Hurricane Ian is rapidly gaining massive strength As it moves over oceans that are warming in part due to climate change, just like 30 other tropical storms in the Atlantic since 2017 that have become more powerful in less than a day.
Scientists say this turbocharging of storms is likely to become more frequent as the world warms.
After getting 67% stronger in less than 22 hours Monday through Tuesday, Ian is pressing Florida as a potential Category 4 hurricane threatening to create a nightmare storm in Tampa Bay and areas of southwest Florida.
Ian’s rapid intensification occurred after he traveled over Caribbean waters that are about 1.8°F (1°C) warmer than normal, in large part due to climate change. Warmer waters create “a lot of rocket fuel for the storm,” said Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.
his climate change Other effects. The buildup of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels is making storms slower and humidity. It exacerbates deadly storm surges through sea level rise, exacerbates freshwater flooding and increases the proportion of Category 4 and 5 monster storms.Several studies show, like Fiona last week.
The current hurricane season was uncharacteristically mild until about a week ago due to the dry air in the Atlantic. However, while storms are not necessarily more frequent, they are getting worse due to global warming, experts say.
“In terms of impacts and climate change, yes, this season could be a harbinger of what’s to come,” said Kristin Corbusero, a hurricane scientist at the University of Albany. “But it’s really hard to say that climate change has an impact on any one storm in terms of its individual composition or intensity.”
The National Hurricane Center defines fast-intensifying storms as those that gain wind speeds of at least 35 mph in less than 24 hours. Sudden changes can cause major problems for forecasters and contingency planners trying to help residents out of harm’s way.
In Ian’s case, the meteorological conditions were so obvious that meteorologists were warning of them days in advance.
While hurricane seasons fluctuate from year to year, total Atlantic and eastern Pacific storms that intensified rapidly at some point during their 10-year life cycle increased 35 percent between 1980 and 2020, according to an analysis of National Hurricane Center data. By The Associated Press. From 2017 to 2021, there were 30 fast-intensifying storms in the Atlantic and 32 in the eastern Pacific.
“This is an amazing statistic,” said Jim Kosin, a former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate scientist and hurricane, who now works for Special Climate Service, a risk analysis firm. “Obviously what was a very, very rare event hasn’t been so rare lately.”
A new study not yet published in a peer-reviewed journal shows that with hurricanes growing closer to the coast — a point of danger for people — storms are intensifying more rapidly than ever, said Karthik Bellagoro, a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The climatologist who conducted the study. “It is most likely due to climate change,” he said.
With the water temperature rising at ever deeper levels, the rapid intensification of tropical storms is accelerating.
“We light the stove on the stove,” Kosen said.
Experts say that more powerful hurricanes also carry more moisture, making them more explosive in the form of torrential rain and storm surge.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, research also shows that storms now tend to move more slowly, allowing them to dump more rain in one place, like Hurricane Harvey in 2017, which devastated parts of Louisiana and Texas.
While Ian is expected to slow near the Florida coast and dump massive amounts of rain, he is not expected to be near Harvey’s level of over 50 inches..
As storms intensify more quickly and with greater frequency, forecasters and emergency planners are given less time to help communities prepare for the worst.
The Jefferson Parish area, a population of 430,000 west of New Orleans, was hit last year by Hurricane Ida. That storm’s winds went from 80 mph (130 kph) to nearly 140 mph (220 kph) in 24 hours, leaving little time for residents to evacuate.
“Time to prepare for a storm is your complete ally,” said Joseph Valente, director of emergency management at Jefferson Parish.
Evacuating people before big storms helps relieve pressure on city services, Valente said, which ultimately helps the city recover faster.
Data journalist Mary Catherine Wildman contributed from Hartford, Connecticut, and Rebecca Santana from New Orleans.
Follow AP’s coverage of climate and environment at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment
Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at Tweet embed
The Associated Press’s climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. Learn more about AP .’s Climate Initiative over here. AP is solely responsible for all content.