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Expand chart
Note: Temperature anomalies are relative to the 1985 to 2012 average; Data: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Map: Chris Canipe/Axios

Hurricane Lane is already a landmark storm, having set a record for the strongest hurricane to get so close to Hawaii since modern records began. It could soon set more milestones if it moves within 65 nautical miles of Maui and Oahu on Friday and Saturday.

Why this matters: Hawaii has historically been protected against hurricanes because sea surface temperatures near the islands are typically too cold to support a significant tropical cyclone. That's not the case this year, and is not expected to be the case in the future as the ocean warms in response to increasing amounts of greenhouse gases in the air.

The records: Hurricane Lane is already the strongest hurricane to track within 300 miles of Hawaii, according to NOAA. There is also no record of a hurricane tracking within 65 nautical miles of Maui or Honolulu since statehood in 1959.

The details: Right now, an El Niño event focused on the Central Pacific, known as a "Modiki" El Niño, is developing, bringing higher sea surface temperatures than average to the area near Hawaii. This allows tropical storms and hurricanes to survive further northward than they otherwise would have.

Climate studies also show that warming oceans as a result of increasing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will increasingly put Hawaii at risk of hurricanes in the future.

  • There are other influences on hurricanes from climate change that are already occurring, as studies have shown that such storms are already carrying more water vapor than they used to, which is producing bigger rainfall totals.

Flashback: This came into play with Hurricane Harvey in 2017, which was the biggest rainstorm in U.S. history. One study by researchers in the Netherlands found the storm produced 15% more intense precipitation due to climate change than it would have if it hit at the beginning of the 20th century. They also found that Harvey used to be a 1-in-2,400-year event, but is now more common, on the order of about 1-in-800 years.

Another study, by researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, found that Harvey's rainfall was increased by between 19% and 38%, and the chances of such a devastating rainstorm has tripled since the 1900s, due to climate change.

And another study, published in the journal Earth's Future, found that excess ocean heat in the Gulf of Mexico led to Harvey's deluge. "Harvey could not have produced so much rain without human‐induced climate change," the study stated.

Be smart: Computer model projections, and some observational evidence, also support the idea that tropical cyclones (a term that includes hurricanes and typhoons) will become more intense overall, as the world warms. There is scientific disagreement, though, over whether this is already happening.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Tech scrambles to derail inauguration threats

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tech companies are sharing more information with law enforcement in a frantic effort to prevent violence around the inauguration, after the government was caught flat-footed by the Capitol siege.

Between the lines: Tech knows it will be held accountable for any further violence that turns out to have been planned online if it doesn't act to stop it.

Dave Lawler, author of World
5 hours ago - World

Uganda's election: Museveni declared winner, Wine claims fraud

Wine rejected the official results of the election. Photo: Sumy Sadruni/AFP via Getty

Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner of a sixth presidential term on Saturday, with official results giving him 59% to 35% for Bobi Wine, the singer-turned-opposition leader.

Why it matters: This announcement was predictable, as the election was neither free nor fair and Museveni had no intention of surrendering power after 35 years. But Wine — who posed a strong challenged to Museveni, particularly in urban areas, and was beaten and arrested during the campaign — has said he will present evidence of fraud. The big question is whether he will mobilize mass resistance in the streets.

Off the Rails

Episode 1: A premeditated lie lit the fire

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 1: Trump’s refusal to believe the election results was premeditated. He had heard about the “red mirage” — the likelihood that early vote counts would tip more Republican than the final tallies — and he decided to exploit it.

"Jared, you call the Murdochs! Jason, you call Sammon and Hemmer!”