What used to be a rare one-two punch of back-to-back hurricanes hitting roughly the same spot in the U.S. weeks apart seems to be happening more often, and a new study says climate change will make consecutive storms more frequent and nastier in the future.
Using computer simulations, scientists at Princeton University calculated that the once-every-decade deadly storm duo could happen every two to three years as the world warms from burning coal, oil and gas natural, according to a study on Monday. Nature’s climate change.
Residents of Louisiana and Florida have already felt it.
In 2021, major Hurricane Ida blew into Louisiana with winds of 150 mph. Only 15 days later a weakened Nicholas came near, close enough for its wind, rain and storm to add to the problems, said study co-author Ning Lin, a risk engineer and climate scientist at Princeton. His study looked at not just the storms, but the problems that back-to-back hurricanes cause to people.
The Ida-Nicholas combo came after Louisiana was hit in 2020 by five hurricanes or tropical storms: Cristobal, Marco, Laura, Delta and Zeta. Laura was the biggest of thosepacking winds of 150 mph.
After Laura, relief workers had set up a giant recovery center in a damaged roofless church parking lot when Delta approached, so all the supplies had to be stacked against the building and battened down for the next storm, United Way of Southwest Louisiana said. President Denise Durel.
“You can’t imagine. You’re amazed. You think it can’t happen again,” recalled Durel 2 and a half years later from an area that is still recovering. “The other side of it is that you can’t wish it on anyone either.”
Florida in 2004 had four hurricanes in six weekswhich prompts the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration to take note of a new nickname for the Sunshine State – “The Plywood State”, from all the boarded-up houses.
“We found a trend,” Lin said. “These things happen. They happen more often now than before.”
There is a caveat to that trend. There haven’t been enough hurricanes and tropical storms since about 1950 — when good record-keeping began — for a statistically significant trend, Lin said. So his team ran computer simulations to see if they could establish such a trend and they did.
Lin’s team looked at nine U.S. storm areas and found an increase in storm hazards for seven of them since 1949. Only Charleston, South Carolina, and Pensacola, Florida, did not see increased hazards. .
The team then looked at what would happen in the future using the worst-case scenario of increased carbon dioxide emissions and a more moderate scenario in line with current efforts around the world to reduce greenhouse gases. In both situations, the frequency of back-to-back storms has increased dramatically from current expectations.
The reason is not storm tracks or anything like that. It is based on storms becoming wetter and stronger from climate change as numerous studies predict, along with rising sea levels. The study looked at the impacts of the storms more than just the storms themselves.
Studies are divided on whether climate change means more or fewer storms overall, however. But Lin said it’s only the wilder nature and size that increase the likelihood of back-to-back storms hitting nearly the same area.
Any increased frequency in sequential storms in the past was likely due to a reduction in traditional air pollution rather than human-caused climate change; when Europe and the United States halved the amount of particles in the air from the mid-1990s it led to 33% more Atlantic storms, a NOAA study found last year. But any future increase will likely be more from greenhouse gases, said two scientists who were not part of the study.
“For people in harm’s way, this is bad news,” University at Albany hurricane scientist Kristen Corbosiero, who was not part of the study, said in an email. “We (scientists) have warned about the increase of heavy rains and significant storms with TCs (tropical cyclones) on land in a warm climate and the results of this study show that this is the case.
Corbosiero and four other hurricane experts who were not part of the study said that made sense. Some, including Corbosiero, say it’s hard to say for sure that the back-to-back trend has already happened.
Colorado State University hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach said the focus on the worst effects on people was striking, with a storm from rising seas and a increased precipitation from warmer and stronger major hurricanes.
“You have to have faith and be able to move forward. You just have to be in constant motion,” said Durel, the president of Louisiana United Way. “Our neighbors mean so much more than wallowing in aggravation.”
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