What we know about climate change and hurricanes

Hurricane Ida intensified overnight, becoming a Category 4 storm in just a few hours. The rapid increase in force raises questions abo...

Hurricane Ida intensified overnight, becoming a Category 4 storm in just a few hours. The rapid increase in force raises questions about the extent to which climate change is affecting hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean. Although researchers cannot say for sure whether human-caused climate change will mean more or more active hurricane seasons Going forward, there is broad agreement on one thing: global warming changes storms.

Scientists say unusually warm Atlantic surface temperatures have helped increase storm activity. “It is very likely that man-made climate change contributed to this unusually warm ocean,” said James P. Kossin, climatologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Climate change makes hurricanes more likely to behave in certain ways. “

Here are some of those ways.

There is a strong scientific consensus that hurricanes are getting stronger.

Hurricanes are complex, but one of the key factors that determines the strength of a given storm is the ocean surface temperature, as warmer water provides more energy that powers storms.

“The potential intensity is increasing,” said Kerry Emanuel, professor of atmospheric sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “We predicted it would increase 30 years ago, and observations show it would increase.”

Stronger winds mean downed power lines, damaged roofs and, when combined with sea level rise, more severe coastal flooding.

“Even though the storms themselves don’t change, the storm surge is moving over high sea level,” Dr Emanuel said. He used New York City as an example, where sea level has risen by about a foot over the past century. “If Sandy’s storm surge had happened in 1912 rather than 2012,” he said, “it probably wouldn’t have flooded Lower Manhattan.

Warming also increases the amount of water vapor that the atmosphere can hold. In fact, each degree Celsius of warming allows the air to hold about 7% more water.

This means that we can expect future storms to trigger higher amounts of precipitation.

Researchers don’t yet know why storms move slower, but they are. Some say a slowdown in global atmospheric circulation, or global winds, could be partly to blame.

In a 2018 article, Dr Kossin found that hurricanes over the United States had slowed by 17% since 1947. Combined with increasing rainfall rates, storms cause a 25% increase in local precipitation. in the United States, he said.

Slower, wetter storms also make flooding worse. Dr Kossin likened the problem to walking around your yard while using a hose to spray water on the ground. If you walk fast, water won’t have a chance to start collecting. But if you walk slowly, he said, “you will have a lot of rain below you.”

Because warmer water helps fuel hurricanes, climate change is expanding the area where hurricanes can form.

There is a “migration of tropical cyclones out of the tropics to subtropics and mid-latitudes,” said Dr Kossin. This could mean more storms hitting land at higher latitudes, like in the United States or Japan.

As the climate warms, researchers also say they expect storms to intensify more quickly. Researchers still don’t know why this is happening, but the trend seems to be clear.

In a 2017 article based on climate and hurricane models, Dr Emanuel found that rapidly intensifying storms – those that increase wind speeds by 70 miles per hour or more in the 24 hours leading up to the storm. landing – were rare between 1976 and 2005. On average, he estimated, their likelihood over these years was about once a century.

By the end of the 21st century, he found, these storms could form once every five or ten years.

“It’s a forecaster’s nightmare,” said Dr Emanuel. If a tropical storm or Category 1 hurricane turns into a Category 4 hurricane overnight, he said, “there is no time to evacuate people.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: What we know about climate change and hurricanes
What we know about climate change and hurricanes
Newsrust - US Top News
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