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Study: Hurricanes striking U.S. are getting bigger, stronger

By Brooks Hays
New research suggests hurricanes hitting the U.S. over the last century have gotten bigger, stronger and more damaging. Photo by Dennis Van Tine/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/f3531e870eae4e6cb0a29cacdfa73aaa/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
New research suggests hurricanes hitting the U.S. over the last century have gotten bigger, stronger and more damaging. Photo by Dennis Van Tine/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 12 (UPI) -- Hurricanes making landfall in the United States are getting bigger and stronger, according to climate scientists at the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark.

Comparing the destructiveness of hurricanes usually involves tallying the cost of damages caused by the storm. Costs from decades ago can be adjusted for inflation, but the rise in population, houses and infrastructure along U.S. costs give modern hurricanes a destructive advantage, making comparisons difficult.

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In a new study, published this week in the journal PNAS, researchers decided to forgo cross-decade cost comparisons and look at the "area of total destruction" caused by each hurricane.

With the new method, scientists no longer have to calibrate for the differences in damages when hurricanes strike rural coastal regions, leaving major population densities unscathed.

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"Our record of normalized damage, framed in terms of an equivalent area of total destruction, is a more reliable measure for climate-related changes in extreme weather, and can be used for better risk assessments on hurricane disasters," researchers wrote in their newly published paper.

When scientists analyzed the destruction area of U.S. hurricanes over the last century, a clear climate signature emerged. Previously, the signal was hidden by uneven concentration of wealth along U.S. coasts.

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The new research confirmed that hurricanes striking the South and East Coast in the U.S. have indeed become bigger, stronger and more destructive over time.

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"The frequency of the very most damaging hurricanes has increased at a rate of 330 percent per century," the study's authors wrote.

The increase in hurricane strength matches the increase in extreme weather predicted by climate change models.

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