Experts: Warming makes Delta, other storms power up faster
Gaining strength on the US Gulf Coast, the hurricane delta is the latest and worst in the recent tide of rapidly worsening Atlantic hurricanes, which scientists attribute in large part to global warming.
Before reaching Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and temporarily losing power, Delta set a record by going from an unnamed tropical depression at 35 mph to a monstrous Category 4 storm at 225 in just 36 hours Mph passed in 2000, according to University of Colorado weather data scientist Sam Lillo.
"We've certainly seen a lot of this in recent years," said Jim Kossin, climate and hurricane scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "A storm is more likely to worsen quickly now than it was in the 1980s ... Much of it has to do with human-made climate change."
In the past few decades, meteorologists have become increasingly concerned about storms that, like Delta, simply blow up out of nowhere. They have created an official threshold for this dangerous rapid intensification - a storm that reaches a wind speed of 35 mph in just 24 hours.
Delta is the sixth storm this year and the second in a week to hit the threshold, Lillo calculated.
The hurricanes Hannah, Laura, Sally and Teddy as well as the tropical storm Gamma gained at least 56 km / h in strength in 24 hours. And a seventh storm, Marco, just missed the mark. Laura, who jumped 105 km / h the day before landing, set the record for the fastest intensification in the Gulf of Mexico, said former hurricane hunter Jeff Masters meteorologist.
The number of hurricanes in 2017 worsened significantly, Harvey in particular, Kossin said.
Not only does this happen more often, it's more dangerous, said MIT hurricane scientist Kerry Emanuel. Not only does hurricane damage increase with wind speed, it also increases exponentially, Masters said.
"If you go to bed and there's a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico and you wake up the next morning with a Category 4 about to land, you don't have time to evacuate," Emanuel said. "It's a very worrying trend."
According to a study by Kossin and a team at Princeton University last year, the proportion of storms that intensify rapidly in the Atlantic has nearly doubled since 1982. This year is particularly nasty and Delta is a good example, said study co-author Gabriel Vecchi, a Princeton climatologist.
This study also found that this type of growing trend of rapid intensification cannot be explained by natural forces. Vecchi and Kossin said climate change is clearly playing an important role through the burning of coal, oil and natural gas.
This is because two factors are critical in making storms stronger and weaker: fuel from hot water - and the type and direction of the winds at altitude that have the potential to decapitate hurricanes or make them stronger.
In the daily changing weather for single storms, the wind problem is important, but in the decades the team studied, water temperature was a far bigger factor, scientists said.
"We created so much more heat in the ocean," said Kossin. Quick buff ”is what you get when you generate that much fuel for hurricanes. They get fat, they get intense, and they'll do it quickly. "
Delta gained strength in water temperatures around 87 degrees (31 degrees Celsius), which were significantly warmer than normal. When Delta tuned in late Monday and into Tuesday, the water warm enough to make the storm stronger was about 75 feet deep, Masters said. So "it went crazy."
After Delta reached the Yucatan, the wind speed dropped to 137 km / h, but 24 hours later it was 185 km / h again. That just missed qualifying for a second bout of rapid intensification, but there remains a growing risk of intensification until just before an expected landing on Friday in the US, according to the National Hurricane Center.
"This season has given many examples of these rapidly worsening storms that we expect to be more common," said Princeton's Vecchi.
For more articles on climate change from The Associated Press, please visit https://www.apnews.com/Climate
Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears.
The Associated Press Department of Health and Science is supported by the Department of Science Education of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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