Surge in North Atlantic hurricanes due to detectors, not climate change



[1] A spate of research has indicated there may be a link between climate change and the prevalence of North Atlantic tropical cyclones. In a new paper, researchers note upon closer inspection that the prominent upswing in tropical cyclone detections beginning in the midtwentieth century is attributable predominantly to the detection of “shorties” tropical cyclones with durations of less than 2 days. That the apparent surge in cyclone activity could be attributable to changes in the quality and quantity of detections has gained ground as a potential alternative explanation. Using a database of hurricane observations stretching back to 1878, Villarini et al. try to tease out any detectable climate signal from the records. The authors note that between 1878 and 1943 there were 0.58 shorty detections per year, and between 1944 and 2008 there were 2.58 shorty detections per year. This increase in shorties, which the authors propose may be related to the end of World War II and the dawn of air-based reconnaissance and weather tracking, was not mirrored by an increase in tropical cyclone activity for storms longer than 2 days. (Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, doi:10.1029/2010JD015493, 2011