Hurricanes are slowing down, causing more damage in coastal communities

Cristina Cross
June 9, 2018

"Storms should be responding to changes in the whole global wind pattern, since they are mostly just carried along in the flow", Kossin said.

"The unprecedented rainfall totals associated with the "stall" of Hurricane Harvey over Texas in 2017 provide a notable example of the relationship between regional rainfall" and hurricane speed, wrote the study's author, James P. Kossin of the NOAA's Center for Weather and Climate in Madison, Wisconsin.

Kossin, who is also with the National Centers for Environmental Information, found a 20% to 30% slowdown over land areas affected by North Atlantic and North Pacific tropical cyclones, respectively.

The research, published today in the journal Nature, measured cyclones from 1949 to 2016 and found that the speed at which they move has slowed by 10 percent. But Kossin thinks the slower speed of movement - which naturally adds more rainfall to any region the storm crosses may actually be a bigger deal than the simple increase in rain overall.

"Nothing good comes out of a slowing storm", Dr Kossin told National Geographic.

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"Kossin is right that a 10 percent change in tropical cyclone motion would be an important change due to its effect on accumulated precipitation", Texas state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said in an email.

This means the more time they spend above land, the more devastation they can wreak with rainfall and storm-induced damages.

"The poles tend to become disproportionately warmer than the tropics do under global warming", Kossin said.

'The laws of thermodynamics reveal that, as the atmosphere warms by 1°C, the amount of moisture it can hold increases by 7 per cent.

"What we're seeing nearly certainly reflects both natural and human-caused changes", Kossin said.

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