Ian was a tropical storm with heavy rain and winds of more than 70 miles per hour. If recent history is to be believed, the storm could intensify dangerously as it nears Cuba as early as Monday night.
As Earth's climate warms, more storms are undergoing this kind of rapid intensification, growing quickly from relatively weak tropical storms to Category 3 or higher hurricanes in less than 24 hours, giving residents little time to prepare.
Key facts about climate change can be found here.
The oceans have absorbed most of the excess heat from global warming. Sea surface temperatures have risen an average of 0.14 degrees per decade over the last century.
Storm strength is gathered over the ocean. The more power they pick up, the hotter the water is. A metric used to describe the intensity of a storm is the maximum sustained wind.Sign up for the Climate Forward newsletter Your must-read guide to the climate crisis.
The occurrence of more intense storms is something that experts are very confident about.
A 2020 satellite image analysis shows that the likelihood of a Category 3 storm or higher has increased by 8 percent over the last decade.
Kerry A. Emanuel is a meteorology and Hurricane expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The National Hurricane Center defines rapid intensification as an increase of at least 30 knots, or 35 m.p.h., in the maximum winds over a 24 hour period. Since the 1980s, researchers have found that the likelihood of a storm intensifying has gone up.
The last decade's most intense storms intensified quickly. On the evening of August 24th, Harvey was a Category 1 Hurricane with 130 m.p.h winds. Within 15 hours, Maria became a Category 5 Hurricane.
Hurricane Ida strengthened from a Category 1 to a Category 5 in less than a day.
Current conditions were ideal for Ian to follow a similar path, according to Dr. Emanuel.
Scientists aren't sure about the effects of elements other than ocean temperatures.
One of those elements is vertical wind shear, which is a measure of how much the wind changes in speed or direction. It is possible to prevent the development of hurricanes by forcing cool, dry air into the center of the storm. He likened it to pouring cold water on a fire.
Warming temperatures may cause the vertical wind shear to weaken, allowing hurricanes to intensify more quickly, according to a study published in 2019.
The study found that different effects of warming on wind shear could be observed around the world.
The increase in the number of hurricanes that intensify quickly and unpredictably presents a problem for forecasters.
There is less time to make a decision. If officials issue an evacuate order too early, they risk sending hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions, scrambling, jamming highways and snarling transit systems. Staying in place could be more dangerous and disruptive than that.
Dr. Emanuel said that you had cried wolf. People may not listen to the next warning to leave.
There is no time for people to get out of the way of a powerful storm.
It is a forecaster's worst nightmare if a relatively weak Hurricane develops into a Category 4 or 5 Hurricane.