What’s going on? 

Hurricanes are a type of storm called a tropical cyclone that form over tropical or subtropical waters. When a storm’s maximum sustained winds reach 74 mph, it is called a hurricane and is given a category of 1 to 5 based on wind speed. Hurricane season in the Atlantic basin runs from June 1 through November 30, but hurricanes can occur outside of this range. 

Due to increased air and water temperatures caused by global climate change, hurricanes are getting wetter and stronger. Since warm air can hold more moisture than cool air, warmer air temperatures are enabling hurricanes to have heavier rainfall. Similarly, warm ocean water fuels hurricane formation, so warmer temperatures are causing an increase in the number of major hurricanes. 

Hurricanes are also intensifying more rapidly, slowing down, and reaching maximum strength farther north from the equator. These changes make hurricanes more difficult to predict and cause areas to experience the impacts of the storms for longer. 

Why it matters. 

Florida is the most susceptible to damage from tropical storms and historically has experienced more hurricane strikes than any other state. The state’s vast coastlines and low-lying land make it difficult to escape from the impacts of these hurricanes. For the past 7 years, Florida has suffered above-average hurricane activity and pre-season predictions are calling for another above-average season in 2022. For a region already disproportionately impacted by hurricanes, this increased activity poses a serious threat. 

More intense and slow-moving storms, along with rising global sea levels, increase the risk of flooding in Florida during hurricanes. Storm surge – the rise in water levels above normal tides – is the leading cause of hurricane-related deaths in the United States and typically causes the most property damage. With higher sea levels, more water can be pushed inland by wind during hurricane-related storm surges – impacting Florida’s vulnerable coasts and sending water inland. Increasingly intense winds also contribute to the destruction of hurricanes by destroying roofs, mobile homes, trees, power lines, and much more. 

What you can do.

Hurricanes should be taken seriously, especially if you live in an at-risk area. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to plan and prepare for the worst-case scenario. With hurricane season starting June 1st, there is no better time than now to start your preparations! 

Information from NOAA, Climate Adaptation Center, FSU Climate Center, National Hurricane Center, EDF, and Florida Museum.