Some storms, such as Hurricane Ian, whose significant damage is still being analyzed but is among the fiercest to reach the United States coast, can quickly turn severe. Conditions that help hurricanes, like a warmer sea surface or more humidity in the air, can make them grow quickly, sometimes jumping up several categories in a short amount of time.
Due to their rapid intensification, these hurricanes can evade even the most sophisticated forecasting models.
The new study shows that conditions that lead to hurricanes are becoming more common along the Atlantic Coast of the United States. Warming, according to the authors, is the key to understanding this changing ecosystem.
In a new study, scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy find that the Atlantic Coast of the U.S. is becoming a place where hurricanes grow quickly stronger.
“The nearshore environment has absolutely become more favorable for hurricanes near the Atlantic Coast,” said climate scientist Karthik Balaguru, “and that’s very consistent with the rising hurricane intensification we’ve observed in the region.”
New research reveals that near the already hurricane-ravaged coastline, hurricanes are becoming wetter and intensifying at a faster rate as a result of climate change-fueled climatic factors that spawn increasingly violent storms.
Using data describing the past four decades of hurricane activity and the factors that generated them, researchers have determined that the rate at which storms strengthen near the Atlantic Coast of the United States has increased since 1979. Looking into a future characterized by continuous reliance on fossil fuels, the team concludes that this tendency is likely to continue.
According to Balaguru, as the world gets warmer, hurricanes will get stronger more quickly, which will increase the risk of flooding on the U.S. Atlantic Coast.
“Our findings have profound implications for coastal residents, decision- and policy-makers,” added Balaguru. “And this isn’t specific only to the Atlantic. It’s happening in several prominent coastal regions across the world.”
The team of Balaguru discovered that a singular coastal phenomenon stands at the heart of the intense hurricane activity. This phenomena finally renders the shoreline more favorable for storm development due to a combination of environmental factors.
The Gulf of Mexico, which the team investigated, did not exhibit the same combination of hurricane-favoring circumstances. However, they could also develop in a variety of other locations, such as those close to the coasts of East Asia and the northwest Arabian Sea.
By taking the average of the results from several climate models, the team was able to reduce the “noise” caused by natural changes in Earth’s climate system. After comparing models, the clear and unambiguous signal of climate change remained predominant.
“The spatial patterns of change we’re seeing are consistent across models,” said Balaguru, “and that means that what we have seen is likely related to climate change. Natural variability does play a role, but to a lesser degree.”
There could be more and bigger temperature differences between the land and the sea in other coastal areas. Even though this study only looked at the northern hemisphere, according to Balaguru, one might anticipate that the same thing will occur on southern hemisphere beaches. He said that since there are more storms in the northern hemisphere, the effect will probably be more noticeable there.
The temperature differences between the land and the water have additional effects.
“For example, they have been associated with increasing aridity over land and changing seasonality of precipitation in some regions,” said atmospheric scientist Ruby Leung. “Considering the land-sea warming contrast, this study adds a new and important consequence: changes to hurricane behavior in coastal regions that could affect large populations around the world.”
The new study appeared in Geophysical Research Letters today.
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