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Climate change may mean Atlantic has fewer but more intense hurricanes

Global warming might increase the number of tropical cyclones in other parts of the world but reduce them in the Atlantic due to weakening circulation

Environment 3 March 2022

In September 2017, the Atlantic Ocean was brewing with several large hurricanes. This view of the hurricanes, and our home planet, was created by assembling images acquired throughout Sept. 6, 2017 by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument on the joint NASA/NOAA Suomi-NPP.

Satellite image of large hurricanes brewing in the Atlantic Ocean

NASA/Joshua Stevens

In parts of the world, tropical cyclones could become both more intense and more frequent as the planet heats up. But in the Atlantic, where these storms are called hurricanes, there might be fewer because of a weakening of a key ocean current.

“You could argue that this is some good news, but the negative effects of climate change are devastating,” says René van Westen at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

At present, warm water from the tropical Atlantic flows north …