Stronger and Longer Hurricanes that make Landfall!

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The Nature journal has reported hurricanes that move from the warm oceans onto land, are stronger and stick around for longer, causing more damage.

Research has shown that Hurricanes developing over warmer seas are carrying much more moisture. This moisture essentially acts as fuel for the hurricanes to keep spinning, even when the natural fuel source of the ocean is not available. This means that they are more powerful and travel further when they do hit land. This is bad news for cities & towns in hurricane-struck areas, who thought they may be safe due to being far enough from the coast. The likelihood is the hurricanes may have enough power to travel further and wreak havoc in these areas too, as well as those lying directly on the coast. Professor Pinaki Chakraborty from Okinawa Science & Technology University (OIST) describes:

The implications are huge, especially when you consider policies that are put in place to cope with global warming.

We know that coastal areas need be ready for stronger hurricanes, but more inland communities, who may not have the knowledge or infrastructure to cope with such intense winds and rain, also need to be prepared!

Professor Pinaki Chakraborty, Senior Author of the Fluid Mechanics unit at OIST
Hurricanes are set to travel further inland with more strength, thanks to warmer oceans

The Research

Many studies have shown that climate change is intensifying hurricanes, which are known as cyclones or typhoons depending on the region of the world you are in. However, this is the first investigation to establish a clear link between global warming and the smaller number of hurricanes that have hit land and continued to cause damage.

Scientists analyzed North Atlantic hurricanes that made landfall over the past half a century. They found that during the course of the first day after landfall, hurricanes weakened twice as slowly now than they did half a century ago! They tested the link between the surface temperature of the sea temperature and slower storm weakening on land by creating computer models of four different hurricanes and setting different temperatures for the sea surface.

Once each virtual hurricane reached a category 4 storm in strength, the scientists simulated it hitting land by cutting off the supply of moisture from beneath. It was found that even though each simulated hurricane made landfall at the same strength, the ones that had developed over warmer water took longer to weaken.

The scientists now plan on extending their study to other parts of the world. They want to understand if warmer seas elsewhere in the globe are also seeing longer lasting hurricanes with more strength once landfall has been made.

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