Study: Are we shifting to fewer, weaker Atlantic hurricanes?

September 7, 2015 bySeth Borenstein
Credit: NASA’s Earth Observatory/LANCE MODIS Rapid Response Team

A new but controversial study asks if an end is coming to the busy Atlantic hurricane seasons of recent decades.

The Atlantic looks like it is entering in to a new quieter cycle of storm activity, like in the 1970s and 1980s, two prominent hurricane researchers wrote Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Scientists at Colorado State University, including the professor who pioneered hurricane seasonal prognostication, say they are seeing a localized cooling and salinity level drop in the North Atlantic near Greenland. Those conditions, they theorize, change local weather and ocean patterns and form an on-again, off-again cycle in hurricane activity that they trace back to the late 1800s.

Warmer saltier produces periods of more and stronger storms followed by cooler less salty water triggering a similar period of fewer and weaker hurricanes, the scientists say. The periods last about 25 years, sometimes more, sometimes less. The busy cycle that just ended was one of the shorter ones, perhaps because it was so strong that it ran out of energy, said study lead author Phil Klotzbach.

Klotzbach said since about 2012 there's been more localized cooling in the key area and less salt, suggesting a new, quieter period. But Klotzbach said it is too soon to be certain that one has begun.

"We're just asking the question," he said.

But he said he thinks the answer is yes. He says the busy cycle started around 1995 and probably ended in 2012; in 2005 alone, Katrina, Rita and Wilma killed more than 1,500 people and caused billions of dollars of damage. The quiet cycle before that went from about 1970 to 1994 and before that it was busy from 1926 until 1969, he said.

Klotzbach doesn't take into account where a storm hits, but how strong storms are and how long they last regardless of whether they make landfall. So even though no major hurricane hit the United States in 2010, its overall activity was more than 60 percent higher than normal. And just because it's a quiet season doesn't mean a city can't be devastated, Klotzbach said. Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida in an otherwise quiet 1992 season as a top-of-the-scale storm.

Other scientists either reject the study outright or call it premature.

"I think they're pretty much wrong about this," said MIT meteorology professor Kerry Emanuel, who also specializes in hurricane research. "That paper is not backed by a lot of evidence."

US study asks if Atlantic hurricane season is weakening
This Aug, 31, 2005 file photo shows a man pushing his bicycle through flood waters near the Superdome in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina left much of the city under water. A new but controversial study asks if an end is coming to the busy Atlantic hurricane seasons of recent decades. The Atlantic looks like it is entering in to a new quieter cycle of storm activity, like in the 1970s and 1980s, two prominent hurricane researchers wrote Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience.(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Emanuel doesn't believe in the cycle cited by the researchers or the connection to ocean temperature and salinity. He thinks the quiet period of hurricanes of the 1970s and 1980s is connected to sulfur pollution and the busy period that followed is a result of the cleaning of the air. And Jim Kossin of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said cooler water temperatures earlier this year might be due to Atlantic dust, and August temperatures there have risen.

Another NOAA scientist, Gabriel Vecchi, said while there seems to be signs of a change in the circulation of the Atlantic, it's far too early to say that the shift has happened.

"So what happens in the next few years is going to be very exciting to watch as it may help settle or at least refine some intense scientific debates," Vecchi said in an email.

Explore further: Hurricane season expected to be weaker than normal

More information: Active Atlantic hurricane era at its end? DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2529

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25 comments

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FritzVonDago
2.4 / 5 (17) Sep 07, 2015
You cannot predict the weather for 3 day into the future, much less global warming HogWash years into the future!
Captain Stumpy
3.7 / 5 (12) Sep 07, 2015
You cannot predict the weather for 3 day into the future, much less global warming HogWash years into the future!
@fritz
maybe not in your neck of the woods, but around here, they are spot on for at least 3 days out!
not the television newscasters, mind you... for some reason they tend to like to alter the forecast... but the local NOAA weather radio station that specifically covers weather in my area
Vietvet
4.2 / 5 (10) Sep 07, 2015
In SoCal the 7 and even 10 day forecasts are remarkably accurate, a huge improvement from the seventies when tracking the forecasts was important in scheduling work.
jljenkins
2.8 / 5 (9) Sep 07, 2015
This shows there's still a lot of speculation about GW. I think you have to admit that the distribution of possible scenarios has been skewed towards alarmism. lol The second one uses the exact same graphic! That's not spinning it this way, then spinning it that way MUCH.

