Why are hurricanes affecting Europe?

It seems as if climate change is incrementing the strength of hurricanes

Why are hurricanes affecting Europe?

Leer en Español: ¿Por qué los huracanes del Atlántico están llegando a Europa?

During hurricane season it is common to see various natural disasters in the Caribbean. Harvey, Irma, Maria, among others, have left a trace of devastation in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and many other islands in the region. However, Ophelia was the first hurricane in Europe since Vince back in 2005.

Recently, Ophelia, a category 3 hurricane, passed through Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. The hurricane had winds of up to 176 kilometers. Ophelia left 3 people dead and 360 thousand without electricity. It was the first time that a hurricane with this strength hit the British islands. Normally, natural disasters lose strength and, when they arrive to Europe, they become post-tropical storms.

Ophelia was the first category 3 hurricane to hit the British islands

According to The Irish Time, since 1851, when the scientific monitoring began, "only 15 hurricanes have passed within 200 nautical miles of the Azores".

Deirdre Lowe, a Met Éireann meteorologist, explained to the Irish newspaper that it was unusual "that it [Ophelia] has developed so far east (...) it is probably due to a combination of reasons dealing with the Gulf Stream".

Ophelia was the 10th hurricane of the season in the Atlantic

Climate change may be a reason

Experts assured that the planet’s temperature rise has affected the strength of the hurricanes. Warmer waters and wind shear can also be the reason hurricane Ophelia become a category 3 and survived until hitting Ireland.  

Climate Center, an environment organization that studies climate change, assured that "a warming of the atmosphere causes more evaporation, meaning more water is available for precipitation. For every 1°F increase in temperature, the atmosphere can hold around 4 percent more water vapor, which leads to heavier rain and increases the risk of flooding". The organization assured that the amount of water during hurricane Harvey in Texas, USA, was due to this event.

This explanation can suggest that hurricane Ophelia was the first category 3 hurricane, but, possibly, not the last one to hit Europe. If the environmental conditions don’t change, it will be possible to see more and stronger hurricanes in this continent.

Climate Center: a warming atmosphere causes more evaporation, meaning more vapor, which leads to heavier rain and increases the risk of flooding


Latin American Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto