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Climate Change and Hurricanes

Effects of Climate Change: Hurricanes

  • About:
    • Hurricanes, known generically as tropical cyclones, are low-pressure systems with organized thunderstorm activity that form over tropical or subtropical waters and this happens because of Climate Change.
    • Climate Change is the cause of Tropical storms are called by different names in the different regions of the world as shown in the diagram.
    • Climate Change Specifically, storms that form over the Atlantic Ocean or central and eastern North Pacific are called “hurricanes” when their wind speeds reach at least 74 miles per hour (119 kilometers per hour). Up to that point, they’re known as “tropical storms.”
  • Wind direction: The direction of circulation is different depending on where the storm is located: it is counter-clockwise in the Northern hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern hemisphere.
  • Climate Change Creates Required Conditions for Hurricane Development:
    • Ocean surface temperature must be above 26 degrees Celsius.
    • Minimum distance from the equator (Hurricanes cannot form within 5 degrees latitude of the equator, as the Coriolis force is minimum towards the equator).
    • Saturated lapse rate gradient near the center of the storm which ensures latent heat will be released at a maximum rate.
    • Low vertical wind shear, especially in the upper level of the atmosphere.
    • High relative humidity values from the surface to the mid-levels of the atmosphere.
  • How are Hurricanes Classified:
    • Hurricanes are categorized on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which rates them on a scale of 1 to 5 based on wind speed.
    • To be classified as a hurricane, a tropical cyclone must have one-minute-average maximum sustained winds at 10 m above the surface of at least 74 mph (Category 1).
    • The highest classification in the scale, Category 5, consists of storms with sustained winds of at least 157 mph
Climate Change India
Climate Change India

How Climate Change is affecting the Hurricanes?

  • Increased frequency of high intense hurricanes: With Climate Change, rising ocean temperatures intensify tropical storm wind speeds, giving them the potential to deliver more damage if they make landfall.
  • According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, over the past 40 years, the number of major hurricanes has increased while the number of smaller hurricanes has decreased.
    • NOAA also projects the proportion of hurricanes that reach the most intense levels — Category 4 or 5 — could rise by about 10% this century.
  • More precipitation: Warmer sea temperatures also cause wetter hurricanes, with 10-15 percent more precipitation, resulting in devastating floods.
  • Slower movement: Change in the atmosphere induced by Climate Change are making Hurricanes move more slowly than they previously did.
    • It leads to higher total rainfall and longer periods of high winds and storm surge in the coastal regions, resulting in more destruction.
  • Poleward shift: The warming of mid-latitudes is leading to more storms occurring at higher latitudes.
    • This northward shift has been observed in the Pacific, but not in the north Atlantic.
    • This trend is worrying for mid-latitude cities such as New York, Boston, Beijing, and Tokyo, where “infrastructure is not prepared” for such storms.
  • Temporal shift: Hurricane activity is common for North America from June through November, peaking in September. However, in the recent times, hurricanes have been forming earlier than usual.
    • The same trend appears to be playing out across the world in Asia’s Bay of Bengal, where cyclones since 2013 have been forming earlier than usual – in April and May – ahead of the summer monsoon.


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