A recent paper by James Hansen and 18 other scientists showed that there was a strong possibility of major storms in the Atlantic that were likely to be way outside the experience of modern history. The extra power of these storms was caused by the rise in temperature of the world and the changing differential between the poles and the equator would give them extra strength.
The situation in the Southern hemisphere is likely to be more extreme than the Atlantic, where the research evidence was found. The Antarctic continent is very high and continues to be very cold while the Equator continues to warm which increases the temperature differential between the two regions. We are already seeing signs of this with the 20% increase in the proportion of Westerly winds in New Zealand and the increase in winter sea ice surrounding the Antarctic, which is caused by stronger winds blowing the ice away from the continent.
The problem for New Zealand is that the South Island lies in the path of the roaring forties and is in the direct path of the route these powerful storms would travel. While the mountains on the West coast mostly protect the more heavily populated Eastern areas, there are still a lot of people and infrastructure that would be exposed to risk. Towns like Invercargill, Bluff and Dunedin and even Wellington, might have to re-evaluate their climate change strategy to accommodate the damage that a hurricane sized storm can do.
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