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Strengthening Storms

Strong storm events overwhelm the absorptive capacity of soils and vegetation, create challenges for crop and livestock production, degrade riparian habitats, and send large quantities of sediment and pollution into rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters.

Tropical Storms Deserve Special Mention

Hurricane strength is influenced by sea surface temperature. Already, the sea surface temperature of the tropical Atlantic Ocean is approximately 1°F higher than it was a century ago, and current predictions suggest it could rise another 5°F by the end of this century. As a result, the number of intense hurricanes is also expected to increase over the course of this century. Some models indicate that the frequency of Category 4 and 5 storms could double by 2100.

How Do Stronger Storms Affect Natural Resources and Conservation Priorities?

Wind rain and storm surges from hurricanes and tropical storms present a significant threat to coastal and inland habitats, plants and wildlife. Species with specific habitat needs and/or limited distribution are especially vulnerable. For example, the red-cockaded woodpecker suffered a devastating blow in 1989, when Hurricane Hugo destroyed 87% of the species’ nesting trees in the Francis Marion National Forest.

The potential impacts of stronger and more frequent storms include:

  • Coastal flooding and habitat destruction due to high winds, rain, and storm surge.
  • Flooding.
  • Destruction of agricultural crops and/or loss of livestock due to flooding events.
  • Increased erosion and runoff.
  • Degradation of riparian habitats, due to increased runoff and higher rates of sedimentation.

Stronger and more frequent storms may also compound other climate change impacts, such as:

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