http://phys.org/n...tic.html
http://phys.org/n...ews.html

Inv # 803912
jim_xanara
2 / 5 (8) Sep 07, 2015
When a group that has no explicit interest in climate change makes it a cornerstone, and explicitly states what will happen, you know they have an agenda. What a total shock that The Rockefeller Foundation is one such example. They're not much invovled in global kleptocracy. Wake up and smell the knish. https://www.rocke...-change/
MR166
2.6 / 5 (10) Sep 07, 2015
I just love green science. If there are a greater amount or more violent hurricanes the warming models predicted it and Co2 is to blame. If there are fewer, natural cycles are the reason.
zz5555
3.7 / 5 (12) Sep 07, 2015
You cannot predict the weather for 3 day into the future, much less global warming HogWash years into the future!

In addition to what others have said, climate models, and the issues they face, are very different from weather models. It would be very foolish to assume that deficiencies with weather models are shared with climate models (and vice versa).
zz5555
3.7 / 5 (12) Sep 07, 2015
This shows there's still a lot of speculation about GW. I think you have to admit that the distribution of possible scenarios has been skewed towards alarmism. lol The second one uses the exact same graphic! That's not spinning it this way, then spinning it that way MUCH.

It seems to me that you should first read this article before making a comment. This article talks about a hypothetical short term cycle in Atlantic hurricanes. That doesn't say much at all about the trend in hurricane strength due to long term climate change/global warming.
antigoracle
2.3 / 5 (9) Sep 07, 2015
form an on-again, off-again cycle in hurricane activity that they trace back to the late 1800s.

zz5555, why don't you take your own advice. The cycle is only hypothetical in your ignorant Chicken Little mind.
katesisco
1 / 5 (8) Sep 07, 2015
My analysis of months ago; the sun has less energy now, looser origination here as result on Earth, less definition. As in fusion efforts result in looseness ( the tiny tornadoes that refuse to settle) less permanence in the energy in the magnetron, less tightness and confining ability.
Bongstar420
3 / 5 (8) Sep 07, 2015
Global warming is clearly causing more "extreme" weather

clearly
Eddy Courant
2.3 / 5 (9) Sep 07, 2015
So the ice at the poles is more resilient than thought. The methane cathrates are just food for bacteria now. The warming pause is almost two decades long. And there hasn't been another Katrina since the last one. And now it looks like that will continue. The polar bears WILL be fine. So what's the response from those wacko alarmists? Why double-down of course. LOL
zz5555
3.5 / 5 (11) Sep 07, 2015
Global warming is clearly causing more "extreme" weather

I'd say "contributing to" rather than "causing", but yes, that appears to be what the data has been saying for a while now. But I'm not sure what that has to do with this article. This article says that there may be a cycle affecting the Atlantic hurricanes. That such a cycle may exist doesn't prevent the long term effects of climate change/global warming, any more than the existence of ENSO does.
sdrfz
2.1 / 5 (11) Sep 07, 2015

If the supposed long-term effect of AGW has little influence on extreme weather events as compared to a real and measurable short-term effect, then maybe the supposed long-term effect doesn't actually exist.
zz5555
4.1 / 5 (9) Sep 07, 2015
If the supposed long-term effect of AGW has little influence on extreme weather events as compared to a real and measurable short-term effect, then maybe the supposed long-term effect doesn't actually exist.

That seems like a silly statement. Recall that:
1. This article says nothing about the long-term effect of global warming. Assuming the hypothesis is correct, it's certainly the case that the recent busy cycle showed increasing cyclone activity even above and beyond the previous busy cycle. Why would you suppose that the current quiet cycle wouldn't show more activity than previous quiet cycles?
2. The long-term effects are just that: long-term. They don't happen immediately. Remember, CO2 levels have been increasing for at least ~6000 years. Only recently have they become great enough to dominate natural drivers of the climate. As ocean temperatures increase, the effects on hurricanes will become more pronounced.
Egleton
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 07, 2015
Stick your lols where the sun don't shine. They are just a device to illicit an emotional response.

