Global warming and the frequency of intense Atlantic hurricanes: model results

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:37 PM GMT on April 05, 2010

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Could global warming increase wind shear over the Atlantic, potentially leading to a decrease in the frequency of Atlantic hurricanes? There is a growing consensus among hurricane scientists that this is indeed quite possible. Two recent studies, by Zhao et al. (2009), "Simulations of Global Hurricane Climatology, Interannual Variability, and Response to Global Warming Using a 50-km Resolution GCM", and by Knutson et al. (2008), "Simulated reduction in Atlantic hurricane frequency under twenty-first-century warming conditions", found that global warming might increase wind shear over the Atlantic by the end of the century, resulting in a decrease in the number of Atlantic hurricanes. For example, the second study took 18 relatively coarse (>60 km grid size) models used to formulate the 2007 IPCC climate report, and "downscaled" them using a higher-resolution (18 km grid size) model called ZETAC that was able to successfully simulate the frequencies of hurricanes over the past 50 years. When the 18 km ZETAC model was driven using the climate conditions we expect in 2100, as output by the 18 IPCC models, the authors found that a reduction of Atlantic tropical storms by 27% and hurricanes by 18% by the end of the century resulted. An important reason that their model predicted a decrease in the frequency of Atlantic hurricanes was due to a predicted increase in wind shear. As I explain in my wind shear tutorial, a large change of wind speed with height over a hurricane creates a shearing force that tends to tear the storm apart. The amount of wind shear is critical in determining whether a hurricane can form or survive.


Figure 1. Top: predicted change by 2100 in wind shear (in meters per second per degree C of warming--multiply by two to get mph) as predicted by summing the predictions of 18 climate models. Bottom: The number of models that predict the effect shown in the top image. The dots show the locations where tropical storms formed between 1981-2005. The box indicates a region of frequent hurricane formation where wind shear is not predicted to change much. Image credit: Geophysical Research Letters, "Increased Tropical Atlantic Wind Shear in Model Projections of Global Warming", by Vecchi and Soden, 2007.

Since the Knutson et al. study using the 18 km resolution ZETAC model was not detailed enough to look at what might happen to major Category 3 and stronger hurricanes, a new study using a higher resolution model was needed. This was done by a team of modelers led by Dr. Morris Bender of NOAA's GFDL laboratory, who published their results in Science in February. The authors used the GFDL hurricane model--the model that has been our best-performing operation hurricane track forecasting model over the past five years--to perform their study. The GFDL hurricane model runs at a resolution of 9 km, which is detailed enough to make accurate simulations of major hurricanes. The researchers did a double downscaling study, where they first took the forecast atmospheric and oceanic conditions at generated by the coarse (>60 km grid) IPCC models, used these data to initialize the finer resolution 18 km ZETAC model, then used the output from the ZETAC model to initialize the high-resolution GFDL hurricane model. The final results of this "double downscaling" study suggest that although the total number of hurricanes is expected to decrease by the end of the century, we should expect an increase of 81% in the number of Category 4 and 5 storms in the Atlantic. This trend should not be clearly detectable until about 60 years from now, given a scenario in which CO2 doubles by 2100. The authors say that their model predicts that there should already have been a 20% increase in the number of Category 4 and 5 storms since the 1940s, given the approximate 0.5°C warming of the tropical Atlantic during that period. This trend is too small to be detectable, given the high natural variability and the difficulty we've had accurately measuring the exact strength of intense hurricanes before the 1980s.The region of the Atlantic expected to see the greatest increase in Category 4 and 5 storms by the year 2100 is over the Bahama Islands (Figure 2), since wind shear is not expected to increase in this region, and sea surface temperatures and atmospheric instability are expected to increase there.

The net effect of a decrease in total number of hurricanes but an increase in the strongest hurricanes should cause an increase in U.S. hurricane damages of about 30% by the end of the century, the authors compute, assuming that hurricane damages behave as they did during the past century. Over the past century, Category 4 and 5 hurricanes made up only 6% of all U.S. landfalls, but accounted for 48% of all U.S. damage (if normalized to account for increases in U.S. population and wealth, Pielke et al., 2008.)


Figure 2. Expected change in Atlantic Category 4 and 5 hurricanes per decade expected by the year 2100, according to the Science paper by Bender et al. (2010).

