The Atlantic coast has become a breeding ground for rapidly developing and devastating hurricanes like Ian, which will become more frequent in the coming decades thanks to global warming, researchers warn.
A study The Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has found that hurricanes are getting wetter and stronger near the already storm-ravaged shoreline.
It comes as parts of the US, Canada and Puerto Rico recover from powerful Hurricanes Ian and Fiona, and as researchers increasingly blame climate change for exacerbating the rapidly rotating storm systems.
Hurricane Ian swept through the southeastern US last month, causing devastating flooding and killing more than 100 people – and Florida is now ravaged by a spate of flesh-eating bacterial infections.
“The nearshore environment has definitely become more favorable to hurricanes near the Atlantic coast,” the lab’s climate scientist Karthik Balaguru said in a statement.
Expected changes in hurricane patterns on the Atlantic coast 2015-2100
Researchers predicted how the intensity of hurricanes along the U.S. Atlantic coast would increase through 2100, based on factors such as humidity, wind shear or slope, and twisting motions in the air, known as vorticity.
Hurricane Ian swept through the southeastern US last month, causing devastating flooding and killing more than 100 people. Pictured: Damaged boats and debris piled up along the shore in Fort Myers, Florida
Climate scientist Karthik Balaguru urges East Coast residents to get ready for more ferocious hurricanes like Ian
‘Our findings have profound implications for coastal residents, decision-makers and policymakers.’
Rapidly developing storms like Hurricane Ian outnumber the best weather forecasters. Balaguru says they have increased over the past 40 years and coastal residents should plan for more rapidly intensifying storms and a greater risk of flooding.
Between 1979 and 2018, hurricanes near the Atlantic coast increased more rapidly, according to the 12-page study. It will continue to do so because of humanity’s reliance on fossil fuels and the planetary warming gases they produce.
With the rise in global temperatures, the Earth’s surface is warming, but not evenly, because the surface is made of materials that heat up at different rates, including rocks, dirt, water and trees.
The temperature difference between warmer land and cooler seas is widening, increasing the strength and severity of hurricanes, among a number of other factors, researchers said.
It’s the latest in a series of studies showing that climate change makes hurricanes wetter, because warm air can hold more moisture, and makes the strongest storms a little stronger.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded last year that the proportion of major tropical cyclones – those of Category 3 or higher – has increased worldwide over the past four decades.
According to a 2020 study published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, tropical cyclones are expected to increase in intensity in the future, even if the frequency of the storms is expected to decrease.
Other studies have found that human-induced climate change is driving increasingly wetter hurricanes, putting coastal communities at greater risk of flood damage.
Increasing winds push waves to the south coast ahead of Hurricane Fiona’s arrival in Bermuda Sept. 22, 2022.
Hurricane Ian makes landfall, causing flooding and damage to homes in Fort Myers, Florida. The rise in cases due to hurricane flooding, the Florida Department of Health in Lee County said:
Storms can also come to a standstill more, allowing them to drop more rain over the same place, such as in 2017’s Harvey, where more than 50 centimeters fell in one spot. They’re also intensifying faster and faster, experts say.
While studies point to an increasing number of the strongest storms due to human-caused climate change, scientists still disagree on what global warming means for the aggregate frequency of all storms.
With more than 100 deaths, Ian was the third deadliest storm to hit the U.S. mainland this century, after Hurricane Katrina, which killed about 1,400, and Hurricane Sandy, which killed 233.
Now that Ian’s dust has settled, there has been a rise in infections from Vibrio vulnificus — a type of flesh-eating bacteria found in warm seawater, Florida health officials have warned.
The infection can occur after eating raw or undercooked seafood or after coming into contact with the juices. People with weakened immune systems — especially those with chronic liver disease or who are taking medications that reduce the body’s ability to fight germs — are most at risk
Cases for the deadly infection have risen in Florida this year, although deaths have remained stable so far. The spike is due to flooding from Hurricane Ian, Florida health department has warned
What is Vibrio vulnificus?
Vibrio vulnificus, also known as V. vulnificus, is a bacterial species found in salt water.
It can enter the body when open cuts, wounds and scratches are exposed to sea water.
It can also be passed when: cuts come into contact with raw or undercooked seafood, or if it is eaten.
You cannot be infected by another person.
It can cause serious illness or death.
If it gets into the bloodstream, it can cause sepsis — the body’s most extreme response to infection.
Symptoms include fever, chills, skin lesions, and lowered blood pressure that cause septic shock. It can also lead to organ failure and sometimes death.
V. vulnificus is known as a flesh-eating bacteria because it can lead to necrotizing fasciitis, where the flesh around a wound dies.
About 1 in 5 people with the infection die, sometimes within a day or two of becoming sick, and others require intensive care or amputation of limbs.
Anyone can get the infection, but it can be worse for people with weakened immune systems — especially those with chronic liver disease or who are taking medications that reduce the body’s ability to fight germs.
The bacteria naturally occur in warm, salty water, which is why Hurricane Ian’s flooding has caused a spike in infections.
Also, the leakage of wastewater into coastal waters as a result of the hurricane promotes the growth of the bacteria, increasing the risk of V. vulnificus infections.
Warmer waters as a result of climate change also play a role.
The deadly infections are caused by the V. vulnificus bacteria, also known as flesh-eating bacteria, as skin infections can lead to necrotizing fasciitis, where the flesh around a wound dies