Study: Big, destructive Hurricanes striking the U.S. three times more frequentlY
The largest and most powerful hurricanes are striking the U.S. three times more frequently than they were a century ago, according to a study published Monday.
Using a new method to calculate the size and strength of tropical cyclones, Danish researchers have found big, destructive hurricanes are striking the United States three times more frequently than they did 100 years ago.
Instead of measuring the storms by how much damage they did to people and cities, the scientists from the University of Copenhagen looked at each hurricane's area of total destruction.
The new way of calculating destruction "is a more reliable measure for climate-related changes in extreme weather," according to the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"It's the most damaging ones that are increasing the most," Aslak Grinsted, the study's lead author, told The Associated Press. "This is exactly what you would expect with climate models."
According to the researchers, the traditional way to compare hurricane damage was to figure out the cost of the damage done by each hurricane and then determine what the cost would be if it made landfall today. From this method, the rise in overall hurricane damage over time was attributed largely to the fact that there is much more expensive property along the coasts today, according to a news release about the study.
With their area-of-total-destruction method, Grinsted and his associates look at how large an area would have to be destroyed in order to account for the financial loss. This makes it easier to compare rural areas with cities.
The team studied 247 hurricanes that hit the U.S. since 1900. They found the top 10 percent of hurricanes, those with an area of total devastation of more than 467 square miles, are happening 3.3 times more frequently.
Eight of the 20 storms with the highest area of total destruction since 1900 have happened in the last 16 years, Grinsted said.
Using the researchers' method, Hurricane Harvey, which caused catastrophic flooding in Texas and Louisiana in 2017, had an area of total destruction of 4,570 square miles. Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005, had a 2,942-square-mile area of total destruction.
Climate scientists have shown that global warming is creating more extreme weather and storms.
"It’s incredibly challenging to sort out how changes in hurricanes intersect with changes in where and how we live," said Bob Henson, a meteorologist and writer at Weather Underground. "Active hurricane seasons will come and go as our planet warms, but the most destructive U.S. hurricanes are tending to dump more rain, move more slowly, and cost more money. New approaches to looking at hurricane damage trends could help us get a better handle on what to expect in future decades."