Commentary
These results seem reasonable, since the models in question have been successfully been able to simulate the behavior of hurricanes over the past 50 years. However, the uncertainties are high and lot more research needs to be done before we can be confident of the results. Not all of the IPCC models predict an increase in wind shear over the tropical Atlantic by 2100, so the increase in Category 4 and 5 hurricanes could be much greater. Also, the GFDL model was observed to under-predict the strength of intense hurricanes in the current climate, so it may not be creating enough Category 4 and 5 hurricanes in the future climate of 2100. On the other hand, IPCC models such as the UKMO-HadCM3 predict a very large increase in wind shear, leading to a drastic reduction in all hurricanes in the Atlantic by 2100, including Category 4 and 5 storms. So Category 4 and 5 hurricane frequency could easily be much greater or much less than the 81% increase by 2100 found by Bender et al.

The estimates of a 30% increase in hurricane damages by 2100 may be considerably too low, since this estimate assumes that sea level rise will continue at the same pace as was observed in the 20th century. Sea level rise has accelerated since the 1990s, and it is likely that this century we will see much more than than the 7 inches of global sea level rise that was observed last century. Higher sea level rise rates will sharply increase the damages due to storm surge, which account for a large amount of the damage from intense Category 4 and 5 hurricanes.

Keep in mind that while a 30% in hurricane damage by the end of the century is significant, this will not be the main reason hurricane damages will increase this century. Hurricane damages are currently doubling every ten years, according to Pielke et al., 2008. This is primarily due to the increasing population along the coast and increased wealth of the population. The authors theorize that the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926, a Category 4 monster that made a direct hit on Miami Beach, would have caused about $150 billion in damage had it hit in 2005. By 2015, the authors expect the same hurricane would do $300 billion in damage. This number would increase to $600 billion by 2025 (though I think it is likely that the recent recession may delay this damage total a few years into the future.) It is essential that we limit coastal development in vulnerable coastal areas, particularly along barrier islands, to reduce some of the astronomical price tags hurricanes are going to be causing. Adoption and enforcement of strict building standards is also a must.

The authors of the GFDL hurricane model study have put together a nice web page with links to the paper and some detailed non-technical explanations of the paper.

References
Bender et al., 2010, "Modeled Impact of Anthropogenic Warming on the Frequency of Intense Atlantic Hurricanes", Science, 22 January 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5964, pp. 454 - 458 DOI: 10.1126/science.1180568.

Vecchi, G.A., B.J. Soden, A.T. Wittenberg, I.M. Held, A. Leetmaa, and M.J. Harrison, 2006, "Weakening of tropical Pacific atmospheric circulation due to anthropogenic forcing", Nature, 441(7089), 73-76.

Vecchi, G.A., and B.J. Soden, 2007, "Increased Tropical Atlantic Wind Shear in Model Projections of Global Warming", Geophysical Research Letters, 34, L08702, doi:10.1029/2006GL028905, 2007.

Jeff Masters

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so i guess you could say galveston was in the running for biggest city in texas and a hurricane changed all that, then port st joe florida was the biggest city in florida but a hurricane wiped it clean down to the sand dunes.
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Inland locations away from coast at least 15 miles inland from bays and oceans:


If its below cat 3 wind wise, your gonna be fine inland, other than tree damage, a power pole or two, broken highrise windows( aint nobody gonna be around there) and without electricity.

If it's cat 3 or higher wind wise, you gotta problem and then the exact path is what you have to be watching.

Near Ocean and or bays less than 15 miles away:

Below cat 3 storm surge, still going to have flooding in some areas and overwash and beach erosion. House on stilts should be fine.

Cat 3 and higher storm surge:

Lucky if you have a house to return to.
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203. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
is anyone having problems editing a post using firefox

when I click modify post the post I am trying to edit glitches..
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202. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Tropical Cyclone Warning Center Perth
Tropical Cyclone Advisory
TROPICAL CYCLONE ROBYN, CAT 2 (12U)
3:00 AM WST April 6 2010
=================================

At 18:00 PM UTC, Tropical Cyclone Robyn, Category 2 (985 hPa) located at 16.2S 92.2E has 10 minute sustained winds of 50 knots with gusts of 70 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving northeast at 1 knots.

Storm Force Winds
=================
25 NM from the center

Gale-Force Winds
==================
90 NM from the center in northern quadrant
120 NM from the center in southern quadrant

Dvorak Intensity: T3.5/3.5/W1.0/12HRS

Forecast and Intensity
===========================
12 HRS: 16.1S 91.7E - 45 knots (CAT 1)
24 HRS: 16.1S 90.9E - 45 knots (CAT 1)
48 HRS: 16.3S 88.6E - 35 knots (CAT 1)
72 HRS: 16.5S 84.6E - 30 knots (Tropical Low)

Additional Information
=========================
Tropical Cyclone Robyn has started to weaken as it enters an environment of stronger wind shear. UW-CIMMS at 1800 UTC indicated NW shear of about 15 knots. A Dvorak analysis yields a T-number of 3.5 based on a shear pattern with the low level centre located less than 1/3 of a degree into the strongest temperature gradient.

