New research published in Environmental Research Letters on February 9 shows that the average maximum wind speeds of hurricanes in the subtropical Atlantic Ocean around the Bermuda Islands have doubled over the past 60 years due to rising ocean temperatures in the region.

Heat and wind speed

Hurricanes are intensified by extracting energy from the warm ocean surface via atmospheric and marine heat flows;

So the warming of the ocean could make hurricanes more intense.

Thus scientists expect that enhanced wind forecasting will help determine the correct level of hurricanes before a storm, and possibly limit the damage caused in Bermuda.

By analyzing the surface and subsurface ocean temperature from the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study program, run by the Bermuda Institute of Oceanography, researchers found that sea surface and subsurface water temperatures rise there by up to 1.1 ° C, providing additional energy for further growth. Hurricane intensity.

In parallel, the average hurricane intensity - measured at its maximum wind speed - increased near Bermuda from 35 to 73 miles (56.3 to 117.5 kilometers) per hour;

That is equivalent to more than 6 miles (9.6 kilometers) per hour per decade, between 1955 and 2019.

The study developed a new indicator to measure the intensity of hurricanes moving across the Bermuda region, using the average temperature of the upper ocean at the top of the water layer, which is 50 meters deep.

A visual image of Tropical Storm "Bullitt" in the central North Atlantic, September 2020 (NASA)

Better approach to forecasting

According to a press release issued by the University of Southampton and the National Oceanographic Center (NOC), Samantha Hallam, lead author of this paper, said that the researchers' approach could provide a better way to predict the severity of a Bermuda storm compared to current theoretical methods. .

"We have used the theory of potential hurricane intensity, local weather balloon probes, surface and top ocean observations during hurricanes that have been passing 100 kilometers from Bermuda over the past 65 years, including direct and" impending "storms, she said.

Mark Goisard, co-author and director of the Bermuda Weather Service, said this research "demonstrates how important the heat of the upper ocean versus sea surface temperatures is in predicting hurricane intensity."

"Initial tests of Hurricane Paulette recently are showing promising results, and we are seeking to further develop this technology as an additional operational tool for local forecasters," he added.