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Future Hurricanes Could Have More Intense Rain, Study Projects

A visible image of Tropical Storm Cristobal on Friday, June 5 over the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding areas. New research suggests future storms that make landfall over eastern U.S. coasts may carry more intense rain totals per hour.
A visible image of Tropical Storm Cristobal on Friday, June 5 over the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding areas. New research suggests future storms that make landfall over eastern U.S. coasts may carry more intense rain totals per hour. Photo Credit: NASA Worldview

Future tropical cyclones, or hurricanes, will feature more intense rain with more rain produced per hour than previous storms but fewer hurricanes will make landfall, according to predictions in a brand-new study.

The researchers at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University announced the findings on Monday, June 15.

Published early online in Geophysical Research Letters, the study, which used global climate modeling, suggests that while rain intensity is likely to increase the number of storms that make landfall in the United States will decrease.

“Essentially our work with climate and storm modeling provides evidence that hurricanes will produce more precipitation per hour of impact in the future,” said Kevin Reed, Ph.D., Associate Professor in SoMAS. “This finding is consistent and adds to our work using models of Hurricane Florence and tracking extreme amounts of rainfall,” he added, referring to a study published earlier this year in Science Advances and explained in this news release.

The researchers used the global climate model that is called a variable-resolution version of the Community Atmospheric Model 5 (CAM5), a model utilized to study North Atlantic tropical cyclone climatology in the context of climate change. 

They ran CAM5 simulations to study changes in storms’ intensities, sizes, and rainfall accumulations.

Landfalling hurricanes create dangerous conditions in eastern coastal states through heavy rainfall, strong winds, and storm surge.

The prospects of storms that carry intense rain patterns over short periods of time would increase levels of danger for the entire region because of flooding and storm surge.

Overall they discovered from the simulations of future storms that the number of hurricanes in the North Atlantic decreases and so does the number of hurricanes that would make landfall on the United States.

However, the simulations indicated that the average intensities of these storm increase and the amount of total rainfall per storm also increases. 

Climate change will likely play a role in future storms and could certainly cause changes in rain intensity and totals based on modeling, Reed said.

Alyssa Stansfield, a Stony Brook student, PhD candidate, and lead author of the paper, whose graduate work centers on understanding how hurricanes will be different in the future because of climate change, adds that “predicting how rainfall from hurricanes will be impacted is especially important because flooding is a very dangerous hazard associated with hurricane landfalls.”

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