There have been many stories about Hurricanes Iselle and Julio coming to Hawaii this week, and virtually all of them mention how rare and unusual it is to have even one large named storm threaten the state (the last one that actually caused substantial damage was Hurricane Iniki, which hit Kauai in 1992–as a Category 4 storm, it was far more intense than either storm currently headed to Hawaii).
“It is rare for two storms to threaten Hawaii so close together,” Bloomberg News reported today. “Storms tend to ‘come in clusters but this close is not typical,’ [Hawaiian Airlines VP Ken] Rewick said. ‘Julio seems to be taking a more northerly track, which for the islands is helpful because it gets up into the higher, cooler water and saps the energy out of them.'”
Well, get used to it. Climate change appears to be wrecking havoc with “typical” weather patterns, meaning that more big storms will be coming our way.
That’s according to blogger/ex-NOAA Hurricane Hunter Jeff Masters, who posted yesterday that “global warming is expected to increase the incidence of tropical storms and hurricanes in Hawaii. His evidence? A 2013 paper in Nature Climate Change written by Hawaii researchers. Here’s a quote he uses from a May 5, 2013 University of Hawaii news release announcing that paper:
“In our study, we looked at all tropical cyclones, which range in intensity from tropical storms to full-blown Category 5 hurricanes. From 1979 to 2003, both observational records and our model document that only every four years on average did a tropical cyclone come near Hawaii. Our projections for the end of this century show a two-to-three-fold increase for this region.”
Of course, as this Aug. 6 Slate story (which first alerted me to the Jeff Masters post) points out, statistically a two- or three-fold increase sounds major but “Hawaii’s hurricanes are so rare, such an increase might be difficult to detect.” For those of us who actually live here, though, even just one hurricane is a big deal.
Click here to read the 2013 Nature Climate Change paper.
Photo of Hurricane Iniki: NOAA/Wikimedia Commons