Hurricanes & Global Warming

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. How are hurricanes affected by global warming?
There are some different opinions among scientists who study hurricanes about the influence of historical emissions of greenhouse gases on the behavior of tropical cyclones, or as they are called in the Atlantic, hurricanes. Some think that the effect is not discernible, while others believe that they have seen a large effect.

2. What does the peer-reviewed literature say?
There is much less evidence of a debate when one looks to the peer-reviewed literature than if one actually asks different scientists their opinions on the matter. One reason for this is that much of the debate about hurricanes and global warming has to do with what different scientists expect future research to reveal. Research on hurricanes and climate is constantly underway and new studies should be expected every so often.

3. So what should we expect in coming years?
Among just about all scientists there is a strong consensus that the Atlantic basin is likely to see a decade or more of generally active seasons and that the period 1970-1994 is likely to be unrepresentative of future activity.

References and Background Materials

Pielke, Jr., R.A., 2009. United States hurricane landfalls and damages: Can one-to five-year predictions beat climatology?, Environmental Hazards, Vol. 8, pp. 187-200.

Vranes, K., and R. A. Pielke, Jr., 2009. Normalized Earthquake Damage and Fatalities in the United States: 1900 - 2005, Natural Hazards Review, August, pp. 84-101.

Pielke, Jr., R. A., Gratz, J., Landsea, C. W., Collins, D., Saunders, M., and Musulin, R., 2008. Normalized Hurricane Damages in the United States: 1900-2005. Natural Hazards Review, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp. 29-42. View Data.

Pielke, Jr., R. A., 2007. Future Economic Damage from Tropical Cyclones: Sensitivities to Societal and Climate Changes, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Vol. 365, No. 1860, pp. 1-13.

Pielke, Jr., R. A., 2007. Mistreatment of the economic impacts of extreme events in the Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change, Global Environmental Change, Vol. 17, pp. 302-310.

Bouwer, L.M., Crompton, R.P., Faust, E., Höppe, P., and Pielke, Jr., R. A., 2007. Confronting Disaster Losses, Science, Vol. 318, November 2, p. 753.

Pielke, Jr., R.A., Prins, G., Rayner, S., and Sarewitz, D., 2007. Lifting the taboo on adaptation. Nature, Vol. 445, pp. 597-598.

Pielke, Jr., R. A., C.W. Landsea, M. Mayfield, J. Laver, R. Pasch, 2006. Reply to Hurricanes and Global Warming Potential Linkages and Consequences, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Vol. 87, pp. 628-631, May.

Pielke, Jr., R. A., 2005. Are there trends in hurricane destruction? Nature, Vol. 438, December, pp. E11. Brief comment on K. Emanuel's "Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years", Nature, Vol. 436, pp. 686-688. Response by K. Emanuel on page 3 Emanuel replies, Nature, Vol. 438, December, pp. E13.

Pielke, Jr., R. A., C. Landsea, M. Mayfield, J. Laver and R. Pasch, 2005. Hurricanes and global warming, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 86:1571-1575.

Pielke, Jr., R. A. and D. Sarewitz, 2005. Bringing Society back into the Climate Debate, Population and Environment, Volume 26, Number 3, pp. 255-268.

Pielke, Jr., R. A., R.A. Klein, and D. Sarewitz, 2000. Turning the Big Knob: Energy Policy as a Means to Reduce Weather Impacts, Energy and Environment, Vol. 11, No. 3, 255-276.

Center Perspectives

Pielke, Jr., R.A., 2009. Collateral Damage from the Death of Stationarity, GEWEX, May, pp. 5-7.

Pielke, Jr., R. A., 2008. End of 2007 Hurricane-Global Warming Update, AIR Currents, January.

Pielke, Jr., R.A., Bouwer, L., Crompton, R., Faust, E., and Höppe, P., 2008. Catastrophe Losses in the Context of Demographics, Climate, and Policy. Managing the Changing Landscape of Catastrophe Risk. 10th Aon Re Australia Biennal Hazards Conference, September 16-18 2007. Queensland Australia.

Pielke, Jr. R. A. (with contributions from P. Hoeppe and S. McIntyre), 2008. Case studies in disaster losses and climate change, pp. 131-140 in the Proceedings of the 15th 'Aha Huliko'a Winter Workshop on Extreme Events, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, January 2007.

Pielke, Jr., R.A., 2007. Statement to the Committee on Government Reform of the United States House of Representatives, Hearing on Political Interference in the Work of Government Climate Change Scientists, 30 January.

Pielke, Jr., R.A., 2007. Statement to the House Committee on Science and Technology of the United States House of Representatives, The State of Climate Change Science 2007: The Findings of the Fourth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change, 16 May.

Pielke, Jr., R. A. 2006. Climate change is serious, but we have to have a realistic response, Guardian Unlimited, London, United Kingdom, 13 October.

Pielke, Jr., R.A., 2006. Statement to the Committee on Government Reform of the United States House of Representatives, Hearing on Climate Change: Understanding the Degree of the Problem, 20 July.

Höppe, P. and R.A. Pielke, Jr. (eds.), 2006. Workshop on Climate Change and Disaster Losses: Understanding and Attributing Trends and Projections, Final Workshop Report. Hohenkammer, Germany, 25-26 May.

Pielke, Jr., R. A., R. Crompton, E. Faust, J. Gratz, M. Lonfat, Q. Ye and S. Raghavan, 2006. Factors Contributing to Human and Economic Losses, Sixth WMO International Workshop on Tropical Cyclones, San José, Costa Rica, 21-30 November 2006.

Pielke, Jr., R.A., S. Agrawala, L. Bouwer, I. Burton, S. Changnon, M. Glantz, W. Hooke, R. Klein, K. Kunkel, D. Mileti, D. Sarewitz, E. Thompkins, N. Stehr, and H. von Storch, 2005.Clarifying the Attribution of Recent Disaster Losses: A Response to Epstein and McCarthy, Bulletin of American Meteorological Society, Volume 86 (10), pp. 1481-1483. Reply by P.R. Epstein and J.J. McCarthy.

Pielke, Jr., R.A. and D. Sarewitz, 2005. Managing the next disaster, Los Angeles Times, September 23.

Other Resources

Georgia Institute of Technology, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Hurricane Research.

Webster, P.J., G.J. Holland, J.A. Curry, and H.R. Chang, 2005. Changes in Tropical Cyclone Number, Duration, and Intensity in a Warming Environment, Science, Vol. 309, No. 5742, pp. 1844 - 1846.

Emanuel, K., 2005. Anthropogenic Effects on Tropical Cyclone Activity.

Emanuel, K., 2005. Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years, Nature, Vol. 436, pp. 686-688.

Landsea, C., 2005. Hurricane Research Division: Frequently Asked Questions, NOAA.

Gray, B., 2005. The Tropical Meteorology Project, Colorado State University.

Knutson, T., 2005. Hurricanes and Global Warming, NOAA, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

2001 IPCC on tropical cyclones