Warming seas due to climate change may help hurricanes keep their strength as they move inland, The Washington Post reports. These storms are fueled by the ocean’s moisture, so they lose intensity when they hit land. But by analyzing data from 71 North Atlantic Ocean hurricanes that made landfall from 1967 to 2018, scientists found that hurricanes are weakening more slowly once ashore. Whereas 50 years ago, the average tropical cyclone was likely to lose 75% of its intensity in the 24 hours after landfall, now, it weakens by just 50%, the researchers report today in Nature. This slower decay rate matches the rise in ocean temperatures, the researchers add, and further simulations of landfalling hurricanes suggest the warm waters allow storms to retain more moisture to fuel their progression inland. Although the study does seem to line up with other recent work showing an increased intensity from the largest hurricanes, outside researchers said more data for cyclones outside the Atlantic are needed to confirm this trend.
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