Could Hurricanes Get Stronger?

May 12, 2015

Above, Cyclone Noul from Space.

Bob Henson in WeatherUnderground:

After making landfall at 6:15 am EDT Sunday on the coast of South Carolina just south of the North Carolina border as the strongest tropical storm ever recorded to hit the U.S. so early in the year, Tropical Storm Ana dissipated on Sunday evening over North Carolina. The storm brought a number of wind gusts of 50 – 60 mph to the coast, but no significant flooding or damage was reported. Before Ana, only six tropical cyclones tracked over the Gulf Coast or East Coast before June 1. Ana was the earliest. (Tropical cyclones include tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes.)

Jeff Masters recently reminded me that “Hurricanes are like bananas, they come in bunches”.
We haven’t seen a bunch in a while, but history tells us they are coming.

Orlando Sentinel:

The last time a hurricane barreled into Florida — Wilma in late 2005 — a Bush was governor and space shuttles could still fly into orbit.

It’s somewhat rare to go so long without a cyclone, and experts fear Floridians are catching “hurricane amnesia.”

Kerry Emanuel, professor of atmospheric science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will present research that ties climate change to fewer small or average-sized storms and an uptick in the number of the most powerful storms.

“The very high intensity events should go up in number and that’s important because a disproportionate amount of damage is done by these high category storms even though they are relatively rare,” Emanuel said.

“The Andrews, Katrinas and Hugos do a whole lot more damage than all the weak storms put together,” he said.

Emanuel’s research also points to a likelihood that hurricanes are going to rain a lot more in the future — a worry because of the flooding and deaths that can result.

University of Georgia professor Marshall Shepherd, past president of the American Metrological Society and host of the Weather Channel’s “WxGeeks” show, will moderate the climate-change discussion to include an emerging concern that lesser hurricanes may not smash cities but still pose a serious threat.

“One of the things that people are missing when we talk about hurricanes is that it doesn’t take an Andrew, it doesn’t take a Katrina, it doesn’t take a big category 4 or 5 storm to cause havoc,” Shepherd said.

“When we have a category 1 or 2 or 3 storm, or even a tropical storm, they can still be hazardous because we are seeing so much sea-level rise and even nuisance flooding in South Florida on a regular basis,” he said.

Higher sea levels can contribute to higher storm surges, threatening more people and property.

Below, my interview with Dr. Emanuel following Hurricane Sandy.

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