Global Warming May Cause Hurricanes To Become Rainier And Deadlier, Say Scientists

In this satellite image provided by U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Hurricane Florence churns through the Atlantic Ocean toward the U.S. East Coast on September 12, 2018.
NOAA / Getty Images

The Carolinas and Virginia are preparing for the onslaught of Hurricane Florence later this week and one of the most life-threatening elements of the storm is the amount of rainfall predicted to hit the area, reports Vox.

The National Hurricane Center has warned that North Carolina is expected to take the brunt of the downpours, predicting rainfall of 20 to 30 inches over the course of several days, and up to 40 inches in certain regions. The storm is predicted to dump up to 10 trillion gallons of rain over the affected areas, enough to cause “catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding.”

After Hurricane Harvey dropped a record-breaking 27 trillion gallons of rain on Texas last year, scientists are predicting that an increase in moisture will be expected from these storms in our warming world. Scientists have also been getting better at making connections between the amount of rainfall dumped during a hurricane with human-induced climate change. Vox writes that researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that rainfall during Hurricane Harvey was 38 percent higher than it would have been in a world not experiencing global warming.

The study of how hurricanes are worsening, especially when it comes to rainfall, is important for coastal communities and cities that continue to be highly unprepared. The effects of torrential rain are devastating, costly, and deadly, especially in urban areas where concrete comprises the basis of most structures and makes it incredibly difficult for water to drain.

Atmospheric scientist at the NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction James Kossin explained to Vox why hurricanes during warmer conditions can cause so much rainfall.

“Tropical cyclones are very, very good at converging a whole lot of heat in one place at one time. Air can hold about 7 percent more water for every degree Celsius increase in temperature. That means warmer air and warmer water can lead to larger, more intense hurricanes, which in turn lead to more rainfall.”

The article points out that drawing comparisons between climate change and weather events can be tricky and requires intensive studies and data crunching. However, most scientists are in agreement that rising global temperatures had an impact on the severity of storms like Harvey, Maria, and Irma.

Sarah Kapnick, a researcher at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, spoke about the connection between warming and increased rainfall.

“In [regions] where we have known precipitation extremes, we have been able to detect an increase in precipitation extremes due to a warming climate.”

Unfortunately, Hurricane Florence is expected to bring huge risks of inland flooding. The good news is that scientists are getting better at predicting when torrential downpours will hit and residents of the Carolinas and Virginia located in the path of the storm have plenty of time to evacuate.