Unhurried hurricanes: Study says tropical cyclones slowing

Unhurried hurricanes: Study says tropical cyclones slowing

Unhurried hurricanes: Study says tropical cyclones slowing

Nearly ten months may have passed, but the destruction left behind by Hurricane Harvey remains throughout the gulf coast.

Tropical cyclones around the world are moving slightly slower over land and water, dumping more rain as they stall, just as Hurricane Harvey did previous year, a new study found.

The study, released Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature, showed a 10% decrease in forward speed globally between 1949 and 2016, though there is some variation among ocean basins.

And that was before slowpoke Harvey hit a year ago.

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

The first storm of the Eastern Pacific tropical season is here. It said the storm was forecast to keep moving out into the Pacific. Kossin works at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Centers for Environmental Information.

According to the study, which looked at each ocean basin where tropical systems form, a slowdown in the movement of the storms has been observed in every basin except the Northern Indian Ocean. Adding last year's storms would have made the slowdown a bit more prominent, he said.

Is Hurricane Harvey a preview?

In his paper, Kossin found yet another way changes in storm patterns are sparking greater devastation.

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Kossin argues that the slow-down is caused by global warming, which is both increasing rainfall and decreasing wind currents. That means a storm that may already hold more moisture will have time to drop more of it in each spot. Between 1949 and 2016, tropical cyclone translation speeds declined 10 percent worldwide, the study says.

"Tropical cyclones are just carried along by the wind, so it makes sense", Kossin says.

Why are storms slowing down?

That rainfall total is the heaviest from any tropical cyclone in the United States in records dating to 1950, topping the 48-inch storm total in Medina, Texas, from Tropical Storm Amelia in 1978, according to NOAA's Weather Prediction Center meteorologist David Roth.

This isn't about how powerful a storm's winds are, just how fast it chugs along.

Dr Kossin said more rain was also falling during cyclones, and there was evidence that tropical cyclones were migrating more towards the poles.

But there are probably more variables at play than a warmer climate putting the brakes on tropical cyclones.

The result is more rainfall and more damage to buildings as hurricanes hover over population centers for longer periods of time.

Trenberth points out that this study did not account for these natural cycles, which he said could be behind much of the observed trend. But the study did not look at causes by using computer models to simulate the Earth with and without warming. So it isn't clear just how much of the change that Kossin found is actually attributable to human-induced climate change. "We'll need more formal attribution studies to disentangle these factors".

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