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Latin America and the Caribbean

22. Intense hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin

Global average temperature increased by 0.6 ° C over the last century, while sea levels rose by 9 to 20 cm. The IPCC projects increases in the global average surface temperature by between 1.4°C and 5.8°C and in sea level by between 9 and 88 cm. Sea level rise in combination with hurricane landfalls presents one of the greatest climate-related hazards in tropical Latin America.

From 1945 to 1990 there had been an overall decrease in the number of intense Atlantic hurricanes. However, the last decade features a return to more intense and frequent Atlantic hurricanes. The 1998 and 2004 hurricane seasons in the Atlantic probably exceeded previous records of hurricane intensity, damage and loss of life.

There is no conclusive evidence that hurricanes will be more frequent in a warmer climate. Several studies suggest greater hurricane frequency due to climate warming and increased ocean temperatures. Warmer water means more energy accessible for the tropical cyclones, transforming heat energy to wind. Higher temperatures mean more evaporation, in turn leading to heavier precipitation. However, the complex nature of hurricane formation creates high uncertainty in the future dynamics of these devastating natural events.