Motion has remained slow in the last 12 hours as a mid-level trough passes to the south. The cyclone should start taking a westerly track during Tuesday as a mid-level ridge develops in the wake of the trough. The extent of the westerly track is dependent upon weakening/shearing processes.

The cyclone is likely to remain over open waters and does not pose a risk to island or coastal communities.
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Quoting skepticall2:


You are trolling. First I never started comparing Ike to Katrina somebody else did. They said we hadn't had a major hurricane in 5 years. I said Ike was a major hurricane even though the scale we use doesn't agree.


I never said names. Don't assume I was talking about you. The word troll gets thrown alot liberally, I am the furthest thing from a troll. Scale was, Ike wasn't a major hurricane. But thats all. The damage was terrible, and the damage from the storm surge that left everything behind is consistent with a major hurricane. You can't look at the scale as an end all thing though.
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the city of port st jow, once the largest city in the state of florida, had a yellow fever epidemic that killed almost the whole town and then a lot of people left too, so then in 1844 a hurricane came and stayed for three days and nights, blowing away the whole town so all that was left was sand dunes. Here is an excerpt from an old book:

Old St. Joe never recovered from the terrible (yellow fever) scourge. For two or three years the palatial homes, fine public buildings, and full warehouses, awaited their owners never to return. Only a few venturesome fishermen attracted by the stories of great treasures, dared to come near the city. In 1844 a great hurricane followed by a tidal wave, swept over the deserted homes. For three days and nights the fierce winds as if maddened by their lost prey raged through Old St. Joe. Brick and marble were swept miles inland or carried into the sea by the same receding tidal wave. At the end of the third day the storm abated, but only after there was no more damage it could do to Old St. Joe. Only a few scattered blocks of marble or a brick every now and then, and the graveyard, three miles inland, were left where lately stood the splendid homes and public buildings. Even today, there are no homes within miles of the old town which might have been the capital of Florida, which was the Queen City of the South.
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Link
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NHC gonna have to have a scale for wind, and a scale for storm surge, period. That means if you live on the water and its rated high for storm surge, you better get out. If you are away from the water like Houston, and the rating is low for wind you should be alright. But if you are one of those that cant make it without electricity, well your gonna leave and cause a mass evaucation
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Quoting StormW:
You really can't base it off central pressure, either. It sometimes takes, from my experience, 2, if not 3 advisories before the wind speed reacts to a drop in pressure.

Plus, central, surface pressure in a hurricane is almost never actually measured. Dvorak and/or flight level-reduced.
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Quoting twhcracker:


did you see the national geographic article about a year after andrew, where some japanese scientist had concluded andrew was unique with its "ripping winds" that approached tornado force and left swaths of bare earth for miles. cant remember details but it sorta explained why it was so devastating..
janice


Andrew had eye wall mesovortices.. much like tornados. wiki say's;

Eyewall mesovortices

Eyewall mesovortices are small scale rotational features found in the eyewalls of intense tropical cyclones. They are similar, in principle, to small "suction vortices" often observed in multiple-vortex tornadoes. In these vortices, wind speed can be up to 10% higher than in the rest of the eyewall. Eyewall mesovortices are most common during periods of intensification in tropical cyclones.

Eyewall mesovortices often exhibit unusual behavior in tropical cyclones. They usually rotate around the low pressure center, but sometimes they remain stationary. Eyewall mesovortices have even been documented to cross the eye of a storm. These phenomena have been documented observationally,[15] experimentally,[16] and theoretically.[17]

Eyewall mesovortices are a significant factor in the formation of tornadoes after tropical cyclone landfall. Mesovortices can spawn rotation in individual thunderstorms (a mesocyclone), which leads to tornadic activity. At landfall, friction is generated between the circulation of the tropical cyclone and land. This can allow the mesovortices to descend to the surface, causing large outbreaks of tornadoes.

"Vortical swirls in hurricane eye clouds"



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Can't you all just agree both Ike and Katrina were terrible storms that might've not been accurately classified by SS scale? It's like a pissing contest between you all. "Oooh, my hurricane that I went through was more major". The lot of you, shut up that doesn't matter. Rita Evac brought up a good point. What about storms where the central pressure is that of a major hurricane, but the actual wind damage isn't as bad? How would you classify a storm like that?
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191. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting FirstCoastMan:
What is the lastest with the el nino,isn't it weaking?


