The historic devastation of hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas earlier this week is the latest example of a worrying trend. The storm hit the islands at Category 5 wind speeds and then stayed overland for hours before approaching the United States.
According to some estimates, Dorian is the slowest Category 5 hurricane in history in history.
Dorian's slow creep is similar to other major hurricanes in recent years and appears to be an increasingly common trend for these devastating storms. Scientists fear that climate change will play a role and that hurricanes can become more destructive if they slow down due to warming temperatures. Hurricanes can do much more damage at a standstill than if they move quickly.
As of Wednesday morning, Dorian was heading to the southeastern United States after decimating several Bahamas islands. Florida and Georgia are predicted to be largely spared the worst storm, even though images of mass destruction are emerging in the Bahamas.
The storm has weakened from Category 5 to Category 2, decreasing its lethal wind speed but increasing, causing the area to widen on its way.
As #HurricaneDorian rotates less than 100 miles east of #DaytonaBeach, #Florida, this morning, the NOAA # GOES16 satellite uses its 1km visible band to track where #Dorian is going next. Get the latest here at NHC_Atlantic. #flwx #gawx #scwx #ncwx pic.twitter.com/JZKZWKs5cq
– NOAA Satellites PA (@NOAASatellitePA), September 4, 2019
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued a warning ahead of the storm and predicted "very heavy rainfall of up to 15 inches" in parts of the Caroline Islands, although a flash flood is also a significant possibility. The wider southeast is preparing for impact by the end of the week, including storm surges and high winds.
However, it is likely that Dorian's worst damage has already occurred in the Bahamas. After destroying much of Great Abaco, a 10-mile island, on Sunday for eight and a half hours, Dorian set off for Grand Bahama. There the storm lasted for 40 hours and was moving at a snail's pace of just over a mile an hour, sometimes becoming completely stationary.
During this time the storm did unprecedented damage. The death toll on the islands is currently seven, but according to official figures, many people remain unaccountable and the number of victims is expected to increase. According to reports, around 70% of homes in affected areas are also under water.
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis called the event "one of the biggest national crises in our country's history" and said that more will be known in the coming days if the country wants to recover.
Hurricanes are natural phenomena, and they often stop, especially over land. However, they usually move much faster, which can reduce the colossal damage they cause.
However, this has not been the case recently with Dorian or other memorable hurricanes.
In 2017, Hurricane Harvey struck the Gulf of Texas, hovering over Houston for days, releasing a mountain of water, claiming dozens of lives, and causing over $ 100 billion in damage. A year later, Hurricane Florence devastated the Carolinas in a similar way when it stalled over land and threw so much rain that a city became a temporary island. Florence was only a Category 1 storm when it landed in the United States, but the hurricane's damage was catastrophic due to its glacial pace and heavy rainfall.
A study published by federal scientists in June showed that the hurricane speed in the North Atlantic decreased by 17% between 1944 and 2017. While it is difficult to relate a catastrophe to climate change, scientists have linked the pace of hurricanes to the slowdown in global winds, which in turn appear to be affected by melting ice in the Arctic.
This trend means that there could be more storms like Dorian in the future that occur more often, especially if the past few years have been an indicator. In the reorganized history, there were only 35 Atlantic hurricanes with category 5 wind speeds, of which five were in the past four years.