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Study: Are we shifting to fewer, weaker Atlantic hurricanes?

Published:Monday | September 7, 2015 | 10:59 AM


A new but controversial study asks if an end is coming to the busy Atlantic hurricane seasons of recent decades.

The Atlantic looks like it is entering in to a new, quieter cycle of storm activity, like in the 1970s and 1980s, two prominent hurricane researchers wrote yesterday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Scientists at Colorado State University, including the professor who pioneered hurricane seasonal prognostication, said they are seeing a localised cooling and salinity level drop in the North Atlantic near Greenland. Those conditions, they theorise, change local weather and ocean patterns and form an on-again, off-again cycle in hurricane activity that they trace back to the late 1800s.

Warmer saltier water produces periods of more and stronger storms followed by cooler less salty water triggering a similar period of fewer and weaker hurricanes, the scientists said. The periods last about 25 years, sometimes more, sometimes less. The busy cycle that just ended was one of the shorter ones, perhaps because it was so strong that it ran out of energy, said study lead author Phil Klotzbach.

Klotzbach said that since about 2012, there has been more localised cooling in the key area and less salt, suggesting a new, quieter period. But Klotzbach said it is too soon to be certain that one has begun.