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Storms like Katrina on the Rise Due to Global Warming

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Mar 19, 2013 11:55 AM EDT
Boy in house after Katrina
Eric Leese sits on a couch in his flooded living room in Metairie, outside New Orleans September 5, 2005. (Photo : Reuters)

With the Earth's average temperature on the rise, so are more Katrina-esque storms, according to a new study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Specifically, for every 1.8 degree Fahrenheit increase, the number of storms in the Atlantic that reach the level of a Category 5 or higher will increase by anywhere between two and sevenfold.

As evidence, the study points to a gradual increase of storms similar in size to Katrina: in all, the number of such massive storms has doubled over the 20th century. Furthermore, should future storms follow the current projection set forth by trends over the last several decades, the study states the Atlantic Ocean could produce as many as five Category 5 storms every year.

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The technical definition for such a storm, according to the National Hurricane Center, includes the destruction of many of the homes in the area as well as lasting power outages.  "Most of the area," the National Weather Service says, "will be uninhabitable for weeks or months."

And while changes in the sea surface temperature has long been suspected as the possible culprit behind the increase of severe storms, those who worked on the study said the effect was even larger than anticipated, according to National Geographic.

The reason for this is in the water's ability to evaporate. The hotter it is, the more evaporation there is to fuel the hurricane's size.

In all, the past decade has been the hottest one on record and while the National Center for Atmospheric Research does not report an increase in the number of hurricanes, it does state that on the whole, the hurricanes that do occur are getting stronger.

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