A new study published in the journal Science has warned the average number of major hurricanes in the North Atlantic could double or triple on past years.
Last year’s Atlantic Hurricane season whipped up six major hurricanes, some of which peaked at winds of 111 mph (178 kph).
The hurricanes, which included Harvey, Irma and Maria, tore through the Caribbean and US East Coast causing death and destruction on an unimaginable scale.
In past years the average number of major hurricanes forming in the Atlantic typically sat around three a year.
Even further back in time, around two major storms would form each year.
However, scientists now fear anywhere between five and eight major hurricanes will become the norm as early as the year 2100.
Hiro Murakami, a hurricane expert at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), warned future hurricane seasons will be as destructive as last year’s.
He said: “We will see more active hurricane seasons like 2017 in the future.”
As of September 28, Hurricane Florence is the only major hurricane to have formed in the Atlantic.
The hurricane formed on August 31 near the west coast of Africa before it barrelled towards the US as a Category 4 storm with winds speeds of 130 mph (215 kph).
After studying the effects of La Niña, seasonal variations in sea surface temperatures, Dr Murakami and his team of climate scientists have concluded water conditions in the North Atlantic will better facilitate the spawning of such hurricanes in the future.
In their paper, the hurricane experts wrote: “Using a suite of high-resolution model experiments, we show that the increase in 2017 major hurricanes was not primarily caused by La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean, but mainly by pronounced warm sea surface conditions in the tropical North Atlantic.
“It is further shown that, in the future, a similar pattern of North Atlantic surface warming, superimposed upon long-term increasing sea surface temperature from increases in greenhouse gas concentrations and decreases in aerosols, will likely lead to even higher numbers of major hurricanes.
“The key factor controlling Atlantic major hurricane activity appears to be how much the tropical Atlantic warms relative to the rest of the global ocean.”
The scientists found warmer water temperatures stoke the fires of hurricane forming weather, particularly in an area spanning from South Florida and the north of South America to the east coast of Africa.
In order for hurricanes to form over the Atlantic, water temperatures have to reach a minimum of 26 degrees Celsius (79 degrees Fahrenheit).
A combination of natural temperature fluctuations and man-made climate change could be the culprit behind the warming waters.
According to Dr Murakami, the Atlantic is projected to warm up in the coming years faster than the world’s other oceans.
But not everyone was convinced by the findings of the study, with some scientist rejecting the supposed links between 2017’s hurricane season and global warming.
Brian McNoldy, a hurricane expert at the University of Miami, told Phys.org: “Hurricane seasons don’t just keep getting more active as the climate warms though. There is enormous variability.”