A warming globe will make the kind of weather that kept Superstorm Sandy from heading out to sea last year less likely to return in coming decades, climate model forecasts suggest.
The winds that steered Superstorm Sandy straight into the East Coast look less likely to return in the future, suggests a climate forecast out Monday.
The largest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded, Sandy smashed ashore near Atlantic City, N.J., on Oct. 29. As Jersey Shore boardwalks collapsed and New York City subway tunnels flooded, 117 people died, most often from drowning, in the $65 billion U.S. disaster.
Sandy had reached major hurricane strength near Cuba in October, before it headed north. Along with its 1,100 mile-wide width, one thing that made Sandy so unusual was the storm’s track, marked by a sharp, sudden westward swerve into the East Coast. Most hurricanes instead skirt the coast on a northeasterly heading, often spinning out to sea once they reach Mid-Atlantic latitudes. The role that global warming played in the disaster became part of the debate in the aftermath of the storm, withBloomberg BusinessWeek magazine blaring, “It’s the Global Warming, Stupid,” on its cover immediately afterward.
“A lot of speculation after Sandy was that its steering winds were some sort of ‘new normal’ caused by a warming climate,” says climate scientist Elizabeth Barnes of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., lead author of the new study inProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research seeks to answer part of that question by looking into whether Sandy-like steering winds look more or less likely by 2100. “We wanted to test that idea, and what we have found is that the steering winds actually look less frequent in the next century,” Barnes says.