New study finds that hurricanes are bringing their destruction further inland as our climate gets hotter.
A new study found that over the past 50 years it has started taking nearly twice as long for hurricanes to weaken after making landfall, meaning that hurricanes are maintaining their strength much further inland.
Scientists have known for years that hurricanes are becoming steadily more dangerous due to the effects of climate change. But in the last 50 years, the time it takes a hurricane to weaken after landfall has increased a whopping 94%.
Professors Lin Li and Pinaki Chakraborty conducted the study, published by the scientific journal Nature earlier this week.
Before climate change began taking its toll, hurricanes usually lost about 75% of their intensity in the first day after reaching land. This meant communities on the coast would get battered, but the damage would be limited inland. Now storms typically weaken only about 50% in the day after they reach landfall, the study found.
“Our findings suggest that as the world continues to warm, the destructive power of hurricanes will extend progressively farther inland,” Li and Chakraborty wrote in their study. “As the world warms the strongest hurricanes… are getting stronger, with the most pronounced intensification seen for the North Atlantic hurricanes.”
The researchers reviewed hurricanes that made landfall in the continental United States from 1967 through 2018, and used computer simulations to determine the variables that make storms maintain their strength on land.
Hurricanes need moisture to survive, as Li and Chakraborty explain in their study. And in a warmer world, moisture hangs in the air further inland, due to increased temperatures. That can fuel more hurricane destruction.
“Without moisture, hurricanes wither. A landfall severs a hurricane from the ocean, it’s moisture source. Consequently, the intensity decays rapidly,” they wrote.
This has been a record breaking year for hurricanes and has offered new examples that climate change is making hurricanes stronger. It has also shown that hurricanes hang around on land longer before dissipating.
Hurricane Zeta, for example, hit the southern part of the East Coast on Oct. 28. It showed signs that it was weakening more slowly, and in the days after it made landfall it moved its way up the coast and delivered 50 mph winds to New Jersey.
Researchers note that it’s difficult to draw conclusions about climate change by looking at any one storm in a season, but the trend from year to year is clear.
“We note that our findings have direct implications for the damage inflicted by landfalling hurricanes in a warming world. Even when the intensity at landfall remains the same, the slower decay means that regions far inland face increasingly intense winds accompanied by heavy rainfall,” they wrote.