Hurricanes start their lives as tropical cyclones, born in late summer in the warm western waters of the tropical Atlantic. The trade winds move east to west, where they often hit the eastern coast of North America. The movement of the earth also exerts pressure on them to move toward the poles. As they do, if they have not hit land by mid-latitudes, they get caught up in eastward winds. Usually, the storms are killed off by the colder waters of the mid-latitudes. The warm, moist air they carry with them and the temperature variations between North and South can, however, help them reintensify if they have not died out by this time. Currently, this can happen along the eastern seaboard of America, but is ‘virtually impossible’ by the time they near Western Europe.
However, our warming climate could change that. Warmer seas mean stronger hurricanes, with better chances of reaching Europe. Warmer seas also mean less ‘hostile’ travel for these storms, and an eastward-extending breeding ground, shortening the travel distance to Europe. This all brings storm season forward from winter to autumn, with extensive consequences for plants and animals. These changes are predicted in models looking at the end of this century: 2094.
- The Conversation: The future will bring hurricanes to Europe
- Geophysical Research Letters: More hurricanes to hit western Europe due to global warming