Category: Global Warming and Hurricanes

Measure rainfall, help scientists learn more about Hurricane Irene

By The Intersection | August 27, 2011 9:44 am

This is a guest post from Darlene Cavalier, founder of Science Cheerleader and Science For Citizens and contributing editor at Discover Magazine.

Scientists want you to record and share rain measurements and other on-the-ground observations in part to help pinpoint hurricane Irene’s actions, determine her next steps, and better predict and react to future storms. In addition to your help recording on-the-ground rain precipitation, scientists rely on watershed volunteers to provide important clues about the effects of storm-water runoff, carbon cycles of waterways, etc. Here’s a list of opportunities to get involved in local watershed monitoring efforts.

To help scientists record on-the-ground rain measurements, you will need a high capacity rain gauge.

Don’t have a rain gauge? Enter here to win a free one so you can join in next time! Through the Changing Planet series, a partnership with National Science Foundation, NBC Learn, and DISCOVER Magazine, we’re offering up to 20 of these gauges to our members, free of charge ($25 value).

(Note: Safety first. Please heed all evacuation recommendations issued in your area.)

Not able to collect and measure rainfall? Anyone with a computer can also get into the act. The Philadelphia Inquirer published sites where you can find real-time information from ocean buoys, bridges, area stream gauges, and even satellites. [Find list of links, below.]

Here are some opportunities for you to measure rainfall:

CoCoRaHS: Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) is a volunteer network of backyard weather observers. People of all ages measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow) in communities across the United States. The data is used by a wide range of agencies and programs.Volunteers are needed for two programs.
SKYWARN SKYWARN spotters are essential information sources for the National Weather Service with the responsibility to identify and describe severe local storms. Observations by spotters helps the National Weather Service issue more timely and accurate warnings for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and flash floods and thus save lives.
Rainlog Not on the east coast? Here’s one for south westerners. Join RainLog‘s network of over 1,000 volunteers that use backyard rain gauges to monitor precipitation across Arizona and in neighboring states. Data collected through this network will be used for a variety of applications, from watershed management activities to drought planning at local, county, and state levels.
Tracking Climate in Your Backyard Kids: Tracking Climate in Your Backyard seeks to engage youth in real science through the collection, recording, and understanding of precipitation data in the forms of rain, hail, and snow.

Here are some websites, originally published by the Philadelphia Inquirer, that post data and images to answer the following questions:

How fast is the nearest stream rising?
A U.S. Geological Survey site logs data from stream gauges. http://pa.water.usgs.gov/

Is there a storm-surge tracking map?
Developing, by the U.S. Geological Survey. http://water.usgs.gov/osw/floods/2011_HIrene/index.html

How hard is it blowing in your neighborhood?
Greg Heavener, National Weather Service meteorologist in Mount Holly, recommends this site, where people with personal stations upload their data. Searchable by zip code. http://www.wunderground.com/

What are Delaware River observations?
Includes data from water-level sensors installed on bridges after past floods. http://www.water.weather.gov

What’s happening offshore?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association logs ocean-buoy data, including wind speed and wave heights. http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/
Rutgers University is part of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observing System, which posts data on satellites and the underwater “gliders.” Has an Irene science blog. http://www.maracoos.org/

What does Irene look like?
The National Weather Service’s Hurricane Center has the most recent forecasts, including radar images and wind-speed probabilities. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/

How about from space?
NASA images and video. http://www.nasa.gov/ mission_pages/hurricanes/main/index.html

Getting Ready for the Peak of Hurricane Season

By Chris Mooney | August 8, 2011 11:38 am

My latest DeSmogBlog post is a look forward to what may be coming in the Atlantic region, in a hurricane season expected to be very active (as usual), with 9-10 projected hurricanes and 3-5 intense ones. As you can see in this image, climatology says we’re just ascending into the peak of the season:

I also discuss the hurricane-global warming picture, which really hasn’t gotten much clearer in the nearly 5 years since I wrote Storm World. More here….

Hurricane Season Isn't Over

By Chris Mooney | October 31, 2010 9:16 am

600px-Hurricane_Tomas_2010-10-30_1429ZEven though we haven’t really felt it in the United States, it has been a hell of an Atlantic hurricane season. 19 named storms, 12 hurricanes–and now the latest, Category 2 Tomas, seems like it may become very intense in the Caribbean. Some notes on Tomas from Jeff Masters:

Tomas’ formation ties 2010 with 1995 and 1887 for 3rd place for most number of named storms in an Atlantic hurricane season. Only 2005 (28 named storms) and 1933 (21 named storms) were busier. Atlantic hurricane records go back to 1851, though there were likely many missed named storms prior to the beginning of satellite coverage in the mid-1960s. The intensification of Shary and Tomas into hurricanes… brings the total number of hurricanes this season to twelve, tying 2010 with 1969 and 1887 for second place for most hurricanes in a season. The record is held by 2005 with fifteen hurricanes, and I don’t think we’ll beat that record this year!

