Climate Change Turning Northeast Into New Hurricane Alley?

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Hurricane Sandy in Boston, Massachusetts

Superstorm Sandy passes through Boston, October 29, 2012 (Flickr’s Ehsan Hoque)

Climate change is shifting hurricane tracks away from the Gulf Coast and towards the Northeast, according to a new study that’s backed up by both previous research and the historical record. Reports Paul Voosen of E&E News (sub. req.):

By the end of this century, fewer hurricanes are likely to barrel through the Caribbean Sea into the U.S. Gulf Coast, with the storms instead curving back into the Atlantic Ocean — and possibly toward an East Coast newly sensitive to hurricanes, according to climate models developed by researchers in Hawaii and Miami. [...]

Their results match a modeling study published in 2010 by Hiroyuki Murakami and Bin Wang, two Hawaii-based researchers who used a powerful Japanese climate model to simulate the Atlantic basin. Like [researcher Angela] Colbert, they saw storm tracks shift east. But they went a step further, finding that this shift increased influence of tropical storms for Florida and the northeastern United States.

“I feel these results are very robust,” Murakami said.

In fact, a slight eastward shift can already be seen in historical records since the late 19th century, compiled by the National Hurricane Center and corrected by Gabriel Vecchi, a co-author of Colbert’s paper and researcher at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. These observations are far from definite but do lend some credence to the models’ results, Colbert said.

Research also shows global warming is making hurricanes stronger (though climate change’s impact on hurricane frequency is still being debated). It’s not exactly reassuring for this stormy future that Congressional Republicans doing all they can to skimp on Superstorm Sandy aid. Maybe time to cut carbon pollution now?

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Thu 17 Apr 11:59 AM