A Small Note on Hurricane Felix

It looks like Hurricane Felix will hit the Nicaragua coast and decay a bit, then hit Belize and do some damage, and die out without causing much damage in Mexico at all, certainly not the offshore fields. The models from our friend Chuck Watson aren't showing much infrastructure/energy impact at all; some disruption to the efforts to restore remaining damage from Dean, but that's about it.

So, this time let's focus on the human cost of this storm and hope that it is minimal. Our thoughts are with them.

I agree with the human focus 100%, PG, as stated before. But judging from the number of comments, perhaps not everyone does.

Leanan made a good comment the other day: how multiple storms seem to "land" in the same place if they occur in the same year. What we see now is a shift southward with regards to 2005: there is no power that pushes them north right now, no Atlantic influences that draw them there.

Is that a good thing? It is if you hold shares in Exxon. It is not if you live in a cardboard shack in Honduras.

We all remember Mitch and the havoc and suffering caused in Central America (a place with enough suffering)--
Let's hope for the best for the people of that area.

Coming from Europe, I hope that the lack of a northwards draw does not signal that the weakening north atlantic drift is having an effect. What this would mean, is that hurricans stop shifting heat to northern lattitudes and storms just go east to west, churning heat within the tropics, where they get increasingly intense as temperatures rise. A nasty result of global warming if it happens!

"Nobody needs to go anywhere else. We are all, if we only knew it, already there." (Aldous Huxley "Island" 1962, p38)

Along somewhat similar lines, I am wondering what impact the exceptional extent of ice melt in the arctic is having on all of this? Might it be that we are going to have a late autumn and delayed onset of winter? If so, might that not also imply an extended hurricane season? While there are certainly exceptions, it does seem that the historic pattern has been for the early hurricanes to be more southerly, and as the season progresses they seem to take on a more northerly track. Is there anything to this? Might this suggest that we might not see any hurricanes that threaten the US until September, October, or even November???

The current is driven by wind, not melt water. The day the artic becomes just as warm as the tropics is the day the cycle ends...what are the odds of that?

Partyguy, you are very strange, that comment is really odd. Being a disruptive norty boy again?! Northern England and the Eastern Seaboard of the US are warmer than Russia and internal Canada because the north atlantic drift sucks warm water from the Caribean. It shuts down if too much fresh water from melting glaciers stops the process, this has happened before, and both places could see temperatures plunging maybe 5 degrees. When the cycle ends, the poles get a bit warmer from higher absorbtion of sun from more sea water, the bit inbetween the poles and the tropics gets a bit colder when less heat flows up from the tropics, and the tropics heat up to the point where coral reefs and rainforests cannot survive, because the mechanism for transfering heat from the tropics to the sub-tropics and temperate areas shuts down. Read "Heat" by George Monbiot.

The weather in Europe this year has been what one would expect from a weaker north atlantic drift, the artic jet streams that are usually over the nordic countries has strayed far south and covered the UK. Story is, that a few hurricanes should shift it north, but, if a weak north atlantic drift is stopping hurricanes from transferring heat north, then that won't happen. Scary stuff if I'm right, but I'm not a metreologist, so, I may be totally wrong!!

"Nobody needs to go anywhere else. We are all, if we only knew it, already there." (Aldous Huxley "Island" 1962, p38)

The Thermohaline Circulation (THC) is not primarily wind driven. You are wrong, again. The temperature differential coupled with the salinity differential (and the resulting differences in density) are the major driving factor in the Thermohaline Circulation. So how does it work? Northern latitude cooling of highly saline ocean water is the main driver. As that water cools and achieves significant density differences, it sinks which pulls more southerly water north to be cooled yet again.

The arctic ice melt is of interest because while it is not lowering the salinity, it is in an area of the world that contains large amounts of non-oceanic ice (Greenland, Canada, and Siberia) which if melted would inject a large volume of fresh water into the arctic region. Exactly what effect this would have on the THC is not well understood at this time but it is believed that certain northern regions which have experienced balmy weather might not continue to do so.

