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Climate Change to Bring 'Superstorm Sandys' to Europe

Hurricanes and extratropical storms will bring 'far reaching consequences'

Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Hurricane Sandy may have been a harbinger of storms to come to Europe, new research shows, as more details about the destructive climate impact greenhouse gases are bringing the planet come to light.

Global warming brings a warmer Atlantic Ocean, and will create "more frequent and intense hurricanes following pathways directed towards Europe," according to a new paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Climatologist Dr. Jeff Masters explains that the researchers'

model predicts that the breeding ground for Atlantic hurricanes will shift approximately 700 miles eastwards as the oceans warm this century. Hurricanes which form farther to the east can spend more time over warm tropical waters before turning north and northeast towards Europe, increasing the odds that these storms will have hurricane-force winds upon arrival in Europe. The model showed that wind shear will change little in the region over the coming decades, resulting in a large increase in storms with hurricane-force winds affecting Western Europe. Most of the these storms will not be tropical hurricanes upon arrival in Europe, but will be former hurricanes that have transitioned to extratropical storms. However, as we saw with Hurricane Sandy of 2012, these hybrid storms can be extremely dangerous. Summed over Norway, the North Sea, and the Gulf of Biscay, the model found that the number of hurricane-force storms in August - October increased from 2 to 13 over the 21st century, with almost all future West European hurricane-force storms predicted to originate as hurricanes or tropical storms in the tropics by 2100. The researchers conclude that "tropical cyclones will increase the probability of present-day extreme events over the North Sea and the Gulf of Biscay with a factor of 5 and 25 respectively, with far reaching consequences especially for coastal safety."

As Climate Nexus' Marlene Cimons recently wrote, six months after Hurricane Sandy

residents of the New York area are still struggling to recover from a climate-fueled monster storm that surged up and over retaining walls last fall, and destroyed countless homes. So, it’s worth remembering a simple fact: Global warming is increasing the intensity of hurricanes, and Sandy is a prime example of that. [...]

While the new paper focuses on the hurricanes that will likely hit Europe, previous research has that the continent is not alone in being on the receiving end of more intense hurricanes.

"It’s not a pretty picture," said Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University, and a longtime participant in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). "Hurricanes could become more intense as the Earth warms. They are frightening, destructive and extremely costly, and we expect future hurricanes to leave an even greater trail of damage in their wake."


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