Stalling Storms a Climate Trend?

September 3, 2019

What’s frightening me about this storm is it’s another example of something we have been seeing more of in recent years – powerful storms that make landfall and then stop, grinding away with wind and dumping incredible amounts of rain.

It doesn’t take much imagination to picture this happening over Florida.

More science needed, but questions being asked as to whether this is a product of a generally slower jet circulation.

Inside Climate News:

Hurricane Dorian’s slow, destructive track through the Bahamas fits a pattern scientists have been seeing over recent decades, and one they expect to continue as the planet warms: hurricanes stalling over coastal areas and bringing extreme rainfall.
Dorian made landfall in the northern Bahamas on Sept. 1 as one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record, then battered the islands for hours on end with heavy rain, a storm surge of up to 23 feet and sustained wind speeds reaching 185 miles per hour. The storm’s slow forward motion—at times only 1 mile per hour—is one of the reasons forecasters were having a hard time pinpointing its exact future path toward the U.S. coast.
With the storm still over the islands on Sept. 2, the magnitude of the devastation and death toll was only beginning to become clear. “We are in the midst of a historic tragedy in parts of our northern Bahamas,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told reporters.

Recent research shows that more North Atlantic hurricanes have been stalling as Dorian did, leading to more extreme rainfall. Their average forward speed has also decreased by 17 percent—from 11.5 mph, to 9.6 mph—from 1944 to 2017, according to a study published in June by federal scientists at NASA and NOAA.
The researchers don’t understand exactly why tropical storms are stalling more, but they think it’s caused by a general slowdown of atmospheric circulation (global winds), both in the tropics, where the systems form, and in the mid-latitudes, where they hit land and cause damage.
Hurricanes are steered and carried by large-scale wind flows, “like a cork in a stream,” said Tim Hall, a hurricane researcher with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and author of the study. So, if those winds slow down or shift direction, it affects how fast hurricanes move forward and where they end up.

How that slowing is connected to global warming is still an area of debate. There are different mechanisms at work in the tropics and mid-latitudes, but, “in the broadest sense, global warming makes the global atmospheric circulation slow down,” said NOAA hurricane expert Jim Kossin, co-author of the June study.
He said scientists suspect the overall slowing of winds is at least partly due to rapid warming of the Arctic. The temperature contrast between the Arctic and the equator is a main driver of wind. Since the Arctic is warming faster than lower latitudes, the contrast is decreasing, and so are wind speeds.
“There is a lot of evidence to suggest this is more than just natural variability,” Kossin said.
In a 2018 paper, Kossin showed that the increase in tropical cyclones stalling is a global trend. The magnitude varies by region but is “generally consistent with expected changes in atmospheric circulation forced by anthropogenic emissions,” he wrote.

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4 Responses to “Stalling Storms a Climate Trend?”

  1. Don Osborn Says:

    Gee Wiz, from 1998 to 2013 the trend is SHARPLY downward!!! Yep, got proof that hurricanes are actually doing LESS stalling. Gee, I’m a genius!!! Ain’t no problem here, move on. Besides, if any hurricane dares to attack the US, Trump has the nukes primed and ready to go!!

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    Have we forgotten Harvey already? Have we forgotten that we’ve just had the wettest year in U.S. History?

    Stop waffling, scientists—-grow some and tell it like it is or we’ll take away your lab coats and pocket protectors!

  3. Earl Mardle Says:

    Also happening in the southern hemisphere. We have had much slower weather systems for a few years now, even without the kind of circumpolar disruption that has been the case in the north.

    And now we have one of our own with an SSW heading for 100C warmer than long term averages. https://tinyurl.com/y3nzfn2h Nobody knows exactly how this will affect our weather in the next 6-8 weeks, but it is likely to be exciting for at least some of us. In spring, when we need the bees out for the blossoms.


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