The Sky is Falling: Science Behind this “trend” of Extreme Weather

Rare events that cause devastation like Harvey and Katrina or the Thailand’s tsunami in 2004 are occurring more often. This “trend” could very well be the new normal.

On the heels of Hurricane Harvey, Hurricanes: Irma Jose and Katia are gearing up to make their debut. Hurricane Irma has already wrecked Barbuda and is on pace to cause similar damage in other U.S territories like Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Many believe the world is coming to an end or some higher power is punishing us for electing Trump; however, I suggest we look at climate change as the culprit.

What’s Global Warming Got to Do with it?

Increased humidity, higher water temperatures, and rising sea levels make hurricanes stronger. Increased moisture in the air is an effect of climate change. In a warmer climate, evaporation occurs more often. This leads to an accumulation of water vapor in the atmosphere that can fuel any storm that comes near the accumulation. Warmer waters strengthen storms significantly. Harvey weakened to a tropical depression as it crossed the Yucatan Peninsula days before it made landfall in Texas. But then it hit the unusually hot waters of the Gulf of Mexico and quickly reorganized into a powerful hurricane.(Yale Climate Change) When a hurricane makes landfall, its winds push seawater ashore. This creates a dangerous storm surge. Rising sea-levels only exacerbate the issue.

The New Normal

Scientists predict that extreme weather patterns will continue as long as climate change continues. The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics laboratory in collaboration with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conducted a study reviewing weather patterns since the late 1800s. Though they could find no significant evidence of an increased number of storms since industrialization, they were able to see an uptick in the number of category 4 or 5 storms. They concluded after a review of existing studies, including the ones cited above, “that it is likely that greenhouse warming will cause hurricanes in the coming century to be more intense globally and have higher rainfall rates than present-day hurricanes.” (NOAA) There will be the same amount of weather events; however, we will continue to observe an increase in extreme weather.

So What Can You Do?

  1. Follow weather reports. Often times people underestimate the severity of weather events. In these current times that is very dangerous and thoughtless. Check weather reports daily and do your best to err on the side of caution.

  2. Invest in preparedness. Storm supplies extend beyond water and batteries. Have you filled prescriptions? Is your insurance up to date on your home and car? Think about the worst case scenario and act accordingly.

  3. Prepare to help others. When storms do devastate regions, donate to local charities and localized relief efforts. Many large scale non-profits do not distribute funds accordingly or in a timely fashion. Haiti has yet to receive their funding from the Red Cross. Yes, those earthquakes were in 2010.

We are only halfway through this hurricane season; so recycle, update your flood insurance, and trust your weather man or woman. Happy survival!


Climate Change Indicators: Tropical Cyclone Activity

Global Warming and Hurricanes

Is Warming Changing Boundaries of Hurricane Season?

The Link between Hurricanes and Climate Change