While the global average number of tropical cyclones each year has not budged from 86 over the last four decades, climate change has been influencing the locations of where these deadly storms occur, according to new NOAA-led research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
New research indicates that the number of tropical cyclones has been rising since 1980 in the North Atlantic and Central Pacific, while storms have been declining in the western Pacific and in the southern Indian Ocean.
“We show for the first time that this observed geographic pattern cannot be explained only by natural variability,” said Hiroyuki Murakami, a climate researcher at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory and lead author.
Murakami used climate models to determine that greenhouse gases, humanmade aerosols including particulate pollution, and volcanic eruptions were influencing where tropical cyclones were hitting.
3 forces influence where storms are hitting
Greenhouse gases are warming the upper atmosphere and the ocean. This combines to create a more stable atmosphere with less chance that convection of air currents will help spawn and build up tropical cyclones.
Particulate pollution and other aerosols help create clouds and reflect sunlight away from the earth, causing cooling, Murakami said. The decline in particulate pollution due to pollution control measures may increase the warming of the ocean by allowing more sunlight to be absorbed by the ocean.
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