Jeff Masters Hurricane Blog

Why experts worry about ‘rapid intensification’ of hurricanes » Yale Climate Connections


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In September, Hurricane Ian rapidly became stronger just before making landfall on Florida’s west coast. Within 24 hours, the storm’s maximum sustained winds grew from 115 to about 155 miles per hour.

Matt Sitkowski is science editor-in-chief at the Weather Channel television network.

He says when a hurricane’s wind speeds increase by 35 miles per hour or more within a day, it’s said to have rapidly intensified. And the consequences can be devastating.

“You’re going to have more wind damage,” he says. “Chances are, you’re going to have a much higher storm surge immediately along the coastline. And those can be very deadly events.”

Sitkowski says it can be hard to predict if a storm will intensify rapidly.

So he says there’s a risk that it can happen suddenly overnight when people are sleeping. So by the time they get a warning, they might not be able to evacuate.

“Those are really sort of those nightmare scenarios that the hurricane community worries about,” he says.

As the climate changes and oceans warm, scientists expect more hurricanes to intensify rapidly. So Sitkowski says people in coastal areas should prepare and stay tuned to the forecast as storms approach.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media



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