Environmental research laboratories study and test a broad realm of topics, from air and water quality and pollution levels to soil and sediment quality and erosion rates. They explore renewable energy sources and sustainable technologies. Environmental labs also investigate the causes, impacts, and mitigation strategies related to climate change.
There is ongoing environmental research that suggests climate change is impacting the frequency and severity of hurricanes. While it is challenging to attribute individual hurricanes solely to climate change, scientific studies have indicated some notable trends and potential links between climate change and hurricanes.
Ways climate change may influence hurricanes
Hurricanes are natural weather phenomena that occur in certain regions, primarily in the Atlantic Ocean, under specific atmospheric conditions. A tropical cyclone becomes classified as a hurricane when maximum sustained winds reach 74 miles per hour or higher. From 1991 to 2020, the average annual hurricane season produced seven hurricanes, three of which each season were considered major hurricanes.1
Hurricane prediction is a complex and challenging task involving numerical weather models, historical climatology research, and weather satellite data. While hurricane predictions have become more accurate over the years, the impact of climate change on hurricanes is a variable still being studied. Environmental research indicates there is scientific evidence that climate change may influence hurricanes in several ways.
Increased sea surface temperatures
As a result of climate change, sea surface temperatures have been rising, particularly in tropical regions. Warm ocean waters provide the energy source for hurricanes. Therefore, warmer temperatures can fuel the intensity and frequency of hurricanes. Higher temperatures on the seas’ surface can lead to increased evaporation, moisture in the atmosphere, and stronger tropical cyclones.
Changes in atmospheric conditions
Climate change can alter atmospheric conditions that influence hurricane formation and development. Factors such as changes in wind patterns, atmospheric stability, and vertical wind shear can affect the intensity, track, and duration of hurricanes. Environmental research shows that increased wind shear can inhibit the development and intensification of hurricanes.
Rising sea levels
Environmental research also shows that climate change has led to rising global sea levels, due to thermal expansion and the melting of ice caps and glaciers. Higher sea levels can result in increased storm surges during hurricanes. This increases the potential for coastal flooding and damage. Storm surge occurs when hurricanes push seawater onto land, and the extent of flooding can be amplified by higher sea levels.
Shifts in hurricane tracks
While the overall number of hurricanes may not change significantly, climate change could lead to shifts in the tracks that hurricanes follow. Environmental research data show that changes in atmospheric conditions, including wind patterns and wind shear, can play a role in hurricane behavior. While the specific effects of climate change on wind patterns are still being studied, these shifts could have implications for the areas at risk of hurricane impacts, potentially affecting coastal communities.
Environmental research linking climate change and hurricanes
Multiple environmental research studies have found evidence suggesting that climate change is contributing to an increase in the intensity of hurricanes. Warmer ocean temperatures, fueled by climate change, provide more energy for hurricanes to strengthen. A study2 published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2020 found that human-caused global warming has likely increased the likelihood of the most extreme hurricanes (Category 3 or higher on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale) by eight percent per decade.
A study published in Nature Communications found that the rapid intensification of hurricanes has become more common in the Atlantic basin since the mid-twentieth century.3 Rapid intensification refers to the process where hurricanes strengthen significantly in a short period, often within 24 hours. Environmental research suggests that climate change could lead to an increase in the occurrence of rapid intensification in future hurricane seasons.
An environmental research team studying flooding hazards concluded that climate change could cause tropical cyclones, including hurricanes, to move more slowly, which can result in longer durations of rainfall and increased flooding potential in affected areas.4 Rain bands associated with a hurricane can produce excessive amounts of rainfall over a short period, overwhelming drainage systems and causing rivers, streams, and other water bodies to overflow. Widespread flooding in both urban and rural areas can damage homes, infrastructure, and agricultural land.
It is important to mention that while these studies provide insights into the potential impacts of climate change on hurricanes, there are still uncertainties and regional variations in the findings. The behavior of hurricanes is influenced by various factors, including regional climate patterns, natural climate variability, and other atmospheric and oceanic conditions.
Environmental labs studying climate change could benefit from LIMS software
Environmental research into climate change involves handling vast amounts of data from various sources, such as satellite imagery, weather models, and field observations. Samples collected from hurricanes and other weather events need to be tracked and managed effectively. A laboratory information management system (LIMS) provides a platform to store, organize, and manage these data efficiently. Researchers can easily input, retrieve, and analyze data related to hurricanes, climate variables, storm patterns, and other factors.
A LIMS can also facilitate collaboration among researchers and teams. It allows multiple users to access and work on the same data simultaneously, promoting real-time collaboration and information sharing. Researchers can communicate within the LIMS platform, exchange notes, share findings, and collaborate on data analysis. Lab leaders can assign tasks and monitor progress within the LIMS. Integrating laboratory instruments with LIMS software can automate data entry, reducing the chances of errors and ensuring consistency.
LabLynx offers the ELab LIMS software solution for both environmental research laboratories and all types of environmental testing labs. ELab enhances data management, streamlines workflows, facilitates collaboration, enables data analysis, ensures quality control, and supports compliance and documentation needs. By implementing ELab LIMS, environmental researchers can enhance their efficiency, improve data integrity, and ultimately contribute to a better understanding of how climate change influences hurricanes.