Hurricane Ian was able to, over the course of its path, pull a lot of energy out of the ocean, which could have sustained it for longer than normal, said Christopher Slocum, a physical scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.I don't know how it could possibly explained an simpler than the preceding sentences. It's not our imagination, hurricanes have been getting larger, more powerful, and more precipitant than before in past times. Warmer waters are the key to this evolution, and the warming of the seas is not something that happens very easily. 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit is an extremely significant jump in water temperature and we're seeing the results: bigger storms, more powerful winds, and much more rain falling in greater volume and concentration - for hurricanes - over a longer period of time.
And a few degrees can make a huge difference, said Karthik Balaguru, a climate scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, because it provides extra energy for a storm.
Unlike with land or the atmosphere, "it's very difficult to warm the ocean," Dr. Balaguru said. A large amount of heat had to have been absorbed by the ocean just to raise temperatures by a small fraction of a degree, he said.
More than 90 percent of the excess heat from human-caused global warming over the past 50 years has been absorbed by the oceans, and a majority of it is stored in the top few hundred meters.
Scientists say that while climate change has not necessarily increased the number of hurricanes, it has made them more powerful, as warmer ocean waters strengthen and sustain those storms. The proportion of the most severe storms - Categories 4 and 5 - has increased since 1980, when satellite imagery began reliably tracking hurricanes.
A warmer climate also allows hurricanes to unleash more rain, a consequence of an atmosphere that, with each degree Celsius of warming, can hold about 7 percent more water vapor that then gets released as precipitation. In addition, storm surges are riding on top of elevated sea levels, which can worsen coastal flooding.