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.

Up Next

NOAA Predicts It’s Going To Be An Active Hurricane Season

NOAA Predicts It’s Going To Be An Active Hurricane Season

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA) is forecasting a likely range of 13 to 19 named storms, of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes and 3 to 6 become major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or higher. The forecast is due to cooler ocean conditions in the Pacific and warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

Why This Matters:  It could be a disastrous summer. The new climate normal on top of the COVID-19 pandemic will make things challenging everywhere.

Continue Reading 515 words

Mass Evacuations in Michigan After Dams Collapse

After suffering record-breaking heavy rains, the Central Michigan city of Midland experienced a catastrophic 2-dam collapse along the Tittabawassee River yesterday evening. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency and expressed that “In the next 12 to 15 hours, downtown Midland could be under approximately nine feet of water.” Whitmer also urged people […]

Continue Reading 213 words
First Named Storm of the Season – Tropical Storm Arthur – Heads for NC Coast

First Named Storm of the Season – Tropical Storm Arthur – Heads for NC Coast

Hurricane season does not officially start until June 1, but the first named storm of the season is arriving early — Tropical Storm Arthur is expected to graze or even come ashore along North Carolina’s Outer Banks later today. 

Why This Matters:  The state of North Carolina has been battered by storms over the last few years.

Continue Reading 461 words