Solar impacts on hurricanes

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:36 PM GMT en Mayo 13, 2010

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I'm in Tucson for the American Meteorological Society's 29th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology. This is the premier scientific conference on hurricanes, and is held only once every two years, so pretty much all of the world's greatest hurricane experts are here. One of the more intriguing posters presented at Tuesday's poster session was titled, Evidence linking solar variability with USA hurricanes, by Robert Hodges and Jim Elsner of Florida State University. They showed that the probability of three or more hurricanes hitting the U.S. during a hurricane season with warmer than average sea surface temperatures increases dramatically during minima in the 11-year sunspot cycle. The odds increase from 20% to 40% for years when the sunspot activity is in the lower 25% of the sunspot cycle, compared to years in the upper 25% of the cycle. Near the peak of the sunspot cycle, the odds of at least one hurricane hitting the U.S. are just 25%, but at solar minimum, the odds increase sharply to 64%. The authors studied the period 1851 - 2008, and controlled for other variables such as changes in sea surface temperature and El Niño. Such a large impact of the sun on hurricanes might seem surprising, given that the change in solar energy at all light wavelengths is only about 0.1%. This relatively small change causes just a 0.1°C change in Earth's mean surface temperature between the peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle (high solar activity) and the minimum of the sunspot cycle (where we are now.) However, variation in radiation between extrema of the solar cycle can be 10% or more in portions of the UV range (Elsner et al., 2008.) The strong change in UV light causes globally averaged temperature swings in the lower stratosphere of 0.4°C between the minimum and maximum of the sunspot cycle--four times as great as the difference measured at Earth's surface (Lean, 2009). This sensitivity of the stratosphere to UV light is due to the fact the ozone layer is located in the stratosphere. Ozone absorbs a large amount of UV light, causing the stratosphere to heat up when solar activity is high. The authors speculate that a warmer stratosphere then heats up the upper troposphere, making the atmosphere more stable. An unstable atmosphere--with hot temperatures at the surface and cold conditions in the upper troposphere--are conducive for stronger hurricanes. Thus, we would expect to see reductions in hurricanes during the peak of the sunspot cycle.

Previous research
The findings presented at this week's conference build upon earlier work published by Elsner et al. (2008) and Elsner et al. (2010). The first of these studies found that for every 100 extra sunspots in September, the temperature of the atmosphere at 16 km altitude over the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico increased by about 0.5°C, and the number of hurricanes in this region was reduced by 26%. Interestingly, a reduction of hurricanes over the eastern Atlantic off the coast of Africa was not observed during solar maxima, which the authors attributed to the fact that hurricanes in this region are limited by sea surface temperature, not instability. Solar maximum brings a small increase in sea surface temperature to the globe, aiding hurricane development in regions where sea surface temperature is the limiting factor. The second of these studies (Elsner et al., 2010) computed that for a Category 2 hurricane affecting the U.S. during the most active 30% range of the solar cycle, the resultant heating of the upper troposphere would cause a 19% decrease in the stability, lowering the hurricane's winds by 10% (10 mph.) Stronger hurricanes would be affected even more, with a potential wind speed reduction of 23 mph for the most powerful hurricanes. The 27-day rotation period of the sun causes a change in UV light even larger than the change observed during the 11-year sunspot cycle, so perhaps we should be monitoring the phase of the sun's rotation to look for more favorable periods for hurricane formation.

Commentary
Considering that this year we are at the deepest solar minimum in more than a century, this research gives us yet another reason to expect a severe Atlantic hurricane season this year. My next post, which may not be until Monday, I'll discuss the sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic hurricane main development region, which set an all-time record last month for the warmest monthly anomaly for the 100+ years we have records. Also, El Niño now appears to be over, as sea surface temperatures in the Eastern Pacific have crossed the threshold into neutral territory.

References
Elsner, J. B., and T. H. Jagger, 2008, United States and Caribbean tropical cyclone activity related to the solar cycle, Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L18705, doi:10.1029/2008GL034431.

Elsner, J. B., T. H. Jagger, and R. E. Hodges, 2010, Daily tropical cyclone intensity response to solar ultraviolet radiation, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L09701, doi:10.1029/2010GL043091.

Lean, J.L., 2009, Cycles and trends in solar irradiance and climate", Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, Volume 1, Issue 1, Pages 111-122 Published Online: 22 Dec 2009

Jeff Masters

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Quoting kingy:
lets back off BP a little here guys, aspectre is right. The gulf is a big place and the oil slick is tiny in comparison. Lets get real here. kingy



Back off ?

