Hurricane Ian intensified by climate change

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Grace Smith | September 29, 2022

Between Monday and Tuesday, Hurricane Ian became 67 percent stronger, and the water was 1 degree Celsius warmer, because of a phenomenon that scientists call “rapid intensification” by climate change. 

Hurricane Ian arrived in Florida as a category 4 storm with winds intensifying from 125 miles per hour to 155 in a couple of days. As of 2 a.m. Thursday morning, the now classified tropical storm is a category 1 with 75 miles per hour winds. 2.5 million people are out of power as about 20 inches of rain causes flash floods throughout the peninsula. 

Rapid intensification is defined as an increase in winds of a tropical cyclone by 35 miles per hour in 24 hours, and Hurricane Ian has experienced it two times since Sunday. 

“Rapid intensification happens when a tropical cyclone that already has some organization moves over very warm water and within an atmospheric environment of calm surrounding conditions and a moist, unstable air mass,” Richard Knabb, director of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, told CBS News

Climate change plays a factor in the intensity of a hurricane through warm water that fuels the storm, per the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Climate change is also likely causing hurricanes to move slower, increasing wind speed, storm surge, and rainfall.