Hurricane Ike entering the Gulf of Mexico in 2008. The storm is over Cuba and south of Florida.

Scientists Study Hurricanes of the Future
News story originally written on October 8, 2008

The Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea are often in the path of hurricanes. These violent storms are hazards for people living near the coast in this region because of the wind, the waves, and especially the storm surge. Drilling platforms, refineries, and pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico are vulnerable to severe weather too.

There’s evidence that global warming may lead to more of these violent storms or stronger storms, but scientists still have many unanswered questions. That’s why scientists are taking a close look at this region using weather and climate models. They are trying to figure out if changes in the number and intensity of these powerful storms are likely over the next few decades. They also want to know whether climate change will affect the path of hurricanes and whether the powerful storms have an impact on global climate.

"It's clear from the impacts of recent hurricane activity that we urgently need to learn more about how hurricane intensity and behavior may respond to a warming climate," says NCAR scientist Greg Holland, who is leading the project.

One of the biggest challenges will be to create a model that can show both the climate of the entire world and a single hurricane. To show details for certain regions, like the Gulf of Mexico, while also including global climate, scientists will combine a regional weather model with a global climate model. These models are run on one of the world's most powerful supercomputers.

"Combining weather and climate models in this way enables more detailed projections of hurricanes in a warming world than any study to date," says Greg Holland. Results from this study are expected early next year.

Last modified November 14, 2008 by Lisa Gardiner.

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Hurricanes (also known as Tropical Cyclones)

As a strong hurricane heads towards the coast, people prepare - boarding up houses, packing the car, and evacuating. These storms can spell disaster for people in hurricane prone areas, so they are taken...more

Global Warming: Scientists Say Earth Is Heating Up

Earth’s climate is warming. During the 20th Century Earth’s average temperature rose 0.6° Celsius (1.1°F). Scientists are finding that the change in temperature has been causing other aspects of our planet...more

What Is Climate?

The climate where you live is called regional climate. It is the average weather in a place over more than thirty years. To describe the regional climate of a place, people often tell what the temperatures...more

Triggers of Volcanic Eruptions in Oregon's Mount Hood Investigated

Scientists have learned that Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, has erupted in the past due to the mixing of two different types of magma. "The data will help give us a better road map to what a future...more

Oldest Earth Mantle Reservoir Discovered

The Earth's mantle is a rocky, solid shell that is between the Earth's crust and the outer core, and makes up about 84 percent of the Earth's volume. The mantle is made up of many distinct portions or...more

It’s Not Your Fault – A Typical Fault, Geologically Speaking, That Is

Some geologic faults that appear strong and stable, slip and slide like weak faults, causing earthquakes. Scientists have been looking at one of these faults in a new way to figure out why. In theory,...more

Lower Solar Activity Linked to Changes in Sun's Conveyor Belt

The sun goes through cycles that last approximately 11 years. These solar cycle include phases with more magnetic activity, sunspots, and solar flares. They also include phases with less activity. The...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA