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Hurricanes may become rarer in the Atlantic throughout the 21st century if the world continues to warm, suggests a new study. The research is the latest to address the question of how – and whether – global warming will affect the intensity and frequency of hurricanes.
Globally, the number of major hurricanes has shot up by 75% since 1970. And although rising ocean temperatures are generally accepted as the key culprit – hurricanes can only form where sea surface temperatures exceed 26ºC – the link to global warming has remained a contentious issue.
In the new study, published online yesterday in Nature Geoscience [subscription], Thomas Knutson of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and colleagues showed, using a regional climate model of the Atlantic basin, that the trend in increased hurricane activity in the Atlantic over the past 25 years will not continue into the future, though hurricanes in the area may become more intense and associated with heavier rainfall.
Though they use a different model, the results generally concur with the recent paper by hurricane specialist Kerry Emanuel, which shows that hurricanes are likely to decrease in frequency but increase in intensity in certain locations as temperatures rise.
I’ve written the full story here for Nature News.
Image: NASA / Univ. Wisconsin-Madison