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Warmer Oceans May Create Superstorms in the Future with 80 Percent More Destructive Power

First Posted: Jan 19, 2016 12:06 PM EST
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Warmer temperatures may be causing superstorms in the future. Scientists have found that heated oceans may actually lead to more powerful storms.

In this latest study, the researchers used model scenarios to see what might happen in the future. In these scenarios, the pool of warm water-greater than 82 degrees Fahrenheit-in the tropical Atlantic grew to twice its actual size. The larger warm pool gave simulated hurricanes more time to grow before they encountered colder water or land. This, in turn, meant that they were larger and more powerful.

In the five simulations that the researchers conducted, two hurricanes followed the same track as Sandy, hooking westward and merging with the mid-latitude storm as they hit the coast. Because of the warmer temperatures, these simulated storms had 50 to 80 percent more destructive power and brought 30 to 50 percent more heavy rain.

"This kind of experiment is not necessarily a realistic simulation, but it is along a similar path that the future climate might expect to evolve," said William Lau, one of the researchers, in a news release.

In fact, sea surface temperatures could achieve these elevated levels in just 50 to 100 years.

The findings reveal that we could experience much more powerful storms in the future. However, this doesn't necessarily mean there will be more of them. Instead, we'll likely experience larger storms that can grow for longer periods of time before encountering conditions that lead to them dissipating.

The findings are published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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