...How bout,...NO
Member Since: Julio 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127592
it's easy to start though; people unfortunately seem adverse to the simple changes. "those wind farms are ugly; not in my backyard" I think I'd prefer wind farms to oil spills
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Quoting GNDcanewatcher:
Quoting RitaEvac:
Without the oil and gas industry this country wouldnt have crap.

although that is probably true for American history (to some extent), it's not a good argument for the continued use of fossil fuels. Things change. the only reason BP was digging that well is because crude oil is actually running out, but it seems like everyone forgets that because of the oil sands in Canada - what a disaster. The best way for the states to maintain its economic power would be to get off of fossil fuels altogether; it would also make the world a nicer place, and create lots of jobs. It's time for people to realize it's time for a change. I hope that this doesn't get me ignored by everyone.


In the future we will be off of fossil fuels, but we are not the major polluters in the world... Countries like China that are growing out of their 3rd world culture pollute with a vengence and have little regulations on emmissions.

Member Since: Agosto 30, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1837
Somerandomtexan-


Honestly its just intuition based on following the last couple of seasons and predictions. I do think conditions are more favorable this year but i dont really think its as dramatic of a cause of concern as Joe Bastardi is making it out to be. And im telling you i am modest about most things but not my weather instinct. I have been studying hurricanes for years and I rarely make a mistake. I remember reading people on here panicking last year and i predicted it would have less activity than 2006 and sure enough point proven exactly. One of the quiestes seasons ever.
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Good morning everyone and welcome GND
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I can't disagree with that.
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Quoting GNDcanewatcher:
Quoting RitaEvac:
Without the oil and gas industry this country wouldnt have crap.

although that is probably true for American history (to some extent), it's not a good argument for the continued use of fossil fuels. Things change. the only reason BP was digging that well is because crude oil is actually running out, but it seems like everyone forgets that because of the oil sands in Canada - what a disaster. The best way for the states to maintain its economic power would be to get off of fossil fuels altogether; it would also make the world a nicer place, and create lots of jobs. It's time for people to realize it's time for a change. I hope that this doesn't get me ignored by everyone.


I agree, but we can't wing off it that fast. Takes time and by time I mean decades.
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hurricanelover236---

What factors do you see inhibiting this season?

Or is this just a gut feeling?
Member Since: Agosto 30, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1837
Quoting RitaEvac:
Without the oil and gas industry this country wouldnt have crap.

although that is probably true for American history (to some extent), it's not a good argument for the continued use of fossil fuels. Things change. the only reason BP was digging that well is because crude oil is actually running out, but it seems like everyone forgets that because of the oil sands in Canada - what a disaster. The best way for the states to maintain its economic power would be to get off of fossil fuels altogether; it would also make the world a nicer place, and create lots of jobs. It's time for people to realize it's time for a change. I hope that this doesn't get me ignored by everyone.
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Ive said it before and ill say it again. I have taken a break from this site in the ladt year but last year i predeicted would be one of the quitest ever and i was right. SO let me enlighten you about 2010. It is already being overhyped by the usual hypist team led by Joe Bastardi. I do believe that while it will be more active than last year it will come no where near to the extreme numbers everyone are predicting. So prepare but dont be worried. There you have it.
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851?????
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Nope, sorry, I withdrawn that comment: blog is getting to busy for my amateur debates. Ciao a tutti.
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The live webcam countdown clock is up and running on XtremeHurricanes.com!

T-minus till live broadcast!

I'm a bat out of hell...
Member Since: Agosto 26, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 3617
Quoting RitaEvac:
Without the oil and gas industry this country wouldnt have crap.

This is true.
Member Since: Agosto 30, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1837
Quoting RitaEvac:
Without the oil and gas industry this country wouldnt have crap.


Objection: that's speculation. Some of the first cars were electric. Who knows what would have happened if electric cars or other alternative sources had been given the same R&D budget that gas engines had.
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Thank you for the warm welcome.
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Assuming Oz has good broadband coverage, he'll have the webcam up and running this afternoon. Check it out at Xtremehurricanes.com Ya gotta go where the 'nados are tho, so if coverage is spotty we'll have to settle for whatever he gets on his hi-def video cam.
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Quoting kingy:
lets back off BP a little here guys, aspectre is right. The gulf is a big place and the oil slick is tiny in comparison. Lets get real here. kingy


I am sorry, but you obviously do not live here. You do not have to worry about the health of your children and what the consequences of smelling this oil could be down the road. Catastrophe does not have to be measured by the square mile.
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Without the oil and gas industry this country wouldnt have crap.
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Quoting GNDcanewatcher:
Long time lurker - new poster - it is raining heavily here in Grenada.


Welconme to Wunderground!
Member Since: Agosto 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
Quoting Chicklit:
Quoting weathermanwannabe:
Good Morning......Lots of moisture in the tropics this AM but nothing brewing yet and BP CEO (per NPR this morning) made a statement in England that "The Gulf of Mexico is a big place and the leak is relatively small".....

