Climate change is pushing some of the world's most dangerous and devastating storms further towards the North and South poles, researchers have said.
Experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), MIT and University of Wisconsin-Madison found that tropical cyclones – known as hurricanes or typhoons depending on their location – are peaking in intensity 33 miles further north every decade and 38 miles further south.
MIT's Kerry Emanuel, co-author of the study, said: "The absolute value of the latitudes at which these storms reach their maximum intensity seems to be increasing over time, in most places. The trend is statistically significant at a pretty high level."
He said that while researchers were investigating the cause of the shift, they believe climate change was to blame. "It may mean the thermodynamically favourable conditions for these storms are migrating poleward," he said.
Published in the journal Nature, scientists used data from 1982 to 2012 collected by NOAA to look at the location and peak of intensity in tropical cyclones.
They found that every ocean basin other than the northern Indian Ocean had experienced a shift. "[The] migration away from the tropics is a global phenomenon," the paper said.
The authors said that as tropical cyclones moved into higher latitudes, coastal populations were at increased risk and faced devastating winds and floods.
Regions in the tropics normally at risk of cyclones are also threatened by drought as they rely on storm seasons for rainfall.
The paper said the shift in cyclone location had the potential to cause "profound consequences to life and property".
"Any related changes to positions where storms make landfall will have obvious effects on coastal residents and infrastructure," it said.
Lead author Jim Kossin, of the NOAA, said the rate of migration fitted estimates of the observed expansion of the tropics, attributed in part to increasing greenhouse gases, stratospheric ozone depletion and pollution.
Co-author Gabriel Vecchi added: "Now that we see this clear trend, it is crucial that we understand what has caused it - so we can understand what is likely to occur in the years and decades to come."