Hurricanes are slowing down, causing more damage in coastal communities

Hurricanes are slowing down, causing more damage in coastal communities

A new study finds that tropical cyclones around the world are moving slightly slower over land and water, dumping more rain as they stall, just as Hurricane Harvey did a year ago.

Researchers claim that as the planet's poles heat up, pressure gradients around the world are changing, reducing the winds that push on these storms. Storms worldwide in 2016 moved about 1.25 miles per hour slower than 60 some years ago.

Kossin found storms moving across land in the Eastern United States slowed down 20 percent between 1949 and 2016.

"If the atmosphere can hold more water vapor, then things are going to tend to rain more", Kossin said.

Kossin told Nature that a 10% slow-down in storm speed corresponds to a 10% increase in rainfall when a hurricane makes landfall. Wind speeds within the storm remain high, but the whole system itself moves slower across the landscape, allowing punishing rains to linger longer over communities.

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

Climate change increased both the intensity of the rainfall and the likelihood that the storm would occur.

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

Kossin said the findings were of great importance to society.

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

"It is far from clear that global climate change has anything to do with the changes being identified", said Kevin Trenberth, a senior climate scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

The result is more rainfall and more damage to buildings as hurricanes hover over population centers for longer periods of time.

If Harvey is any indication of what hurricanes will look like in the future, this will create a considerable strain on countries' ability to respond financially to storms.

Kossin concluded that the trend has all the signs of human-induced climate change.

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