Climate change caused hurricanes to dump more rain in 2020, study says

U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Fla., conducts an overflight to survey the damage following Hurricane Laura near Orange, Texas, on August 27, 2020. File Photo by PO3 Paige Hause/U.S. Coast Guard

April 13 (UPI) — Human-caused climate change caused tropical storms and hurricanes to dump up to 10% more rain in 2020 compared to those during the pre-industrial era, a study released Tuesday indicates.

Researchers used what they called “hindcast attribution” — like a forecast but for the past — to quantify rainfall associated with storms during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. The season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 each year, included 30 named storms, 14 of which were hurricanes.

The record-breaking hurricane season caused about $40 billion in damage worldwide.

“Hurricanes are devastating events, and storms that produce more frequent hourly rain are even more dangerous in producing damage flooding, storm surge and destruction in its path,” lead study author Kevin Reed said in a press release.

“Our findings indicate that environmental changes caused by humans are signaling more and quicker rainfall, which have direct consequences for coastal communities and sometimes outlying areas,” said Reed, associate professor and associate dean of research at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University.

Reviewing the rainfall rates over 3-hour and three-day timeframes during the storms, the team found that tropical storms had an increase of 10% and 5%, respectively, compared to storms before 1850. For hurricanes, the effect was an 11% and 8% increase.

The team said human activities, including industrial growth, increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, leading to a more than 1 degree Celsius increase in the global surface temperature in 2020 compared to 1850.

This has led to a sea surface temperature increase in the North Atlantic basin of between 0.4 degrees to 0.9 degrees.

“An increase in hurricane rainfall due to global warming is not surprising,” said study co-author Michael Wehner.

“What is surprising is that the amount of this human-caused increase is so much larger than what is expected from increases in humidity alone. This means that hurricane winds are becoming stronger as well,” said Wehner, a senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The research team published its findings Tuesday in the journal Nature.


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