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Category 3+ Hurricanes on the Rise in the Atlantic

By Climate Central

Hermine arrived right at the start of the most active part of hurricane season. The peak of hurricane season coincides with the time of year when ocean temperatures are at their warmest. We look at sea surface temperatures along the coast using data from the NOAA National Data Buoy Center. Both the maximum and average sea surface temperature during hurricane season have risen.

Warmer water fuels hurricanes, and not surprisingly, the average number of major hurricanes — those Category 3 or higher — has increased in the Atlantic basin since the 1970s. Globally, climate models project that there will likely be an increase in the wind speed and rainfall intensity of the strongest hurricanes (aka tropical cyclones), even though their frequency may remain unchanged or even decrease by the end of this century. However, the extent of these effects from climate change will vary by region.

Even with no increase in storm strength, the damage from storm surge is already worse because warming waters are also contributing to sea level rise. Seas are projected to rise up to at least another 3 feet by the end of the century, only adding additional water to any tropical system’s dangerous storm surge.