Beyond Hurricane Sandy: What Might the Future Hold for Tropical Cyclones in the North Atlantic?
Journal of Extreme Events
Coastal communities are beginning to understand that sea level rise is projected to dramatically increase the frequency of coastal flooding. However, deep uncertainty remains about how tropical cyclones may change in the future. The North Atlantic has historically been responsible for the majority of global tropical cyclone economic losses, with Hurricane Sandy's approximately USD$70 billion price tag providing a recent example. The North Atlantic has experienced an upward trend in both total tropical cyclones (maximum sustained winds > 18 m/s) and major hurricanes (maximum sustained winds > 50 m/s) in recent decades. While it remains unclear how much of this trend is related to anthropogenic warming, and how tropical cyclone risk may change in the future, the balance of evidence suggests that the strongest hurricanes may become more frequent and intense in the future, and that rainfall associated with tropical cyclones may increase as well. These projections, along with sea level rise and demographic trends, suggest vulnerability to tropical cyclones will increase in the future, thus requiring major coastal adaptation initiatives.