Published: Sat, June 09, 2018
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

Hurricanes are slowing down, causing more damage in coastal communities

Hurricanes are slowing down, causing more damage in coastal communities

Tropical storm Aletta is well offshore from Mexico expected to strengthen to a hurricane, but will not affect land. The change is even more dramatic in storms that have made landfall from the North Atlantic - they're moving 20 percent slower.

As storms move slower, they can unload more heavy rain and pound coastal areas longer, increasing damage potential.

A study published Wednesday in the journal Nature focuses on what is known as translation speed, which measures how quickly a storm is moving over an area, say, from Miami to the Florida Panhandle.

Unhurried hurricanes also mean strong winds blowing more often over the same place and possibly more storm surge, Kossin said.

"Nothing good can come of a slower storm", Kossin told Mashable.

Christina Patricola, a scientist with the climate and ecosystem sciences division of California's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, called Kossin's work "important and new" and says she found it "pretty convincing".

Kossin argues that the slow-down is caused by global warming, which is both increasing rainfall and decreasing wind currents.

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Worldwide cyclones have become sluggish, slowing down 10 per cent over the past 70 years.

For instance, it is expected that hurricanes will rain about 7 to 10 percent more per degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming, as the atmosphere retains more water vapor, Kossin explained.

In particular, a slowing of circulation as the polar regions warm up faster than equator ought to slow down storm tracks, as well.

But there are probably more variables at play than a warmer climate putting the brakes on tropical cyclones.

But Kossin can't say whether Harvey's rains are a model for the future.

Several major natural climate variations occur over long periods, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which is similar to the El Niño/La Niña oscillation that can significantly alter global weather but operates on much longer time scales (hence "decadal", whereas El Niño/La Niña alternate from year to year).

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