Climate change fueled extreme rainfall during 2020 hurricane reason: NPR

Philadelphia firefighters walk through a flooded neighborhood on August 4, 2020, after Tropical Storm Isaias hit.

Matt Slocum/AP


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Matt Slocum/AP


Philadelphia firefighters walk through a flooded neighborhood on August 4, 2020, after Tropical Storm Isaias hit.

Matt Slocum/AP

Human-induced climate change has fueled one of the most active North Atlantic hurricane seasons on record in 2020, according to a study published in the journal Nature.

The study analyzed the 2020 season and the impact of human activity on climate change. It found that hourly hurricane rainfall totals were up to 10% higher compared to hurricanes that occurred in the pre-industrial era in 1850, according to a press release from Stony Brook University.

“The impacts of climate change are actually already here,” said Stony Brook’s Kevin Reed, who led the study. “They actually change not only our daily weather, but they change extreme weather events.”

There were a record 30 named storms during the 2020 hurricane season. Twelve of them made landfall in the continental United States

These powerful storms are devastating and the economic costs are enormous.

Hurricanes are fueled in part by moisture from warm ocean temperatures. Over the past century, higher amounts of greenhouse gases from human emissions have raised land and ocean temperatures.

Reed, an associate professor and associate dean of research at Stony Brook’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, says the results show that human-induced climate change is leading to “more and faster rainfall”, which can harm coastal communities.

“Hurricanes are devastating events,” Reed said. “And storms that produce more frequent hourly rainfall are even more dangerous, bringing flooding, storm surge and destruction in their path.”

The research was based on a “retrospective attribution” methodology, which is similar to a weather forecast but details events of the past rather than those of the future.

The publication of the study follows the publication of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – a body of the United Nations – which concluded that nations are not doing enough to curb global warming.

Michael Wehner, a senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and one of the co-authors of the hurricane study, said the increase in hurricane rainfall caused by global warming is not shocking.

“What is surprising is that the amount of this human-caused increase is so much greater than what is expected from increases in humidity alone,” Wehner said in the Stony Brook release. “That means hurricane winds are also getting stronger.”