Most destructive hurricanes are thrice more frequent since 1900: Study

"We find that hurricanes are indeed becoming more damaging"


Hurricanes have become more destructive since 1900 with the worst of them more than 3 times as frequent now than a century ago, according to a study which has used a new way to calculate the effect of climate change on hurricane size, strength, and damaging force.

The researchers, including those from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, applied a new way of calculating the destruction caused by hurricanes, compensating for the societal change in wealth since the 1900s.

The results of their study, published in the journal PNAS, revealed a steep increase in the frequency of the most destructive hurricanes that routinely create havoc on the North American south and east coasts.

"We find that hurricanes are indeed becoming more damaging. The frequency of the very most damaging hurricanes has increased at a rate of 330 per cent per century," the researchers wrote in the study.

Traditionally to estimate and compare the destructive force of hurricanes, scientists surveyed the subsequent cost of the damage done by each of them, the study said.

This meant calculating what the destruction by a hurricane from the 1900s would cost if it made landfall today, the researchers said.

They said in the old method the majority of increased destructive capacity of hurricanes was attributed to more people living now than a century earlier, who are more wealthy, and possess more costly infrastructure that suffer damage.

"It is necessary to account for temporal changes in exposed wealth, in a process called normalization, before we can compare the destructiveness of recorded damaging storms from different areas and at different times," the study said.

However, they said, the earlier methods did not account for the climatic change in destructive force by hurricanes.

The current method, the researchers said, eliminated doubts regarding the effect of climate change on hurricane size, strength and destructive force, while also factoring in the changes in wealth among neighbourhoods they have struck.

The researchers also said there is an increase in the force released in the most extreme hurricanes.

"Atmospheric models predict major hurricanes to get more intense as Earth warms, and we expect this trend to eventually emerge above the natural variability in the record of normalized damage," they wrote in the study.

There is a growing trend of increased damage due to hurricanes which is attributed to a detectable change in extreme storms due to global warming, they said.