With Hurricane Florence wreaking havoc across North and South Carolina, scientists have now begun to accept a harsh truth — climate change is making hurricanes much worse. In fact, we could even face a Category 6 hurricane in the near future for the first time in our lives.
Hurricane Florence originated from a tropical wave from the west coast of Africa, sweeping through the Carolinas and nearby U.S. states before disintegrating. It was classified as a category 4 hurricane and achieved a peak sustained wind speed of about 130 miles per hour. And even though the hurricane eventually weakened into a category 1 storm, it still had enough power to uproot trees and damage properties in the Carolinas.
But what makes Florence interesting is that it has garnered widespread attention among the scientific community, which is starting to realize that global warming is making hurricanes more devastating. According to estimates, every one-degree warming of the atmosphere results in a hurricane that can hold nearly 4 percent more water while also providing more power to the storm.
“It’s very likely that climate change has warmed the ocean such that the hurricane’s intense rainfall is more destructive than without global warming,” the New York Post quotes Jeff Masters, meteorology director at Weather Underground.
Scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Stony Brook University, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research did an analysis of Florence’s real-time forecast. They matched the data with a theoretical model in which the ocean temperature was not as warm as it was during the formation of the hurricane. The results only underline the truth of how significant an impact global warming is having on the hurricanes.
“They [the scientists] estimated that Florence’s rainfall forecast was more than 50 percent higher than it would have been without global warming, and that the hurricane’s projected size is about 80 kilometers larger. It was a quick study, and more extensive analysis after the storm will fine-tune those estimates, other scientists said, but they acknowledged that it’s indicative of human influence on extreme weather,” says an article at InsideClimate News.
Category 6 hurricanes
Scientists were also baffled at how quickly Hurricane Florence had intensified. In fact, the storm swiftly jumped from a Category 1 class to a Category 4 class hurricane in less than 24 hours. Though the true nature of such change is not correctly understood, researchers believe that storms will intensify faster more often as the climate turns warmer. And eventually, the storms can even reach the status of a Category 6 hurricane, something that the world has never witnessed before.
“The reason there are going to be more major hurricanes is not necessarily there are going to be that many more storms… it’s really the fact that those storms are going to get there faster,” Kieran Bhatia, lead author of a study on changing hurricane behavior, says in an interview with The Washington Post.
While some researchers are skeptical regarding the possibility of a Category 6 hurricane, they do agree that storms have been increasingly becoming very intense over the past years. And unless we take concrete actions to deal with climate change so that the seas do not become excessively warm, future generations may have to experience some of the worst hurricanes recorded in human history.