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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.
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.
This year has seen many bad records broken when it comes to climate-driven severe weather. We are now several letters into the Greek alphabet for storm names having reached this point (23 so far) for only the second time since storm names began.
Why This Matters: The number of storms is not just a fun fact — it is devastating for tens of thousands of people.
Hurricane Sally, now a category 2 storm (winds at 110 mph) has slowed and intensified in the last 24 hours, with landfall now shifting to the east (fortunately away from New Orleans), but crawling toward the Eastern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida Panhandle coastline with its high winds whipping the shore, the storm surge and huge rainfall amounts are expected to last for the next 36 hours.
Why This Matters: As President Trump denies the science, which he literally did today in California, the Gulf Coast gets ready for rainfall totals measured in feet not inches.
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