Science

Is climate change making hurricanes worse?

In some ways, yes

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Every year between May 15 and November 30, the world braces for hurricane season (the Atlantic hurricane season, which affects the US, starts June 1)

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The Congressional Budget Office estimates that annual damage from hurricane winds and subsequent flooding costs the US $54 billion.

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That number breaks down to $34 billion in losses to individual households, $9 billion to commercial businesses, and $12 billion to the public sector.

Considering that Earth’s atmosphere has been warming at an alarming rate for decades, one question always comes to mind.

Will climate change make hurricanes worse?

Studies have shown that while hurricane frequency may remain unchanged (or even decrease), the strength of hurricanes has been growing.

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Hurricanes get their strength from warm water, which allows them to hold moisture, and calm winds, which protects the storm from breaking up.

A 2020 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that hurricanes have grown in strength since 1979.

The scientists showed that the likelihood of a hurricane developing into a Category 3 (with sustained wind speeds from 111-129mph) has risen about 8% per year.

A warmer world may also allow hurricanes to hold more rain, which often causes the most devastating damage with flooding.

As was the case with Hurricanes Harvey and Maria in 2017.

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Multiple studies have found an increased likelihood of catastrophic levels of rainfall since the late 20th century, according to Yale Climate Connections.

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As the effects of climate change are becoming more apparent, it's even more crucial for countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in clean energy.

Check out more of Inverse's climate change coverage here.

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