Study: hurricane season longer, big storms sooner

16:19, July 14, 2008

Hurricane seasons are arriving early and hanging around longer during the past century, and the big storms are forming earlier, some climate scientists say.

Plus, the area of warm water able to support hurricanes is growing larger over time. The Atlantic Ocean is becoming more hurricane friendly, scientists say, and the shift is likely due to global warming.

"There has been an increase in the seasonal length over the last century," Jay Gulledge, a senior scientist with the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, told LiveScience. "It's pretty striking."

A study Gulledge co-authored with other climate scientists found a five-day increase in season length per decade since 1915.

Hurricane season officially starts June 1, but the first named storm of the 2008 season, Tropical Storm Albert, formed on May 31. The first hurricane of the season, Hurricane Bertha, formed on July 1, reaching hurricane strength on July 7, relatively early in the season for a major storm.

In the last decade, more strong storms have been forming earlier in the season, said hurricane researcher Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

While this trend hasn't been formally linked to global warming because climate models can't reproduce individual storms, Holland thinks it's likely that the warming caused by manmade greenhouse gases is a major factor in the seasonal shift based on observations of changes in recent decades and the predictions models are making for the changing conditions in the Atlantic basin.

The length of the hurricane season is "one of the potentially big signals" that could change in response to global warming, Holland said.


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