Hurricane Seasons Wilder

Photo courtesy the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Nature says so: the frequency and strength of Atlantic hurricanes has grown in recent decades. We’re now at levels now about as high as anything in the past 1,000 years. The data come from sediment samples along the North Atlantic coast and are analyzed alongside statistical models of the past 1,500 years of hurricane activity. Interestingly, there was a peak about 1000 AD that rivals and maybe exceeds recent levels.

The study validates the theory that two factors fuel higher hurricane activity: La Niña and high surface temperatures over the ocean. If climate change continues to warm ocean waters (and how can it not?) we will likely experience more active hurricane seasons. This year’s slow start is thanks to a newborn El Niño… though El Niño is changing too.
 

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  • Julia Whitty is the environmental correspondent for Mother Jones. Her latest book is Deep Blue Home: An Intimate Ecology of Our Wild Ocean. For more of her stories, click here.