Ecocentric

As Tropical Storm Karen Dissipates, the Debate Grows Over a Quiet Hurricane Season

The Gulf Coast was spared as Tropical Storm Karen weakened, and the hurricane season remains not much of a season

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NOAA / Getty Images

The satellite handout photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Tropical Storm Karen on Oct. 5, 2013, in the Gulf of Mexico

Despite projections to the contrary, the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season has largely been a dud — and there’s no sign that will change any time soon. Tropical Storm Karen briefly threatened the Gulf coast this weekend, but by Sunday it was clear that the storm was weakening, and the National Hurricane Center — understaffed because of the government shutdown — issued no coastal warnings or watches because of the storm. We’re also at eight years and counting without a major — Category 3 or above — hurricane making landfall in the U.S. (Sandy, for all the damage it caused, was never a major hurricane and wasn’t even a hurricane, officially, when it did make landfall.)

Why have there been so few storms so far this year? First of all, there have been storms — 11 named storms so far, which is about average for this time of year. But those storms have been weaker than average — only two, Humberto and Ingrid, were classified as hurricanes — and none of them have yet made landfall. A Texas A&M University researcher suggests the weakness of those storms might be because of unusually dry air.

(MORE: Meet Humberto, the First Hurricane of the Season)

Robert Korty, an associate professor of atmospheric science at Texas A&M University, notes that August and September, usually very active months for tropical storms, were especially quiet:

If you had to point to one reason, it would be dry air. The dry air coming across the Atlantic from Africa prevented a lot of storms from developing during August, and the ones that did develop were not very strong. So the result has been a hurricane season of about normal in number of storms, but these have been relatively weak ones so far.

What this means, really, is that we’ve been lucky. The historically active 2005 hurricane season — which featured 28 total storms and seven major hurricanes — was less than 10 years ago. The effect that climate change will have on hurricane intensity and frequency is less than clear. The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found low confidence that there will be climate-change-caused increases in tropical storms, though other studies — completed too late to be included in the IPCC report — differ. But we do know that sea levels will keep rising, which increases the danger from storm surges, and the growing density of people and property along the coasts will amp up the potential damage a storm can cause. Over the long term, the odds aren’t in our favor.

MORE: The Hard Math of Flood Insurance in a Warming World

8 comments
plcc.witness
plcc.witness

Q: How do you spell BS?

A; Bryan Walsh 

Just think...he got paid big bucks to write this tripe.

mahandh
mahandh

Read your article Mr. Walsh and it states more storms and then less storms could be possible.  The article covers it all but shows  you guys do not have a clue.

mahandh
mahandh

Times senior editor wrote an article describing how much damage the United States was going to have from Hurricanes this season.  Can you give us regular folks the cost to this point?    The article shows that forecasting is months  in advance is not worth the ink or paper printed on.  Billion of dollars nothing compared to this hurricane season?  Mr. Walsh is it time to admit you erred and move on to the next theory.  

TedSmith
TedSmith

"We’re also at eight years and counting without a major — Category 3 or above — hurricane making landfall in the U.S"

- THAT'S BECAUSE THE GREENIES ARE EXCELLENT WHEN IT COMES TO CRYING WOLF!!!!  AND ALSO ADD IN THE FACT THAT WEATHER FORECASTING ISN'T REALLY FORECASTING......IT'S MORE LIKE GUESSING.  AND THEN WHEN YOU KNOW THAT "GLOBAL WARMING" IS NONSENSE, YOU HAVE ALL THE REASONS FOR THE ABOVE QUOTED STATEMENT.

ChrisFloyd
ChrisFloyd

Can someone who knows more about hurricanes than I do tell me (point me to references) if the weak hurricane season this year has resulted in substantially more potential energy left in the Atlantic or Caribbean oceans? In particular, I am curious about whether the heat that would have otherwise been dissipated by tropic storms and hurricanes now remains in the Gulf and will subsequently influence weather conditions in North America during the remainder of the fall and winter. Or perhaps the heat dissipated by tropical storms is insignificant compared to other factors that dissipate heat.

leon1376
leon1376

Back in the 60's we had a saying: "what if they gave a war but nobody came?" Now that would be mighty embarrassing, wouldn't it? We can update that saying with, "what if all the Climate Alarmists predicted a Global Warming hurricane catastrophe but the hurricanes decided to stay in Africa?"  Too funny. I bet that "Hide the Decline" doof is running all over Morocco sticking thermometers in the sand and praying to Gaia for a hurricane. Now that I mention it, whatever happened to the "Hide the Decline" guy? He certainly stepped on his reproductive appendage, did he not? 

LindaHoskins
LindaHoskins

Although the evidence keeps running in the opposite direction, the "sky is falling" anthro-centric global warming folks have to keep it up. Remember that just a few years ago they were telling us that global warming was going to cause a new level of intensity of hurricanes? All their pontifications sure don't give the public confidence that they have even the basic model right.

eagle11772
eagle11772

@LindaHoskins I think it was the BILLIONS OF DOLLARS that Obama gave away to Solyndra that made everybody run out and buy solar panels that prevented the hurricanes !  Don't believe me ? Prove me wrong !  THANK GOD that GOD gave us The Obamaniac, MESSIAH TO ALL ! :)