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What's Causing The Hurricanes? ( 442

An anonymous reader quotes AFP: Hurricane Irma, now taking aim at Florida, has stunned experts with its sheer size and strength, churning across the ocean with sustained Category 5 winds of 183 miles per hour (295 kilometers per hour) for more than 33 hours, making it the longest-lasting, top-intensity cyclone ever recorded. Meanwhile Jose, a Category 4 on the Saffir Simpson scale of 1 to 5, is fast on the heels of Irma, pummeling the Caribbean for the second time in the span of a few days. Many have wondered what is contributing to the power and frequency of these extreme storms. "Atlantic hurricane seasons over the years have been shaped by many complex factors," said Jim Kossin, a NOAA hurricane scientist at the University of Wisconsin. "Those include large scale ocean currents, air pollution -- which tends to cool the ocean down -- and climate change"...

Some think a surge in industrial pollution after World War II may have produced more pollutant particles that blocked the Sun's energy and exerted a cooling effect on the oceans. "The pollution reduced a lot of hurricane activity," said Gabriel Vecchi, professor of geosciences at Princeton University's Environmental Institute. Pollution began to wane in the 1980s due to regulations such as the Clean Air Act, allowing more of the Sun's rays to penetrate the ocean and provide warming fuel for storms. Vecchi said the "big debate" among scientists is over which plays a larger role -- variations in ocean currents or pollution cuts. There is evidence for both, but there isn't enough data to answer a key question...

The burning of fossil fuels, which spew greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and warm the Earth, can also be linked to a rise in extreme storms in recent years. Warmer ocean temperatures yield more moisture, more rainfall, and greater intensity storms. "It is not a coincidence that we're seeing more devastating hurricanes," climatologist Michael Mann of Penn State University told AFP in an email. "Over the past few years, as global sea surface temperatures have been the warmest on record, we've seen the strongest hurricanes -- as measured by peak sustained winds -- globally, in both Southern and Northern Hemisphere, in both Pacific and now, with Irma, the open Atlantic," he added. "The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. We're seeing them play out in real time, and the past two weeks have been a sadly vivid example."

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What's Causing The Hurricanes?

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  • by SCVonSteroids ( 2816091 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @11:36AM (#55169155)

    There, I said it.

    • by Mikkeles ( 698461 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @11:38AM (#55169169)

      I think they're caused by heat and pressure differences.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Sure. Heat and pressure differences create Russians.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

        Pretty much. One of the worst to hit FL was in the 1920s. If you point to a hurricane and scream climate change you are an idiot. If you point to a bad winter and say look global warming is a fraud your an idiot.
        PS this Post is coming to you from South East Florida, Irma is so annoying. On the West Coast and Keys it is terrible.

        • The 1920 storm was a baby child in relation to Irma, Andrew or Katrina.
          It simply did more(?) damage and costed more lives because of much worse infrastructure and late/no warning.

          Regardless of climate change, you always can have an out of the line event.

      • Or that. We can always go with that.

    • by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @11:42AM (#55169195)
      The weather has been screwed up ever since they let women in space.
    • Except they're Russian butterflies. You know the kind--tattoos and wife-beaters, heavy drinkers and smokers -- the whole lot of 'em!

  • Hawker (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @11:37AM (#55169165) Homepage Journal

    Hawker, later known as Hawker-Siddeley. Also responsible for typhoons and tempests.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    for the feeble minded.

  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @11:39AM (#55169175)
    We've had very quiet hurricane seasons these past years, which makes this year's normal season seem like some type of outlier. Yes Irma was a very strong storm, the strongest ever in the Atlantic by recorded standards, but it's not the strongest ever hurricane even in just the northern hemisphere. What causes hurricanes is the same as what's always caused hurricanes.
    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      Obviously it's politics causing the storm. Oh and Trump caused it too, and in turn the reason why Mexico had an earthquake is because they're not paying for the wall and illegals are still crossing.

      I think I've got all the crazy shit I've seen in the last week in there.

    • by JBMcB ( 73720 )

      People have short memories when it comes to weather, unless it's something really weird. We had a really nasty winter a couple of years ago, and people were freaking out about it. "This is the worst I've ever seen!" I remember winters from 20 years ago that were much worse, but it seems like most other people do not. I think the difference is that I like to ski, and it seems like skiers, being outside more often in the winter, recall the particulars about winter weather more than most.

    • by lessthan0 ( 176618 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @12:04PM (#55169383)

      Ugh, this is the worst Slashdot clickbait. Future Slashdot headlines:

      You won't believe what MS-DOS looks like now!!

      Tim Cook finds Linux on his laptop and his reaction is priceless!!

      Family warns others to learn from their tragic Android mistake!!

    • Comparing Atlantic and Pacific storms is a little unfair - much less space for an Atlantic storm to develop in.

      Yes, Irma is just an outlier, and storms like the 1935 labor day storm were probably even worse. Nothing to see in this one particular storm, move along, take your CO2 emissions with you.

      What is certain, however, is that there is a Hurricane season, and it comes when the waters are warmer. So, anyone who is thinking in the back of their mind: "So what if we get global warming, won't that make thi

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Actually climate change models are mixed with respect to the intensity and frequency of Atlantic cyclones. Hurricanes are extremely complex entities and models just can't predict how many will end up in Texas or Florida in some future year.

      What's worrying about AGW and hurricanes is the more tractable complicating factors: sea level rise and atmospheric moisture. High winds destroy property, but it's storm surge and flooding that kills people. Yet another predictable factor is development; there are more

  • Pollution uh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cheesybagel ( 670288 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @11:41AM (#55169193)

    So because the air is cleaner with less particulates it rains less and because it rains less there's more moisture in the air which makes the storms larger. Well time to remove the scrubbers from those coal power plants then. No wait. Like a couple dozen people might die with the hurricane compared to the hundreds of thousands (or millions) who would get a reduced lifespan from the particulate pollution. Great.

    • Pollution is still pollution. I say the solution is to build giant dehumidifiers, the size of which would be used for terraforming.

    • by Zocalo ( 252965 )
      Pollution being a major contributory factor seems rather questionable to me, given that there's a fairly obvious source of supporting evidence that should exist but isn't being cited. Widespread colonization of the Eastern seaboard of the Americas by Europeans, complete with written records, was well underway before the "pollution boom" that occurred during the industrial revolution, so those early settlers would have had much cleaner air than we do now. They might not have had the same accuracy of instru
  • by mattwarden ( 699984 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @11:46AM (#55169221)

    12 years without a major hurricane landfall. Where were the front page slashdot posts talking about how extreme that was?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 )

      Thank you for highlighting the issue.

      without a LANDFALL.

      The number of atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes is increasing very obviously just by eyeballing the charts at this point.

      The crap shoot is whether we have a weak or strong high over the northern atlantic. If it's strong, they land- if it's weak they don't.

      Likewise, it depends on whether El Nino is going- because it weakens hurricanes.

      Trust me , we had plenty of AGW foes posting about every year of the lack of landfalls.

      Tropical storm + hurricane

    • in 2012, cause I'm guessing the folks who got hit by it didn't.
      • Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the United States as a Category 1 hurricane (technically, a "post-tropical cyclone", not a hurricane, but they use the same scale). A "Major Hurricane" is classified as Category 3 or higher.

        • Sandy hit Manhattan, which is a feat in and of itself remarkable - did major, unprecedented damage. Go all semantic pedantic if you wish, Sandy was unusual by all accounts, regardless of where you draw the boundaries of the discussion.

          • Bah........New Yorkers think they're special, so when a small hurricane hits them, they aren't prepared, then complain about how damaging and unusual the hurricane was. Why? Because it happened to them.
      • No one forgot that it wasn't a hurricane when it made landfall.

    • Those who study this in detail have found opposing forces: warmer temperatures do make bigger, stronger storms and a longer season, but there is also some pushback in upper level air current patterns that offsets this somewhat... it's a chaotic system and a simple change of one input can push things like landfalls of major storms in either direction.

      However: more energy (heat) in the system does make more energetic storms. Are we seeing a result of that this year? Too soon to really call it, either way.

    • "12 years without a major hurricane landfall. Where were the front page slashdot posts talking about how extreme that was?"

      Here the list of Texas. []

      Satellite image of a tropical cyclone well inland. The storm is still very organized and has banding features.
      Tropical Storm Hermine (2010) over Texas

      June 30, 2010 – Hurricane Alex made landfall at Soto la Marina, Tamaulipas in Mexico as a large Category 2 hurricane, bringing hea

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @11:49AM (#55169259)

    Credit Twitter []

    2006: "Hurricanes are going to be worse and more frequent!"
    2017: "Told you so!"

    • Okay so... we get a break until 2027, then more hurricanes in 2028?

    • 2006: "Hurricanes are going to be worse and more frequent!"
      2012: Sandy []
      2017: "Told you so!"

      There's also a lot of Hurricanes that just aren't making landfall so they're not getting coverage. And yes, we should care about the ones that don't make landfall since eventually one of them will, and if they're worse so are the ones that hit us.
      • Re:Edit. (Score:4, Informative)

        by cbeaudry ( 706335 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @12:25PM (#55169523)

        Sandy wasn't a hurricane when it made landfall.

        Also, the only reason for the extensive damage was because it hit one of the most populated areas in the world.

        • Sandy wasn't a hurricane when it made landfall.

          Also, the only reason for the extensive damage was because it hit one of the most populated areas in the world.

          Legally speaking, yes, it was not considered a 'hurricane' at the time, but if the winds are only 73MPH instead of the required 75MPH, we're debating semantics. Additionally, it was the duration of the storm that was similarly a problem; it covered a massive area and thus it spent plenty of time battering the area. Yes, the damage costs were indeed due to the northeast being a population center, but "extensive damage" is still "extensive damage". I very much remember standing in a gas line shortly thereafte

    • by jetkust ( 596906 )
      Maybe a point could be made here, but ...

      Humberto 2007
      Gustav 2008
      Dolly 2008
      Ike 2008
      Irene 2011
      Sandy 2012
      Author 2014
      Matthew 2016
    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @03:20PM (#55170353) Homepage Journal

      Note you're taking a very US-centric view here. Not all hurricanes are Atlantic hurricanes, and not all Atlantic hurricanes hit the US. And your memory of US hurricanes must be spotty, since you don't seem to recall Hurricane Sandy.

      Let me fill in the some of blanks you've left.

      2007: Dean and Felix were both extremely deadly Category 5 Atlantic Hurricanes that hit Mexico instead of the US.

      2008: Gustav was a Category 4 storm in the Carribbean but dropped to Cat 2 by the time it hit Louisiana.

      2009: Gustav is a powerful storm on the high end of category 4, but hits wind shear when it enters the Gulf of Mexico which weaken it to a category 1. Hurricane Paloma, the third strongest Atlantic hurricane on record, develops off Nicuragua and hits the Cayman Islands and Cuba; it weakens by the time it hits the US but it does drop 14 inches of rain.

      2010 []: a grand total of 12 full-fledged Atlantic hurricanes form, the second highest number on record. As usually happens in bumper-crop years most of the hurricanes were relatively weak, but Earl, Ivan and Julia reached category 4. Both Ivan and Julia turned away from the US, and Earl succumbed to wind shear before striking the US.

      2011 []: another extremely active year with 19 named tropical storms, most of them modest in intensity. Irene, was a category 3, but like most hurricanes that make landfall north of Cape Hatteras it had slowed to Category 1. Katia was a category 4 but moved up the Eastern Seaboard well offshore; Katia was similar Irene.

      2012 []: the third super-active Atlantic hurricane season in a row, with twenty named storms, including Hurricane Sandy , aka "Superstorm Sandy". You do remember that one?

      2013: An actual quiet year, with only two hurricanes which did not affect the US.

      2014: Another below average year with only one hurricane.

      2015: Thrid straight below average year -- again for Atlantic hurricanes. The most powerful was the Category 4 Joaquin, which hammered Bermuda and threatened the Eastern Seabord of the US. It turned north instead. It's also important to note that 2015 wa the year of Hurricane Patricia, which formed on the Pacific side of Mexico. Patricia was the second strongest storm ever recorded with peaked sustained winds of two hundred and fifteen miles per hour.

      2016: An active hurricane year with fifteen storms, seven hurricanes, four of them major, including the Category 5 Matthew, the Category 4 Nicole, and the Category 3 Gaston and Otto.

      Now to summarize:
      (1) The Atlantic Basin is not the *world*. Often quiet Atlantic years are not quiet at all elsewhere.

      (2) The US is not the entire Atlantic Basin.

      (3) It takes more than atmospheric energy for a powerful hurricane to hit the US. Think of energy being like gravity, and the hurricane being like a pachinko ball. Most of the time, hurricanes don't fall into one of our slots. Most hurricanes that do hit the US weaken, not for want of energy but because of wind shear; Cape Verde hurricanes ride the tradewinds across the Atlantic but then nearly always weaken substantially if they turn north to the US.

  • Lots of energy to fuel them without crosswinds from El Nino to rip the apart.
    Graphs of energy, and totals here.

    The number of tropical storms has increased since 1970.
    The number of major hurricanes has increased since 1970.
    There is a cycle - not every year is up- but the bottoms are higher and the highs are higher. //

    Plus population on the coasts has increased tremendously since that's where the jobs are.

  • El Nino (Score:3, Informative)

    by Dripdry ( 1062282 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @12:03PM (#55169377) Journal

    Apparently it's actually due to the lack of an El Nino. The formation of the hurricane started 6 months ago and grew be because there wasn't a lot of wind sheer to stop it from forming. Maybe the better question is why wasn't there an El Nino?

    • Re:El Nino (Score:4, Informative)

      by mikael ( 484 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @12:29PM (#55169547)

      Because El Nino / El Nina is a long-term oscillationg due to a build up of heat in the Pacific. A lot of these ocean and air currents operate like air conditioner thermostats. When heat builds up, ocean and air currents start gaining speed. Eventually they start cooling the water faster than it gains heat, then the currents slow down. Then the heat builds up again. This can take a decade to complete one cycle.

      The Sun is delivering 2 kilowatts of energy onto every square meter of the ocean every hour.

    • We don't get an "El Nino" every year, there is an El Nino (heating) / La Nina (cooling) cycle.

      El Nino events are associated with a warming of the central and eastern tropical Pacific, while La Nina events are the reverse, with a sustained cooling of these same areas. These changes in the Pacific Ocean and its overlying atmosphere occur in a cycle known as the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

      from: What are El Nino and La Nina events? []

      Also: El Nino and La Nina Years and Intensities. []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 10, 2017 @12:15PM (#55169441)

    The problem with linking global warming to Atlantic hurricanes is that hurricane activity isn't necessarily predicted to increase in the Atlantic from global warming. In the north Pacific, sea surface temperatures will warm and vertical wind shear is predicted to weaken. This favors an increase in hurricane activity in the north Pacific. While the water in the north Atlantic basin is predicted to get warmer due to global warming, vertical wind shear is expected to increase. It's not entirely clear which of these opposing factors will have the greater impact, so it's not certain that hurricane activity will increase in the north Atlantic.

    There is a naturally occurring wave called the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) that can either enhance or suppress tropical convection. The phase of the MJO has likely helped to enhance Harvey, Irma, Jose, and perhaps even Katia. La Nina also enhances convection in the north Atlantic basin, generally results in a moister atmosphere, and weakens the vertical wind shear. All of these are favorable for hurricane activity. It's also the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, when the waters are warm and vertical wind shear is still rather weak.

    The main reason Harvey produced so much rain over Texas and Louisiana was that it sat over that area for several days. It's not that the rain rates were souch more extreme, but that it just sat over the same area. While rain rates might be enhanced a little due to global warming, the main reason Harvey was so extreme was because it was almost stationary for days. That is not a consequence of global warming, just an unusual weather event.

    I also tend to view Irma and Jose as another unusual weather event, but not necessarily linked to global warming. It just doesn't match up with the predictions for the north Atlantic, and so I hesitate to blame global warming for those storms. It's possible that when the shear abates due to the weather, warmer water might result in stronger Atlantic hurricanes at those times. However, the overall increased shear will likely limit hurricane activity more at other times. One hypothesis is that global warming might result in fewer Atlantic hurricanes, but the storms that do occur will tend to be stronger. I understand the logic of that, but I'm just not convinced that Irma and Jose are significantly linked to global warming. There just isn't enough scientific evidence to support that link.

  • by CaptainDork ( 3678879 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @12:16PM (#55169447)

    ... then you don't know.

    We know climate change is happening and we know that humans are not helping the situation, but we don't know the percentage of human/nature.

    Humans don't actually give a shit until it's personal.

    By then it's too late.

    The solution is to migrate as needed.

  • Any hypothesis about hurricane frequency has to account for the last eleven years of very low activity. Now we have an active year, like 2005. What is different his time?

    • There was no 11 years of low activity.
      Just because they did not hit Florida or Texas does not mean they were not there.

  • So "air pollution which tends to cool the oceans" and air pollution which causes global warming and warmer ocean temperatures.

    And then you wonder why people don't believe the global warming narrative.

    • by djinn6 ( 1868030 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @02:30PM (#55170141)
      As usual, you can't expect the media to get the science right. Particulate matter in the smoke blocks light and cools the world. CO2 in the smoke increases the greenhouse effect and warms it. Both are real effects that cancel each other out.

      The problem is, particulate matter is heavier than air, so quickly precipitating out of the atmosphere. Since we've stopped allowing factories to pump out tons and tons of black smoke (because that was giving everyone lung cancer), there is less and less particulate matter flying around.

      CO2 on the other hand, only leaves when something on the surface absorbs it, whether that's trees or algae or ocean water. That happens much more slowly, over the course of thousands of years. So we're stuck with the warming.
  • Strongest hurricanes to hit the USA (based on the metric of lowest barometric pressure):

    1) Florida (Keys) 1935, 26.35 inches
    2) Camille (Miss., Louisiana), 1969, 26.84
    3) Katrina (Louisiana, Miss.) 2005, 27.17
    4) Andrew (Florida, Louisiana) 1992, 27.23
    5) Texas (Indianola), 1886, 27.31
    6) Florida (Keys, Texas), 1919, 27.37
    7) Florida (Lake Okeechobee), 1928, 27.43
    8) Donna (Florida, Eastern Coast), 1960 27.46
    9) Florida (Miami, Miss., LA) 1926, 27.46
    10) Carla (Texas) 1961, 27.49

    Only th

    • Some think a surge in industrial pollution after World War II may have produced more pollutant particles that blocked the Sun's energy and exerted a cooling effect on the oceans. "The pollution reduced a lot of hurricane activity," said Gabriel Vecchi, professor of geosciences at Princeton University's Environmental Institute. Pollution began to wane in the 1980s due to regulations such as the Clean Air Act, allowing more of the Sun's rays to penetrate the ocean and provide warming fuel for storms.

      Also note that 5 of 10 of those happened in the few decades prior to WW2. So quite a nice distribution showing that WW2 didn't really affect the biggest hurricanes either way.

  • All about that bass (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 )

    The hurricanes are caused by too much butt sex: [] []

  • by Stoo ( 22399 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @12:54PM (#55169701)

    No Coriolis effect, no spin, no hurricanes.
    I'm starting a campaign to stop the earth's rotation. Who's with me?

    • by bidule ( 173941 )

      Let's all become flat-earthers. If we believe hard enough there won't be any pesky curvature left.

  • What is causing such terrible hurricanes?
    Short memories, poor education, and confirmation bias.
    The simple fact is that hurricanes are neither more intense nor more frequent than "usual", the only thing that makes us think there are is that "we"are stupid.
    In fact, the relative dearth of hurricanes in the U.S. Is probably the major cause of this ignorance.

  • by jgfenix ( 2584513 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @01:18PM (#55169817)
    That's all.
  • Trump is at fault — blame his recklessly reversing Obama's Executive Order banning hurricanes.

    And then there are the well-meaning witches seeking to end Trump's Presidency ASAP [] — well-meaning, but clumsy and unprofessional, miscasting their spells...

  • by mentil ( 1748130 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @03:25PM (#55170367)

    The Cyclones were created by Man. They rebelled.

  • by whitroth ( 9367 ) <whitroth&5-cent,us> on Monday September 11, 2017 @12:25PM (#55174711) Homepage

    As a late friend and literal rocket scientist used to say, "it's not like turning up the thermostat, it's pumping more energy into a heat engine."

    I'm old enough to be farther, or grandfather, to most slashdotters, and I have *NEVER* seen three hurricanes, much less Cat 4, in three weeks, or even in a season.

    But as long as you're making money from petrochemicals, you'll deny reality. And if you're not making money... you're a sucker.

  • by Rick Schumann ( 4662797 ) on Monday September 11, 2017 @12:25PM (#55174713) Journal
    ..and you know what? I really don't even give a shit anymore. I got enough to worry about day-to-day without continually arguing with morons who INSIST that it couldn't possibly be their SUV and burning coal in power plants that's causing it, among other things. I've only got about another 30 or so years of life left; I'll be long DEAD by the time it's so bad that it can't be stopped, and you can't live with it anymore unless you move to the Arctic or Antarctica, so screw all of you deniers. I'll keep saying that it's our fault this is happening, but YOUR KIDS and GRANDKIDS are the ones who will suffer. Act accordingly. Oh, memo to you Dominionists: Jesus Chirst was just a MAN, there are no GODS of any kind, you're all DELUDED, I know what your plans and agenda are, and I hope you all get shot in the head for your trouble. Humans need to evolve past all this superstitious nonsense like religion and gods and ghosts and other nonsense. Seriously just get over it already.


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