Science

3 weekend storms battered far-flung corners of the world — and they all share one thing in common

Powerful storms battered three disparate, far-flung corners of the planet over the weekend, but they had one thing in common: They were made stronger and wetter by climate change.

From Hurricane Fiona barreling over Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic to Typhoon Nanmadol pounding Japan, to the remnants of Typhoon Merbok wreaking havoc in Alaska, the past 72 hours have demonstrated the devastating effects of heavy rain and flooding.

The three weekend storms add to a trend of wetter storms in a warmer future, said Michael Wehner, a senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

“The worst storms will get worse,” he said.

With climate change making storms rainier and more intense, the weekend’s extreme weather events offer a glimpse of what could become more common in the future, according to experts.

One of the most pronounced ways storms have been affected by climate change in recent years can be measured in rainfall increases, said Kevin Reed, an associate professor of atmospheric science at Stony Brook University in New York.

As the world’s oceans heat up, they provide more energy for storms, allowing them to intensify as they form. A warmer atmosphere can also hold more moisture, Reed said.

“If you have warmer water, you’ll have more evaporation, which means you have more moisture in the atmosphere, which means you can get more precipitation,” he said.

Until the weekend, the Atlantic hurricane season had been unusually quiet, but Reed said mid-September is usually the peak of the season, which means other powerful storms could still be on the way.

“Hurricane Fiona is a reminder that even though it has been relatively quiet, things can change and strong storms can have a really big impact,” he added.

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