Global warming is changing how hurricanes operate ― and researchers are scrambling to keep up
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A growing body of evidence suggests hurricanes could be more severe on a warming planet. And researchers say tropical cyclones could act abnormally in other ways.
Consistent patterns in past hurricanes in Hawaii’s vicinity have allowed for the strategic placement of radars across the state. Now, researchers say these patterns might change.
The National and Central Pacific hurricane centers use radars to track hurricanes.
There are four WSR-88D Doppler radars in Hawaii that track the reflectivity and velocity of storms located on the south shore of Kauai, on Molokai, and the Big Island.
These radars didn’t exist yet when Hurricane Iniki hit Kauai in 1992.
And their locations are based on where tropical cyclones have approached the islands in the past. Previous hurricanes have approached from the east or up from the south.
Hurricanes Douglas and Olivia approached from the east, while Hurricanes Iniki and Lane came in from the South.
But experts are not sure hurricanes will continue this pattern.
“Storm tracks, hurricane tracks, may shift more northerly toward our region of the Central Pacific in the coming decades with the warming climate,” said Brad Romine, coastal geologist with the UH Sea Grant College Program.
Romine has been tracking climate change and the warmer waters predicted around the Pacific.
“The other thing that climate models are also pointing to is an increasing frequency of severe El Niño events,” Romine said. El Niño events are known to contribute to increased cyclone activity over the Pacific.
State climatologist Dr. Pao-Shin Chu said that stronger tropical cyclones are also developing earlier in the season.
“This is almost like a worldwide phenomenon. It’s not only occurring in the Central Pacific,” Shu said.
Research also hints at another worrying trend: Fewer, but stronger, hurricanes.
“We’ll have more intense hurricanes in the future. In the long term, we’re probably going to have to look at elevating some things, moving some things back away from the coastline in our most vulnerable areas, just to get things, development, out of the way of these increasing hazards,” Chu said.
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