Warm water provides the fuel for hurricanes. Climate change has heated up ocean waters around the world by 1-3°F over the past century, including in regions where hurricanes develop. That allows hurricanes to grow stronger, potentially increasing their maximum wind speed. One study indicates that hurricanes are intensifying more quickly than 30 years ago. Of course, there are other factors that can limit how powerful a hurricane becomes, such as how the wind changes directions and speed upward through the atmosphere.
Warming oceans and melting land ice have also caused about seven inches of global sea level rise over the past century. This gives storm surge —the coastal flooding that hits suddenly before landfall — a springboard to send floodwaters higher and push further inland than they used to. That in turn can cause more damage to infrastructure and puts additional lives at risk.
There has already been an increase in frequency and intensity of the strongest hurricanes in the Atlantic since the satellite era began. Looking forward, hurricanes are projected to produce more rain. The strongest storms are also expected to become more common. However, the overall frequency of hurricanes is projected to be nearly the same, or perhaps even decrease.