A new University of Hawaii study has concluded that climate change is contributing to increased hurricane activity. Tim Li, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the UH at Manoa’s International Pacific Research Center, guided a study recently published in Scientific Reports examining the question: What is the impact of ocean warming on the size and destructiveness of tropical cyclones?
This year, the Atlantic hurricane season has seen a rash of historic activity between Harvey dropping up to 50 inches of rain; Irma generating talk of whether to add a category 6 to the intensity scale; and Maria strengthening from a tropical storm to a category 5 hurricane in just two days. The extreme hurricane activity has generated much speculation about the role of climate change in the progression of storms.
The new study concluded that with warmer sea surface temperatures, tropical cyclones become not only stronger, with higher maximum wind speeds, but also larger, with gale-force winds covering a greater area.
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NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Maria over Puerto Rico, taken on Sept. 20, 2017: CIRA/Flickr