Currently showing: Climate/natural disasters

02 Jun 15 14:27

Recently a few articles and papers have crossed my desk regarding hurricane activity, or the lack thereof. The first was a Washington Post article summarizing a new study published in Nature Climate Change, which found that the total number of hurricanes is decreasing, however, the percentage of these storms which become major hurricanes is increasing due to climate change. I was left scratching my head on this one recalling that this theory was proposed and accepted by many nearly a decade ago in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. 

The second paper was about the transitioning to the more benign phase of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). I thought about this, and as a non-scientist who supervises research into these topics, I look at simple statistical observations. For example, over the previous warm phases of the AMO, the number of hurricane landfalls along the US East Coast increased as the AMO entered its waning phase. Were Irene and Sandy the beginning of the current active cycle's farewell? Was this paper a first announcement?

Looking at my calendar, the date of June 1 just passed which is the ceremonial beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season. So is the old news of climate change impacting hurricane strengths and the new research that the AMO warm phase is ending credible or are they both making headlines because of the need to find something to write about since it is June 1?
The current forecasts call for a less active season. When the forecast is combined with the aforementioned articles and papers, coastal residents might be misled into thinking we are safe for a while. The reality is that in recent years, the US has gotten very lucky.  Our luck will run out, it always does, and despite the predictions for a less active season there still could be a category five monster with a thirty foot storm surge just around the corner.

Are you prepared?

Category: Climate/natural disasters

Location: United States


Monica Ningen - 3 Jun 2015, 6:47 p.m.

The longer we go without a large hurricane (or earthquake), the easier it is for people to forget the impact these severe events can have...not just on property but safety, infrastructure and businesses. I think we all need to give more attention to the topic of building resilient communities before the category five monster with the thirty foot storm surge shows up.

Ken Slack - 3 Jun 2015, 9:35 p.m.

This seems a nice reminder to be wary of complacency. It is perhaps worth remembering that 1992 was also forecasted as another benign year with all predictions pitched significantly lower than the long term average. The forecasts were in fact very accurate with the first named storm of the season not forming and making landfall until late in August. That storm was of course Hurricane Andrew which was one of the latest first named storms on record but has never been forgotten by all who experienced his ferocity and aftermath.

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