Does Global Warming Affect Tropical Storms?

by Jennifer Moore

Each year, several tropical storms form over the Pacific ocean. A tropical storm is basically a super bad thunderstorm over the ocean. While most tend to be harmless to humanity, some can swell into much larger hurricanes and devastate cities on the coasts. But recently scientists have begun to wonder if tropical storms are linked to global warming. Could it be that the factors explained in this post by David Torrejon are heating up the planet and inevitably causing these types of storms to worsen?
 
Now, how could this be? Well, a tropical storm forms in spiral-like pattern. Warm, moist air gets sucked up and pushes cooler air down towards the water. In turn, the cooler air chases the warm air back up and pushes it down to the water again. This game of cat and mouse continues on and on until you have a tropical storm. A major factor of this cycle is the warmer air resting atop the ocean’s surface. Recently however, the average temperature of the planet itself has slowly been rising over the last couple of decades. This rise in temperature is well known as Global Warming. Some scientists think that because of this rise in temperature, tropical storms and possible hurricanes will be more and more frequent.

TropicalStorm

This is a graph of the average global temperature versus the amount of tropical storms in the central pacific region. The Y-axis on the left represents the average number of Tropical Storms in the central pacific related to the X-axis, which is the past 20 years.(Blue line)  The Y-axis on the right is the average global temperature in degrees Celcius over the past 20 years (Red Line) .

In the graph above, I combined Global temperature from climate.nasa.gov and Tropical Storm numbers from prh.noaa.gov to compare the relationship between temperature and total storms in the central pacific region. As you can see, average global temperature has risen sizeably over the past 20 years. Here’s the funny part, if you look closely, you’ll see that up until 2014, the number of tropical storms had been decreasing even though the average global temperature had been increasing. The interesting thing though, is that in 2015, the global temperature had spiked to 0.87 degrees Celsius, and there were 15 tropical storms in the central pacific that year.

Some scientists speculate that the spike in temperature is directly related to the spike in tropical storms. Since these storm form when hot air mixes with cool air, it seems reasonable to think that these could be related. I think that the rise in these storms does have to do with the rise in temperature, and that if the temperature continues to rise, these storms will become more and more violent. What do you think?

 

Sources:

 

http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/hurricanes/en/

http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/report/our-changing-climate/changes-hurricanes

http://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/

http://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/

 

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