The most devastating hurricanes could double by 2050

(CNN) — Intense hurricanes and typhoons — the most devastating storms on the planet — could more than double by 2050 in almost all regions of the world due to climate change, scientists reported Wednesday.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, defined intense storms as the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane or stronger. The research pointed out that the probability of these storms will be higher in the coming decades, and that more people will be affected by intense storms in some of the most vulnerable regions of the world.

The researchers also found that the wind speeds of these storms could increase by up to 20%, as well as a huge increase in the frequency of category 4 and 5 cyclones, by more than 200% in some regions.

“Our results also re-emphasize that regions currently at (very) low risk could actually start to be affected by tropical cyclones under climate change,” Nadia Bloemendaal, a climate scientist at the University of California, told CNN in an email. of Amsterdam and lead author of the study. “We found it shocking to see the disproportionate number of developing countries at risk from future climate change.”

Where hurricanes could increase more and less

The researchers used a statistical forecasting system called STORM to generate 10,000 years of past and future weather conditions. They then used high-resolution maps of wind speeds to examine future changes at the local scale, “which is very important from a risk assessment point of view,” Bloemendaal said.

Scientists found that the region around Hong Kong and some parts of the South Pacific have the highest probability of increased intensity of storms.

Tokyo — the world’s largest metropolitan area, with a population of about 38 million people — currently has a 4.6% annual chance of being hit by a major storm. Going forward, scientists found that number increases to a 13.9% chance.

Destruction of Typhoon Rai, a Category 5 super typhoon, on Siargao Island in the Philippines in December 2021.

Another notable jump was that of Hawaii. Honolulu currently has a 4% chance of being hit by a major hurricane each year. In the coming years, that figure will be 8.6%, that is, more than double, as the study suggests.

The researchers said their results are likely due to rising global sea surface temperatures. The temperature of the oceans has increased dramatically in recent decades as a result of the burning of fossil fuels. The warmer water “will create more fuel for storms to intensify,” Bloemendaal said.

What will happen in the Gulf of Mexico

The only regions where scientists did not anticipate a doubling of intense tropical cyclones in the future were the Gulf of Mexico and the Bay of Bengal. The frequency of intense storms remained “essentially unchanged” in the study, Bloemendaal said, because atmospheric conditions in that area will be less favorable for tropical storms in the future.

“Global climate models project greater atmospheric stability over that region under future climate conditions,” Bloemendaal wrote. “Due to this increased atmospheric stability, the overall frequency of tropical cyclones in the Gulf of Mexico is projected to decrease as conditions have become more unfavorable for tropical cyclone development.”

But he also noted that when tropical storms form in those regions, the warmer waters will provide additional fuel for the cyclone to intensify to Category 3 or higher.

So while these scientists expect to see fewer storms overall in the Gulf of Mexico or Bay of Bengal, these will be extremely powerful and costly.

The 5 places most affected by climate change 0:56

cost increase

Hurricanes and typhoons are responsible for more monetary losses than any other natural catastrophe. In the last decade alone, the study notes, the United States has suffered $480 billion in losses due to tropical storms and hurricanes.

Bloemendaal said that’s one of the reasons why it’s more important than ever to be able to project where the strongest storms will be in the future.

“Our results may help identify locations prone to the greatest increase in tropical cyclone risk,” Bloemendaal said in a statement. “Local governments can then take steps to reduce the risk in their region so that damage and fatalities are reduced.”

A resident of Grand Isle, Louisiana checks his home after Category 4 Hurricane Ida made landfall in August 2021.

Worldwide, between 80 and 100 tropical cyclones form each year. But reliable records of these storms—which at one point could only be seen from ships or when they made landfall—only go back to the 1960s or so, as long as scientists have had weather satellites. This has made it difficult to predict long-term changes in the midst of the climate crisis.

With this new research, scientists say the world will have a clearer picture of what the future holds for nature’s most destructive phenomenon worldwide.

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