More nasty hurricanes to hit US coasts as climate change alters air patterns, predicts study

The storms hitting the U.S. coast will probably rise by one-third by the end of the century under the worst-case warming scenario.
Baba Tamim
Stock photo: Tropical hurricane approaching the US.
Stock photo: Tropical hurricane approaching the US.


The east and Gulf coasts of the United States will likely experience more frequent and stronger hurricanes as a result of changes in air patterns as the planet warms, with Florida being the region most in danger, warns a new study. 

This study focuses on the key issue of where hurricanes are headed, while earlier studies have anticipated how climate change will alter the frequency, severity, and moisture of tropical storms.

Karthik Balaguru, the lead author and a climate scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, said that due to changes in the steering currents, "around every coast, they're kind of pushing the storms closer to the U.S."

Balaguru continued by pointing out that whereas on the East Coast, the typical west-to-east steering is significantly diminished and can even be more east-to-west, the steering currents around the Gulf of Mexico flow from south to north.

According to the study, the number of times a storm hits the U.S. coast will probably rise by one-third by the end of the century under the worst-case warming scenario. Hurricanes are anticipated to have the greatest impact on the central and southern Florida Peninsula.

The findings are supported by sophisticated storm and climate simulations, including one that was created by researchers.

Study limitations

Given that numerous analyses indicate that the global growth in carbon pollution has halted, climate experts disagree on the value of concentrating on the worst-case scenarios.

The amount of warming isn't as important a component, according to Balaguru, because his study focuses more on steering adjustments than strength.

According to the study, these alterations in steering currents will result from changes in air currents linked to warming in the eastern Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America.

Models indicate that the eastern Pacific region is warming more quickly than other sections of the world, which are experiencing varying rates of global warming.

The study has limitations and is missing several important aspects, according to atmospheric scientist Kristen Corbosiero of the University of Albany, who was not involved in the study. 

It implies a global trend toward more El Nino events, which is a natural warming of the central Pacific that affects weather worldwide and reduces Atlantic hurricane activity, and it ignores the crucial element of where hurricanes are born.

The study was first published in Science Advances on Friday.

Study abstract

Several pathways for how climate change may influence the U.S. coastal hurricane risk have been proposed, but the physical mechanisms and possible connections between various pathways remain unclear. Here, future projections of hurricane activity (1980–2100), downscaled from multiple climate models using a synthetic hurricane model, show an enhanced hurricane frequency for the Gulf and lower East coast regions. The increase in coastal hurricane frequency is driven primarily by changes in steering flow, which can be attributed to the development of an upper-level cyclonic circulation over the western Atlantic. The latter is part of the baroclinic stationary Rossby waves forced mainly by increased diabatic heating in the eastern tropical Pacific, a robust signal across the multimodel ensemble. Last, these heating changes also play a key role in decreasing wind shear near the U.S. coast, further aggravating coastal hurricane risk enhanced by the physically connected steering flow changes.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board