Global warming makes Sandy's 'freaky' path less likely

A study found that global warming may eventually help change atmospheric winds so as to drive future hurricanes further away from from the U.S. Atlantic coast.
By GABRIELLE LEVY,  |  Sept. 3, 2013 at 5:16 PM
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Climate change could eventually push hurricanes away from the East Coast, making storms with the destructive path of Hurricane Sandy less likely.

A new study, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found that the warming caused by greenhouse gases could eventually shift atmospheric winds over the Atlantic, blowing more directly west to east during hurricane season by the next century.

"Superstorm" Sandy was particularly damaging because it was driven almost directly west from where it made landfall in New Jersey, guided by an unusual combination of the Jet Stream from the south and a high-pressure "blocking system" from the north.

The study's authors, meteorologists Elizabeth Barnes of Colorado State University, Lorenzo Polvani of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York, and Adam Sobelband at Columbia University, noted that the rare interaction made Sandy's track the most perpendicular to the Atlantic coast of any storm on record.

They argued that warming would change the direction of atmospheric winds, increasing east-blowing winds that would drive storms out to sea, as well as reduce the likelihood of the "blocking system" that forced Sandy westward.

Still, they warned the changes would not be immediate.

The Atlantic coast is still likely to see more intense hurricane seasons, with more destructive storms, for years to come.

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