Global Warming: Storm Intensity


As we transition from Global Warming into climate change, we continue to debate the science.

We point to historical levels of CO2 and the temperature at the time. We can look at the rise in the concentration of CO2 in recent years and watch as recent temperatures soar.

But can we use the data that we think we have and make a prediction that turns out to be accurate?

Time thought it did.  I think they’re wrong.

In a 2008 article, Time took a moment to look back at the storms we’d been experiencing and came up with an interesting if not familiar conclusion:

All these hurricanes in such a short period of time begs the question: are storms getting stronger, and if so, what’s causing it? According to a new paper in Nature, the answer is yes — and global warming seems to be the culprit.

So, that was 2008, and they were looking back to 2005.  We just turned the page on 2010 and what do we find?

2010 is in the books: Global Tropical Cyclone Accumulated Cyclone Energy [ACE] remains lowest in at least three decades, and expected to decrease even further… For the calendar year 2010, a total of 46 tropical cyclones of tropical storm force developed in the Northern Hemisphere, the fewest since 1977. Of those 46, 26 attained hurricane strength (> 64 knots) and 13 became major hurricanes (> 96 knots). Even with the expected active 2010 North Atlantic hurricane season, which currently accounts on average for about 19% of global annual hurricane output, the rest of the global tropics has been historically quiet. This work may be cited as Maue (2009) or Maue and Hart (2011).

So, yeah…it doesn’t look like we are having more powerful storms or even MORE of ’em.

Other interesting points?

  • Global Tropical Cyclone ACE shows no upward trend.
  • Northern Hemisphere TC ACE shows no upward trend.
  • Southern Hemisphere TC ACE shows no upward trend.
  • North Atlantic TC ACE has doubled since 1995, exactly compensated by a halving of Eastern Pacific ACE. It appears that in the context of global and NH ACE, the NATL increases are at the expense of the other basins, or simply within the common climate framework.
  • Global TCs of Tropical Storm force show no upward trend in frequency.
  • Global TCs of Hurricane Force + show no upward trend in frequency.

And if that’s not enough, the good fellows at Florida State created a nifty visual for us:

Even as global temperatures rise, even as the concentration of CO2 is rising, the power of tropical storms is plummeting.  While we may be warming, 2010 was either the warmest or second warmest year on record, it’s important to remember that it’s only the 9,099th warmest year in the past 10,000.

And tropical storms aren’t getting bigger or more powerful.

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