The state of Hawaii faces a dire threat over the next 75-90 years from mega hurricanes super-charged by climate change, a team of Hawaiian scientists announced in a study published Sunday.
Although it is incredibly rare that hurricanes hit Hawaii, that's all going to change as the ocean's surface temperature shifts upward, according to new research published by the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.
"Computer models run with global warming scenarios generally project a decrease in tropical cyclones worldwide," study author and University of Hawaii fellow Hiroyuki Murakami said in an advisory. "This, though, may not be what will happen with local communities."
Hawaii is one such local community where climate change is expected to hit hard. "From 1979 to 2003, both observational records and our model document that only every four years on average did a tropical cyclone come near Hawaii," Murakami said. "Our projections for the end of this century show a two-to-three-fold increase for this region."
To make matters worse, those storms are expected to be bigger, more destructive and slower-moving than the storms of the last century, amplified by the warming climate. Researchers warned that changes in the atmosphere's composition, driven by human activity increasing the amount of CO2 in the air, will result in wholly new moisture patterns and a shift in the jet stream that causes mega storms to drift toward the Hawaiian islands.
The good news is, even with an increase in exposure to these mega storms, Hawaii will still be relatively insulated to hurricanes when compared to the continental U.S. "Our finding that more tropical cyclones will approach Hawaii as Earth continues to warm is fairly robust because we ran our experiments with different model versions and under varying conditions," study co-author Bin Wang said. "The yearly number we project, however, still remains very low."