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Cyclone Drift

May 28, 2014

Cyclones have been peaking in intensity closer and closer to the poles over the last 30 years.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Cyclones’ latitude adjustment. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Hurricane Isabel as seen from the International Space Station in 2003. (NASA)

Hurricane Isabel as seen from the International Space Station in 2003. (NASA)

Tropical cyclones, which include hurricanes, are gradually peaking farther and farther from the Equator. This according to research led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. MIT atmospheric scientist Kerry Emanuel says they analyzed satellite data back to 1980.

KERRY EMANUEL (Massachusetts Institute of Technology):

In most parts of the world, the latitude at which storms reached their peak intensity is expanding poleward: that is, it’s moving northward in the northern hemisphere and southward in the southern hemisphere, at a pretty good clip.

HIRSHON:
It’s not yet clear what’s causing this, but it seems to relate to shifting air currents in the tropics, which may be driven by climate change. Emanuel says the consequences for people on land will probably vary. But possible risks include stronger storms in higher-latitude coastal cities, and a shortage of heavy rain in tropical areas that depend on it. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.