Hell, Hot Water and Hurricanes

September 11, 2018


Trying to pack a lot of info in while a catastrophe has our attention.

Above, on the day (Monday Sept. 10) that is statistically the peak for tropical cyclone activity – the satellite does not disappoint.


The second big factor favoring Florence’s rapid intensification is the remarkably warm ocean. The storm is cruising over an area where ocean surface temperatures are up to 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), providing more fuel to turbocharge the hurricane. Those temperatures are about 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal for this time of year.

“Now that Florence has these ingredients, and is developing a ring of intense storms around its eye, it will likely continue to strengthen to a major hurricane, likely a Category 4 storm soon,” Brian Tang, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Albany, told Earther shortly before the Category 3 and Category 4 updates came in.

Tang pointed to Harvey, Irma, and Maria last year as examples of other rapidly intensifying hurricanes in the Atlantic. But Florence still stands out in how much it’s expected to intensify. University of Oklahoma meteorology PhD student Sam Lillo tweeted that Sunday’s Florence forecast from the National Hurricane Center called for it to be the most rapidly intensifying Atlantic storm in the past 20 years. It’s a shockingly high-confidence forecast, but one that’s based on all available lines of evidence.

“Given that these models have been unanimous, cycle after cycle, in predicting Florence undergoing rapid intensification, it has given forecasters at the NHC confidence to also forecast rapid intensification,” Tang said.

Research published earlier this year indicates the magnitude of rapidly intensifying Atlantic storms is on the rise. Using satellite data from 1986-2015, the researchers found that rapidly intensifying storms saw wind speeds increase 4.4 mph per decade in the eastern and central Atlantic (there was no trend in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico). The researchers attribute this to the positive phase of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), which is marked by warm waters in the Atlantic. But they also don’t rule out a climate change, which has warmed oceans the world over.

Florence, in this graph from Monday, still has a lot of warm water to cross before landfall.


4 Responses to “Hell, Hot Water and Hurricanes”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    I don’t like that graphic because it suggests that the hurricane is fueled by the temperature *anomaly*, rather than the total heat. (Yes, of course the point of the piece is that AGW is increasing the total heat, but I’ve encountered too many hurricane-naive people in the past 5 days on the weather blog.)

  2. Kiwiiano Says:

    “The most rapidly intensifying storm in past 20 years…” What happened 20 years ago? What were the conditions that lead to whatever that event was?
    I wish there was a requirement that if any reporter used the term “the worst/biggest/whatever xxxx since yyyy” was required to add “when zzz happened”!

    • redskylite Says:

      I agree – skeptics/deniers will just say we are due for a big one, oblivious of the well above normal ocean temperatures and the properties of warmer air and moisture capacity. Pity that the media do not have access to decent scientists who can explain the differences of past and present clearly and in detail and not all the public have taken up to date climate science/physics university courses.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: