A new study finds that the Atlantic coast of the United States has become a breeding ground for supercharged hurricanes that will likely hit coastal communities even more if the world remains addicted to fossil fuels.
Global warming from greenhouse gas emissions from burning oil, gas and coal is the main contributing factor to the increase in severe storms and floods affecting the East Coast of the United States over the past four decades. rapid condensation The storms rapidly increased in strength and it became increasingly difficult to provide timely warnings and evacuation orders to residents.
A warming planet is poised to bring hurricanes that intensify faster, and with them, increased flood risks to East Coast communities that modeling suggests will only get worse without drastic action to reduce greenhouse gases. According to the study Published in Geophysical Research Letters.
“The near-shore environment has become more favorable for hurricanes near the Atlantic coast, and this is very consistent with the intensification of hurricanes that we observed in the area,” said Karthik Balagoro, a climate scientist and lead author. “Our findings have profound implications for coastal populations, and for policy and decision makers.”
By analyzing storm activity and the conditions that formed them, the researchers found that rates of rapid hurricane buildup near the US Atlantic coast increased dramatically between 1979 and 2018.
The Atlantic coast has a unique combination of environmental conditions not found in the Gulf of Mexico, another hurricane hotspot, which makes the eastern US states particularly vulnerable to intense storms and humidity, according to researchers from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Last month , Hurricane Ian It killed at least 126 people and caused widespread flooding and infrastructure damage in Florida after switching from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane within 24 hours. Storms that intensify near the shoreline pose a more serious threat to life, land, and property, as rising seas mean storms increase and reach further inland.
For a storm to erupt forcefully or experience rapid intensification, it requires near-perfect environmental conditions that don’t happen often. But the ingredients for it The perfect storm recipe The researchers found that — a warm ocean surface, high humidity, low wind shear and air circulation (vortex) — are becoming increasingly common as greenhouse gas emissions build up.
One of the main factors is that as the planet warms, the difference in temperature between land and water has widened.
As air pressure rises above the cooler sea inland toward areas of warmer, lower pressure, Earth’s rotation directs these winds in a circular cyclonic direction, sucking up warm, moist air and converting its energy into destructive winds. As the moist air inside the hurricane’s core rises and cools upward, the water vapor condenses and releases heat, further activating the storm.
Warmer Earth temperatures reinforce this twisting motion that pulls moist air upward, while warmer sea surfaces—also a product of warming greenhouse gases—add more moisture, a critical component of condensation.
Another important factor is wind shearwhich measures the strength and direction of the winds in the upper atmosphere.
The findings build on previous studies that found that increased variability in land and sea temperature is also associated with changing precipitation and drought patterns. “This study adds an important new finding – changes in the behavior of hurricanes in coastal areas that could affect large populations worldwide,” said Robby Leung, an atmospheric scientist and co-author.
Ian was one of the most powerful storms to hit the American coast, but not the deadliest.
In 2017 in Puerto RicoHurricane Maria, which caused the longest power outage in US history and killed 3,000 people, intensified from a Category 1 hurricane to a Category 5 hurricane in just 15 hours. According to the study, the same mixture of pro-cyclone conditions could form in many other regions, including areas near the East Asian coast and northwest of the Arabian Sea.
Projections using several climate models indicate that the destructive trend appears to continue unless fossil fuels are phased out. “What we saw is likely related to climate change,” Balagoro said. “Natural variability plays a role, but to a lesser extent.”