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Study: Tropical Storms Shifting Toward North And South Poles

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Satellite image of Hurricane Sandy, taken on October 29, 2012, shows the storm over the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. (Photo: NASA via Getty Images)

Satellite image of Hurricane Sandy, taken on October 29, 2012, shows the storm over the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. (Photo: NASA via Getty Images)

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TAMPA (CBS Tampa) – Tropical storms aren’t so tropical any more, says a new study reported on by Live Science.

An analysis of historical storm data shows the average latitude at which tropical cyclones reach their maximum intensity has undergone a pronounced shift towards the North and South Poles over the past three decades.

“The tropics are becoming less hospitable for tropical cyclones, and the higher latitudes are becoming less hostile,” said lead study author Jim Kossin, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center.

The cyclones have typically been born in the tropics because favorable wind patterns and ocean temperatures create a sort of storm nursery.

But by tracking where tropical cyclones hit their strongest point, called peak intensity, the researchers discovered that storms are heading north and south.

The scientists involved in the study believe the move is connected to a gradual expansion of Earth’s tropical zones. They have been growing by about a degree in latitude each year since 1979, according to other studies.

The expansion of the tropics has been linked to global warming and ozone loss.

“There is certainly compelling evidence the two are linked, but we’re not sure exactly how, that’s what we want to find out,” Kossin told Live Science. “This is a link that needs to be examined.”

But this doesn’t mean bigger hurricanes are poised to slam into the United States East and Gulf Coasts.

The biggest changes were recorded in the Pacific Ocean and South Indian Ocean, but the peak intensity of Atlantic hurricanes and storms in the North Indian Ocean showed almost no change.

The study appears in the journal Nature.

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