Unhurried hurricanes: Study says tropical cyclones slowing

Olive Hawkins
June 9, 2018

Kossin, who is also with the National Centers for Environmental Information, found a 20% to 30% slowdown over land areas affected by North Atlantic and North Pacific tropical cyclones, respectively.

As storms move slower, they can unload more heavy rain and pound coastal areas longer, increasing damage potential.

This isn't about how powerful a storm's winds are, just how fast it chugs along.

Experts believe that continued global warming will increase the severity of tropical storms, but they also believe this anthropogenic warming will increase rainfall.

Christina Patricola, a scientist with the climate and ecosystem sciences division of California's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, called Kossin's work "important and new" and says she found it "pretty convincing". A slow storm increases the risk of damaging floods.

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"If the atmosphere can hold more water vapor, then things are going to tend to rain more", Kossin said.

"My study is pretty far from an attribution study", he said. "At least not yet". Indeed, after around 1980, we could observe them by geostationary satellite - before that, storms in the open ocean might have been missed completely and gone unrecorded, at least if they never encountered any vessel. That's bad news for places like Houston, Texas, which is still rebuilding after catastrophic flooding.

In a warming world where atmospheric circulations are expected to change, the atmospheric circulation that drives tropical cyclone movement is expected to weaken.

"Inland flooding, freshwater flooding, is taking over as the key mortality risk now associated with these storms", Kossin said.

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