Climate modelling proves hurricane activity has increased since 1850

Severe storms in the North Atlantic have grown in frequency over the past 150 years according to new research methods, verifying the accuracy of historic accounts.

Climate scientists have long believed hurricane activity has been increasing since records began. However, much of the data was based on written documentation using outdated methods, with a significant risk of human error. Now experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have published a study using advanced modelling, which shows the original evidence is accurate.

First published in Nature Communications, the work involved reconstructing historic incidences of hurricanes and tropical cyclones since 1850. Major hurricanes, and hurricanes in general, have become more commonplace in the North Atlantic region, while those that make landfall are becoming more powerful and destructive. 

Hurricane as seen from space

Conversely, the investigation also found that this trend is not repeated in other parts of the world. Tropical cyclones, which occur in the western and southern Pacific and Indian Ocean, have not changed in terms of regularity. Those behind the research believe this highlights the significance of regionality in terms of climate change impact, although the jury is still out on the cause of increased hurricane activity. 

‘The evidence does point, as the original historical record did, to long-term increases in North Atlantic hurricane activity, but no significant changes in global hurricane activity,’ said study author Kerry Emanuel, the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Atmospheric Science in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.

‘It certainly will change the interpretation of climate’s effects on hurricanes – that it’s really the regionality of the climate, and that something happened to the North Atlantic that’s different from the rest of the globe. It may have been caused by global warming, which is not necessarily globally uniform,’ he continued. 

In related news, last year researchers at the University of St Andrews issued a climate change warning for the planet’s tropical regions after concluding that the hottest days could soon amplify temperatures by as much as 20%, having a huge impact on human health. 




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