Hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin came to a merciful end on November 30, 2017. COP23 inched 196-1/2 countries towards controlling climate change. And winter blows hot and cold. Let’s go Around The World.
Official Hurricane Season Ends
The official hurricane season (according to NOAA) in the central and eastern North Pacific Ocean and the entire North Atlantic Basin ended on November 30, 2017. It was an eventful summer, worthy of review.
In the Pacific, there were 18 named storms, nine hurricanes, and four major hurricanes. This is slightly above the averages of 15, eight, and three, respectively. None of the Pacific storms will be remembered. This is not true of the Atlantic, where tropical cyclones caused 438 deaths and over $300 billion in damages.
Averages for named storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes in the Atlantic are 12, six, and three; 2017 had 17, ten, and six. Three of the storms were truly memorable:
Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast with winds up to 130 miles per hour; that was survivable with minimal damage for most residents of the Houston area, but what followed wasn’t.
The storm stalled, then meandered for several days, dumping up to four feet of rain and flooding a large part of southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana. The storm killed 30 people and left an estimated $200 billion in damages.
Where Hurricane Harvey concentrated its destruction in one area, Hurricane Irma blasted the Greater and Lesser Antilles, scraped the north coast of Cuba, and raked most of Florida in a long path of fury. Irma’s 185 mile per hour winds were the strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean (not including the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico). The death toll from Irma was at least 134.
Hurricane Maria was perhaps the most devastating of all the hurricanes, demolishing a couple of Caribbean islands before smashing Puerto Rico with winds up to 155 miles per hour. The havoc was shown on TV reports, as rescue efforts were hampered by the remoteness of the island and the nearly total disruption of infrastructure. Relief efforts are ongoing and will probably continue for months, if not years.
Do Hurricane Seasons Need To Be Revised?
Hurricane season formally begins on June 1 in the Atlantic Basin and central Pacific, and May 15 in the eastern Pacific. This year, there were out-of-season early storms in both the Atlantic and the Pacific, and it was the third year in a row for the Atlantic. Since hurricanes have occurred in every month, perhaps hurricane season should run all year (as typhoon season does in the western Pacific), with an added category of Hurricane High Season, roughly mid-July to mid-October, during which all powerful hurricanes develop.
Western Pacific And Indian Ocean Typhoon Seasons Weaker Than Normal
The western Pacific typhoon season was near average in terms of numbers of storms (25 named storms, ten typhoons, two supertyphoons). Though the west Pacific didn’t have the blockbuster storms that the Atlantic had, there was still considerable damage and loss of life.
A couple of typhoons struck Japan near Tokyo, but they had weakened due to cold water and had modest impact.
The most destructive storms this year struck land bordering the South China Sea, where water was unusually warm, and cyclones affected Vietnam and China. The most damaging storm was Typhoon Hato, which killed 26 people and did over $4 billion in damages in China proper, Macau, and Hong Kong.
North Indian Ocean Tropical Cyclone Season
The Indian Ocean has an unusual tropical cyclone season, affected by the Indian subcontinent and its powerful monsoon. Seasonal maxima of activity occur in May and November. The only storm that approached hurricane force before this week was Cyclone Mora, which reached hurricane force just as it reached the coast of Bangladesh on May 30, 2017. Even such a weak storm, striking a vulnerable region, was able to cause 31 deaths and over a billion dollars in losses.
Still near its late fall maximum, the Indian Ocean tropical cyclone season continues, with Cyclone Ockhi reaching hurricane force on December 1, 2017 as it heads towards Mumbai.
Southern Hemisphere Tropical Cyclone Season Begins
Since the southern hemisphere contains one-third more ocean surface than the northern hemisphere, one might think it would have more tropical cyclones — but it doesn’t. For one thing, the area of tropical and sub-tropical ocean is about equal in the two hemispheres.
In addition, land masses and peculiarities of the general circulation affect tropical storm formation. The combined average number of tropical cyclones in the southern hemisphere is matched just by the number in the western North Pacific alone.The land areas most often affected are the north coast of Australia, and Madagascar and the adjacent coast of Africa.
Currently there is a disturbance in the middle of the Indian Ocean that probably will not reach any land area.
Temperature Extremes At Opposite Ends Of The Earth
On November 27, 2017 Denver, Colorado, United States, recorded an astounding temperature of 81° F (27° C), breaking the old record for the date by 7 F (4 C). Even more amazing: This was the highest temperature ever recorded in the month of November, edging out readings from much earlier in the month in 2007 and 2016 by one degree F.
Meanwhile, in Siberia, temperatures have dipped to -60° C (-76° F) in Oymyakon, the coldest permanently inhabited town in the world, where cars must be kept either running or in a heated garage. It has been reported that residents complain about the heat when summer temperatures approach 20° C (68° F).
The extreme cold is a result of the town’s location in a valley. Cold air settles in and is trapped, at least for the winter months.
COP23 Yields Mixed Results
The meeting in Bonn pursuant to the Paris climate agreement was the first since two countries joined and one announced its intention to withdraw. Most of the tough choices were put off until COP24 (or later — or, perhaps, never), but at least there is a mechanism in which 196-1/2 of the world’s 197 countries are participating devoted to dealing with climate change.
Perhaps the most significant movement was the serious participation in the conference of non-state entities from the United States that represented 54% of the country’s population. Governments are notoriously slow to move, and though most of them recognize that global warming is a serious problem, their leaders have other things on their minds: nuclear proliferation, the global economy, and refugees from war, to name just a few.
Non-governmental entities may prove to be more effective in taking action against global warming than those representing governments; President Trump may have done the world a favor.
The next Climate Change Checkup will be published after the mid-month report by NOAA on November global temperatures.