The Hamilton Spectator
Scientists say back-to-back hurricanes more likely to occur
Study shows deadly storm duet could happen every few years
What used to be a rare one-two punch of consecutive hurricanes hitting about the same place in the United States weeks apart seems to be happening more often, and a new study says climate change will make back-to-back storms more frequent and nastier in the future.
Using computer simulations, scientists at Princeton University calculate that the deadly storm duet that used to happen once every few decades could happen every two or three years as the world warms from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, according to a study in Monday’s Nature Climate Change.
Louisiana and Florida residents have already felt it.
In 2021, major hurricane Ida blasted Louisiana with 241 km/h winds. Just 15 days later, a weakening Nicholas came nearby, close enough for its wind, rain and storm surge to add to the problems, said study co-author Ning Lin, a risk engineer and climate scientist at Princeton. Her study looked at not just the storms but the problems back-to-back hurricanes caused to people.
The Ida-Nicholas combo came after Louisiana was hit in 2020 by five hurricanes or tropical storms: Cristobal, Marco, Laura, Delta and Zeta. Laura was the biggest of those, packing 241 km/h winds.
After Laura, relief workers had set up a giant recovery centre in a parking lot of a damaged roofless church when Delta approached, so all the supplies had to be jammed against the building and battened down for the next storm, said United Way of Southwest Louisiana President Denise Durel.
“You can’t imagine. You’re dumbfounded. You think it can’t be happening to us again,” Durel recalled 2 1/2 years later from an area that is still recovering. “The other side of it is that you can’t wish it upon anyone else either.”
Florida in 2004 had four hurricanes in six weeks, prompting the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration to take note of a new nickname for the Sunshine State — “The Plywood State,” from all the boarded-up homes.
“We found a trend,” Lin said. “Those things are happening. They’re happening more often now than before.”