Stories tagged hurricanes

Nov
30
2007

Is the number of hurricanes rising, or are we just getting better at counting them?
Is the number of hurricanes rising, or are we just getting better at counting them?Courtesy NASA

The 2007 hurricane season ends today, and by most accounts it was fairly typical, with 14 named storms and 5 hurricanes. But Neil Frank, former director of the National Hurricane Center, thinks those numbers are inflated. He argues that several of the named storms were not, in fact, strong enough to merit special designation.

According to the article, better storm-tracking technology has allowed scientists to identify and accurately measure weather events which, in years past, might not have merited “storm” designation, or might have been missed altogether.

Some people argue that this is an example of “climate change hype” – exaggerating the number of strong storms to make climate change look more severe than it actually is. Blogger Glenn Reynolds has perhaps a more charitable explanation: people in any profession want their field to seem important. If you’re in the hurricane business, then you get more attention – and more funding – if there are more hurricanes.

Earlier Buzz discussions of the 2007 Hurricane season can be found here and here.

The Atlantic Hurricane season ends this week, and it seems to have fallen short of earlier dire predictions. The 2005 season, with Hurricanes Rita and Katrina was far above normal, leading to some hasty predictions of intense storms to come. The last two seasons were much closer to normal, showing just how much random fluctuation there can be in a dynamic system like weather.

Jul
02
2007

Hurricane help: New research is finding that the churning waters from hurricanes can speed up the recovery of coral beds suffering from coral bleaching. (Photo from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association)
Hurricane help: New research is finding that the churning waters from hurricanes can speed up the recovery of coral beds suffering from coral bleaching. (Photo from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association)
After seeing the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, among other recent storms, hurricanes have been fighting a losing p.r. war. They’re just plain bad, right?

But new research is showing that the effects of hurricane weather can have a positive impact on some coral beds, particularly those that are suffering from stress caused by warming water temperatures. Ironically, warming waters is one of the factors that lead to more and bigger hurricanes.

A team of researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has found that hurricanes off of Florida and the Virgin Islands in 2005 were a benefit to “bleaching” coral beds in those areas. The bleaching problem is caused by the loss of algae in the area and a reduction in the pigments of the corals in the area when they’re stressed by warm weather.

Hurricanes Rita and Wilma in 2005 stirred up the waters of those bleached coral beds and were able to lower the water temperatures in the impacted coral beds by as much as nine degrees.

That water temperature saw a quicker recovery rate for the bleached coral beds. The researchers also point out that a direct hit by a hurricane to a coral bed still did vast damage, but areas on the edges of the storm showed improvement on the bleaching condition. Those improvements could be seen as far as 250 miles away from the hurricane’s main path.

Apr
03
2007

The 2007 Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1 and runs through November 30.

Two hurricanes: This satellite image, captured 8/30/05, shows Hurricane Iris in the central Atlantic Ocean, with Tropical Storm Karen to the southeast. (The original image, from which this is cropped, also showed Hurricane Humberto moving northeast across the Atlantic.)
Two hurricanes: This satellite image, captured 8/30/05, shows Hurricane Iris in the central Atlantic Ocean, with Tropical Storm Karen to the southeast. (The original image, from which this is cropped, also showed Hurricane Humberto moving northeast across the Atlantic.)

Check back often for the latest predictions, forecasts, and discussion.

Nov
28
2006


Here comes the story of the hurricane: (Photo courtesy NOAA)

The hurricane season ends on Thursday, and by all accounts it was fairly mild. There were nine storms in total, only five of which were strong enough to be labeled hurricanes. This is one-third the number seen in 2005.

The extremely strong season last year led many experts to predict another bad year in 2006. Some claimed the increase would be caused by global warming. Yet Mother Nature refused to cooperate, producing only half the predicted number of storms, causing the experts to continually revise their projections downward.

This highlights the difficulty of making long-term weather predictions, and should give pause to people eager to link every climate phenomenon to a simple cause.

There is no doubt that global temperatures rose from 1980 to 1998 – yet during that time, hurricanes levels were below average. Since 1998, temperatures have stayed at or near their record-high levels. And while there has been more activity of late, only one of those years was strong enough to suggest a global warming link.

Many climate scientists argue that hurricanes run in cycles – a decade or so with lots of storms, followed by a couple decades of much lower activity. They claim recent increase in storms has less to do with climate change and more to do with this natural process.

All of which shows that more research is needed, and it’s best not to make claims – or policy decisions – based on limited data. One strong hurricane season in 2005 does not “prove” global warming, any more than one weak season in 2006 refutes it.

Science Buzz has discussed the hurricane–global warming link in the past, particularly here, here, and here.

NASA scientists spent a month flying a sensor-packed airplane into storms brewing off the western coast of Africa. Data collected from these missions might someday allow better storm prediction and forecasting, and will definitely contribute to our knowledge of how hurricanes form and sustain themselves.

Sep
16
2006

There's been a rash of cool weather sites written up in the Twin Cities newspapers and other media lately.

Here are just a few:

Skeetobiteweather is one of the most popular hurricane sites run by amateurs. Jonathon Grant, of Lakeland, Florida, runs it. He says the site gets 1.8 million page views a week, and you can plug in your zip code and get a prediction of wind forces for your block, hour-by-hour, before a hurricane hits. (Not even the National Weather Service does that.) And pretty soon, you'll be able to enter your exact address.

Mark Sudduth, of Wilmington, North Carolina, runs HurricaneTrack and HurricaneLiveNet. He deploys several battery-powered, waterproof cameras at the exact points where hurricanes are expected to hit. He also collects weather data to accompany the live, streaming video.

Jesse Bass, of Hampton Roads, Virginia, is a weather chaser who posts photos and commentary on his website, VAStormPhoto.

HurricaneCity, despite its name, is one of the more comprehensive severe weather sites. Jim Williams, of Delray Beach, Florida, focuses on the city being hit, and you can see all live, streaming radio stations or TV from the site. He also has a towercam on his roof, which captured images from Hurricane Wilma last year, and he hosts "The Hurricane Warning Show" from his living room.

Mike Watkins, of Coconut Creek, Florida, covers Atlantic hurricane action on TropicalUpdate. And if there's no news on the hurricane front, he hosts an Internet radio show where he interviews the "celebrities" of the weather world--guys like Max Mayfield, of the National Hurricane Center, or William Gray, the Colorado State University professor who's known for his hurricane season forecasts.

On August 29, 2005, hurricane Katrina crashed into the Gulf Coast, leaving a swath of death and destruction in its wake. And now, a year later, many people are still feeling Katrina’s aftermath. On the anniversary of hurricane Katrina, Science Buzz features a variety of links and resources. We want to hear your natural disaster stories. And Katrina survivors, we especially want to hear from you!

The National Museum of American History is in the planning stages of building an exhibition displaying numerous Hurricane Katrina artifacts. The exhibit will be on display after the museum reopens in 2008.