Tropical Cyclones Becoming Less Frequent, More Intense Globally

Tropical Cyclones Becoming Less Frequent, More Intense Globally

New research that uses digital modeling to generate a picture of the atmosphere as far back as 1850 has given scientists a longer timeline to establish patterns and changes of tropical cyclones (including hurricanes, tropical storms, and typhoons) in relation to climate change. The study results show a global decline in frequency of 13%, but an increased intensity in the storms that have formed over the last century. Storms in the North Atlantic are the exception, where activity and intensity have risen.

Warmer temperatures have shifted global atmospheric circulation patterns so it’s less likely the storms will form, the researchers posit, but “once a tropical cyclone forms, there is a lot of fuel in the atmosphere,” study co-author Savin Chand, an atmospheric scientist at Federation University Australia, told Scientific American.

Al Jazeera: Philippines Super Typhoon Rai | Intensity blamed on climate change, December 28, 2021.

ABC: By the Numbers | Climate change’s impact on hurricanes, April 12, 2022.

Why This Matters

Cyclones can cause widespread damage, displace people from their homes, and lead to property damage that takes time and resources to rebuild. These storms “are no doubt one of the costliest natural disasters everywhere," Chand told CNN. The stronger cyclones are part of the broader category of storms intensified by climate change that is projected to displace 200 million people in the next two decades.

The research contributes to a better understanding of the impact of global warming on cyclones -- including a recent upward trend in the North Atlantic, borne out by recent highly active seasons.

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Spotlight on China: South China becomes flooded, resembles an ocean, May 13, 2022.

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

Active Atlantic Hurricane Season Projected

This year’s hurricane season is predicted to be above average, according to NOAA’s annual forecast. The agency expects this year to bring 14 to 21 named storms (for perspective: 14 storms is an average year). Of the total, as many as six could be Category 3 or higher. There are currently three tropical systems in the Atlantic, the most robust of which could generate windspeeds earning it the name: Bonnie.

The past seven years have been above-average hurricane seasons. The most active hurricane season on record was 2020, with seven hurricanes worldwide and eleven tropical storms in the US alone.

FOX 61: Climate change's effect on hurricanes, June 13, 2022.

KVUE: NOAA Predicts Active 2022 Hurricane Season, May 26, 2022.

ABC: Rainfall from climate change could affect economic growth: Study, January 12, 2022.