Breaking News
Investing Pro 0
Cyber Monday SALE: Up to 54% OFF InvestingPro+ CLAIM OFFER

Explainer-How climate change is fueling hurricanes

World Sep 20, 2022 09:01AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
 
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man on a motorcycle rides past fallen power lines in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona in Higuey, Dominican Republic, September 19, 2022. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas

By Gloria Dickie

(Reuters) - After a quiet start to the season, Hurricane Fiona slammed into Puerto Rico and then battered the Dominican Republic, leaving more than 1 million people without running water or power.

While scientists haven't yet determined whether climate change influenced Fiona's strength or behavior, there's strong evidence that these devastating storms are getting worse.

Here's why.

IS CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECTING HURRICANES?

Yes, climate change is making hurricanes wetter, windier and altogether more intense. There is also evidence that it is causing storms to travel more slowly, meaning they can dump more water in one place.

If it weren't for the oceans, the planet would be much hotter due to climate change. But in the last 40 years, the ocean has absorbed about 90% of the warming caused by heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions. Much of this ocean heat is contained near the water's surface. This additional heat can fuel a storm's intensity and power stronger winds.

Climate change can also boost the amount of rainfall delivered by a storm. Because a warmer atmosphere can also hold more moisture, water vapor builds up until clouds break, sending down heavy rain.

During the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season — one of the most active on record — climate change boosted hourly rainfall rates in hurricane-force storms by 8%-11%, according to an April 2022 study in the journal Nature Communications.

The world has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial average. Scientists at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expect that, at 2C of warming, hurricane wind speeds could increase by up to 10%.

NOAA also projects the proportion of hurricanes that reach the most intense levels — Category 4 or 5 — could rise by about 10% this century. To date, less than a fifth of storms have reached this intensity since 1851.

HOW ELSE IS CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECTING STORMS?

The typical "season" for hurricanes is shifting, as climate warming creates conditions conducive to storms in more months of the year. And hurricanes are also making landfall in regions far outside the historic norm.

In the United States, Florida sees the most hurricanes make landfall, with more than 120 direct hits since 1851, according to NOAA. But in recent years, some storms are reaching peak intensity and making landfall farther north than in the past – a poleward shift may be related to rising global air and ocean temperatures, scientists said.

This trend is worrying for mid-latitude cities such as New York, Boston, Beijing, and Tokyo, where "infrastructure is not prepared" for such storms, said atmospheric scientist Allison Wing at Florida State University.

Hurricane Sandy, though only a Category 1 storm, was the fourth costliest U.S. hurricane on record, causing $81 billion in losses when it hit the Northeastern Seaboard in 2012.

As for timing, hurricane activity is common for North America from June through November, peaking in September – after a summertime buildup of warm water conditions.

However, the first named storms to make U.S. landfall now do so more than three weeks earlier than they did in 1900, nudging the start of the season into May, according to a study published in August in Nature Communications.

The same trend appears to be playing out across the world in Asia's Bay of Bengal, where cyclones since 2013 have been forming earlier than usual - in April and May - ahead of the summer monsoon, according to a November 2021 study in Scientific Reports.

It's unclear, however, if climate change is affecting the number of hurricanes that form each year. One team of scientists recently reported detecting a rise in frequency for North Atlantic hurricanes over the last 150 years, according to their study published in December in Nature Communications. But research is still ongoing.

HOW DO HURRICANES FORM?

Hurricanes need two main ingredients — warm ocean water and moist, humid air. When warm seawater evaporates, its heat energy is transferred to the atmosphere. This fuels the storm's winds to strengthen. Without it, hurricanes can't intensify and will fizzle out.

CYCLONE, TYPHOON, HURRICANE - WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?

While technically the same phenomenon, these big storms get different names depending on where and how they were formed.

Storms that form over the Atlantic Ocean or central and eastern North Pacific are called "hurricanes" when their wind speeds reach at least 74 miles per hour (119 kilometers per hour). Up to that point, they're known as "tropical storms."

In East Asia, violent, swirling storms that form over the Northwest Pacific are called "typhoons", while "cyclones" emerge over the Indian Ocean and South Pacific.

Explainer-How climate change is fueling hurricanes
 

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at Investing.com’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
Post also to:
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's Investing.com's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Continue with Google
or
Sign up with Email