09 June 2014

The US Hurricane Drought in USA Today

I have an op-ed in USA Today tomorrow on the ongoing US "hurricane drought." Here is how it starts:
In 1933, Richard Gray, a U.S. government weather forecaster, noted that Florida had been hit by at least 37 hurricanes over the 45 years ending in 1930. During this period, the longest stretch with no tropical storms was only two years.

When the 2014 hurricane season officially began on June 1, the Sunshine State had gone more than eight years without being struck by a hurricane. It was back on Oct. 24, 2005, when Hurricane Wilma emerged from the Gulf of Mexico and caused billions of dollars in damage in South Florida. In fact, Wilma was the last Category 3 or stronger storm to hit the USA.

The 3,151 days and counting with no Florida hurricane and no major U.S. hurricane shatters the previous records for hurricane "droughts," at least back to the turn of the previous century. In fact, from 1900 through 2013, the United States experienced a decrease in hurricane landfalls of more than 20%, and the strength of each year's landfalling storms has also decreased by more than 20%.
The figures at the top of this post show the data from 1900 to 2013 on landfalls (data from NOAA here) and the intensity of storms at landfall (data from NOAA updated from here, courtesy of C. Landsea, NHC). Since 1900 US hurricane seasons have seen more than 20% less landfalls and are more than 20% less intense. In my piece I defer to the IPCC on the emotive topic of hurricanes and climate change.

The main point of the piece is that we shouldn't let the past 9 years of abnormally low hurricane activity lull us into a sense of complacency.  It is only a matter of time before the long streak with no US Cat 3+ and Florida hurricanes is broken.

Read the whole thing here.

PS. For those interested in data on the intense US hurricane drought, here you go:

8 comments:

  1. As a resident of Florida, I can attest to what happened to insurance rates after the 2005 season. The re-insurance industry stopped using historical hurricane rates and started depending on models which predicted a 30% increase in damages.

    The 2000-2010 decade ended up right on the historical averages, even with the horrendous mid decade years. And the last 4 years have been very, very quiet. So have my insurance rates gone down? No.

    Is the fact we are in a record setting lull mean much? As Roger says, not really. One would be unwise to anticipate this to be the "new normal".

    One does ponder what would be happening if we were in the midst of a 10 year record setting interval for most hurricanes. Would the re-insurance industry and global warming advocates be telling us that this is simply hurricane "weather" and it is not expected to last? Hardly. Trenberth and crew would be on book signing tours and Oprah.

    Make sure and examine with a critical eye the hysteria that occurs when the next Cat3 hurricane does make landfall. My guess is the mainstream media and the usual suspects will have a hard time remembering the dearth we are in over the last 10 years.

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  2. There certainly appears to be more of a certain type of food bears eat in the woods... but no sign yet of more bears themselves in the woods... We should probably just conclude there's going to be more people eaten by bears anyway...

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/mit-climate-scientist-responds-on-disaster-costs-and-climate-change/

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  3. Thanks Roger. I'll have the popcorn ready for watching the hysterical and angry rants and attacks from the 350.org/Greenpeace/EDF/NRDC types who hyped hurricane Katrina to promote weather extremes to frighten and brainwash children and adults with poor math and science skills. ;-)

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  4. I reached out to Kerry Emanuel of MIt for an on-the-record reaction to my op-ed. Here is his response:

    "I read your USA [Today] piece and find little to fault with it. We are in an unusually long drought of U.S. landfalls of major hurricanes, and your central point that we should not let our guard down is important. When I talk about this in public I often cite the example of Hurricane Andrew, which at the time broke records for U.S. insured losses yet occurred in a very quiet year for the Atlantic as a whole. While this is anecdotal, the statistics show that random chance dominates year-to-year variability of U.S. landfalling hurricanes, particularly major ones."

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    1. It seems like he only really gets concerned if any of your posts can be construed by any-body as edging toward lessening alarm, regardless of the facts on the ground... Either the current scenario is portending future doom, or it's eventual portending of future doom cannot be ruled out. I don't mean that to minimize the eventual realities of climate change on a number of fronts, but I feel like you get a bad rap in some contexts, merely because you are pointing out statistical reality as it currently exists-- because others can use to keep the discussion of climate change out of the pocket, so-to-speak.

      However, I also think sometimes trying to refute said reality leads to unsupportable leaps. Occasionally dabbling in non-linear trendlines, or, as in this example, Emanuel's bears/hurricane analogy. Right now, there aren't (and haven't been) more bears in the woods. Just more food for bears.

      It's a reality that is worth mentioning because of how counter-intuitive it is given the current rhetoric out there, but instead the favored approach is silencing it with, "The certainty of increased hurricanes with increased GHGs/ClimateChange has yet to be conclusively disproven..." or somesuch. Then there's less research/understanding into what might actually be going on.

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    2. It's not so much the hurriicane scientists who get bet out of shape by this information. They know the facts.

      Rather it is the people with little or no science education who are now the dominate voices for climate activism. To them, anything short of all-out catastrophe is called "denial". Ironic that PhD climate scientists with a different opinion are called "anti-science" by these science illiterates.

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  5. RPJr: Have you looked at other areas?. Anectodal evidence for Southern Queensland (SW Pacific) matches your study. In our area 2 cyclones in the 1950's and none since, so they say...

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  6. Is the days without a major cat storm just for Florida? Do you have an updated chart for 2014 season?

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