Hurricanes making landfall are rare in Hawaii, as they historically tend to form further north or south. The fact that two are streaking towards the island state at the same time is truly unprecedented, although back-to-back hurricanes hitting other regions is actually not unusual as of late.
“Usually the waters [along this storm track] are on the edge of what’s needed to support hurricanes,” meteorologist Bob Heston told Gizmodo. “Now, they’re just warm enough, and it’s making a big difference.” Although long-term oceanic warming is partly to blame, regionally stable atmospheric conditions, those that are just perfect for sustaining powerful hurricanes, are also culpable here.
Hurricanes are essentially heat engines, powered by the warmth of the sea surface. Thanks to human actions, sea-surface temperatures are reaching unprecedented highs, and as a result, many have expected hurricanes to become more powerful over time.
A recent study has explained why this effect hasn’t yet been conclusively seen, while going on to add that in the near-to-immediate future, it will be. Ultimately, there will be less hurricanes in the future, but they will individually be more powerful than anything humanity has ever seen.
Regardless, hurricanes are already remarkable forces of nature. In fact, the average hurricane produces energy equivalent to 600 million lightning strikes per second, or 2.2 trillion strikes per hour, based on information given by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – most of which is invested in generating heavy rainfall, not the powerful winds hurricanes are normally associated with.
Hawaii has braced for impact. behindlens/Shutterstock