Wednesday June 21, 2023

The Conversation

When a hurricane hits land, the destruction can be visible for years or even decades. Less obvious, but also powerful, is the effect hurricanes have on the oceans.

In a new study, we show through real-time measurements that hurricanes don’t just churn water at the surface. They can also push heat deep into the ocean in ways that can lock it up for years and ultimately affect regions far from the storm.

Heat is the key component of this story. It has long been known that hurricanes gain their energy from warm sea surface temperatures. This heat helps moist air near the ocean surface rise like a hot air balloon and form clouds taller than Mount Everest. This is why hurricanes generally form in tropical regions.

What we discovered is that hurricanes ultimately help warm the ocean, too, by enhancing its ability to absorb and store heat. And that can have far-reaching consequences.

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