a natural phenomenon of years and decades of a cycle of increasing hurricane formation. Take your pick or add them together.

The power of hurricanes in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico areas “has more than doubled since 1970′”

1995 saw a more dramatic increase. According to the study by Kerry Emmanuel in Nature, This large increase in power dissipation over the past 30 years or so may be because storms have become more intense, on the average, and/or have survived at high intensity for longer periods of time.

On Tuesday the US government increased its predictions for seasonal cyclonic tropical storms of hurricane intensity from a May estimate of 12 to 15 tropical storms with 7 to 9 turning into the hurricane level cyclones of more than 75 mph winds at the center.

Instead, “… There have already been seven named storms this year, two of them hurricanes. That means the remainder of the year could see 11 to 14 more storms, including seven to nine more hurricanes, Weather Service Director David L. Johnson said at a briefing.”

An August 2 press release from NOAA gave the prediction that this coming season may be the worst on record and certainly a difficult season. Gerry Bell , meteorologist for the NOAA Atlantic Hurricane Seasonal Outlook said, “This confluence of optimal ocean and atmosphere conditions has been known to produce increased tropical storm activity in multi-decadal (approximately 20-30 year) cycles. Because of this, NOAA expects a continuation of above-normal seasons for another decade or perhaps longer. NOAA’s research shows that this reoccurring cycle is the dominant climate factor that controls Atlantic hurricane activity. Any potentially weak signal associated with longer-term climate change appears to be a minor factor.”

The release continued with this: “An average Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 30, produces 10 named storms in which six become hurricanes, including two major hurricanes with winds of at least 111 mph. The most active hurricane season was in 1933 with 21 storms, followed by 1995 with 19 storms. The most hurricanes in a season was 12 in 1969, and the highest number of major hurricanes was eight in 1950.”

People in the coastal areas — and there are now millions — need to be prepared for these bigger and more frequent storms. Last fall Florida felt the wrath of cyclonic ire with one after another, wreaking havoc and causing a lot of boarding up and evacuating. This year could be worse.

Florida may bear the brunt of the storms due to its shape and location. A long finger of a peninsula, it juts out from the lower US states into both the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico and, at Key West and the Overseas Highway; the Caribbean Sea as well. Hello Hurricanes.

When I visited my old home town (Tampa) in the 80’s it had already changed drastically with a horrendous population increase — much of it on the coasts, the barrier islands or on land dredged from the bottom of the Bays. An old high school chum, then thinking of his first bid for state Congress (now dead in a plane crash) warned that a super hurricane finally hitting Tampa Bay squarely was going to make a lot of people unhappy — or dead. Since then the population has increased even more and more land has been built up that would love to return to the sea. There are more glass fronted, pseudo Bauhaus and post-modern buildings and hundreds of thousands more people who barely know what a hurricane is let alone how to prepare for it. A catastrophe waits to happen.

The National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Association has a Hurricane Guide with explanations, sites for kids, preparation advice and links to it tracking services, weather radio and satellite images.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has a global warming website that provides information in English and Spanish.

The Cooler Heads Coalition also keeps a site dedicated to disproving the idea that global warming exixts.

There is also an RSS feed at Atlantic (English)

This is such a serious subject that, in the Amazon links, I have included a lot of entertaining works. The DVD of Bogart, Bacall and Barrymore in Key Largo is one of the great, albeit early and without special effects of the digital age, recreations of a hurricane in Florida in the 40’s. David Brin writes Sci-Fi and The Postman is a post apocalypse novel of putting a destroyed country back together. It is eminently better than the convoluted movie. There are some serious suggestions, too; but it is time to change the future of the planet not to mire ourselves in depression or corporate denial.

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About hfdratch

  • Dave Nalle

    Nice to see someone actually include both sides of the debate and present them in a dispassionate way.

    Personally, living in Central Texas, I say – more hurricanes now please. If they could find a way to direct them away from Florida and towards us more consistently no one would complain. Galveston is expendible.


  • Bennett

    Great job alpha. The graphics and the links really make this a first class post.

    So… Would YOU buy land in Florida?

  • alpha

    Buy land in Florida! I am a cracker, born and bred and fled at age 19 never to return save to visit my mother or use medical facilities in Miami. But now I live in the Yucatan. So the hurricanes will come anyway.

    If I did it would be high and dry with easy to use hurricane shutters, a whole house generator and capable of making a lot of money when I sold it. The roof would need to be checked for those cheap brackets some developers “forgot” when building in Homestead before Andrew hit and tore a lot of houses apart.

    Thank you, Bennet, and Dave Nalle for the kind words.

    Thank NOAA for providing the pictures.