Quantcast

Climate Change Is Already Making Hurricanes Wetter, Study Confirms

Climate
New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Getty Images

New research published in Nature Wednesday has confirmed that some of the most destructive hurricanes to pummel the U.S. in the past decade were made worse by climate change.

Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,800 people in Louisiana, Hurricane Irma, which devastated the Caribbean and southeastern U.S. last year, and Hurricane Maria, which killed nearly 3,000 in Puerto Rico, were five to 10 percent wetter because of global warming, scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found.


And it could get worse. Future projected warming would have made these devastating storms 15 to 35 percent wetter, according to a Berkeley Lab press release.

"This study adds exclamation points to the already clear message that we must slow global warming by conserving energy and switching from fossil to renewable fuels while preparing for more extreme weather to come," Rutgers University hurricane scientist Jennifer Francis, who was not involved with the research, told The Guardian.

Other studies have found the footprints of climate change on individual storms. Models projected Hurricane Florence would be 50 percent wetter due to climate change, and researchers also found that the chances of Hurricane Harvey's record water dump were made three times more likely by the warming atmosphere, but there is not yet a scientific consensus on the degree to which the changing climate has already impacted hurricanes, according to the paper's abstract.

"It is difficult to unravel how climate change may be influencing tropical cyclones using observations alone because records before the satellite-era are incomplete and natural variability in tropical cyclones is large," study author Christina Patricola said in the press release.

To try and determine that influence, Patricola and her colleague Michael Wehner ran 15 tropical cyclones from the past decade through a computer modeling different climates, from a pre-industrial climate to a worst-case scenario temperature increase of three to four degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Temperatures have already risen about one degree Celsius.

"For example, by modeling Hurricane Katrina in a pre-industrial climate and again under current conditions, and taking the difference between the results, researchers can determine what can be attributed to anthropogenic warming," the press release explained.

The researchers then considered how Katrina and the other storms would have been different if the climate was even hotter, using three different warming trajectories. While the percentage of increase varied from storm to storm, the results were remarkably consistent in terms of how the storms behaved.

"The fact that almost all of the 15 tropical cyclones responded in a similar way gives confidence in the results," Patricola said.

In addition to their findings related to rainfall, the researchers found that future warming would increase wind speed by up to 25 knots, while most storms studied would have seen wind speeds 10 to 15 knots higher.

The hurricanes modeled for this study showed no wind speed increase due to existing warming, and the study was not designed to answer the question of whether or not storms were becoming more frequent.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pexels

By Ketura Persellin

Global consumption of beef, lamb and goat is expected to rise by almost 90 percent between 2010 and 2050. But that doesn't mean you need to eat more meat. In fact, recent news from Washington gives you even less confidence in your meat: Pork inspections may be taken over by the industry itself, if a Trump administration proposal goes into effect, putting tests for deadly pathogens into the hands of line workers.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Kaitlyn Berkheiser

While enjoying an occasional alcoholic beverage is unlikely to harm your health, drinking in excess can have substantial negative effects on your body and well-being.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
MStudioImages / E+ / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Backpacking is an exciting way to explore the wilderness or travel to foreign countries on a budget.

Read More Show Less
Tim P. Whitby / 21st Century Fox / Getty Images

The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.

Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.

The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
A protest march against the Line 3 pipeline in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 18, 2018. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Collin Rees

We know that people power can stop dangerous fossil fuel projects like the proposed Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline in Minnesota, because we've proved it over and over again — and recently we've had two more big wins.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Scientists released a study showing that a million species are at risk for extinction, but it was largely ignored by the corporate news media. Danny Perez Photography / Flickr / CC

By Julia Conley

Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.

Read More Show Less
DoneGood

By Cullen Schwarz

Ethical shopping is a somewhat new phenomenon. We're far more familiar with the "tried and tested" methods of doing good, like donating our money or time.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

Summer is fast approaching, which means it's time to stock up on sunscreen to ward off the harmful effects of sun exposure. Not all sunscreens are created equally, however.

Read More Show Less