NOAA: A warmer world is making hurricanes stronger

Hurricane Dorian courtesy CNN

This week, with near-record highs every day, it might seem like we’re always talking about a warmer world -- and we are. This year is now expected to be in the top five warmest years for the world and we’re not even halfway through it!

Scientifically, in a warmer world, it only stands to reason that the fuel for hurricanes, which is warmer water, will create stronger storms -- and it is.

Last Monday, a study of 40 years of data was released examining satellite information to determine stronger hurricanes over the period, in line with yearly warmer temperatures. The paper’s lead author, James Kossin, is a NOAA scientist based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Interestingly, the more fine-tuned satellites become, the more revealing these studies become: he released a paper in 2013 examining more pole-ward moving hurricanes indicating that northern parts of the country are more at hurricane risk (remember Hurricane Sandy in 2012?) and his paper in 2018 proposed that hurricanes are slower-moving over land due to a warmer world thereby causing more flooding (e.g. Harvey in 2017).

Hurricane Harvey courtesy Getty Images

In more recent years, the enormous strength of Hurricanes like Irma, Dorian and Michael certainly attests to a correlation between their strength and the year-after-year record warm global temperatures (especially since 2014).

What I found interesting about the paper, as much as anything, is the assertive headline, which doesn’t mince words: Long-term data show hurricanes are getting stronger

The article I read never actually puts the two words “global warming” together, which I find interesting as that phrase can be divisive. You can draw your own conclusions and read more about this paper right here.

The National Hurricane Center will release its 2020 hurricane forecast tomorrow and we’ll be covering that. I’ll break it down in my blog Friday.


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About the Author:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.