Hurricanes May Be Getting Slower, Making Them Even More Destructive

People walk through floodwaters near Interstate 10 in Houston on Aug. 27 2017

People walk through floodwaters near Interstate 10 in Houston on Aug. 27 2017

Tropical cyclones around the world are moving slightly slower over land and water, dumping more rain as they stall, just as Hurricane Harvey did previous year, a new study found.

Researchers claim that as the planet's poles heat up, pressure gradients around the world are changing, reducing the winds that push on these storms. He found hurricanes in 2016 moved an average of 10 percent slower than hurricanes in 1949.

"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.

In the western north Pacific, the slowdown's been 30 percent; in the "Australian" region it's 19 percent.

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

According to the study by Dr Jim Kossin from the National Centers for Environmental Information, tropical cyclones have slowed in both hemispheres and in every ocean basin except the Northern Indian Ocean.

These two trends ought to work in tandem to make today's storms much worse rainmakers.

First, he noted that over the more than 60-year period of the study, there may be natural, decades-long cycles in the climate system that could affect the steering of storms and have little or nothing to do with global warming.

Worldwide cyclones have become sluggish, slowing down 10 per cent over the past 70 years.

"These trends are nearly certainly increasing local rainfall totals and freshwater flooding, which is associated with very high mortality risk", he said.

"We're showing that it not only slows down, but that it's more intense", Gutmann says.

Gutmann and Kossin took entirely different approaches-one looking at historical data; the other using modeling to see how storms would behave under predicted warming scenarios.

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