Three hurricanes, Irma, Jose, and Katia, threatening land simultaneously in the W Atlantic Basin, 7 September 2017. Never seen anything like this in the modern record. Photo: NOAA / NHC / Eric Blake

By Molly Rubin
7 September 2017

(Quartz) – For the first time in modern history, three hurricanes in the Atlantic are lined up in the most dangerous of ways, according to Eric Blake, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has issued advisories on Hurricane Irma (currently located north of the Dominican Republic), Hurricane Jose (700 miles east of the Lesser Antilles), and Hurricane Katia (over the southwestern Gulf of Mexico).

The Atlantic experienced three simultaneous hurricanes in 2010, with Igor, Julia, and Karl all swirling in the basin at the same time. Julia never threatened land, so the NHC didn’t issue a warning for North America. This is the first time that three hurricanes have the potential to make landfall at the same time.

The rising strength and potential impact of the hurricanes in the Atlantic basin has weather experts concerned, as global temperatures continuing to hit record highs. Global warming, which isn’t necessarily causing the formation of hurricanes, is almost certainly magnifying their intensity and potential for destruction.

Climate change is making hurricanes more powerful for longer periods of time. They need the energy from the warm, humid air above tropical oceans to keep up their strength. A hurricane begins as a tropical storm, when winds coming from different directions converge. Warm air rises around the storm’s center and cools, and the moisture condenses to form clouds and rain. Condensation releases latent heat, which powers hurricanes. If the layer of warm water isn’t at least 200 feet deep, a tropical storm could die before gaining hurricane strength.

The potential for destruction is also greater because warmer temperatures mean the air can hold more moisture, so hurricanes produce more rain, causing more floods. Rising sea levels also lead to greater and greater surges after a storm. [more]

Hurricane scientists have never seen an image like this before



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