From: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Published September 22, 2017 05:41 PM

This year's hurricanes are a taste of the future

In a detailed talk about the history and the underlying physics of hurricanes and tropical cyclones, MIT Professor Kerry Emanuel yesterday explained why climate change will cause such storms to become much stronger and reach peak intensity further north, heightening their potential impacts on human lives in coming years.

“Climate change, if unimpeded, will greatly increase the probability of extreme events,” such as the three record-breaking hurricanes of recent weeks, he said.

In Houston, Hurricane Harvey, which devastated parts of the Texas coastline and produced more total rainfall than any U.S. hurricane on record, would have been considered a one-in-2,000-years event during the 20th century, according to the best available reconstructions of the past record of such storms, Emanuel said. But in the 21st century, that probability could drop to one in 100 years, given the likely trajectory of climate change conditions. Hurricane Irma, with its record-breaking duration as a Category 5 storm, will go from being a one-in-800-years event in the area of the Caribbean that suffered a direct hit, to a one-in-80-years event by the end of this century, he said.

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Photo Credit: Helen Hill

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