Climate change fuels rapidly-intensifying cyclones that pose flood dangers

Written by
Cara Clase, Ph.D., Center for Policy Research on Energy and the Environment
April 8, 2024

Many of the most devastating tropical cyclones (TCs) in history, including Hurricanes Andrew (1992) and Katrina (2005), underwent a process known as rapid intensification (RI). Defined by a wind speed increase of at least 30 knots (35 mph) within a 24-hour period, RI can be difficult to predict and can leave coastal regions with little time to prepare for a high-intensity TC, as happened when last summer’s hurricane Otis made landfall at Acapulco.

Based on the findings of a new study conducted by Princeton researchers, rapid intensification events are already more hazardous than normal cyclones and future climate warming causes large increases in the likelihood of RI close to land.

“Many coastal areas now exposed to landfalling tropical cyclones are nevertheless rather vulnerable to damages and poorly organized for evacuation,” says Michael Oppenheimer, Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences, International Affairs, and HMEI and a co-author on the paper. “With such dangerous storms projected to worsen, adaptation planners and emergency managers had better take heed before disaster strikes.”

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