- Hurricane season starts June 1 on the Atlantic Ocean.
- Forecasters are predicting a slightly above-average number of hurricanes this season.
- Regardless of how many storms we end up seeing, scientists say hurricanes are becoming more aggressive and pushing flooding and damage further inland, fuelled by more warm air.
BOULDER, Colorado – The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season kicks off today, and forecasters are predicting a slightly above-average number of storms this year.
But if you think that living away from the coast means you’ll be safe and dry when hurricanes hit, think again.
Climate scientists agree: hurricanes are changing for the worse – becoming windier, wetter, and more powerful than ever.
“People that have typically not been exposed to them will now be exposed to them, because the storms are going to move deeper inland and affect more people,” climate scientist Cindy Bruyere, who studies storms at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, told Business Insider during a conference for journalists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research on Thursday.
A major reason that hurricanes and tropical storms are becoming more potent has to do with the warming of the atmosphere. Human activity that burns fossil fuels produces heat-trapping greenhouse gases. When air gets warmer, it can hold more water vapour, which allows storms to more easily become stronger and produce more rain.
“It can draw in this extra moisture that’s available, and sustain itself much longer as it moves inland,” Bruyere said.
But it’s not just hurricanes; more powerful rain storms across the country are already dumping between 10% and 70% more water on us than they did five or six decades ago. That trend is also expected to get worse as the planet warms.
More powerful hurricanes also barrel into the coastline with higher storm-surge levels, a problem that’s being exacerbated by sea-level rise. The extra water has no place to go when a storm hits the coast, leading rivers and streams to overfill their banks and flood. For all these reasons, more powerful, rainy storms are likely to continue wreaking havoc this season and in future years.
“Every hurricane will be more likely to be an intense hurricane,” James Done, an atmospheric scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said.
This year’s hurricane season forecast can’t tell us exactly how many storms we’ll see or where they might hit. But the chart below shows what we know so far. (The numbers on the left in this graphic refer to the number of hurricanes forecasters predict – four is considered normal.)
These forecasts are similar to those issued around this time last year, though 2017 wound up having one of the most disastrous, extremely active hurricane seasons on record.
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