Expect higher summer temperatures, potential for stronger hurricanes

RALEIGH, North Carolina — June 1 is the start of meteorological summer and the start of the Atlantic hurricane season, and trends show that temperatures each summer are getting higher and higher, leading to real-world impacts and hurricanes that move inward.

Although we have ups and downs each year, overall our average temperatures during the summer have been increasing.

summer warm up

This graph shows the areas of greatest increase since 1970. The areas with the deepest red show the greatest increase in warming: the West Coast, the Southwest region, and West Texas. That’s not great news for the wildfire situation that we often see in those areas.

While those areas show the most heat, we have also seen an increase in RDU. Our average temperatures have increased by about 4.2 degrees from the period 1970 to 2022. Likewise, our days with ‘above normal’ temperatures have increased. We average about 38 more days of “above normal” temperatures than we did in 1970.

From disease to insurance: real-world impact of rising temperatures

Rising temperatures have real-world impacts such as wildfires, heat-related illnesses, and lower air quality.

In North Carolina, farmers have to adjust their entire planting schedule, or even switch crops, to accommodate the warmer temperatures.

The North Carolina Climate Science Report (NCCSR), run by the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies, found that North Carolina has warmed one degree Fahrenheit in the past 120 years. Experts believe that the temperature in the area will continue to rise.

Experts see nothing to suggest that temperature increases will slow.

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Do warmer temperatures mean more risk of hurricanes?

While warmer days, and warmer air temperatures, don’t necessarily correlate directly with increased hurricane activity, rising temperatures are causing warmer waters, which could lead to increased hurricane frequency or even stronger hurricanes in the long run.

In theory, this means that warmer summers could affect our hurricane season, especially since there is nothing to suggest that the increase in heat will eventually abate.

The researchers say that rising temperatures and warmer air molecules carry more water vapor, leading to more potential rainfall and increasing the chance of inland flooding. This means that danger zones are moving inland, putting more people at risk during hurricanes.

  • NOAA forecasts up to 17 named storms
  • NOAA is forecasting a range of 12 to 17 total named storms (winds 39 mph or greater).
  • Of those, 5 to 9 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher)
  • Of those, 1-4 could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4, or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher).

The Earth naturally goes through cycles where temperatures fluctuate; however, we have seen an increase in human activity, infrastructure and CO2 emissions, all of which can lead to an eventual rise in temperatures.