Explained: Is climate change fuelling hurricanes?

After a relatively quiet start to the season, Hurricane Fiona hit the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, leaving more than 1 million people without electricity and running water.

Thousands of homes and businesses lost power after the storm battered Canada’s east coast on Saturday.

Although scientists have yet to conclude that climate change has affected Fiona’s behavior or severity, there is compelling evidence that these cataclysmic storms are getting worse.

Is climate change affecting hurricanes?

Yes, hurricanes are becoming wetter, windier, and generally stronger as a result of climate change. In addition, there is evidence that it slows down storms, allowing them to dump more water in one place.

Climate change would have caused the earth to get much hotter if it weren’t for the oceans. However, over the past 40 years, the ocean has absorbed 90% of the warming caused by emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Most of this ocean heat is concentrated near the surface of the water. This additional heat can result in stronger winds and increased storm intensity.

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Additionally, a storm’s ability to produce more rain may increase due to climate change. A warmer environment can hold more moisture, so water vapor accumulates until clouds form and raindrops are released, sending heavy rain down.

“Season” for hurricanes is changing

The normal “season” for hurricanes is changing as a result of climate change, with more months of the year becoming storm-friendly. Additionally, hurricanes make landfall in places that deviate greatly from the historical norm.

With over 120 direct impacts since 1851, Florida has experienced the most hurricanes in the United States. However, certain storms are becoming more intense and land further north than in the past; this poleward shift could be caused by increases in global air and sea temperatures, scientists say.

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According to Florida State University atmospheric scientist Allison Wing, this trend is worrying for mid-latitude cities like New York, Boston, Beijing and Tokyo because their “infrastructure is unprepared for such storms.”

However, whether climate change will affect storm frequency is uncertain. According to a study published in Nature Communications in December, a group of experts recently claimed to have noticed an increase in the frequency of storms in the North Atlantic over the past 150 years. However, the further study is carried out.

How do hurricanes form?

Warm seawater and moist, humid air are the two key components needed for hurricanes. Warm seawater evaporates, releasing thermal energy into the atmosphere. The winds of the storm will become stronger as a result. Without them, hurricanes cannot get any stronger and eventually die off.

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Cyclone, typhoon, hurricane – what’s the difference?

These large storms have different names depending on where and how they originated, although in theory they are the same phenomenon.

When storms developing over the Atlantic or the central and eastern North Pacific reach wind speeds of at least 74 miles per hour, they are referred to as “hurricanes” (119 kilometers per hour). Up to this point they are referred to as “tropical storms”.

East Asia typhoons are the designation for wild, swirling storms that develop over the Northwest Pacific, while “cyclones” develop over the Indian Ocean and South Pacific.

(with contributions from agencies)

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