Can Climate Change Slow Down Hurricanes?

Can Climate Change Slow Down Hurricanes?

Scientists warn that climate change will slow the movement of hurricanes, resulting in storms hitting areas with strong winds and heavy rains for a longer amount of time.

The prediction stems from meteorological data collected since 1950, along with readings from recent storms and future simulations.

The models suggest a the rise in global temperatures would create strong currents that blow through mid-latitude areas and push toward the poles.

Combined with weaker mid-latitude weather perturbations, storms along the US eastern seaboard and in populated areas in Asia could slow down by two miles per hour.

The analysis was led by climatologist Gan Zhang from Princeton University who said: ‘This is the first study we are aware of that combines physical interpretation and robust modeling evidence to show that future anthropogenic warming could lead to a significant slowing of hurricane motion.’

The team gathered climate trends that were spotted since 1950 and selected six potential warming patterns for the global climate.

They then ran 15 different possible initial conditions on each of the six patterns and came up with 90 possible futures.

When Zhang and his colleges ran the 90 simulations, they told the computers to assume that global carbon dioxide levels have quadrupled and the planet’s average temperature has risen by about 39 degrees Fahrenheit.

This warming level was chosen because experts have predicted it would reach this point at the turn on the century if humans do not take action to limit the use of fossil fuels.

‘Our simulations suggest that future anthropogenic warming could lead to a significant slowing of hurricane motion, particularly in some populated mid-latitude regions,’ Zhang said.

The data revealed that the storms’ forward motion would slow by about 2 miles per hour, which is about 10 to 20 percent of the current typical speeds, at latitudes near Japan and New York City.

Zhang touched on the powerful storm Hurricane Harvey that barreled through the Atlantic and up into Texas and Louisiana in 2017.

It caused catastrophic flooding, killed 68 and cost the area $125 billion in damages.

One reason the storm was so destructive is because it moved slower and stayed over land longer, which is a point discovered by Zhang’s models.

Suzana Camargo, the Marie Tharp Lamont Research Professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who was not involved in this research, said: ‘Since the occurrence of Hurricane Harvey, there has been a huge interest in the possibility that anthropogenic climate change has been contributing to a slow down in the movement of hurricanes.’

Zhang found that the rise in temperatures would cause westerlies, which are strong currents that blow through mid-latitude areas and push toward the poles.

These can come with weaker mid-latitude weather perturbations – all of this can result in a slow down of storms in populated areas in Asia and the eastern seaboard along the US.

‘In the debate between ‘Everything is caused by climate change’ and ‘Nothing is caused by climate change’ — what we are doing here is trying to offer that maybe not everything can be immediately attributed to climate change, but the opposite is not right, either,’ Zhang said.

‘We do offer some evidence that there could be a slowdown of translational motion in response to a future warming on the order of 4 degrees Celsius.

‘Our findings are backed by physics, as captured by our climate models, so that’s a new perspective that offers more confidence than we had before.’

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