Your Wednesday Briefing

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Subtropical Storm Theta, which formed in the open waters of the Atlantic this week, became the 29th named storm of this year’s hurricane season, surpassing the total count from 2005. Scientists can’t say for sure whether global warming is causing more hurricanes, but they are confident that it’s changing the way storms behave. Here’s how.

Higher winds. There’s a solid scientific consensus that hurricanes are becoming more powerful. Hurricanes are complex, but one of the key factors that determines how strong a given storm ultimately becomes is ocean surface temperature, because warmer water provides more of the energy that fuels storms.

More rain. Warming also increases the amount of water vapor that the atmosphere can hold. In fact, every degree Celsius of warming allows the air to hold about 7 percent more water. That means we can expect future storms to unleash larger amounts of rainfall.

Slower storms. Researchers do not yet know why storms are moving more slowly, but they are. Slower, wetter storms worsen flooding.

Wider-ranging storms. Because warmer water helps fuel hurricanes, climate change is enlarging the zone where hurricanes can form. That could mean more storms making landfall in higher latitudes, like in the United States or Japan.

More volatility. As the climate warms, researchers also say they expect storms to intensify more rapidly. Researchers are still unsure why it’s happening, but the trend appears to be clear.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at

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