Forces of Nature

Strong Hurricanes Getting Stronger

Global warming is causing powerful hurricanes to become even more intense.

Warmer seawater has boosted the average wind speed of powerful hurricanes from 140 miles an hour in 1981 to almost 160 miles an hour in 2012. Hurricanes—called typhoons in the northwestern Pacific Ocean and tropical cyclones in parts of the Indian ocean—derive their strength from water that has been heated to at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Global warming has caused the global ocean temperatures to increase by an average of a third of a degree Celsius. (about a half a degree Fahrenheit), and this change has fueled the increase in hurricane intensity. The trend toward stronger hurricanes is particularly notable in the North Atlantic Ocean—the source of hurricanes that strike the U.S. East Coast, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean. Because it is relatively cool, the North Atlantic hasn't traditionally produced many intense hurricanes.


The presence of more powerful storms in the Atlantic in recent years is a clear indication that the ocean is warmer than it was 30 years ago.


Kemo D. 7

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