I’m Kerry Emanuel, a Professor of Atmospheric Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I do research on hurricanes and other types of severe weather, on climate change, and how climate change might affect severe weather. My research is mostly theoretical, but I also build computer models and occasionally participate in field experiments and build and use laboratory experiments. I have flown research aircraft into hurricanes, and wrote a book called “Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes”, aimed at a general reader and covering both the science of hurricane and how they have influenced history, art, and literature.
Back in 1987, I wrote the first paper on the tropic of how climate change might influence hurricanes, showing that the thermodynamic “speed limit” on hurricane winds would increase as the climate warms. Today, it is generally accepted that this speed limit will go up, and we are already seeing signs that it is increasing in some places. We think that the frequency of the most intense events (Saffir-Simpson Category 3-5 storms) will generally increase, but the weight of evidence suggests that the weaker events may actually become less frequent. Since weak storms are far more common that strong storms, the overall frequency of events is dominated by weak storms, and thus we expect the overall frequency to decline. We have not seen that happen yet. We also predict that rainfall from hurricanes will go up as the climate warms.
Hurricanes may also have important influences on the climate itself; this is a subject of vigorous research.
I look forward to answering your question about hurricanes and climate at 2 PM EST. Ask me almost anything!