By Robert Korty
MIT has made news again this week, as research by meteorology Professor Kerry Emanuel PhD ’78 provided the first evidence that the planet’s warming climate has influenced tropical cyclone activity over the past several decades. Earlier research had confirmed a rather surprising stability: 90 tropical storms form somewhere on the planet each year; this number varies by less than 10 from year to year. What Emanuel’s research shows, however, is that the average storm intensity has risen and the lifetime of storms has increased. This means that more storms are approaching the upper bound of thermodynamically viability, and that they are surviving at their peak intensities for a longer duration.
No one can say that a particular storm or even a particular season is abnormal owing to global warming. But what this research shows is that the cumulative energy carried by storms in the deep tropics is increasing with temperatures at those latitudes. This year is already off to a record pace with seven storms named in the Atlantic during June and July (it is common for only one to be named in this basin by the start of August), and temperatures in the Atlantic are running several degrees above average for this time of year. The coming months are likely to be quite busy.
For us, fairly typical August weather should prevail this week. Warm (though not oppressive) days and mild nights may be punctuated by isolated thunderstorms at any point, but there will be abundant sunshine through the weekend.
Today through Friday: Mostly sunny with highs 85–90 F (29–32 C); lows near 65 F (19 C) at night.