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Cyclones not getting worse but could be heading to Britain, says study

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Shanta Barley | 16:09 UK time, Thursday, 21 May 2009

The suggestion by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that climate change might give birth to a new and fiercer breed of cyclones has been labelled 'a bit imprecise', according to new research.

polar_low226x226.jpgThe study ('Will Extratropical Storms Intensify in a Warmer Climate?') published in the latest edition of the Journal of Climate, has found that there's probably no need to panic about future megastorms.

If you compare cyclones at the end of last century with those modelled for the present century, 'maximum wind speed is practically identical and occurs at the same time and place relative to the storm centre,' say authors Lennart Bengtsson, Kevin I Hodges and Noel Keenlyside.

But if you define 'intensity' in terms of how much rain the cyclones will dump, then we might have a problem. The cyclones we'll see in the future are likely to be wetter (by 11% if you're a stickler for detail) and that's apparently worth worrying about: '... increases in extreme precipitation ... will constitute a more severe problem for society than the possible risk of higher wind speeds'.

Even more unnervingly, the report suggests that Britain could become the next cyclone stomping ground. As the world warms, the cyclones which currently prefer to buffet the coasts of Greenland and Iceland with 'exceptionally strong winds' could well take to commuting through the British Isles instead.

However, the authors admit that their predictions are based on a single computer model. It might all be a storm in a teacup, so no need to batten down the hatches just yet.


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