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Philip J. Klotzbach, Steven G. Bowen, Roger Pielke Jr., and Michael Bell

Abstract

Continental United States (CONUS) hurricane-related inflation-adjusted damage has increased significantly since 1900. However, since 1900 neither observed CONUS landfalling hurricane frequency nor intensity shows significant trends, including the devastating 2017 season.

Two large-scale climate modes that have been noted in prior research to significantly impact CONUS landfalling hurricane activity are El Niño–Southern Oscillation on interannual time scales and the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation on multidecadal time scales. La Niña seasons tend to be characterized by more CONUS hurricane landfalls than El Niño seasons, and positive Atlantic multidecadal oscillation phases tend to have more CONUS hurricane landfalls than negative phases.

Growth in coastal population and regional wealth are the overwhelming drivers of observed increases in hurricane-related damage. As the population and wealth of the United States has increased in coastal locations, it has invariably led to the growth in exposure and vulnerability of coastal property along the U.S. Gulf and East Coasts. Unfortunately, the risks associated with more people and vulnerable exposure came to fruition in Texas and Florida during the 2017 season following the landfalls of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Total economic damage from those two storms exceeded $125 billion. Growth in coastal population and exposure is likely to continue in the future, and when hurricane landfalls do occur, this will likely lead to greater damage costs than previously seen. Such a statement is made recognizing that the vast scope of damage from hurricanes often highlights the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of building codes, flood maps, infrastructure, and insurance in at-risk communities.

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Philip J. Klotzbach, Michael M. Bell, Steven G. Bowen, Ethan J. Gibney, Kenneth R. Knapp, and Carl J. Schreck III

Abstract

Atlantic hurricane seasons have a long history of causing significant financial impacts, with Harvey, Irma, Maria, Florence, and Michael combining to incur more than 345 billion USD in direct economic damage during 2017–2018. While Michael’s damage was primarily wind and storm surge-driven, Florence’s and Harvey’s damage was predominantly rainfall and inland flood-driven. Several revised scales have been proposed to replace the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (SSHWS), which currently only categorizes the hurricane wind threat, while not explicitly handling the totality of storm impacts including storm surge and rainfall. However, most of these newly-proposed scales are not easily calculated in real-time, nor can they be reliably calculated historically. In particular, they depend on storm wind radii, which remain very uncertain. Herein, we analyze the relationship between normalized historical damage caused by continental United States (CONUS) landfalling hurricanes from 1900–2018 with both maximum sustained wind speed (V max) and minimum sea level pressure (MSLP). We show that MSLP is a more skillful predictor of normalized damage than V max, with a significantly higher rank correlation between normalized damage and MSLP (r rank = 0.77) than between normalized damage and V max (r rank = 0.66) for all CONUS landfalling hurricanes. MSLP has served as a much better predictor of hurricane damage in recent years than V max, with large hurricanes such as Ike (2008) and Sandy (2012) causing much more damage than anticipated from their SSHWS ranking. MSLP is also a more accurately-measured quantity than is V max, making it an ideal quantity for evaluating a hurricane’s potential damage.

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Philip J. Klotzbach, Carl J. Schreck III, Gilbert P. Compo, Steven G. Bowen, Ethan J. Gibney, Eric C. J. Oliver, and Michael M. Bell

Abstract

The 1933 Atlantic hurricane season was extremely active, with 20 named storms and 11 hurricanes including 6 major (category 3+; 1-min maximum sustained winds ≥96 kt) hurricanes occurring. The 1933 hurricane season also generated the most accumulated cyclone energy (an integrated metric that accounts for frequency, intensity, and duration) of any Atlantic hurricane season on record. A total of 8 hurricanes tracked through the Caribbean in 1933—the most on record. In addition, two category 3 hurricanes made landfall in the United States just 23 h apart: the Treasure Coast hurricane in southeast Florida followed by the Cuba–Brownsville hurricane in south Texas. This manuscript examines large-scale atmospheric and oceanic conditions that likely led to such an active hurricane season. Extremely weak vertical wind shear was prevalent over both the Caribbean and the tropical Atlantic throughout the peak months of the hurricane season, likely in part due to a weak-to-moderate La Niña event. These favorable dynamic conditions, combined with above-normal tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures, created a very conducive environment for hurricane formation and intensification. The Madden–Julian oscillation was relatively active during the summer and fall of 1933, providing subseasonal conditions that were quite favorable for tropical cyclogenesis during mid- to late August and late September to early October. The current early June and August statistical models used by Colorado State University would have predicted a very active 1933 hurricane season. A better understanding of these extremely active historical Atlantic hurricane seasons may aid in anticipation of future hyperactive seasons.

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