Hurricanes are getting stronger, according to a new study, and climate change may be the cause. The findings come from scientists with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information. Around four decades of hurricane satellite images went into the research, according to the University, building upon previous research that found similar storm intensification.
The study’s lead author James Kossin previously published research on this topic in 2013, according to the University, which notes that the trend of increases in hurricane strength was based on 28 years of data. This time around, the results are based on almost 40 years of data, finding that hurricanes in nearly every part of the world are developing stronger sustained maximum winds.
This time around, the study involved global hurricane data dating back to 1979. Because technology changes over time, the data for each year varied, requiring the researchers to use modern techniques to turn it into a uniform data set. Of the findings, Kossin said:
Our results show that these storms have become stronger on global and regional levels, which is consistent with expectations of how hurricanes respond to a warming world. It’s a good step forward and increases our confidence that global warming has made hurricanes stronger, but our results don’t tell us precisely how much of the trends are caused by human activities and how much may be just natural variability.
The study joins a similar one from NOAA published earlier this month, one detailing tropical cyclones and the impact climate change has on them. According to the agency, the average number of these cyclones throughout the year hasn’t changed in decades — however, a warming planet is influencing where the storms pop up.
According to scientists, natural variability can’t account for this change in storm locations. Instead, a combination of particulate pollution, volcanic eruptions, and greenhouse gases are driving the change in tropical cyclone patterns. By 2100, the researchers expect that there will be fewer of these storms, but that the ones that do occur will be ‘significantly’ more powerful.