Here’s what we know about hurricanes and climate change

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This trend of stronger storms fits with theoretical research going back to the 1980s from Emanuel and other climate scientists, who predicted that warming oceans would cause stronger hurricanes. Warming water provides more energy to storms, resulting in increased wind speeds.

As temperatures rise, “you’re going to load the dice toward these higher-end events,” says Phil Klotzbach, an atmospheric scientist and hurricane forecasting expert at Colorado State University. 

That fits with recent research finding that hurricanes in the North Atlantic are intensifying more quickly, meaning they gain more wind speed as they move across the warming ocean.

The trend is most clear in the North Atlantic, but it also might be applicable around the world—another recent study found a global increase in the number of storms that undergo a very rapid intensification, with wind speeds increasing by 65 miles per hour or more within 24 hours. 

Storms that get stronger quickly, especially close to shore, can be particularly dangerous, since people don’t have much time to prepare or evacuate.

How else does climate change affect hurricanes?

There are “compounding effects” from climate change that could influence hurricanes in the future, Balaguru says. 

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