Building in Intensity
The New York Times is reporting
that hurricanes are expected to increase in intensity throughout the century so that they will be a half-point stronger on the five-point scale by 2080. This increase would represent an 18 percent increase in average rainfall within 100 km of the storm centers, a 6 percent increase in maximum surface wind speed, and a 14 percent decrease in atmospheric pressure at the center of the storms. No big surprise here as it has long been understood that global climate change was likely to produce stronger storms. Warmer waters and higher temperatures in the Sahara mean more energy is being added to the systems that produce hurricanes. What is significant is that this finding is the result of a comprehensive analysis of a half dozen climate simulations from institutions around the world.
As Florida has brutally learned this year, the trend of relatively quiet storm seasons that has persisted over the last 30 years has ended. While this study is independent of the normal cycle of lulls and increases in hurricane activity. What this study suggests, though, is that if we are moving into a more active storm cycle, then the storms are likely to be even stronger than what previous storms.
Also, much has been made of Florida being hit with four storms, so far, this season. No state has been hit by four storms since Texas in the late 19th Century. Considering Florida’s geographic location between the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, I find it hard to believe that this is so unusual. It is probably more reflective of the limited data set (only some 150 years) that we have for comparing hurricane seasons.
The study was published in The Journal of Climate
by the federal Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory