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Climate Change Worsened Record-Breaking 2020 Hurricane Season

Climate Change Worsened Record–Breaking 2020 Hurricane Season

The storms produced significantly more rainfall than they would have without global warming

Climate change helped fuel stronger, wetter storms during an unusually active Atlantic hurricane season in 2020, a new study finds. The cyclones produced significantly more rainfall than they would have in a world without global warming.

The most extreme three-hour rainfall rates that season were about 10 percent higher because of the influence of climate change, the study found. And the most extreme three-day rainfall rates were about 5 percent higher.

That’s looking at all the cyclones that formed across the Atlantic basin, including both tropical storms and hurricanes. When the scientists focused only on hurricane-strength storms, they found that the influence of climate change was even stronger. Climate change increased three-hour rainfall rates by about 11 percent and three-day rainfall by about 8 percent.

It’s a snapshot of what’s likely a long-term trend.

“As the global surface temperature continues to rise, we would expect to see continued increases in rainfall in tropical cyclones due to climate change,” said Kevin Reed, an expert on extreme weather events at Stony Brook University and lead author of the study.

That means a greater risk of damaging floods when storms make landfall. It’s a warning sign to coastal communities that they should plan accordingly, Reed noted.

“We’ve built a society and built infrastructure that has focused on the weather that we experienced in the 20th century — and our weather has changed,” he said. “So it’s important to think about ways we can adapt our society to handle those changes in weather.”

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season broke records left and right. It produced 30 named storms, the highest number in recorded history. Twelve of them made landfall in the continental United States, also a record-breaker.


The storms produced significantly more rainfall than they would have without global warming
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