Finally, no one has suggested that the arctic will become as warm as the tropics. That comment was a deliberate strawman, which is common from you. In fact, I cannot recall a single comment from you that ever contained anything other than smartass remarks intended to incite flame wars. You might eventually try contributing something useful to the discussion instead of trying to be a troll.

"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." -- Dr. Albert Bartlett
Into the Grey Zone

GZ -- there's a conflation of terms here, in large part (though not exclusively) by Partyguy. The "Arctic drift current" in the parent poster's context appears to refer to the Gulf Stream, which is indeed wind driven. The THC, as you point out, is density driven.

The Gulf stream is not wind drive, it is to do with the interaction between fresh and saline water around Greenland, as mentioned by the previous post. The gulf stream sucks warm water from the west indies towards greenland. Weather systems feed from that energy in the same way that hurricanes feed from the warm water of the gulf of mexico. This gives tropical jet streams power to push arctic jet streams northwards away from western europe and parts of the US eastern seaboard, explaining why london does not have a similar climate to somewhere like moscow, which on the same lattitude. Take away the gulf stream and, apparently, England would have the climate of Spitzburgen (I think that's the name, an arctic island somewhere north of norway).

By the way, I've seen many people like Party Guy in other blogs that aim to deal with issues where there are strong vested interests. I have no doubt that there are people out there paid by vested interests to disrupt blogs and put doubt into people's minds, just as these corporations do with the media, spreading lies and commissioning "scientific" reports, like was done by Esso and the like to give the illusion that there is no consensus in the scientific community about global warming, and the same applied to the tobacco industry. They exhibit a similar technique, repeating commonly held myths with no backing and having a dismissive argumentative tone in their comments. Can spot em from a mile off. The thing is, that nobody in their right mind would spend so much time on a blog that was so anti their point of view, especially if they knew nothing about the subject and got slagged off all the time, unless they actually had a vested interest to do so.

"Nobody needs to go anywhere else. We are all, if we only knew it, already there." (Aldous Huxley "Island" 1962, p38)

This thread is now moribund, but this comment still merits a correction. The Gulf Stream today is part of the surface component of the Meridional Overturning Circulation, which is the North Atlantic part of the THC. If the extreme scenarios pan out and the THC weakens or shuts down because of icesheet melt, then the Gulf Stream will continue, it just won't be carrying heat to N. Europe. That heat will remain in low latitudes.

If you look at the flow over N. America you will note that just past the Rockies the flow drifts to lower latitude over the Great Plains, then swings back up to higher lats over the Eastern Seaboard. That swing is driven by a need to conserve angular momentum; it helps that the flow would otherwise be blocked by the N. Atlantic subtropical high (aka Bermuda or Azores High, depending on season). That swing is also what drives the Gulf Stream.

Weather systems feed from that energy in the same way that hurricanes feed from the warm water of the gulf of mexico.

Weather systems over the US and Europe are extratropical cyclones, which are completely different from tropical cyclones (though one can morph into the other, usually tropical to extratropical). The former is driven by thermal and humidity differences between airmasses and is controlled by the polar jet (which of course is a boundary itself), the latter is a heat engine converting warm ocean surfaces to high wind and heavy rain and form within an airmass.

Hi davet,

I just wanted to say "thanks" for your addition here.

In England, we've already had an early Spring this year, with temperatures in April and May hovering around 70degrees in the south of the country on many days, followed by a cold and extemely wet July. Will probably see a long indian summer now. Something is happening to the climate here, the wettest summer since records began in the mid 1600's is just wierd and it followed the hottest summer in history last year, we had temperatures of about 40degrees on one day, totally bizare in a country where the average temperature in august is 22degrees in the 'hottest' bit.

