Hurricane over Acapulco shows climate disasters will become increasingly common

Victims and damage running into billions of dollars: Hurricane Otis hit more than 800,000 Acapulco residents with winds exceeding 300 kilometers per hour, leaving behind a trail of destruction that many compare to a powerful earthquake. What was surprising was not only the arrival of such a devastating hurricane in a part of Mexico not usually affected by these extreme weather events, but also the speed with which Otis gained strength: from simple-to-classify tropical storm to bona fide category 5 hurricane (the most dangerous) in 24 hours. It’s an almost unprecedented transformation for storms forming in Pacific waters, at least in the past: In fact, scientists have been warning for some time that climate change would enable and increasingly enable these increases in tropical storm wind speeds. widespread. There is therefore a risk that it will become increasingly harmful in the future and, above all, difficult to predict.

Acapulco was destroyed by Hurricane Otis

As a rule, tropical storms increase in strength much more slowly than what was seen at Otis. For meteorologists, maximum wind speed reaching 55 kilometers per hour in 24 hours is considered a rapid increase. In this sense, Otis broke all records by accelerating 177 kilometers per hour in 24 hours. The storm is fueled by high temperatures in the ocean waters off the southern coast of Mexico. And in particular, not only surface waters but also deeper waters have been warm in recent days, so the hurricane, which once came to the surface with strong winds, could not prevent its growth.


As we said, this is a possibility predicted by climate scientists as a side effect of climate change. For example, a study published in the journal American Meteorological Society in 2017 warned that the possibilities of predicting the arrival of dangerous hurricanes will become increasingly limited in the future as the planet and therefore ocean waters warm. It will become increasingly common for tropical storms to strengthen just before landfall.

Along the same lines, the results of another study published in 2018 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that analyzed hurricanes that hit the Americas between 1986 and 2015 found an average of 24 hurricanes, focusing attention on the most catastrophic ones. -Concentrated wind speeds increased by 6.5 kilometers per hour every 10 years. Finally, a paper published last week in Scientific Reports suggested that the rapid intensification of tropical storms over the past 50 years has become increasingly common and faster precisely because temperatures are rising due to global warming.

The study was carried out using data obtained from hurricanes that formed on the Atlantic side of the American continent. But recently the same authors confirmed that the effects of global warming are not limited to the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and therefore, when shown on one side of the continent, most likely also apply to the Pacific side. In short, it appears that the hurricane problem will become increasingly serious and unpredictable in the coming years, at least along the American coast. And the situation could get worse if global warming continues unimpeded: the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that hurricanes will occur if temperatures are 2 degrees higher than in the pre-industrial era (in short, if the Paris agreements do not yield the desired results). Its power will increase by an average of 10%. And this, combined with the difficulty of forecasting, could be truly dramatic for the population of America’s coastal regions.

Source: Today IT