After six weeks of nearly no change, this past week showed a little weakening (in region 3,4..where it is measured)


I don't expect this to be the beginning of a fast crash with more heat coming from the east & where we may see even more surface soon.
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
OK. Hurricane Ike was much larger than Katrina, and had an integrated kinetic energy that was higher (the only storm higher than IKE was Hurricane Isabel in 2003) Link

And Dr. Masters also addressed the Global Warming/Shear question in this blog: Link

And skepticall2 is correct. Ike had a lower pressure than most Cat 3s, making landfall with a pressure of 950 mb. The hurricane was so large in size that it did not have a gradient strong enough to produce Cat 3 winds. However, the large size of the storm generated winds over a huge area, creating tremendous waves and tides. Ike certainly created damage consistent with a Cat 3 or 4.

I think the lesson is that there is no one factor in determining a hurricane's damage potential. But central pressure is best. Ike had the central pressure of a strong Cat 3 at landfall. It was so spread out it didn't have Cat 3 winds. But the energy was still there, and it caused tremendous damage.

I think that if a storm has a low pressure like Ike did, as a strong Cat 3---even if it is spread out and has Cat 2 winds, if the pressure is like a strong Cat 3, it should be treated like a strong Cat 3.

Central pressure is not perfect, but if there is one number to pay attention to, I think central pressure is it.


Then we start another debate, because a strong Cat 3 should blow shingles off...then people will start riding out a strong cat 3 because the shingles were still on during Ike. Then a small compact cat 3 comes along and then blows the roof off and everybody is wondering what the hell happened
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Quoting skepticall2:
Well Hurricane Ike was larger and had more rain than Katrina but I do agree with this. We need a new scale that just doesn't go off of what the eye wall has for winds it should go off a bigger scale. Including rain, storm surge, how far out hurricane force winds are, ect... the scale we have now underrates storms.

Time for a new scale?
Some scientists believe that the Saffir-Simpson scale is too simplistic and that it should either be extended or replaced.

"A rational scale would have equal increments of either the wind speed squared or the wind speed cubed," Emanuel said today. "There's nothing like that [with the Saffir-Simpson scale], it's all over the place. I think it will ultimately be revised."

Other critics have pointed out that the Saffir-Simpson scale doesn't take into account a hurricane's size or the amount of rainfall.

The rains associated with some hurricanes can lead to flooding that causes just as much or more death and damage than wind.

A hurricane's size can also make a large difference in the amount of damage it inflicts. Hurricane Katrina, which was a Category 5 storm before weakening prior to landfall, caused much more damage than Camille — another Category 5 hurricane that struck in 1969. Katrina was a much larger. Katrina's hurricane-force winds extended 105 miles from its center while Camille's only extended 60 miles out.

Emanuel says a new hurricane rating system will need to have at least three numbers, describing not only wind speed, but also rainfall and storm size.

"It will also be continuous, so you can have a category 4.6 or 4.7, and it will be open-ended, so that the categories just keep going up," Emanuel said.


i think it's a good idea to have more detailed information on the hurricanes. i didn't see storm surge being a factor in the numbering system.
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yes! I figured it out, I just used TetherBerry and now my internet is from my blackberry
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting skepticall2:
Well Hurricane Ike was larger and had more rain than Katrina but I do agree with this.

Umm...

Ole lady Kat had a peak radius of TS-force winds of 200 nm and a 64 knot radius of 90 nm. (Though some of this is still debated...some of the Katrina records do not include what some deny is a double eyewall.)

Ike maxed out his radius of TS-force winds at 240 nm and a 64 knot radius of 110 nm.

And Ike's rains show a larger area of greater than 10 inches rainfall.

But, the single peak wind speed at landfall favors Katrina. And, of course, Katrina's act of setting so much water in motion before landfall.

Major. This is just a word...

The real consideration is vulnerable population. SE LA and the MS coast has the TX coast trumped in that regard. TX coast east of Galveston is mostly uninhabited. Bolivar to Port Arthur is bare. Cannot say that about anywhere between NOLA and Pensacola.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
The only hurricane I recall being devastated wind wise was Andrew, and yet to see another storm with that kind of damage. I use Andrew as a model for wind damage, if you got a roof, be thankful, just wasn't that bad. (But one catch is, those homes were poorly constructed from what some say)


did you see the national geographic article about a year after andrew, where some japanese scientist had concluded andrew was unique with its "ripping winds" that approached tornado force and left swaths of bare earth for miles. cant remember details but it sorta explained why it was so devastating..
janice
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Wind wise, look at Andrew. Storm surge wise,use Katrina and Ike. Ivan? Rita? Hugo?
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Quoting skepticall2:
Well Hurricane Ike was larger and had more rain than Katrina but I do agree with this. We need a new scale that just doesn't go off of what the eye wall has for winds it should go off a bigger scale. Including rain, storm surge, how far out hurricane force winds are, ect... the scale we have now underrates storms.

