The researchers also found that wind speeds in these storms can increase by up to 20%, as well as a massive increase in the frequency of Category 4 and Category 5 storms — by more than 200% in some areas.
Nadia Blumendahl, a climate scientist at the University of Amsterdam and lead author of the study, told CNN in an email. “We found it shocking to see the disproportionate number of developing countries at risk from future climate change.”
The researchers used a statistical prediction system called STORM to generate 10,000 years of past and future climate conditions. They then used high-resolution wind speed maps to examine future changes on a local scale, “which is very important for a risk assessment perspective,” Blumendahl noted.
Scientists have found that the area around Hong Kong and parts of the South Pacific have the highest potential for an increase in severe storms.
Tokyo – the world’s largest metropolitan area with a population of about 38 million people – currently has a 4.6% chance per year of being affected by a severe storm. In the future, scientists have found that this number jumps by as much as 13.9%.
There was another notable jump in Hawaii. Currently, Honolulu has a 4% chance each year of being hit by a severe hurricane. In the coming years, that number will be 8.6% – more than double, the study indicates.
The researchers said their findings are likely due to rising sea surface temperatures around the world. Ocean temperatures have risen dramatically over the past several decades as a result of the burning of fossil fuels. Warmer waters “will create more fuel to intensify storms,” Blumendale said.
The only areas where scientists did not see a doubling of severe tropical cyclones in the future were the Gulf of Mexico and the Bay of Bengal. Blumendahl noted that the frequency of severe storms remained “fundamentally unchanged” in the study, because weather conditions there would become less favorable for future tropical storms.
“Global climate models predict increased stability of the atmosphere over that region under future climate conditions,” Blumendahl wrote. “Because of this enhanced atmospheric stability, the overall frequency of tropical cyclones is expected to decrease in the Gulf of Mexico, as conditions become unfavorable for the development of tropical cyclones.”
But she also noted that when tropical storms form in those areas, the warmer waters will provide additional fuel for the hurricane until it reaches a category 3 or higher.
So while these scientists would expect to see fewer storms overall in the Gulf of Mexico or the Bay of Bengal, they would be very powerful and expensive.
Hurricanes and hurricanes are responsible for more financial losses than any other natural disaster. The study notes that in the past decade alone, the United States has experienced $480 billion in losses due to tropical storms and hurricanes.
Bloemendaal said that’s one of the reasons it’s more important than ever to be able to predict where the strongest storms will occur in the future.
“Our findings can help identify sites exposed to the greatest increase in tropical cyclone risk,” Blumendahl said in a statement. “Local governments can then take measures to reduce risks in their area, so that damage and deaths can be reduced.”
Globally, 80 to 100 tropical cyclones form each year. But reliable records of these storms — which at one point could only be spotted by ships or when they made landfall — only go back to the 1960s or so, as long as scientists had weather satellites. This has made it difficult to predict long-term changes amid the climate crisis.
With this new research, scientists say the world will have a clearer picture of what the future holds for the world’s most destructive nature.