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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Human-induced climate change making hurricanes wetter

Researchers found spikes in rainfall in both 3-hour and 3-day increments.

(CN) — Hourly rainfall amounts during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season — already one of the most active on record — spiked by 10% thanks to human-caused climate change, according to a new study.

According to a study by Kevin Reed, associate professor and associate dean for research in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stonybrook University, and his colleagues published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, the heavier rainfall across the 30 named storms of the 2020 hurricane season stemmed from spikes in the surface temperatures of nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit across the Atlantic.

The study authors also found a 5% increase in extreme 3-day accumulated rainfall amounts and pegged the human-induced effects for hurricane strength-storms at 11% and 8%, respectively. The authors believe that the increase in surface temperature affected the level of storm intensity and occurrence. However, they are also quick to note that they are still attempting to figure out all the factors and how they affected hurricane season.

“There is a lot of prophecies in the climate and earth system that impact tropical cyclogenesis development,” Reed said in a phone interview, referring to the term meaning storms that form in different environments for different reasons. Reed added the method he and his colleagues used in the study is one way they looked at the thermodynamic impact on storm rainfall.

Furthermore, the authors believe that the increased rainfall during hurricane season will have direct consequences for coastal communities. According to Reed, coastal communities typically see three to five inches of rain during a three-hour period. An additional half-inch of rain on top of an already substantial amount of rain “could be a house flooding, a basement flooding, a business flooding, a dam or a levy failing. A 10% change in rainfall can lead to a larger change in flood levels," he said.

As the 2022 hurricane season gears up, Reed said, “This study suggests that going forward the rainfall associated with hurricane season will continue to increase as the global surface temperature increases."

Reed said the study is one of many by different modeling groups and centers all over the world. When asked if there is one thing the public should understand from this study, Reed said that it, like many others, showed “climate change is here”.

“The impact on our weather is already occurring,” he added, “so this isn’t something for the end of the century. We’ve seen over a 1⁰ C increase in the global average surface temperature over the last 150-plus years, and that has impacted the weather we experienced”.

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Categories / Environment, Science

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