By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
The 2018 Atlantic Coast hurricane season ended in November, but not before a couple of late-season storms wreaked havoc in the Carolinas and Florida.
Hurricanes Florence and Michael topped the list of a Christian Aid report on the 10 most destructive weather events worldwide in 2018. Together, the two storms caused an estimated $42 billion in damages.
Hurricanes Florence and Michael Disprove NOAA’s Prediction of a Milder Season in 2018
Florence and Michael blew away the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) prediction as late as August that 2018 would be “below normal” in hurricane activity. “Below normal” may be relevant inthe number of stormsperhaps, but certainly not in the cost of lives and financial losses.
Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 storm, caused massive damage across the Florida panhandle in October. The hurricane killed about 60 area residents and prompted the evacuation of half a million people. In its wake, Michael left some communities virtually destroyed.
Florence’s statistics were equally horrendous, including 53 fatalities, according to The Washington Post. Also, more than 30 inches of rain fell, the Cape Fear River crested at more than 60 feet, and 5,500 hogs and 3.4 million chickens drowned.
Long-Term Trends Indicate Longer, Stronger Hurricanes in the Future
Moreover, NOAA says long-term trends indicate longer and more intense storms well into the future. With people and businesses increasingly relocating to coastal regions, the potential environmental changes affecting hurricanes will have significant implications for public safety and the U.S. economy.
According to Science Daily, scientists have developed “a detailed analysis of how 22 recent hurricanes would have been different if they had formed under the conditions predicted for the late 21st century.”
Each storm is unique, of course. But on balance, scientists found that future hurricanes will be a little stronger, a little slower moving and a lot wetter.
In one example, the scientific analysis found that “Hurricane Ike -- which killed more than 100 people and devastated parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2008 -- could have 13 percent stronger winds, move 17 percent slower, and be 34 percent wetter if it formed in a future, warmer climate.”
A Future with Hurricane Harvey-Style Rains
"Our research suggests that future hurricanes could drop significantly more rain," Ethan Gutmann, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), told Science Daily. "Hurricane Harvey demonstrated [in 2017] just how dangerous that can be," Gutmann said.
Harvey produced more than four feet of rain in some locations, breaking records and causing devastating flooding across the Houston, Texas, area.
Kerry Emanuel, a hurricane expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, developed a method to measure the total energy expended by tropical cyclones over their lifetime. In 2005, he showed that Atlantic hurricanes were about 60 percent more powerful than they were in the 1970s. In addition, storms lasted longer and their top wind speeds had increased 25 percent.
William Lau, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, concluded in 2012 that rainfall totals from tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic rose at a rate of 24 percent per decade since 1988. In fact, all forms of extreme weather appear to be increasing.
Snowstorms Also Likely to Become More Intense
NOAA scientists examined 120 years of data and found that there were twice as many extreme regional snowstorms between 1961 and 2010 as there were from 1900 to 1960.
The winter of 2018-19 appears to be continuing that trend with the Plains states and the Midwest already experiencing major snowstorms early in the season.
Meteorologists say there is no reason to think we won’t see more powerful winter storms and destructive hurricanes heading toward the southeast and Gulf Coast when the 2019 hurricane season officially begins on June 1.