As the six-month-long Atlantic hurricane season gets underway with one named storm already, climate scientist and author Bill Pekny goes a bit against the grain regarding claims that hurricanes are becoming more severe and frequent. "With respect to the storms themselves, nothing has changed," he says. "What has changed, however, is our satellite and radar technology, and consequently our ability to track and measure these storms globally." Financial costs of hurricanes, sometimes in the millions or billions of dollars, can also be a misleading gauge of a storm's power, he says. "Development has dramatically increased in tropical areas ... it makes sense that property damage dollars will go up."
One theory is that global warming has caused tropical cyclones (TCs) to move a little more slowly on average due to slightly slower upper level winds on average. I think Mike has explained that these lighter winds are caused by GW being much more concentrated in the Arctic thus resulting in less of a temperature difference between the Arctic and the tropics. What does slower movement mean for TCs? Not stronger winds but slightly heavier rainfall on landfall on average. I think the world's TC stats may back this up to some extent with a decent number of the heaviest occurring since 2000. Examples: Harvey, Allison, Florence, Matthew, etc.
Larry makes a good point. I won't go into massive detail on the science because there are numerous complicating elements to it.
One that is rarely discussed or even known is that the planet actually uses hurricanes to balance the heat disparity between excessive heat in the low latitudes(because of the powerful, high angled sun) and cooler temps in the high latitudes.
As Larry mentioned, global warming is something like 3 times more amplified in the highest latitudes compared to the low latitudes where hurricanes romp.
With climate change already helping to balance/equalize the temp disparity, there is less need for the atmosphere to have huge hurricanes to accomplish this.
However, in most other hurricane realms, having a warmer ocean and atmosphere should contribute to heavier rains, generally speaking (because the atmosphere will have the capacity to hold around 6% more water vapor).
The potentially slower movement would also cause rains to pile up at specific locations.
In addition, warmer oceans should be more favorable for intensification. If the minimum temp threshold is 80 deg. F and the oceans spend more time at 80 deg + then you would think, based on the physics/science that the hurricane season would be longer.
Also, as Larry knows better than anybody. The warmer the ocean temp is in the path of the hurricane the faster it can intensify and stronger it can get.
I think that climate crisis skeptics that try to claim otherwise are not being honest.
So a warmer planet should cause stronger/wetter hurricanes. This is bad for people that live and have property near the coasts. But is this bad for the rest of the planet and its creatures? Probably not so much.
And if we really wanted to turn off hurricanes, how about having another Ice Age?
The point is that there will be increasing consequences as well as benefits for temperature changes.
Was the perfect global temperature and CO2 level over a century ago before most of the Industrial Revolution and any increase since then bad?
The planet is massively greening up and will continue to do that for the next 100 years and cold still kills 200 times more life every year than heat does and the optimal CO2 level for plants and most life is 900 ppm.......over double where it is now.
So almost all life and biology is clearly telling us that it wants even warmer temps and more CO2.
The human life living on the coasts has something unique to consider. Hurricanes. If we ignored lifes screaming at us to give it MORE CO2 and only looked at humans, what would be the point where hurricane damage was worse than the benefits of massively more food production for all 8 billion people?
If climate science was really about honest, objective science, then we could actually have a discussion about when the great benefits to this current climate optimum for life would be offset by the negatives.
For most life this is at least several degrees warmer than this and CO2 double the current level.
But a massive portion of the human population has decided to build along the ocean coastlines, some of them in areas that have a risk of being hit by a hurricane in the Summer/Fall.
They also would be affected by rising oceans but the REAL increase is pretty low, just over an inch/decade.
So the main risk is from slightly stronger/wetter hurricanes.
We might do a statistical analysis that showed something like a hurricane with winds of 10-20 mph stronger is possible every 20 years and with 10% more rains at any specific location in the hurricane prone regions.
But food production is probably 25% higher FOR EVERYBODY from the increase in CO2 and beneficial climate change.
If we could put the climate, including CO2 into a time machine and go back 100 years, crop production would drop close to 25%(for every 5 ppm increase in CO2, crop production/yields go up around 1%) CO2 was around 125 ppm lower back then.
This is based on thousands of studies but each plant is different. For corn that uses the C4 pathway, it less than 25%, maybe only 15%. For soybeans, a C2 plant it would be more than that.
So if we did that, within 3 years, its likely that 1 billion people(out of almost 8 billion) would starve to death and food prices would go up by more than 5 times to ration the limited supplies.
But some hurricanes would weaken by maybe 10-20 mph and some hurricanes would produce 10-20% less rain. This is not the exact science but ballpark numbers so you an understand the realities.
Which one is more important do you think for humans?
With plants its obvious...........much warmer and double the CO2 is where they want to be.
With most animals, several degrees warmer at least and double the CO2 would be best.
Humans are tricky because they live in the path or hurricanes.
Here's another way to look at it.
Climate change and extra CO2 is feeding an extra billion people right now.......who would perish with the old climate.
How many extra lives are being lost every year along the coasts from hurricanes when the global temperature is up 1 deg. C? Additional property damage?
One would think that the extra food counts way more than the extra hurricane damage.
There are other factors but those 2 represent the biggest positive of climate change and the biggest negative of climate change.
What do you think?
Thanks much Jim and Larry for getting this topic/thread started!
YW. I just realized Larry is a name on this year's list. I had for some thought it had been retired. There has only been one Larry (2003) and it was a TS that hit MX. Hopefully, we for the 3rd time in a row don't reach Larry!
Always appreciate the feedback. This is a perfect example of what frustrates me about the whole global warming argument. The argument will focus on these things and say OMG it's the worst EVER!? Really? Ever? How do you/they know?
For me, we have a far bigger problem with plastic than global warming, but I guess until it starts clogging the screen in our water taps, it will get ignored.
And if you use that as an example of how recycling goes in this country, Li-io batteries are going to be a BIG problem in the not to distant future. But I guess we can always bury them next to the old windmill blades and nuclear waste.
Exactly right Jim...........EXACTLY!
Since you brought it up Jim(and you are exactly right about the plastics too):
The real environmental crisis's/insects dying-dead zones-aquifers drying up-plastics in the ocean-landfills/trash-over consumption of natural resources(metmike is a PRACTICING environmentalist): April 2019
I was thinking about you and this discussion when reading this.
Shows how the massive positive contributions to agriculture from the increase in CO2 completely dwarf all the negatives, including hurricanes(which would be part of "storms")
A lot of good stuff in those posts Mike. What an irony it would be that if in AOC’s lifetime, CO2 was greatly reduced and crop output was reduced significantly.
Ive always been a believer that there is nothing wrong in this world that less people wouldn’t solve. I read an article the other day that we, as humans, are taking care of this on our own. The birth rate is WAY down. People who worry about such things are worried and some governments are offering incentives to people to have babies. The biggest reason for pollution and governments want more of them. If that isn’t an irony, I don’t know what is.