Climate change could cause more powerful hurricanes, URI researcher says

Weather Week

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Hurricanes are nothing new, but the degree in which they are strengthening might be.

Dr. Isaac Ginis, a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, believes our gradually warming temperatures could be a major ingredient for cooking up more explosive tropical storms.

“Because of the climate change, we’re talking about a potential increase in hurricane intensity, so that we will see more major hurricanes in the future,” Ginis said.

To calculate the “normal,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) averages temperatures and other weather variables over a 30-year stretch and every decade, an updated normal is crunched with new numbers.

This year, we switched from the 1981–2010 dataset to the 1991–2020 dataset, and the numbers show the vast majority of the country, including New England, is now warmer.

For example, the average temperature for June in Providence moved from 68° F to 68.2° F, while July jumped from 73.5° F to 74.4° F and August rose from 72.3° F to 73° F.

And it’s not just the land that’s running warmer.

“We are seeing the ocean from the observations, direct measurements, not only is warming near the surface, but also at depths,” Ginis explained.

While Ginis points out the warming trend might not necessarily produce a greater number of hurricanes, he thinks that out of the ones that do form, a greater portion of them could be stronger and potentially more destructive.

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