Hurricanes May Be Getting Slower, Making Them Even More Destructive

Hurricanes May Be Getting Slower, Making Them Even More Destructive

Overall, the study looked at tropical cyclones, which is an umbrella term that includes tropical storms, hurricanes and typhoons. With polar regions warming faster than other parts of the globe, that is altering pressure gradients, reducing the winds that push these storms.

When Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston in 2016, many scientists pointed to the fact that the storm hovered over the area for four days, dropping record amounts of water. But when Atlantic storms hit land - like Harvey did in 2017 - the study said the slowdown is a significant 20%.

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.

"The slower a storm goes, the more rain it's going to dump in any particular area", Kossin told the Associated Press.

Kossin's work was based on details of nearly 70 years' worth of storms, but he made no attempt to determine what was causing the slowdown.

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Unhurried hurricanes also mean strong winds blowing more often over the same place and possibly more storm surge, Kossin said.

"The poles tend to become disproportionately warmer than the tropics do under global warming", Kossin said.

Climate change increased both the intensity of the rainfall and the likelihood that the storm would occur.

That means a storm that may already hold more moisture will have time to drop more of it in each spot.

"Roughly 7 percent more water vapor per degree C of warming", Kossin said. So it isn't clear just how much of the change that Kossin found is actually attributable to human-induced climate change.