The formation of Tomas so far south and east this late in the season is unprecedented in the historical record; no named storm has ever been present east of the Lesser Antilles (61.5°W) and south of 12°N latitude so late in the year…

But hey, water temperatures are at a record warmth–so what do you expect? Marc Morano a few days ago made hay of the fact that no hurricanes have hit the US this year, but big deal. It has been extremely busy nonetheless, and of course this has much to do with the very warm ocean out there.

Hurricane Julia Shatters Seasonal Records

By Chris Mooney | September 15, 2010 7:12 pm

There’s a reason Jeff Masters stands unrivaled as our top hurricane blogger. Let me just quote his analysis of Hurricane Julia, after the storm surprisingly reached Category 4 intensity yesterday:

This morning’s unexpected intensification of Hurricane Julia into a Category 4 storm with 135 mph winds has set a new record–Julia is now the strongest hurricane on record so far east. When one considers that earlier this year, Hurricane Earl became the fourth strongest hurricane so far north, it appears that this year’s record SSTs have significantly expanded the area over which major hurricanes can exist over the Atlantic. This morning is just the second time in recorded history that two simultaneous Category 4 or stronger storms have occurred in the Atlantic. The only other occurrence was on 06 UTC September 16, 1926, when the Great Miami Hurricane and Hurricane Four were both Category 4 storms for a six-hour period. The were also two years, 1999 and 1958, when we missed having two simultaneous Category 4 hurricanes by six hours. Julia’s ascension to Category 4 status makes it the 4th Category 4 storm of the year. Only two other seasons have had as many as five Category 4 or stronger storms (2005 and 1999), so 2010 ranks in 3rd place in this statistic. This year is also the earliest a fourth Category 4 or stronger storm has formed (though the fourth Category 4 of 1999, Hurricane Gert, formed just 3 hours later on today’s date in 1999.) We’ve also had four Cat 4+ storms in just twenty days, which beats the previous record for shortest time span for four Cat 4+ storms to appear. The previous record was 1999, 24 days (thanks to Phil Klozbach of CSU for this stat.)

WHEW. Here’s an amazing picture (again, from Masters) of the two Category 4s over the open Atlantic earlier today:

Two Category 4s

A Hurricane Season Outlook and FAQ with Greg Holland

By Chris Mooney | August 2, 2010 9:32 am

greg holland

To more broadly inform the US public about the upcoming hurricane season, the Project on Climate Science this morning arranged a national radio satellite tour with Greg Holland, a hurricane expert with the National Center for Atmospheric Research and director of its Earth System Laboratory. Some of the shows were live, some were taped, but I was allowed to listen in on both.

The experience was very revealing, and provided a lot of perspective on the upcoming season. Some highlights:

The Atmospheric/Ocean Conditions: Holland explained that this year is shaping up a lot like 2005, the worst year on record. On a Westchester, New York show, he commented that “unfortunately, the conditions that are out there at present are very similar to what we observed in the lead up to Katrina.” In particular, Holland pointed to the very warm ocean (with sea surface temperatures at “all time record levels”) and the fact that we’re coming out of an El Nino, which suppresses hurricanes in the Atlantic. The current conditions do the opposite.

“I sure hope the forecasts are wrong, but forecasts are going anything from 14 up to the mid 20s for the number of storms this year,” Holland said. Read More

'Doubters' of Climate Change Lack Scientific Expertise

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | July 23, 2010 11:14 am

Now there’s data–actual data–showing how few climate scientists doubt the existence of climate change. From Science Daily:

The small number of scientists who are unconvinced that human beings have contributed significantly to climate change have far less expertise and prominence in climate research compared with scientists who are convinced, according to a study led by Stanford researchers. Read More

The Super-Hot Atlantic

By Chris Mooney | July 13, 2010 7:58 am

atlanticsst_ams_2010152-415pxAnd no, I don’t mean sexy.

This is a NASA image from the start of hurricane season, showing the sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and especially in the main hurricane development region.

I got the image from this great analysis over at the WWF Climate Blog, which is mainly devoted to summarizing a recent congressional briefing on why we very likely have a really bad hurricane year to look forward to.

Some observations that emerged from that meeting:

* We’ve never had a pre-season forecast of 23 storms before. Let’s hope that is an overshot, rather than an undershot.

* The Atlantic is even hotter than it was before the devastating 2005 hurricane season.

* Oh yeah, and there’s oil out there. (The title of the briefing was “Hurricanes and Oil Will Mix: Managing Risk Now.”)

How much of the Atlantic’s current, alarming temperature has to do with global warming? Well, listen to Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research:

When asked about the degree to which rising greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere were contributing to the trend of rising  sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean, Holland said the temperatures could not be explained without accounting for rising GHG concentrations.  He said that while some researchers thought the rising GHG levels might account for 60-80% of the temperature anomaly, he estimated that about half was due to rising GHGs.

I get the feeling we may have a summer for climate change coming, just as 2005 was, and just as 1988 was.

Hurricane vs. Oil Slick

By Chris Mooney | May 22, 2010 12:20 pm

100521_Exp_oilEXI’ve just done a Slate piece elaborating on what would happen if a hurricane hit the Gulf oil slick, based upon further research and interviewing. Here’s an excerpt:

Much depends on the angle at which the storm crosses the slick. In the Northern Hemisphere, hurricanes rotate counterclockwise, with the largest storm surge occurring where the winds blow in the direction the storm as a whole is traveling—that’s in front of the eye and off to the right. (Meteorologists worry over a hurricane’s dangerous “right-front quadrant.”) So if a powerful storm approached the slick from the southwest, say, its most potent winds would push the oil forward, instead of sweeping it off to the side and out of the storm’s path. If the storm then plowed into the Gulf Coast, you’d expect an oily landfall.

And how would the slick affect the storm? Not much if at all:

…by the time winds reach hurricane force (greater than 74 mph), they cause so much ocean mixing that any oil slick on the surface would be driven down into the depths and generally broken up. MIT hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel has tested the phenomenon on a small scale using an enclosed tank, half filled with water, with an air rotor at the top capable of generating hurricane force winds. When the rotor turned at high speeds, the surface of the water was torn apart, and the scientists observed no difference in the amount of evaporation that occurred with or without an oily surface film.

It’s even possible that an oil slick could make a powerful hurricane a little stronger. Oil is darker than water, and so it absorbs more sunlight while also blocking evaporation from the sea surface. That means the spill could be trapping heat in one part of the ocean. If a storm passed over and churned up the surface of the water, that potential hurricane energy might then be released.

You can read the full Slate piece here.

Update 9 ET Saturday: This piece is the second most emailed and third most read item on Slate.com right now. Apparently people want to know….

MORE ABOUT: BP, Hurricanes, oil slick, slate

That Washington Post Piece on Science Communication and ClimateGate

By Chris Mooney | January 6, 2010 9:39 am

Things have been so nuts for me over the past few days, I haven’t even been able to blog my Washington Post Outlook piece from Sunday about the need for better science communication in the wake of the devastating blow dealt by the ClimateGate scandal. The piece has been drawing tons of supportive private emails, as well as lots of online critiques and reactions, and fully 800 plus comments on the Post’s website, many of them from climate deniers.

Anyway, the article starts like this:

The battle over the science of global warming has long been a street fight between mainstream researchers and skeptics. But never have the scientists received such a deep wound as when, in late November, a large trove of e-mails and documents stolen from the Climatic Research Unit at Britain’s University of East Anglia were released onto the Web.

In the ensuing “Climategate” scandal, scientists were accused of withholding information, suppressing dissent, manipulating data and more. But while the controversy has receded, it may have done lasting damage to science’s reputation: Last month, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 40 percent of Americans distrust what scientists say about the environment, a considerable increase from April 2007. Meanwhile, public belief in the science of global warming is in decline.

The central lesson of Climategate is not that climate science is corrupt. The leaked e-mails do nothing to disprove the scientific consensus on global warming. Instead, the controversy highlights that in a world of blogs, cable news and talk radio, scientists are poorly equipped to communicate their knowledge and, especially, to respond when science comes under attack.

A few scientists answered the Climategate charges almost instantly. Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, whose e-mails were among those made public, made a number of television and radio appearances. A blog to which Mann contributes, RealClimate.org, also launched a quick response showing that the e-mails had been taken out of context. But they were largely alone. “I haven’t had all that many other scientists helping in that effort,” Mann told me recently.

This isn’t a new problem….

Read here, there’s much more….on science communication strategies, how to fight the evolution war, and so forth. In essence, the piece builds on some of the central arguments of Unscientific America, but strained through the new example of ClimateGate, which is surely the number one reason yet that scientists have got to mobilize in the way that we recommended in the book. Hope you enjoy…

Fun With Fumento

By Chris Mooney | December 7, 2009 9:26 am

You wouldn’t think he’d come around for a second round after this post…but, I guess he wanted to dig the hole even deeper. Here’s his response:

Mooney writes: “In order to lampoon the view that hurricanes are worsening, [Fumento] relies on this year’s weather in just one hurricane basin of the world–it was a quiet hurricane season in the Atlantic (although busy in the Pacific).”

From my article, paragraph three:

“This year ended quietly with the fewest storms since 1997, and for the first time since 2006 no hurricanes even made landfall in the United States according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Indeed, hurricane activity is near a 30-year low.”

Chris, you’re just plain dishonest.

Here is his article. Try as I might, I don’t find anything at all like that in paragraph 3. I find bits and pieces of it elsewhere, but nowhere the striking claim that hurricane activity is “near a 30-year low.” Read More

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