Lee joins a growing trend of more intense hurricanes fostered by warmer oceans

(CNN) — Hurricane Lee rapidly intensified at a historic rate to become a Category 5 hurricane overnight Thursday, adding to a series of extremely powerful hurricanes this year and over the past few decades that experts say are symptoms of the climate crisis.

Lee is the eighth Category 5 hurricane in the North Atlantic since 2016, meaning that 20% of hurricanes in this category recorded in the basin occurred in the past seven years, according to the presentations. CNN analysis of the NOAA hurricane database.

In fact, Category 5 hurricanes have already formed this year in all seven ocean basins where tropical cyclones occur, including Hurricane Jova, which also rapidly intensified to Category 5 earlier this week.

“The increase in Category 4 or 5 hurricanes, especially those we have seen in the past two years with rapid intensification, is a clear sign of climate change, which is exactly what we expect to happen in a warmer world,” said Kevin Reed, an environmental researcher. A hurricane expert and professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences explained to CNN.

Jim Kosin, a hurricane expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the First Street Foundation, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit, agrees. He warns that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) database does not fully record hurricanes before the satellite era, and that although technological advances have made it easier to measure hurricanes, it is still difficult to determine the actual trend.

However, he noted that at the rapid rate at which ocean temperatures are warming, high-intensity tropical cyclones are more likely to occur. More frequent production.

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“It’s very likely that there will be more Category 5 hurricanes now than there were 40 years ago,” Kosin told CNN.

The main way tropical cyclones reach Category 4 or 5 is through a rapid intensification process, when winds quickly intensify to at least 56 km/h in 24 hours or less, Reid said.

This is just one way experts say the climate crisis has made hurricanes more dangerous, as warmer waters allow storms to strengthen faster and reach higher categories on the hurricane scale. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, More than 90% of global warming over the past 50 years has occurred in the oceans.

“Simply put, as sea surface temperatures rise due to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, the probability of any rapid intensification event will increase,” Reid said.

Rapid intensification occurs increasingly as storms approach land, making it more difficult to prepare for them. Hurricane Idalia quickly strengthened to 89 km/h within 24 hours before making landfall along the area known as the Big Bend in northwest Florida as a Category 4 hurricane late last month.

And in the North Atlantic, where ocean temperatures are at their highest, storms like mine have had a busy day.

Lee’s winds increased to 137 km/h in 24 hours, the third-fastest in intensity ever in the Atlantic Ocean, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist John Kaplan.

“There is no doubt that the exceptionally warm ocean waters we are seeing have a human imprint,” Kosin said. “If we add to that the warming effects of this year’s El Niño, we have a recipe that could break many temperature records.”

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This is especially true in the eastern North Pacific, where warming is most concentrated due to the growing El Niño phenomenon, Kosen noted. He added: “Jofa is there in the middle, and the warm water must have led to rapid condensation.”

One thing is certain: As the world’s oceans continue to warm, experts say the frequency and intensification of these large-scale storms will increase.

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