Tim Radford – Northeastern US faces fiercer hurricanes

LONDON, 7 December, 2016 Hurricanes could hit harder and more often along the northern Atlantic coast of the US.

A new study based on 450 years of documentary and fossil evidence suggests that climate change driven by human combustion of fossil fuels is shifting the pathways of the hurricanes linked with the western Caribbean, and that global warming in the form of higher sea surface temperatures is affecting their intensity.

Hurricane Sandy, which brought catastrophic flooding to New York in 2012, was one of the worst windstorm-driven disasters in North American history. It was also thought to be a once-in-a-1,000-year event.

Powerful hurricanes

But the latest evidence confirms that hurricanes are tracking northwards, threatening cities that were once considered safe.

“Since the 19th century this shift has been largely driven by manmade emissions, and if these emissions continue as expected this will result in more frequent and powerful storms affecting the financial and population centres of the northeastern United States,” says Lisa Baldini, a geographer at the University of Durham in the UK.

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