According to a recent MIT study, published in Nature’s Climate Change Journal, global warming might cause the advent of Grey Swan hurricanes, storms of unprecedented magnitude, along the US coast.
The study was conducted as a joint venture between researchers from Princeton and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and consisted of 7000 simulated hurricanes based on the weather patterns recorded between 1980 and 2005 in Tampa Bay, Florida.
Taking into account the predicted rise in temperature over the next 100 years, as well as rises in temperature thus far, the scientists concluded that the eastern United States could be hit by storms of a scale never seen before. For example, the maximum height of the surge a hurricane can predictably bring to Tampa Bay – 18ft – is significantly higher than the 11ft experienced by the city in 1921, during the worse hurricane in its history.
The term Grey Swan had been coined in relation to a similar weather event, a maximum intensity and highly improbable hurricane duped a Black Swans, the difference between the two being that Black Swans can neither be predicted nor anticipated, while meteorologists can provide ample warning on Grey Swan hurricanes being formed.
The reassuring news doesn’t stop here, however, as the scientists had calculated that the chance for a maximum intensity hurricane occurring are decidedly small. Taking only hitherto weather data into account, a Grey Swan is predicted to hit the eastern coast of the US only once in 10,000 years. Accounting for the expected change in global temperature however, the chances rise between 1 in 3,000 and 1 in 1,100 by 2050, with as high a chance as 1 in 700 by 2099.
About the storms’ unusual intensity, Kerry Emanuel, co-author of the study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology remarked:
“When you do hundreds and hundreds of thousands of events, you’re going to see hurricanes that are unlike anything you’ve seen in history,”
The object of the study was to offer a clearer picture regarding the eventuality of such an event occurring, and the possible form it might take. The data obtained is especially relevant for high level policy making and industrial planning, offering a guideline for the placement of important infrastructure assets, such as harbors or nuclear power plants.
Other locations for which the researchers provided a model were Cairns, in Australia and Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. All three cities can experience surges during hurricanes.
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