Hurricanes are slowing, which could be a big problem

People walk through floodwaters near Interstate 10 in Houston on Aug. 27 2017

People walk through floodwaters near Interstate 10 in Houston on Aug. 27 2017

He said Hurricane Harvey in Texas past year was a dramatic example of the consequences of a slow-moving or "stalled" tropical cyclone. "Hurricane Harvey previous year was a great example of what a slow storm can do".

"The slower the storm gets, the more rain an area will get", said Jim Kossin.

"The slower a storm goes, the more rain it's going to dump in any particular area", said study author James Kossin, a government climate scientist.

The study, released Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature, showed a 10% decrease in forward speed globally between 1949 and 2016, though there is some variation among ocean basins.

"Nothing good comes out of a slowing storm", Dr Kossin told National Geographic. A slow storm increases the risk of damaging floods.

Climate change is tinkering with and slowing down atmospheric circulation patterns - the wind currents that move weather along, Kossin said. "And that has effects on circulation - typically slows it down".

"The poles tend to become disproportionately warmer than the tropics do under global warming", Kossin said.

Previous research has shown that a warmer climate can hold more water moisture, so when it rains, it rains more. Instead, it means the tracks of the storms have slowed, allowing them to hover in one location for longer periods of time.

Dr Christina Patricola, from the Climate and Ecosystems Sciences Division at University California, Davis, says the findings raise several questions, especially regarding "stalled" tropical cyclones. Under the right conditions, that can do far more damage than high winds or storm surge.

While the new research suggests hurricanes and typhoons are slowing down over time, more work needs to be done to improve prediction models for how hurricanes may behave in the future.

But Kossin made a decision to investigate it, based on the expectation that climate change is already altering the general, large-scale circulation of the atmosphere, within which hurricanes are embedded and by which they are steered.

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