June 24, 2018

Tropical cyclones, hurricanes are slowing down, study says

08 June 2018, 09:07 | Edward Lowe

Affable aware and in control Jonathan Lord Flagler County’s new emergency chief brings vast state and local experience to the job

Affable aware and in control Jonathan Lord Flagler County's new emergency chief brings vast state and local experience to the job

A new study finds that tropical cyclones around the world are moving slightly slower over land and water, dumping more rain as they stall, just as Hurricane Harvey did a year ago.

Their forward speed has decreased globally by about 10 percent since 1949, the study said, making these storms more likely to drop heavier rain as they spend longer amounts of time over the affected areas, increasing the risk of flooding.

On average, the storms moved 2 kilometers per hour slower in 2016 compared with 1949-a change of 10% during a period when Earth warmed by 0.5⁰C.

The globe's hurricanes have seen a striking slowdown in their speed of movement across landscapes and seascapes over the past 65 years, a finding that suggests rising rainfall and storm-surge risks, according to research reported Wednesday.

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In the Atlantic Ocean basin, the slowdown was not dramatic, just 6 percent. In some regions, the pace of those storms slowed even more as they hit land.

The study is in Wednesday's journal Nature. Adding last year's storms would have made the slowdown a bit more prominent, he said.

Christina Patricola, a scientist with the climate and ecosystem sciences division of California's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, called Kossin's work "important and new" and says she found it "pretty convincing".

"I went in with that hypothesis and looked at the data, and out popped the signal that was much bigger than anything I was expecting", Kossin said. Some places in Houston got roughly a foot of rain per day as the storm crawled ashore. The fact that their results show quite similar trends should be a wake-up call.

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Kossin would actually agree on that point.

"These trends are nearly certainly increasing local rainfall totals and freshwater flooding", Kossin said, "which is associated with very high mortality risk".

But there are probably more variables at play than a warmer climate putting the brakes on tropical cyclones. "And, unfortunately, this signal would point to more freshwater flooding".

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