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WATCH: How hurricanes form and intensify

Before Hurricane Ian made landfall near Fort Meyers, Florida, on Wednesday as a Category 4 storm, the cyclone quickly gained strength in a process known as rapid intensification. Warm water in the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, combined with little wind resistance in the upper atmosphere, created the ideal conditions for Ian to gain strength – in the 48 hours before landfall, the storm’s wind speed nearly doubled.

Ian is just the latest large storm in recent years to undergo rapid intensification. Harvey, Irma and Michael also quickly gained strength, and scientists say warming waters due to climate change is a key factor. Rising sea temperatures have created conditions for hurricanes to undergo rapid intensification events more often.

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