Study: Climate warming to boost major hurricanes in active Atlantic seasons

September 27, 2018
During one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons in recent years, three simultaneous hurricanes were captured by the Suomi-NPP satellite on September 8, 2017. The appearance of Katia (left), Irma (center), and Jose (right) was the first such occurrence since 2010. All three hurricanes were threatening land at the time.

New NOAA research looking at the devastating 2017 Atlantic hurricane season projects that should similar weather conditions occur in the future, it’s likely the number of major hurricanes (category 3 and higher) would increase by two in a similar active year at the end of century.

This increase would be driven by predicted climate warming, according to the research appearing today in Scienceoffsite link.

Last year’s six major Atlantic hurricanes included landfalling hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria that unleashed destruction on and caused loss of life in communities across Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. The three hurricanes caused an estimated $265 billion in damages during a year that shattered all records for U.S. economic losses due to severe weather.

Global model identifies climate influence

Using a high-resolution global climate model called HiFLOR developed at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), scientists were able to accurately predict the active hurricane season in June 2017. Scientists then conducted additional experiments with HiFLOR that found it was a remarkably warm tropical Atlantic Ocean, relative to the global tropical ocean, which was the main driver of 2017 hurricane activity.

“This new method allows us to predict hurricane activity as the season is happening, as well as take into consideration the likely contribution of climate warming,” said Hiroyuki Murakami, the lead author of the study and a climate researcher at NOAA’s GFDL.

NOAA scientists use ocean temperature data showing the relative warmth of the tropical Atlantic to help create vital hurricane season outlooks.



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