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Study suggests more intense hurricanes in coming decades

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NOAA’s GOES-13 satellite captured this visible image of Hurricane Sandy battering the U.S. East coast on Oct. 29 Image courtesy of NASA GOES Project.

More CO2 equals more powerful st0rms

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The combination of more atmospheric carbon dioxide and less particulate pollution could result in a steady increase in the intensity of North Atlantic hurricanes, according University of Iowa researcher Gabriele Villarini, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering

The study is a compilation of results from some of the best available climate computer models of climate, said Villarini, who is also an assistant research engineer at IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering. Villarini conducted the study with Gabriel Vecchi of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“We wanted to conduct the study because intense tropical cyclones can harm people and property,” said Villarini. “The adverse and long-lasting influence of such storms recently was demonstrated by the damage Hurricane Sandy created along the East Coast.”

The study itself examines projected changes in the North Atlantic Power Dissipation Index (PDI) using output from 17 state-of-the-art global climate models and three different potential scenarios. The PDI is an index that integrates storm intensity, duration, and frequency.

“We found that the PDI is projected to increase in the 21st century in response to both greenhouse gas increases and reductions in particulate pollution over the Atlantic over the current century,” Villarinisaid. “By relating these results to other findings in a paper we published May 13, 2012 in the journal Nature Climate Change, we found that, while the number of storms is not projected to increase, their intensity is,” he said.

“Moreover, our results indicate that as more carbon dioxide is emitted, the stronger the storms get, while scenarios with the most aggressive carbon dioxide mitigation show the smallest increase in intensity,” he said.

The study was published in an early online release in the prestigious Journal of Climate, the official publication of the American Meteorological Society. The complete manuscript, “Projected Increases in North Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Intensity from CMIP5 Models,” can be viewed at: journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00441.1.

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