Warmer Waters Drive Hurricanes Farther North

Warmer Waters Drive Hurricanes Farther North

When the 2021 hurricane season ended in November last year, it was the third most active on record. Of the 21 named storms, most formed and if they made landfall, came ashore at lower latitudes. But according to a new study in Nature, warmer ocean surface temperatures due to climate change could push hurricanes farther north of the equator.

"Places like New York, which are not in the deep tropics, have always had hurricanes, but only rarely," Joshua Studholme, a Yale University climate physicist and the lead author of the study, told the Wall Street Journal. "The climatology is changing and that is likely to be a shock."

Why This Matters

Climate change will introduce new extreme weather challenges -- like hurricanes -- to places that have only dealt with them as an anomaly before. An increased range of places where storms can hit means an increase in the number of people and places possibly impacted by storm surges, wind damage, and flooding. As the study authors write in their abstract, this poses "profound risks to the planet’s most populous regions."

AP: ​​Climate Change - Why Bigger Storms Hit More Often, November 1, 2021.

Stronger for Longer

In addition to forming at higher latitudes, hurricanes fueled by climate change are expected to linger for longer. The longest-lasting storms, according to a study last year, will be active for twice as long as storms today. This means longer periods of intense rainfall and wind, and in turn, greater damage.

Guardian: Climate change is making floods worse - here's how, October 19, 2021.

Back to the Future

According to the study the last time hurricanes formed in more northern latitudes was during the Pliocene Epoch 5.3 million and 2.6 million years ago. The time period has been identified as one of the best comparisons for the coming climate change future in terms of global temperature and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

NBC LX: How Hurricanes Are Formed - And How Climate Change Makes Them Worse, August 23, 2021.

CBS 8 San Diego: Climate change affecting hurricanes, July 6, 2021.