My intuition is that as the planet warms the doldrums will naturally expand, the Haley cells will move poleward and so will the cyclones. lol.

lol.
Joker23
1.4 / 5 (9) Sep 08, 2015
This is why people with a brain, are skeptical about Global Warming, the crisis de jour just as they were when the same idiots were predicting another ice age in the seventies. When I see the weather predictions of 100% accuracy, I'll think about believing Global Warming.
zz5555
4.4 / 5 (7) Sep 08, 2015
This is why people with a brain, are skeptical about Global Warming, the crisis de jour just as they were when the same idiots were predicting another ice age in the seventies. When I see the weather predictions of 100% accuracy, I'll think about believing Global Warming.

A couple questions:
1. If, as you suggest, you know little or nothing about climate modeling and weather modeling, why do you feel it's necessary to comment?
2. You're statement about "people with a brain": are you claiming that people with a brain are only able to believe in something only if something irrelevant to the belief is 100% accurate? Why do weather predictions have to be 100% accurate for you to accept the well known climate science? That seems to be a non sequitur.
Shootist
1.6 / 5 (7) Sep 08, 2015
How can you make any judgments using such a paltry data set? Keep counting and come back in 1000 years.
Captain Stumpy
4.3 / 5 (6) Sep 08, 2015
his is why people with a brain, are skeptical about Global Warming
@joke
no, people with an AGENDA are skeptical about AGW, people with a brain who don't make decisions based upon political rhetoric, conspiracy ideation or religious dogma actually appeal to the science and evidence, which then leads them to comprehend that there is overwhelming evidence for AGW and warming
you are spouting political bs/conspiracy ideation leading me to believe you are not someone "with a brain" looking for answers, but someone commenting to get attention
When I see the weather predictions of 100% accuracy
how long out? 1 minute? 1 hour? 1 day? 1 week?

one last point that is pretty important: weather is NOT climate...
apples vs car tires - just because they both can roll downhill doesn't mean they're the same thing. try using an apple as a spare and you'll not get far
Captain Stumpy
4.3 / 5 (6) Sep 08, 2015
How can you make any judgments using such a paltry data set? Keep counting and come back in 1000 years.
@shooty
you mean like: how can you extrapolate the direction/path of a planet with only three measurements?"

or how can you know the mass of an object you can't put on a scale and weigh?

you really can extrapolate data from small sets of information
just because larger data sets can be more accurate and will provide a clearer picture doesn't mean that you cannot actually extrapolate data from smaller sets and get a basic understanding of what is happening...

see furlongs arguments to deng (in the link below) for more details about that
http://phys.org/n...ght.html

ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (5) Sep 08, 2015
how can you extrapolate the direction/path of a planet with only three measurements?

Because they don't change, much.

All satellites orbiting Earth are continuously tracked and monitored and their orbits updated because no one can predict all the forces acting on the satellites.

Just as no super duper climate computer can predict all the inputs and influences on climate as not all inputs and influences are known.
antigoracle
1.5 / 5 (8) Sep 08, 2015
How can you make any judgments using such a paltry data set? Keep counting and come back in 1000 years.

Guess you forgot. Chicken Littles can't count pass 20 unless they drop their pants.
Captain Stumpy
4.5 / 5 (8) Sep 08, 2015
Because they don't change, much
@rygtroll
this only assumes there are no changes to be seen/made. we CAN see influences with other massive objects (Jupiter, Moon)
All satellites orbiting Earth are continuously tracked and monitored and their orbits updated because no one can predict all the forces acting on the satellites
1- they can predict with high accuracy
2- they're monitored for more reasons than orbits
3- just because we use continuous monitoring for state security, communication and other purposes, doesn't mean we need super computers to track them or predict where they will be... [see also: NORAD]
can predict all the inputs
who ever made a claim that the computers could predict ALL the inputs?
NOT SCIENTISTS
NOT I

this is distraction and red herring mixed with argument from ignorance and strawman
Chicken Littles can't count pass 20 unless they drop their pants
@anti
leaves you out too then

HeloMenelo
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2015
How can you make any judgments using such a paltry data set? Keep counting and come back in 1000 years.

Guess you forgot. Chicken Littles can't count pass 20 unless they drop their pants.


And monkeys (aka you) can't count at all, unless they do the chest thump after seeing bannanas offered to them by their superiors enslaving them to post bs on physorg... :D

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