They are so high above us they cannot see.

My point in the beginning and my point is now:
Take them down.
Make an example out of them.
This is unacceptable.

That's how teachers do it in the classroom at the beginning of the year when they want to have a good, productive group of students.
It's elementary.


What about those bank cartels? bail outs and crooks making millions off you and laughing all the way to the bank.
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:


He's heading towards Carlsbad NM and then wherever he feels is the best locale to get Live webcam and hi-def footage of todays predicted severe weather outbreak.


Thanks Doug!

Hopefully he gets some good shots!
Member Since: Agosto 30, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1837
Quoting kingy:
lets back off BP a little here guys, aspectre is right. The gulf is a big place and the oil slick is tiny in comparison. Lets get real here. kingy


Not when the spill happens so close to shore....You get real.
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Quoting SomeRandomTexan:


where's he heading?


He's heading towards Carlsbad NM and then wherever he feels is the best locale to get Live webcam and hi-def footage of todays predicted severe weather outbreak.
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didn't that f3 scare ya last time
this time maybe an f5 will get ya
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838. kingy
lets back off BP a little here guys, aspectre is right. The gulf is a big place and the oil slick is tiny in comparison. Lets get real here. kingy
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Quoting doabarrelroll:

For a second there I thought it read "where's IT heading" I almost threw up as its too early for that lol.


That would have been pretty funny!

Kinda like someone else we know who used to frequent the blog. ;)
Member Since: Agosto 30, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1837
Quoting FLWeatherFreak91:
Where are you pulling the archived data from? I'm interested in seeing how high the TCHP got later on in 2005.


IRI/LDEO Columbia accesses free global monthly TCHP data from NOAA back to 1981, with a built in viewer. The resolution is low, but maybe you can fiddle with the viewer parameters to get something higher.

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Quoting GNDcanewatcher:
Long time lurker - new poster - it is raining heavily here in Grenada.

Welcome to Weather Underground. Get ready for a crazy hurricane season.
Member Since: Mayo 11, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 231
Quoting Skyepony:


What is the date on that?


You can get archieved AOML sst's HERE
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:
Oz is on the road! Got off the phone a sec ago. He'll be trying to get live web-cam coverage this afternoon. Wish him luck and to stay safe!


where's he heading?
Member Since: Agosto 30, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1837
Thanks, I think that this blog is the best place to get information on what is happening globally. Since that's the case, I have a question: How long into the future can steering patterns be accurately predicted?
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Quoting GNDcanewatcher:
Long time lurker - new poster - it is raining heavily here in Grenada.


Glad to have you on board!
Member Since: Agosto 30, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1837
double post
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Oz is on the road! Got off the phone a sec ago. He'll be trying to get live web-cam coverage this afternoon. Wish him luck and to stay safe!
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Quoting Skyepony:


What is the date on that?



August 26, 2005

Katrina time
Member Since: Agosto 30, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1837
825. Skyepony (Mod)
GNDcanewatcher~ Welcome! Always nice to have the 1st hand reports from the Caribbean.
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Quoting GNDcanewatcher:
Long time lurker - new poster - it is raining heavily here in Grenada.


Welcome to Weather Underground :~)
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823. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting SomeRandomTexan:
This is bout the hottest I could find for 2005 in the Gulf


What is the date on that?
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This is bout the hottest I could find for 2005 in the Gulf
Member Since: Agosto 30, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1837
Long time lurker - new poster - it is raining heavily here in Grenada.
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


You think these conditions will persist thru the end of the month?


Upper winds are still hostile in most areas were tropical storms form which is perfectly normal this time of the year. I really don't see anything getting going atleast through 7-10 days. Precipition chances should increase across South florida early next week as our steering flow will switch to the southwest and allow for deep tropical moisture in creep north. What the GFS has been showing in its long-ranges in my opinion appears to be a frontal feature nothing tropical.

adrian
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Good morning gang!

The central U.S. looks like they will get another day of pounding on.
Member Since: Agosto 30, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1837
Quoting hurricane23:
Conditions are still very hostile in all main development regions across the tropical atlantic no worries.


You think these conditions will persist thru the end of the month?
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
(AP) Is oil spill Obama's Katrina?

Well yahoo.. I'd wait until least hurricane season is done to make the 'K' statement.

TCHP continues to grow in the Caribbean..

May 12th, 2010.


May 12th, 2005.
Where are you pulling the archived data from? I'm interested in seeing how high the TCHP got later on in 2005.
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My neice just started working for the FDA as a field agent. Many people in her office - biologist, chemist etc - found out she was from New Orleans and told her that her family should be wearing masks because of the carcinogens released from the oil. I know this is far fetched but is there any validity to this. I am aware this is not a "medical" blog but just wanted thoughts since the spill is a big topic here.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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