The start of the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season is right around the corner. It begins June 1st, however tropical outlooks will start to be divvied out by mid-May. The decision to make the tropical outlooks available earlier than usual was solely due to our warming climate and the impacts it’s having on our tropical season.
Land and sea continues to warm at alarming rates, which is not new news and should not surprise any of us. The continued warmth is having an enormous impact on all seasons including the Atlantic Hurricane Season. Our upcoming tropical season is forecast to be an above average one again with a big focus on the warm ocean waters. Since 1979, human-caused warming has increased the likelihood of a tropical system developing into a major hurricane, category three or stronger, by 8 percent per decade. Also, the fraction of global and North Atlantic hurricanes that rapidly intensify has increased since the 1980s. Warmer ocean waters due to global warming are contributing to the rapid intensification process especially for storms that form in the Caribbean and eastern Gulf of Mexico. When the rapid intensification process occurs right before landfall, it can have violent impacts on communities who may be underprepared for the true strength of the storm.
The rapid intensification process right before landfall has been noted by researchers as the most destructive stage of any tropical system because it gives the impacted communities very little time to prepare. Impacts that are amplified during the rapid intensification process include wind damage and storm surge. Storm surge is an element of a tropical forecast that continues to not only be impacted by warmer waters, but also sea level rise. The combination of rapid intensification, sea level rise, and storm surge will ultimately lead to more destructive storms in the future with larger potential for inland reach of flood waters. This means that even interior portions of New England may have to start keeping an eye out for those tropical outlooks once they start getting issued in mid-May.