In 2021, hurricanes set a record: there were fewer of them than ever before

(ORDO NEWS) — Although the press consistently describes the strengthening of hurricanes, in fact, last year was exceptionally weak in this sense. How far this trend will continue in the future is questionable: it is most likely that hurricanes will begin to spread to more northern latitudes, although the number of victims from them will continue to decline.

The question of what happens to hurricanes as global warming is one of the most important in understanding the effects of climate change on the planet. It is known that in the tropics and at the equator, where such phenomena are born, they are quite strong and noticeably exceed the energy of storms in temperate latitudes.

Based on this, many expect that as the weather warms, the northward spread of hurricanes is inevitable. However, specific calculations often give conflicting results, which makes observations of real-life hurricanes especially valuable. If their numbers and strength are rapidly increasing, this should be cause for alarm.

However, in practice, coverage of events of this kind is not part of the usual tasks of the press. The number of views depends on how “destructive”, “catastrophic” and “sensational” the news looks. It is unprofitable to write about a small number of hurricanes in the media, which is why years with a large number and energy of hurricanes are covered as widely as possible, and years when hurricanes were less than normal are poorly covered.

In 2021 hurricanes set a record there were fewer of them than ever before 1

Scientific institutions, meanwhile, keep records of all hurricanes based on data collected around the world, most often with the help of satellite observations. Just 37 hurricanes have been counted in 2021 , fewer than at any time since 1980. If we take only strong hurricanes (categories 3+), then there were 16.

This is the minimum figure since 1982, that is, since the beginning of regular satellite observations of this destructive phenomenon throughout the planet. For 1981, 15 hurricanes 3+ were counted, but in those years the network of tracking satellites was far from ideal, so the data may be somewhat underestimated relative to reality.

In 2021 hurricanes set a record there were fewer of them than ever before 2

In 2020, there were 24 strong hurricanes 3+, and in 2019 – 35. To understand the severity of the hurricane threat, it is important not only the number of large, most dangerous, but also the total energy of all cyclones of the year.

For 2021, it turned out to be the ninth during the observation period. In the meantime, note that many weaker storms threaten lives and critical infrastructure far less than a single Category 3+ hurricane.

The question of the future fate of hurricanes is one of the key to understanding the real consequences of global warming. From paleoclimatology it is known that with a serious warming, the transport of air masses in the Northern Hemisphere changes its character.

Cyclones begin to go not only and not so much from west to east, as before global warming, but also from south to north: the transfer of air masses begins to become meridional.

In 2021 hurricanes set a record there were fewer of them than ever before 3

It is due to this transfer of warming on Earth that the temperature always rises significantly at high latitudes, but extremely little at the equator and in the tropics. In itself, such a “leveling” is more a blessing than a harm: it saves the tropics from overheating, and high latitudes from cold weather. However, the transport mechanism – strong cyclones – can cause both storms and hurricanes, including quite dangerous ones.

The question of how hurricanes will evolve – in the direction of an increase in the number of weak and medium ones, or in the direction of an increase in the number of the most dangerous ones – has not yet been resolved in science.

All the reliable data we have dates back to the 1980s, after the start of “dense” satellite observations of the Earth. And in these data there is no pronounced trend yet, which would indicate what our “hurricane” future will be like.


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