You Can Totally Thank Climate Change for Future Mutant Hurricanes

The duration and strength of storms has increased by 50 percent over the last three decades.

hurricane
Due to climate change, hurricanes like this will pack an increasingly deadly punch. (NOAA Handout/Reuters)
A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.

There’s been an ongoing debate in scientific circles and among environmentalists about whether global warming is causing more hurricanes. No one has wanted to rush to any conclusions one way or the other.

The Union of Concerned Scientists stated in 2010 that, “Statistically, an individual hurricane is like a single at-bat for a baseball player, while conclusions about how climate change affects hurricanes is like calculating a baseball player’s batting average. Scientists draw meaningful conclusions from analyzing many storms over many decades.”

Now, in a pretty emphatic manner, The Independent reports today that, “Scientists have found support for the controversial idea that global warming is causing more frequent and destructive hurricanes.”

MORE: Climate Change Whiplash: 71% of Americans Now Link Extreme Weather to Global Warming

“Data gathered from tide gauges, which monitor the rapid changes to sea levels caused by storm surges, show a significant link between both the frequency and intensity of tropical storms and increases in annual temperatures since the tidal records began in 1923 . . . Although scientists were not able to prove that climate change is causing more large hurricanes, they believe the study is consistent with the predictions that global warming and warmer seas could bring about more intense tropical storms.”

These new findings are probably to be expected since even back in 2005 National Geographic was pondering a study in the journal Nature which “found that hurricanes and typhoons have become stronger and longer-lasting over the past 30 years. These upswings correlate with a rise in sea surface temperatures. The duration and strength of hurricanes have increased by about 50 percent over the last three decades, according to study author Kerry Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” 

And just last month, Mother Nature Network stated, “Hurricanes are often seen as heralds of global warming, which makes sense. They're fueled by warm seawater, and the warming of Earth's oceans coincides with a recent spike in hurricane activity. Plus, scientists have grown increasingly confident that global warming—caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, including those emitted by human activities—raises the risk of severe weather.”

Further, they add that there’s an often overlooked aspect of hurricanes, which is the floods that occur from heavy rainfall. They note that with both Hurricane Irene in 2011, and Hurricane Isaac in 2012, rain was the deadliest part of the storms. MNN quotes Thomas Knutson, a research meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, saying, "Anthropogenic warming by the end of the 21st century will likely cause hurricanes to have substantially higher rainfall rates than present-day hurricanes.”

The Independent notes that when the scientists reviewed the daily tide levels in United States (looking at the ones mentioned above that went back to 1923) they found there was a close correlation between sudden changes in sea level and historical accounts of tropical storms.

One of the scientists, Aslak Grinsted of the Niels Bohr Institute at Copenhagen University, makes it all sound simple in the end: “We simply counted how many extreme cyclones with storm surges there were in warm years compared with cold years and we could see that there was a tendency for more cyclones in warmer years.”

Do you think the results of this latest research supports the idea that global warming is causing more hurricanes?

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Lawrence Karol is a writer and editor who lives with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet staffer and enjoys writing about design, food, travel and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence | TakePart.co
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