Tropical Storm Henry hit Rhode Island with a wind speed of 60 miles per hour yesterday afternoon, becoming the first named storm to hit the state in 30 years.
This rarely happens in the northeast, where most hurricane-strength storms weaken in colder waters or are pushed into the Atlantic by east winds. Those storms that did hit the northern states were almost never big storms when they hit.
Henry brought heavy rains and power outages from New York and New Jersey through New England. New York City received 1.94 inches of rain between 10pm and 11pm on Saturday night, which was the wettest hour on record.
These effects were produced when Henry walked an unusual path over the weekend. It gained strength when it moved north to the New England coastline on Saturday, and briefly reached hurricane status. It was downgraded to a tropical storm yesterday morning and then landed ashore.
This made Henry an extraordinary storm in a summer marked by abnormal weather events, from a record heat wave in the western United States to catastrophic floods in Europe, China, and India. Scientists say that many of these extreme events are affected by climate change, and they provide a glimpse into the future of a warming world.
Is this the reason for Henry’s strange behavior?
Yes and no.
Scientists have Established As time goes by, tropical cyclones are migrating near the poles. In parts of the northern hemisphere, this means that as the ocean warms, the storm is moving northward.
However, the more scientists observe, the more complicated the situation becomes—the impact is different everywhere or every storm. For example, scientists have observed that hurricanes in the western North Pacific move significantly to the poles. But in the Atlantic, this trend is much smaller.
James Kossin, a senior scientist at the analysis company’s Climate Services and a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who studies hurricane migration to the polar regions, said this may be due to complex factors in the Atlantic Basin.
For most of the 20th century, ocean temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean were strongly affected by severe air pollution from Europe and North America. Pollution will have a cooling effect on the local climate, and scientists believe it will help mask some of the effects of global warming in the region. For decades, hurricane activity may be suppressed.
At the end of the last century, new air quality regulations began to be implemented, and pollution began to decline. The ocean warmed and hurricane activity began to resume.
This series of events means that some long-term hurricane patterns in the Atlantic are less clear than in other ocean basins. It is still uncertain whether there will be more Atlantic hurricanes in the next few decades compared to other parts of the world.
In Henri’s case, a set of unusual situations happened at the right time. The combination of the high-pressure system on one side of the storm and the low-pressure system on the other side drove Henry to the coast to the north.
Under normal circumstances, the storm is likely to turn to the sea.
In other words, Henri’s weird tracks are a bit of a fluke.
Similar conditions in the past allowed occasional landings in the Northeast, including Hurricane Bob, which hit southern New England in 1991, and Hurricane Gloria, which hit Long Island in 1985.
Superstorm Sandy, which destroyed New York and New Jersey in 2012, was also a product of abnormal conditions. Sandy collided with a rotating low-pressure system as he approached the east coast. This made it abruptly tilted westward into the New Jersey coastline.
But even if these northeastern landings are still relatively rare in the future, over time, climate change is still turning them into a greater threat.
On the one hand, the sea level on the entire east coast is rising. No matter where the hurricane hits, the impact of storm surges and the risk of destructive flooding will increase over time.
When hurricanes cross the ocean from Africa, the warmer waters will also generate hurricanes, increasing the possibility of them becoming major storms. Research shows that, on average, as the climate warms, hurricanes have become more intense.
In the colder northeast, warmer waters may mean that stray storms like Henry are more likely to maintain hurricane strength as they move north. Even though the probability of landing is still relatively small, the few that do land may bring greater risks.
Kossin pointed out that the warm water may have helped Henri. As Henry approached the coast, the sea surface temperature off the coast of New York and New England was several degrees above average.
Kosin said in an email to E&E News: “Therefore, it may not be clear whether climate change plays a role in Henri’s unusual orbit, but it may play a role in Henri’s strength in high latitudes.”
According to the records of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the northeast coastal waters are warming faster than the global average.In fact, they are one of the fastest warming waters across the United States
“[I]This is a clear statement that higher ocean temperatures in coastal areas will allow storms to survive longer when moving north, other conditions being the same,” Kosin added.
forward from Electronics News With permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2021. E&E News provides important news for energy and environmental professionals.