"Nobody needs to go anywhere else. We are all, if we only knew it, already there." (Aldous Huxley "Island" 1962, p38)

Hello TODers,

Yep, my best hopes to those confronted by any hurricane.

Quick Question [I don't know the answer]: has a major CAT3,4,5 hurricane ever spontaneously self-generated in the GoM all by itself from just the GoM area's heat and vapor-moisture? Or does it minimally require an incoming wave train from the Caribbean, or across Florida like hurricane Andrew in 92?

I am not counting those hurricanes that hit Cuba or Mexico, bounced off/over the mountains, or crossed the Yucatan, then reformed into a restrengthened hurricane again in the GoM. I am thinking more along the lines of a quiet GoM just forming a waterspout that just keeps getting bigger and bigger until it becomes a major hurricane. Thxs for any replies.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Hurricane Bret in 1999 started as a tropical depression in the BOC (just west of Cantarell, in fact). Opal in 95 started off as a TD over the Yucatan.

And while we're comparing Felix to Mitch, let's not forget Mitch ended up over the Atlantic, after crossing the GOM and Florida. That was weird, but things like that happen.

Quick Question [I don't know the answer]: has a major CAT3,4,5 hurricane ever spontaneously self-generated in the GoM all by itself from just the GoM area's heat and vapor-moisture?

Yes, major hurricanes can originate entirely within the Gulf of Mexico. One example: Hurricane Anita was a category 5 in 1977 that did this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Anita

Hello TODers,

This 'cane may not generate energy problems, but it still might be a human disaster:

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras - Forecasters said Tuesday that Hurricane Felix could strengthen into a Category 5 monster just as it makes landfall near the Nicaragua-Honduras border, home to thousands of stranded Miskito Indians.

he only path to safety is up rivers and across lakes that are too shallow for regular boats, but many lack gasoline for long journeys. Provincial health official Efrain Burgos estimated that 18,000 people must find their own way to higher ground.
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Just made landfall as Cat 4/5 in a lightly populated area.


The National Hurricane Center shows some small chance that Felix will cross Central America and return to hurricane status in the Pacific.

Has this ever actually happened in the past?

Perhaps as the earth warms, we will see storms that persist over much longer times and distances -- a little like Jupiter's Red Spot. (however, it is an anticyclone)

I live in Tampa, Florida, and have experienced hurricanes several times. It is great to see TOD taking hurricanes seriously. It may be a bit over-the-top sometimes, but we need to prepare for and keep an eye on these powerful storms. You don't want to be the target of one of them without having a plan for you, your family and your pets. Have a plan, have some supplies set aside, board up your house and get out of Dodge if one of these monsters heads your way. I have seen the damage caused first-hand and you don't want to be unprepared. It looks like this year we in the US will be protected with that blocking high over the Gulf. Let us take are luck when we get it and continue our preparations for the future.

I agree. It's great to mention what a hurricane COULD do to our energy infrastructure. I just think we got a bit overzealous after Gonu.

Thanks, Prof. G,

For providing a place to talk about both kinds of impacts.

Re: "the human cost".

One of my favorite orgs is World Neighbors.

Below is a PDF link (if it works!) on the impacts of Hurricane Mitch, specifically in areas which had seen prior sustainable development efforts v. those that had not.

I like WN because they work in a grassroots, democratic fashion - empowering people and, at the same time, teaching (and learning) most sustainable methods.

Reasons for Resiliency - Toward a Sustainable Recovery After Hurricane Mitch This report presents the methods and findings of an action research effort to measure and compare the impact of Hurricane Mitch on conventionally and agro-ecologically farmed lands in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala. The project included farmers, promoters and local organizations as full partners in the research process, from beginning to end, and was designed to stimulate reflection and action based upon the lessons learned.

Download PDF File Email PDF File Link http://www.wn.org/store/library/3843_LFF Reasons for Resiliency - Toward a Sustainable Recovery After Hurricane Mitch.pdf