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Are Hurricanes Getting Bigger and More Frequent?

Hurricanes are among the strongest storms and they are becoming even stronger! There have also been more of them in the last few years. In 2004, a record number of hurricanes affected Florida. A hurricane even formed in the South Atlantic Ocean, where no one had ever seen a hurricane before. The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was predicted to be more active than usual as well. One of those storms, Hurricane Katrina, destroyed towns and cities on the gulf coast of the United States as it passed through.

Why are these monster storms becoming even more monstrous? Scientists have two ideas about how this is happening. Read on to learn more!

Scientists have found that the number of hurricanes each year probably changes naturally over many years with a pattern. During part of the pattern there are fewer hurricanes than usual. That happened from the 1960s until 1994. During the other part of the pattern there are more hurricanes than usual. That is what has been happening for the past few years. Eventually, in 10 years or so, the number of hurricanes will probably drop again as the pattern repeats.

Other scientists have found that global warming is probably causing the storms to become stronger and last longer. Global warming is heating the oceans. In the past 30 to 50 years the oceans have warmed about 0.1 degree Fahrenheit. The warmer oceans are very likely causing the strength of hurricanes to increase. Hurricanes take heat energy from the oceans and make it into the energy of the storm. The warmer oceans offer more heat energy to hurricanes and they can become stronger storms.

Last modified February 15, 2011 by Jennifer Bergman.

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The Winter 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on Earth System science, including articles on student inquiry, differentiated instruction, geomorphic concepts, the rock cycle, and much more!

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