Lessons from Laura

August 28, 2020

Top: Gulf of Mexico prior to Laura’s passage. Bottom: after.
HT to Simon Donner on Twitter.

Andrew Dessler on Twitter:

If you hear a “reasonable middle bro” who “cares deeply about the environment” but tells you that “climate change is not making hurricanes worse,” they’re gas-lighting you. Let’s examine the peer-reviewed science on this issue.

From chapter 6 of the IPCC Ocean and Cryosphere report. See also this web page from NOAA: gfdl.noaa.gov/global-warming…

First, rainfall. There is a good reason for rainfall to increase with warming: Warmer sea surface temperatures leads to more water vapor in the boundary layer. Unless convergence into the storm DECREASES, you’ll get more rainfall. 

Here’s what NOAA says:


Next, intensity: Yes, we project hurricane intensity to increase with temperature:


It’s possible that the total number of storms will decrease. However, the vast majority of hurricane damage comes from the strongest storms. Thus, the shift to stronger storms, even if total cyclone numbers decline, means that total damage can skyrocket. Kerry Emanuel sent me some figures to show this (reproduced with his permission) & I’ve paraphrased his comments.

Model-simulated probability density of annual U.S. hurricane damage, plotted on log damage scale, for the climate of late 20th century and late 21st century.


Owing to a projected decrease in total storm frequency, there is a decline near the peak of the probability curve, but notice also an increase in the far tail of the distribution. This is consistent with the IPCC’s statement of reduced frequency and increased intensity. 

But we will see just how misleading statements like this are in this graphic, that shows the product of the damage and the probability graphed against log damage … when integrated, the areas under the curves represent that total expected damage.


Here we see that the decline in total number of hurricanes is completely irrelevant. Virtually all the increased damages comes from changes in the tail of the distribution. /end of Kerry’s comments 

Finally, storm surge. Sea levels are going up, which is primarily caused by global warming. This is making storm surge worse.

What NOAA says:


So don’t fall for climate inactivist shysters peddling the claim that climate change is not contributing to these disasters. They are just another type of climate denier. 

One Response to “Lessons from Laura”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Aside regarding Laura: One advantage western Louisiana has over Puerto Rico and the peninsula of Florida is that both evacuation and support are made easier (and cheaper) by the centralized location. The Lake Charles portion of my family fled both east and west, and most are now poised to head back in with supplies (if they haven’t already).

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