The worsening climate crisis means the United States’ Atlantic coast is “becoming a breeding ground” for rapidly intensifying hurricanes, which not only grow faster, but hold more water and are capable of causing more damage, new research warns
Without urgent action to tackle rising global emissions of greenhouse gases, the already hurricane-battered coastline is on course to see a future marked by increasingly destructive storms, the researchers, from the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, said.
Using data on hurricanes which have hit the Atlantic coast over the past four decades, the team found the rates at which hurricanes strengthen near the US Atlantic Coast have climbed since 1979.
As governments around the world continue to plan for significant fossil fuel reliance, the scientists have warned that “this trend is likely to continue”.
Climate scientist Karthik Balaguru, said global warming is on course to bring hurricanes that intensify quicker and, with them, a heightened risk of flooding to the US’s Atlantic Coast.
“Our findings have profound implications for coastal residents, decision- and policy-makers,” Dr Balaguru said.
“And this isn’t specific only to the Atlantic. It’s happening in several prominent coastal regions across the world.”
The research team said their work aims to understand why some storms, such as Hurricane Ian, whose extensive damage is still being assessed but is among the strongest to approach the US coast, can suddenly turn severe.
Supercharged by hurricane-friendly conditions like a warmer sea surface or greater atmospheric humidity, they can rapidly intensify, sometimes rapidly jumping multiple categories over short time periods.
Because of the speed at which they build, such hurricanes don’t match the predictions of the forecasting community’s best tools.
So research teams are now working to better anticipate and understand the conditions that drive rapid hurricane intensification.