Breakdown: Why there could be more major hurricanes

Breakdown: Why there could be more major hurricanes

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Hurricanes, the rapidly rotating system of strong winds and spiral arrangement of thunderstorms, around a closed low pressure system, are impressive to look at from high above and on the ground. They can also be quite deadly and devastating as the strong winds and rain impact the coast lines along the United States.

With the number of hurricanes impacting the coast fluctuating each year, the question has been asked, “Are there more hurricanes happening now than what we saw in the past?” In this episode of The Breakdown, we will examine the records that have been kept about tropical systems and compare to see if there are more now versus in the past and see if intensity has increased over time.

(Source: Bryant, Brittney)

Data can be our friend when it comes to recorded storms, breaking down the data from the 1850s to now, the highest number of storms took place during the 1990s. That decade alone there were 31 tropical storms or hurricanes impacting the U.S. That decade brought us the likes of Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and Dennis in 1999. Compared to the 2010s, we are up to 21 since the turn of the decade, just 10 storms shy of the 1990s, and we still have one more year of the decade to go.

Although we are not necessarily seeing more named storms this decade, there is one particular difference now. Within a little over a year, we have seen five major hurricanes (category 4 or 5) hit the U.S. Based on records, this is the most we have ever had impacting the U.S. in this short amount of time.

Higher sea surface temperatures could be a reason for the rise in frequency of major storms. There is a correlation between increased sea surface temperatures and hurricane activity. As the temperatures of the ocean water increased, so did hurricane intensity.

Sea surface temperatures have been trening upwards since the end of the 1800s.
Sea surface temperatures have been trening upwards since the end of the 1800s. (Source: Bryant, Brittney)

Right now, it seems there is not enough research to know where the trend is heading as we move into the new decade. What we do know is there seems to be an upward trend in both frequency and intensity of major hurricanes near the U.S. right now. We also know that sea surface temperatures do play a big role in this trend, but it is not the sole factor.

We will be watching the trend for years to come, keep it with the WMC Action News 5 and the First Alert Weather team as we track the tropics.

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