Why Wind Risks Are Increasing

A changing environment means higher air temperatures and higher humidities, which in turn impact weather patterns and hurricanes’ place within them.

Global atmospheric temperatures are rising, allowing more water vapor (humidity) to be carried by our atmosphere. This causes changes in the large-scale weather patterns which impact hurricanes. In particular, warming ocean waters, which provide the energy that fuels these storms, are leading to more intense cyclones, with stronger winds and heavier rainfall. Other environmental changes, including the amount of moisture in the atmosphere and alterations to wind patterns, can also influence the intensity of hurricanes.

Why Wind Risks Are Increasing

Rising Sea Surface Temperatures and Other Changes

A warmer atmosphere also means warmer oceans. The sea’s surface temperature is 1.5 ℉ warmer than it was in 1950 and will rise another 0.5 ℉ by 2050. Higher ocean surface temperatures fuel hurricanes and offshore storms with more water and power, so these systems reach further inland and further north, are more intense, and last longer.

    Temperatures in degrees Fahrenheit. Increase in comparison to the 1980-2010 average.

    Source: NOAA National Data Buoy Center and Schmidt et al, 2014., Configuration and assessment of the GISS ModelE2 contributions to the CMIP5 archive.

    The impact of warmer seas and environmental changes

    Scientific evidence indicates that tropical storms have been and will continue to intensify more rapidly than in the past, meaning that there may be less time to prepare for strong hurricanes that make landfall. Rainfall rates associated with hurricanes are also likely to increase with a changing climate, as the warmer air has more capacity for water vapor and thus supports heavier downpours. Sea level rise, another consequence of climate change, also means that surge events driven by hurricanes are likely to be higher and cause greater damage when storms make landfall.

    Additional factors increasing risk

    More Hurricanes are reaching “major storm” status.

    While the total number of hurricanes is not expected to increase with climate change, the proportion of hurricanes that reach very high intensities and wind speeds (Categories 4-5) is becoming greater. This means that the average intensity of storms is increasing, and the wind speeds that are likely to be experienced are increasing.

    The probability of experiencing damaging winds is increasing with climate change in those areas of the US that are impacted by tropical storm systems. If it is more likely that a home will be exposed to higher wind speeds, then the expected losses over time at that home also increase.

    Hurricanes that form are more likely to track further northward than today

    Due to changes in the large-scale general circulation in the atmosphere brought about by climate change, those tropical storms and hurricanes that form are more likely to travel farther towards the poles. This means that storms that form in the North Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico are more likely to track northward in the future than they are today.

    The likelihood of a landfalling hurricane along the US East Coast, Mid-Atlantic, and New England regions is increasing with climate change. The chances of a storm impacting New England, for example, will be larger in the future than it is today.

    How does Wind Factor™️ incorporate changing wind risks?

    The data on Risk Factor™ considers how climate-related changes in hurricanes’ intensities and tracks affect the likelihood of risky wind events for US properties.

    What can be done to mitigate wind risk?

    Although wind risk can never be eliminated, there are a wide range of protection measures that reduce risk to buildings and structures.

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