Published: Fri, June 08, 2018
Science | By Joan Schultz

Hurricanes are slowing down, wreaking havoc on coastal communities

Hurricanes are slowing down, wreaking havoc on coastal communities

A scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has found a link between global warming and the speed of hurricanes.

Kossin's work was based on details of nearly 70 years' worth of storms, but he made no attempt to determine what was causing the slowdown.

Dr Kossin came to his conclusion by studying the tropical cyclone record, which spans from 1949-2016.

They say while global warming is projected to increase the severity of the strongest tropical cyclones, warming may bring other more serious effects such as the general weakening of summertime tropical atmospheric circulation.

In the last 70 years the storms have slowed by ten per cent.

According to the research of climatologist James Kossin, the rise in global temperatures is leading to a slowdown in the speed of hurricanes and typhoons, allowing them to linger atop coastal communities and inflict more damage.

Warmer air is able to hold more water vapor through a process called the Clausius-Clapeyron relationship, which shows that the water-holding capability of air increases about 7% with each degree Celsius of warming.

"Tropical cyclones are just carried along by the wind, so it makes sense", Kossin says.

"The storms will stay in your neighbourhoods longer", he said.

Christina Patricola, a scientist with the climate and ecosystem sciences division of California's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, called Kossin's work "important and new" and says she found it "pretty convincing". "Not quite like a cork in a stream, but similar", he said.

Dr Kossin said more rain was also falling during cyclones, and there was evidence that tropical cyclones were migrating more towards the poles.

"These trends are nearly certainly increasing local rainfall totals and freshwater flooding, which is associated with very high mortality risk", he said.

But Kossin, in his paper, writes that he wouldn't expect big changes in his results due to different means of measurement, since "estimates of tropical-cyclone position should be comparatively insensitive to such changes".

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