Science says: Hawaii hurricanes rare, but getting less so

Source(s): Associated Press

By Seth Borenstein


Hurricane Lane is already drenching and pummeling [Hawaii], even without reaching land.


This year, winds aren't quite steering storms back east. Add to that weaker than normal winds aloft — about where airplanes fly — that usually shred storms. Winds at that level would normally be 23 mph to 29 mph (27 to 47 kph). Now, they are less than half as strong, allowing storms to stay alive, explained Colorado State University hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach.


Hurricanes are fueled by warm water. The water temperature in the region is about 2 to 3.5 degrees (1 to 2 degrees Celsius) warmer than normal, according to Vecchi. That was also the case in 2014-2015. "We've come to learn that an unusually warm ocean in the subtropical Pacific will tend to increase the number of hurricanes around Hawaii," Vecchi said.


While climate scientists are reluctant to link individual weather events or even seasons to global warming, they can make the connections with elaborate detailed studies. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration climate scientist Hiro Murakami, Vecchi and others studied the 2014 hurricane season around Hawaii and found it was "made substantially more likely" by climate change caused by emissions from burning coal, oil and gas, with a natural boost from El Nino.


Several studies forecast that the central Pacific will become busier with more storms, stronger storms and faster developing ones, Vecchi said. A Murakami study used computer simulations to predict a noticeable increase in storms around the Hawaiian Islands.


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Hazards Cyclone
Country and region United States of America
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