Unhurried hurricanes: Study says tropical cyclones slowing

Unhurried hurricanes: Study says tropical cyclones slowing

In the Atlantic basin, the slowdown is just 6 percent.

The question of hurricane speed, and whether it would change under global warming, has drawn little attention in the past in comparison with more headline-grabbing questions, such as whether storms are getting stronger overall.

Scientists expect climate change is going to make tropical cyclones - including hurricanes - more severe.

There is considerable evidence that global summertime circulation patterns in the atmosphere are slowing as a result of global warming.

These slower speeds don't mean the winds circling the eye of the storm are slowing down.

Kossin said the findings were of great importance to society.

Dr Kossin came to his conclusion by studying the tropical cyclone record, which spans from 1949-2016.

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Kossin told Nature that a 10% slow-down in storm speed corresponds to a 10% increase in rainfall when a hurricane makes landfall.

The slower a cyclone moves over the ocean, the more moisture and intensity it gathers; the slower it moves over the land, the more time it spends drenching it. "Hurricane Harvey past year was a great example of what a slow storm can do".

But Kossin made a decision to investigate it, based on the expectation that climate change is already altering the general, large-scale circulation of the atmosphere, within which hurricanes are embedded and by which they are steered. Older data on location, and thus movement, are more reliable, Kossin said.

Several major natural climate variations occur over long periods, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which is similar to the El Niño/La Niña oscillation that can significantly alter global weather but operates on much longer time scales (hence "decadal", whereas El Niño/La Niña alternate from year to year).

Kossin would actually agree on that point. That's bad news for places like Houston, Texas, which is still rebuilding after catastrophic flooding. "There's been a sea change there in terms of what's unsafe".

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