Hurricane Jan a blow Florida last Wednesday as one of the worst storms in the state’s history — killing dozens and leaving survivors facing months or years of recovery.

But the strength of the storm did not increase with time. Instead A hurricane Ian quickly transformed from a small tropical depression into a major hurricane, in a process meteorologists call “rapid intensification.”

This rapid increase in storms has become more common over the past few decades, likely due to human-induced warming.

How climate crisis will worsen in the coming decades, hurricanes may intensify much faster. This will potentially result in very strong storms that build up over several days, posing a huge threat to life and coastal communities.

On Friday, September 23, Ian formed as a tropical depression in the Caribbean Sea with sustained winds of up to 35 mph (56 kph). By Sunday, it had strengthened into Tropical Storm Yang. Then there was a real surge of electricity.

Between Sunday morning and Tuesday morning, winds increased from 50 mph (80 kph) to 115 mph (185 kph) — 65 mph in just 48 hours. Between Monday and Tuesday morning alone, the storm was growing 35 miles per hour faster.

National Hurricane Center determines “rapid intensification” as an increase in wind strength of at least 30 knots, or about 34 miles per hour, in 24 hours.

After the hurricane made landfall in Cuba, the storm reached that mark again, growing from a Category 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds Tuesday morning to a nearly Category 5 hurricane with 155 mph winds Wednesday morning.

Part of that power comes from a warm ocean. Hurricanes feed on the warmth of the ocean, which sends more water into their clouds and boosts the winds of giant tropical cyclones as they make their way to land.

As Ian entered the Caribbean, it encountered a lot of warm water, both south of Cuba and off the coast of Florida, which helped the storm gain strength very quickly. Associated Press reports that the water in the Caribbean Sea over which Hurricane Ian passed was about 1.8 degrees Celsius warmer than normal.

As the climate warms, future hurricanes may encounter much more warm water with much more potential energy to absorb en route to land. In general, the surface of the world oceans has warmed by about 0.8C since the beginning of the 20th century, in accordance with Woods Hall Oceanographic Institution.

There are 25 percent more storms now that are rapidly intensifying than they were 40 years ago, the AP reports. In addition, one 2019 study found that tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean have generally intensified more rapidly since the early 1980s.

A hot planet doesn’t just make storms stronger and faster. It also makes those storms stronger – period. Over the past four decades, according to United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changethe world’s leading authority on climate science.

As the planet warms even more, these trends will likely only increase.

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