News Release

“Climate Change Supercharging” Hurricanes


KEVIN TRENBERTH, trenbert at
Available for a limited number of interviews, Trenberth is a distinguished senior scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

He said today: “Human-caused increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere produced an energy imbalance and its partitioning between atmospheric, ocean, cryosphere and land heat reservoirs govern how the global climate evolves. Most of the imbalance, over 90 percent, goes into the ocean and accordingly OHC [ocean heat content] provides a primary indicator of climate change, along with sea level rise.

“Last year [2017] was the warmest year on record for the global OHC down to 2000 meters depth and the latest quarter (April to June) is the hottest on record. The heat fuels storms of all sorts and contributes to very heavy rain events and flooding. Hurricanes are natural, but climate change is supercharging them!

“The observed increases of upper OHC support higher sea surface temperatures and atmospheric moisture, and fuels tropical storms to become more intense, bigger and longer lasting, thereby increasing their potential for damage. Sea level is also steadily rising, increasing risks from coastal storm surges. The damage and loss of life from such storms does not have to be disastrous, however, if there is adequate preparation. We have the options of stopping or slowing climate change from humans, and/or adapting to and planning for the consequences, but we are not doing enough of either!” See recent paper Trenberth co-wrote.