Research Suggests Future Tropical Storm Trends Related to Climate Change

Research Suggests Future Tropical Storm Trends Related to Climate Change

June 5, 20192 min read

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted a "near-normal" 2019 Atlantic hurricane season with nine to 15 named storms, four to eight of which could become hurricanes, including two to four major hurricanes.

Hurricane forecasting is an imprecise science, but current research indicates several important trends regarding future tropical storms and climate change, says Stephen Strader, PhD, a severe storm specialist and assistant professor in Villanova’s Department of Geography and the Environment.

"Research has suggested that in the future there will likely be fewer tropical storms and hurricanes, but those that do occur are expected to be more intense. This is likely due to the combination of changes in wind shear (i.e., change in wind speed and direction as one goes up in the atmosphere) and warmer ocean temperatures that provide 'fuel' for tropical cyclones," says Dr. Strader.

Climate scientists also suggest that tropical storms making landfall will be more likely to "stall out" due to climate change influences on the upper-level atmospheric air pattern, he adds.

The combination of more intense tropical storms, greater rainfall rates and the propensity for these storms to stall or slow down once they make landfall will likely result in greater future flooding risk to some major U.S. cities, such as Houston, New Orleans, Tampa Bay and Miami, according to Dr. Strader.

Recent examples of this phenomenon include Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in 2017 and Florence and Michael in 2018. 

"Although NOAA has suggested a near normal tropical storm season, it only takes one devastating storm making landfall to have devastating consequences," Dr. Strader notes.

Connect with:
  • Stephen M. Strader, PhD
    Stephen M. Strader, PhD Associate Professor of Geography and the Environment | College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

    Stephen Strader, PhD, is an expert on the interaction of climate change, natural hazards, and society.

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