Tropical Cyclones Will Become Less Common But Far More Intense Thanks To Climate Change

Hurricane Isabel (2003), as seen from the ISS. NASA/ESO

Air pollution can often be described as an aerosol, a suspension of particles dispersed in gaseous form. Aerosols, like sulfur dioxide, are released in massive quantities by both industrial processes, transportation, and volcanic eruptions. They serve to scatter and reflect incoming solar radiation back into space, which produces a small global cooling effect.

It is worth pointing out that the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced by these sources – particularly, of course, man-made sources – overwhelms this cooling effect, and the world ultimately warms as a result. However, as this study points out, the science has shown that aerosols have roughly twice the effect of greenhouse gases on a cyclone’s intensity, and the world has only just recently entered the period of time wherein the sheer amount of greenhouse gases overpower the aerosols.

In any case, this just appears to affect the power of cyclones – greenhouse gases have been increasingly warming the world for some time now.

We can clearly see this across a range of environments, from the atmosphere to the oceans and from the cryosphere to the biosphere. Even with the Paris agreement enforced by all signatories, the most likely scenario is that global temperatures will actually rise by 2.6 to 3.1°C (4.7 to 5.6°F) by 2100 – and cyclones will become more powerful as a result.

Hurricane Patricia, one of the most intense cyclones since records began, shortly after reaching peak intensity on October 23, 2015. A harbinger of things to come? NASA

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