Researchers Confirm that Climate Change is Making Hurricanes Stronger

Image: NASA/Nick Hague

An important new study out this week from researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Wisconsin at Madison reveals that hurricanes are getting stronger, just as climate models have predicted.

As the New York Times explained, the analysis, of satellite images dating to 1979, shows that warming has increased the likelihood of a hurricane developing into a major one of Category 3 or higher, with sustained winds greater than 110 miles an hour, by about 8% per decade.

Why This Matters: Attribution science is still a nascent field in many respects. And for hurricanes, while we can logically assume that warming oceans create stronger storms, finding direct causality through data is a more difficult task. Despite this, scientists have repeatedly warned lawmakers that action on climate change is critical in mitigating powerful storms. But, as HuffPost wrote, this the new analysis is perhaps the clearest evidence to date that the crisis is already intensifying tropical storm systems.

Meanwhile: Tropical Cyclone Amphan has strengthened with winds topping 260 kph (or 160 mph) and is set to become the largest storm ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal.

The Data: NOAA scientist James Kossin explained to CNET that the study is “a good step forward and increases our confidence that global warming has made hurricanes stronger,”

adding that, “but our results don’t tell us precisely how much of the trends are caused by human activities and how much may be just natural variability.”

Learning the Lesson: We have to take the science seriously and address the climate crisis otherwise we will continue to spend billions of dollars each year responding to hurricanes rather than working to limit their effects.

As BBC’s Amanda Ruggeri wrote,

But natural disasters aren’t aberrations. They’re all-too-frequent occurrences – ones that, if anything, are becoming more damaging. And thinking about each one in isolation each time it happens has a dangerous, even deadly, effect: it discourages us from adequately preparing for them to begin with.

Action on our part can’t wait especially because the 2020 Atlantic hurricane is predicted to be above average. As storms get bigger and carry more water, the cost of inaction is quite literally lost lives.

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