Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Warmer Oceans Could Produce More Powerful Superstorms

20.01.2016

Simulations of Hurricane Sandy with warmer ocean temperatures resulted in storms more than twice as destructive

Hurricane Sandy became the second costliest hurricane to hit the United States when it blew ashore in October 2012, killing 159 people and inflicting $71 billion in damage. Informally known as a “superstorm” after it made landfall, Sandy was so destructive largely because of its unusual size and track.


Hurricane Sandy, a day after landfall, as seen by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite. In this true color, artificial color image, north is the top, and south is the bottom of the image.

Credit: NASA image, courtesy of Norman Kuring Ocean Color Web, via WikiMedia Commons

After moving north from the tropical waters where it spawned, Sandy turned out to sea before hooking back west, growing in size and crashing head-on into the East Coast, gaining strength when it merged with an eastbound mid-latitude storm.

A new study, published by a team of scientists led by the University of Maryland’s Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC) in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, suggests that a warmer Atlantic Ocean could substantially boost the destructive power of a future superstorm like Sandy.

The researchers used a numerical model to simulate the weather patterns that created Sandy, with one key difference: a much warmer sea surface temperature, as would be expected in a world with twice as much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This simulated warmer ocean generated storms that were 50 to 160 percent more destructive than Sandy.

“This kind of experiment is not necessarily a realistic simulation, but it is along a similar path that the future climate might expect to evolve,” said William Lau, a research scientist at ESSIC in College Park, Maryland, and senior scientist emeritus at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Lau added that sea surface temperatures could reach such elevated levels within the next 50 to 100 years.

In the model scenarios, the pool of warm water (greater than 27 degrees Celsius (or 82 degrees Fahrenheit)) in the tropical Atlantic grew to twice its actual size. The larger warm pool gave the simulated hurricanes more time to grow before they encountered colder water or land.

In the five simulations conducted by Lau and his colleagues at NASA Goddard, two hurricanes followed the same track as Sandy, hooking westward and merging with the mid-latitude storm as they hit the coast. Because of their longer exposure to the large warm pool, their winds had 50 to 80 percent more destructive power, and they brought 30 to 50 percent more heavy rain.

“We expected the storm would definitely get stronger because of much warmer sea surface temperature,” Lau said.

Each of the other three hurricanes followed a surprising and even more destructive course. In these simulations, the hurricane grew so strong that it followed a different track and didn’t collide with the mid-latitude storm. Instead, the hurricane went farther east into the open ocean before turning westward. Next, the hurricane and the mid-latitude storm rotated counterclockwise around their combined center of mass—a phenomenon known as the Fujiwhara effect. As the mid-latitude storm rotated east, the Sandy-like storm gained strength from the Fujiwhara effect and swung westward, making landfall between Maine and Nova Scotia.

“These events are somewhat rare in occurrence, but they do exist in nature,” Lau said. “While they’re turning about each other, they interact. One just took the energy from the other.”

As a result, the three Fujiwhara-enhanced hurricanes’ destructive power peaked at 100 to 160 percent higher than Sandy, and brought as much as 180 percent more rain. And while they made landfall farther north, Lau said, their impacts could be farther-reaching and more devastating than Sandy.

“Because the size of the storm is so large, it could affect the entire Atlantic coast, not just where it makes landfall,” he predicted. “The rainfall itself is probably way out in the ocean, but the storm surge would be catastrophic.”

Lau said the usual approach to simulating a storm in a warmer climate would be to impose a prescribed sea surface temperature, and then adjust the atmospheric conditions such as air temperature, moisture and winds. The model would then be run many times, making adjustments each time in hopes of creating a Sandy-like storm. But this approach is tedious and does not guarantee meaningful results, Lau explained.

“When confronted with the question whether or not global warming contributed to Sandy, many scientists would just throw their hands up and say, ‘We cannot address the question of how hurricanes will behave in a future climate because the myriad factors affecting storm behaviors are too complex and impossible to simulate’,” Lau said. “This is the first time it was done by using known atmospheric initial conditions that gave rise to Sandy, and simply changing one important variable—in this case, the ocean temperature.”

By using this approach, Lau and colleagues created an informative—if only plausible—scenario that could help to understand how storms might behave in a future warmer climate.

Lau noted that Sandy was most likely a “perfect storm” brought about by a series of improbable coincidences. As such, it’s hard to make any definite conclusions about whether and how global warming contributed to Sandy and other recent destructive storms, he said.

“However, studies like ours can help provide informative answers to the more tractable question of how a perfect storm like Sandy would behave under warmer ocean temperatures,” Lau said. “It’s a very important line of investigation for better understanding the future of our planet.”

###

The American Geophysical Union is dedicated to advancing the Earth and space sciences for the benefit of humanity through its scholarly publications, conferences, and outreach programs. AGU is a not-for-profit, professional, scientific organization representing more than 60,000 members in 139 countries. Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and our other social media channels.

Notes for Journalists
Journalists and public information officers (PIOs) of educational and scientific institutions who have registered with AGU can download a PDF copy of the article by clicking on this link: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2015GL066083/full

Or, you may order a copy of the final paper by emailing your request to Lillian Steenblik Hwang at lhwang@agu.org.

Please provide your name, the name of your publication, and your phone number.

Neither the paper nor this press release is under embargo.


Title
“What would happen to Superstorm Sandy under the influence of a substantially warmer Atlantic Ocean”

Authors:
William K. M. Lau: Research Scientist, Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center 32 (ESSIC), 5825 University Research Court, College Park, MD 20740

J. Shi: Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University

K. Tao: Mesoscale Atmospheric Processes Laboratory, NASA/GSFC

Contact Information for the Authors:
William K. M. Lau: wkmlau@umd.edu


AGU Contact:
Lillian Steenblik Hwang
+1 (202) 777-7318
lhwang@agu.org

University of Maryland contact:
Matthew Wright
+1 (301) 405-9267
mewright@umd.edu

https://news.agu.org/press-release/warmer-oceans-could-produce-more-powerful-superstorms/

Lillian Steenblik Hwang | AGU American Geophysical Union

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Chronic stress induces fatal organ dysfunctions via a new neural circuit

21.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Scientists from the MSU studied new liquid-crystalline photochrom

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>