Global warming has significantly intensified the strength of hurricanes forming in the Atlantic. The warmer oceans release large amounts of heat that condensates and becomes the optimal place for hurricanes to form. The temperature in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea ranges between 28 and 30 degrees Celsius, with temperatures above 27 degrees Celsius deemed essential conditions for the formation of weather events.
The changing patterns observed for the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season have even led experts to suggest an extension of the season until 2021. With more than 25 named storms since June, there’s no doubt that climate change is making an impact. But did you know that in addition to the increased activity, hurricanes are now lasting longer over land?
In 2012, Physicist Pinaki Chakraborty moved to Okinawa, Japan just ahead of a typhoon that hit the island after forming in the Pacific. Its unusually violent nature piqued his curiosity as to how climate change has made hurricanes more destructive, leading him to conduct a study. In the initial stages, prevailing models were used to explain the evolution of landfalling hurricanes; but they failed to account for increased moisture hurricanes now store, which contributes to hurricanes lasting longer over land,
Chakraborty and his coauthor of “Slower decay of landfalling hurricanes in a warming world,” Lin Li used four models to simulate a hurricane moving inland. The temperature was adjusted beneath each storm. An analysis of data revealed that hurricanes from 50 years ago were likely to weaken by 75% within a day of landfall. Today, the weakening of a storm only occurs by 50% because storms now carry more moisture over land thus taking longer to decay.
The trend that emerged from the results spoke to the impact of warmer oceans on the movement of hurricanes. Chakraborty explained, “If you have higher sea surface temperatures, you have more moisture in the hurricane, and the more the moisture, the slower the decay because moisture is fueling a slower decay.”
Other researchers have concurred with the findings such as James Kossin, a climate scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “They make a compelling case that this is related to warmer ocean temperatures, and these can, in turn, be linked to climate change,” he said.
Chakraborty and Lin Li’s research predicted that storms which recently caused destruction across the U.S Gulf Coast are simply an indication of what is to come.
In October 2018, Category 5 Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc in Georgie causing billions of dollars in damage in economic damage. What researchers found to be interesting, was that at approximately 140 miles inland, the hurricane produced intense winds. Extensive damage was done to crops and residential buildings. The study made reference to the slow yet forceful movement of Hurricane Michael to indicate that they are expected to last longer inland, as they are no longer confined to coastal areas.
The study has been a step forward in showing how countries need to adapt to the evolving hurricane patterns, especially inland communities. Matters of building codes and protection of crops need to be prioritized for the livelihood of citizens ahead of impact.