While there can be yearly variations, long-term trends show that hurricanes are becoming more frequent and intense. As of 2023, 2020 was the most active year for hurricanes, with 14 hurricanes.
The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes is increasing when you look at trends over the last 150 years. Furthermore, more rainfall is occurring with these storms. In 2017, hurricanes caused the costliest damage in history, and 2022 was the third costliest. Scientists believe global warming has caused these changes. Let's unpack the facts to see why global warming is creating more and stronger hurricanes.
Global Warming Causes Changes in Ocean
The average sea surface temperature is higher than ever in recorded history. In August 2023, the average sea surface temperature was 69.74 degrees Fahrenheit. Each day in the month set a record high. Warmer temperatures provide more heat and energy for hurricanes to form.
Greenhouse gas emissions, primarily carbon dioxide and methane, from human activities, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation, are exacerbating global warming and increasing seawater temperatures. These emissions trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere, creating a heightened greenhouse effect. A significant portion of this trapped heat is absorbed by the world's oceans, causing sea surface temperatures to rise.
Sea surface temperatures play a crucial role in the formation of hurricanes. Warm sea surface temperatures provide heat and moisture for tropical cyclone development, which can later become hurricanes. Warmer sea surface temperatures fuel storms, so hurricanes are more likely to form.
Hurricanes can intensify rapidly when a storm passes over an area with exceptionally warm sea temperatures. When a storm passes over an area with cooler water temperatures, it loses intensity, but storms remain stronger, with sea temperatures staying warmer all over.