North Atlantic Hurricanes More Frequent Amid Warming

By Andrea Januta.

Climate scientists have long debated whether the North Atlantic has experienced more frequent hurricanes over the last century, given uncertainties in the reliability of historical data. But new research suggests the increase is real.

“As you go back in time, the observations become more and more sparse,” said Kerry Emanuel, a meteorologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Undoubtedly, we missed some storms” in the historical count dating back to the mid-1800s.

So he set aside those old records and turned to computer simulations to recreate climate conditions for the last 150 years. Using three different climate models, he then scattered hurricane “seeds,” or conditions that could produce a storm, throughout the models to see how many seeds developed into storms.

The result? The number of Atlantic storms, particularly major hurricanes, have indeed become more frequent as global temperatures have climbed, his study published Thursday in Nature Communications reported.

The findings were fairly consistent with the record of storms spotted by flights and satellites, and earlier from land or ships.

It is still unclear why there were more Atlantic storms, which account for about 12 percent of the world’s tropical cyclones. The models did not show similar increases for other cyclone-prone regions like the Eastern Pacific or the Bay of Bengal.