Report

The Recent Increase in Atlantic Hurricane Activity: Causes and Implications

Science  20 Jul 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5529, pp. 474-479
DOI: 10.1126/science.1060040

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Abstract

The years 1995 to 2000 experienced the highest level of North Atlantic hurricane activity in the reliable record. Compared with the generally low activity of the previous 24 years (1971 to 1994), the past 6 years have seen a doubling of overall activity for the whole basin, a 2.5-fold increase in major hurricanes (≥50 meters per second), and a fivefold increase in hurricanes affecting the Caribbean. The greater activity results from simultaneous increases in North Atlantic sea-surface temperatures and decreases in vertical wind shear. Because these changes exhibit a multidecadal time scale, the present high level of hurricane activity is likely to persist for an additional ∼10 to 40 years. The shift in climate calls for a reevaluation of preparedness and mitigation strategies.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: Stanley.Goldenberg{at}noaa.gov

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