Time for a new scale?
Some scientists believe that the Saffir-Simpson scale is too simplistic and that it should either be extended or replaced.

"A rational scale would have equal increments of either the wind speed squared or the wind speed cubed," Emanuel said today. "There's nothing like that [with the Saffir-Simpson scale], it's all over the place. I think it will ultimately be revised."

Other critics have pointed out that the Saffir-Simpson scale doesn't take into account a hurricane's size or the amount of rainfall.

The rains associated with some hurricanes can lead to flooding that causes just as much or more death and damage than wind.

A hurricane's size can also make a large difference in the amount of damage it inflicts. Hurricane Katrina, which was a Category 5 storm before weakening prior to landfall, caused much more damage than Camille — another Category 5 hurricane that struck in 1969. Katrina was a much larger. Katrina's hurricane-force winds extended 105 miles from its center while Camille's only extended 60 miles out.

Emanuel says a new hurricane rating system will need to have at least three numbers, describing not only wind speed, but also rainfall and storm size.

"It will also be continuous, so you can have a category 4.6 or 4.7, and it will be open-ended, so that the categories just keep going up," Emanuel said.


What an awful idea
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The only hurricane I recall being devastated wind wise was Andrew, and yet to see another storm with that kind of damage. I use Andrew as a model for wind damage, if you got a roof, be thankful, just wasn't that bad. (But one catch is, those homes were poorly constructed from what some say)
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Quoting NRAamy:
152. presslord 11:21 AM PDT on April 05, 2010
...if only stupidity were painful...


it is...to those of us who have to see it....


that is funny!
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Quoting skepticall2:


So your saying they don't go off of stations they go off of just random guesses?


Its the opposite. You just randomly sent me to stormpulse. Not an actual reporting station. lol The bottom line is that Ike was not a major Hurricane when it impacted the Texas Gulf Coast. It was a 110 mph Category 2 Hurricane with a 10-20ft storm surge. Sure it was a significant event but it was not an exceptionally powerful Hurricane.
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alright, alright, lets get back to GW and how there is going to be less hurricanes in the future due to GW causing more shear
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Quoting skepticall2:


Go to www.stormpulse.com search Ike and look at the wind field for it for houston. Proof is there. Houston had hurricane force winds for 12-14 hours. How does it feel to know you tried to out me and I outed you?
Quoting skepticall2:


Go to www.stormpulse.com search Ike and look at the wind field for it for houston. Proof is there. Houston had hurricane force winds for 12-14 hours. How does it feel to know you tried to out me and I outed you?


What proof? lol Sounds like you can't produce a station that recorded 14 straight hours of Hurricane Force winds in association to Ike.

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Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting SevereHurricane:
I never saw any pictures of Ike's storm surge moving large structures out of place like Katrina did in the Mississippi Gulf Coast.


That is also a barge.
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Quoting NRAamy:
152. presslord 11:21 AM PDT on April 05, 2010
...if only stupidity were painful...


it is...to those of us who have to see it....

A favorite quote: Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.

POOF
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What is the lastest with the el nino,isn't it weaking?
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Quoting presslord:
...if only stupidity were painful...


Oh, it is for those who do "stupid things" of any type, the consequences are usually very painful.
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Quoting skepticall2:


See Katrina didn't have hurricane force winds for 12+ straight hours in one town did it? no we had it for over 14+ hours. It is sad what happened over there it is. Most of the damage to the houses came after the levees broke anyways when the storm was gone.


I'd love to see who had Hurricane force winds for 14 hours, how about a little proof? Like Rita said, the wind damage wasn't that bad.

FYI... The Levee's didn't break after the Hurricane was over with. They broke while the Hurricane was passing through. I know because I was here for it. lol
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Quoting SevereHurricane:
I never saw any pictures of Ike's storm surge moving large structures out of place like Katrina did in the Mississippi Gulf Coast.



Katrina was a whole different storm than Ike, you really cant compare them at all.

It's like comparing a Chevy cobalt to a Corvette.



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152. presslord 11:21 AM PDT on April 05, 2010
...if only stupidity were painful...


it is...to those of us who have to see it....
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Quoting skepticall2:


We could be fighting over the topic of the blog you choose. I'm arguing that Ike should of been a major storm it was way more powerful than some think.


it was a powerful storm, I dont think anyone is disagreeing there. Katrina caused more widespread damage and loss of life.

Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
I never saw any pictures of Ike's storm surge moving large structures out of place like Katrina did in the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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