Friday, 17 August, 2018

Hurricanes are traveling more slowly - which makes them even more risky

Hurricanes Are Lingering Longer. That Makes Them More Dangerous. Hurricanes Are Slowing Down and Leaving More Damage When They Hit Land
Elijah Vega | 08 June, 2018, 21:10

He said Hurricane Harvey in Texas past year was a dramatic example of the consequences of a slow-moving or "stalled" tropical cyclone.

Looking at data since 1949, a government climate scientist calculates that storms in the last few years are moving about 10 percent slower globally than they were 60 years ago.

"The unprecedented rainfall totals associated with the "stall" of Hurricane Harvey over Texas in 2017 provide a notable example of the relationship between regional rainfall" and hurricane speed, wrote the study's author, James P. Kossin of the NOAA's Center for Weather and Climate in Madison, Wisconsin. It's 20 percent when storms reached land.

"We've kind of hypothesized that this type of behavior may happen, this slowing down of the forward speed of the cyclones", said Colin Zarzycki, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research who has reviewed at Kossin's study.

Tropical cyclones have slowed more in the Northern Hemisphere, which is significant because that is where a majority of storms occur each year.

Although commending the study for its findings, she said it is not without its limitations.

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"Roughly 7 percent more water vapor per degree C of warming", Kossin said.

The trend has all the signs of human-caused climate change, Kossin said. Given that storms in some regions are migrating poleward and already increasing in intensity, cyclones delivering unusually powerful bouts of rain may threaten places not normally in their path. "Not quite like a cork in a stream, but similar", he said.

But Kossin, in his paper, writes that he wouldn't expect big changes in his results due to different means of measurement, since "estimates of tropical-cyclone position should be comparatively insensitive to such changes".

"These trends are nearly certainly increasing local rainfall totals and freshwater flooding, which is associated with very high mortality risk", he said.

While the new research suggests hurricanes and typhoons are slowing down over time, more work needs to be done to improve prediction models for how hurricanes may behave in the future. "And when you start getting more and more lines of evidence that all point in the same direction, you get more confident in the answers".

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