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Are Hurricanes Getting Worse?

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Are Hurricanes Getting Worse?

By: Adam M. Matheny

The Damage is Done When The Storm Comes

During the month of September Morgan McFall-Johnson and Aylin Woodward wrote an intriguing article on Tropical Storm Imelda for Business Insider. Hurricanes are known for their huge amounts of water from rain to massive waves and the brutal wind speeds, both destroying anything in their path. When slow moving storms are hitting the Texas coast, causing large amount of area getting flooded. These storms have been noticed to shackle themselves to Houston, quite frequently, and with the continuous pavement downtown enhances it.

A writer from the Washington Post has published a bit in the science literature department on hurricanes. A claim by Business Insider interested him “warming overall makes hurricanes more frequent and devastating then they would be otherwise.” He gives an insightful observation on that quote. The word “makes” tells the reader that it’s in present tense. Given the words meaning, it’s telling the inform that there is a relationship with surface temperatures of the world, frequency of hurricanes, devastation, right? At the least it would be a good testable hypothesis.

Looking Into the Past to See the Future

Scientist have been collecting a lot of data on cyclones (hurricanes) that take place in the North Pacific, North Atlantic, and secluded Southern Oceans since 1970. Weather satellites observe and store the data from each hurricane so, several governmental agencies can estimate the intensity and movement on most storms. There are some where they aren’t government watched but, the satellite gives precise information about the strength and motion.

Ryan Maue, who has a PhD in meteorology from Florida State University (a reputable program where they specialize in tropical cyclones), has detailed the subject history information of all tropical storms since satellite coverage began. Ryan can calculate the power of individual storms by calculating the wind speeds and multiplying it by the length of time the winds blow. Then by adding all the world’s storms every year, he can go back to 1970 and generate a history of hurricane power, he calls Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) Index.

Adding into play the surface temperature history since 1970. Globally temperatures fell a bit around 1977, whereas they also rose a half of a degree in Celsius at the turn of the century. Then warming seems to pause for a bit, until middle of 2014, then El Nino hit where temperatures peaked in 2016, re-setting the global records of highest temperatures recorded in the 19th century.

(Referring to University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit. They don’t fill in any missing data with estimated data, whether it be subjective or mathematical.)

In reference to the writer from the Washington Post and Business Insider. So, if increase temperatures are “mak[ing] hurricanes more frequent and devastating,” then it would be safe to say that Maue’s history should show this happening. Since we are very close to the warmest temperatures in history, we should have frequent tropical storms. But there are zero trends in the global ACE Index that show any correlation to the mean global surface area temperatures.

Correlation?

No one at the time can say that tropical hurricanes are consistent with them getting stronger and/or becoming more frequent due to temperatures rising.

Yes, there may have a spike of hurricanes in the last few years in one place or another but, the ACE truly a global measure of destructive potentials of these storms, there is just no signal that there is any correlation.

Here’s a quote from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration prestigious Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton in August of 2019 they published:

“In the Atlantic, it is premature to conclude with high confidence that human activities — and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming – have already had a detectable impact on hurricane activity.”

This statement is based on the same data Maue gathered and analyzed with his findings.

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