More hurricanes could hit New York, Boston and other northern cities as planet warms, study suggests

A warming planet means hurricanes this century could spin farther north in the Atlantic than they used to, potentially affecting such cities as New York and Boston, a new study published Wednesday suggests

The study said systems such as 2021’s Hurricane Henri, which hit New England in August as a tropical storm, could be harbingers of such future storms.

“This represents an important, under-estimated risk of climate change,” said study lead author Joshua Studholme of Yale University, in a statement. “This research predicts that the 21st-century’s tropical cyclones will likely occur over a wider range of latitudes than has been the case on Earth for the last 3 million years,” he added.

And it’s not only Atlantic hurricanes that will be affected: Typhoons in the eastern Pacific Ocean will also tend to migrate north, potentially affecting cities not accustomed to seeing such impacts, including Beijing and Tokyo.

The question of the impact of climate change on hurricanes and typhoons has been contentious in the past, but recent research suggests that the connections are becoming more clear, BBC News said. 

A satellite image taken Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021, at 2:20 p.m. EDT, and provided by NOAA, shows Hurricane Larry in the Atlantic Ocean. The National Weather Service is warning that swells from Hurricane Larry will create dangerous rip current conditions.

Typically, tropical cyclones – which include hurricanes and typhoons – form at low latitudes. There they harness the energy of warm waters in tropical oceans and are away from the shearing impact of jet streams, the west-to-east bands of wind that circle the planet, Yale University said in a news release.  

As the climate warms, temperature differences between the equator and the poles will decrease, the researchers said. In the summer, this may cause weakening or even a split in the jet stream, opening a window in the mid-latitudes for tropical cyclones to form and intensify.

“There are large uncertainties in how tropical cyclones will change in the future,” said study co-author Alexey Fedorov, also of Yale University. “However, multiple lines of evidence indicate that we could see more tropical cyclones in mid-latitudes, even if the total frequency of tropical cyclones does not increase, which is still actively debated.”

The study was published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed British journal Nature Geoscience.

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