Climate Change Strengthens Hurricanes

New research published in Nature indicates that tropical Atlantic cyclones are increasing strength, concurrently with warming oceans.

The suggestion is that as sea surface temperatures (SST) rise, the seas have more energy and thus increase the likelihood of more severe hurricanes occurring. This theory is known as the ‘heat-engine theory of cyclone intensity.’

Looking at maximum wind velocities in tropical cyclones from global satellite data, the researchers revealed that stronger cyclones were associated with the highest recorded wind speeds; a 31 per cent increase per year for each one degree rise in SST.

The researchers also found regional trends. They expect that warming of the coolest oceans such as the North Atlantic, the eastern Pacific and the southern Indian Ocean, should expect to show the greatest increase in intensity of tropical cyclones.

Source: Elsner, J.B., Kossin, J.P., Jagger, T.H. (2008). The increasing intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones. Nature. 455: 92-95.