Think Hurricane Katrina was bad? Wait until you see how climate change is causing more devastating hurricanes. Read on to learn more. Harvey , Ike, Michael, Katrina and Sandy.
These are just a few of the devastating hurricanes that have hit the United States, leaving unprecedented wakes of destruction in their wake. Unfortunately, our battle with these storms is far from over: meteorologists are already warning us to watch out for an active hurricane season in 2020.
Has it ever seemed to you that hurricanes have gotten worse in recent decades? It may not all be in your head. Rising average global temperatures and climate change could be to blame.
Read on for a closer look at how climate change, ocean temperatures and hurricanes are related and how to be prepared.
How hurricanes happen
Whether you call them hurricanes, typhoons or tropical cyclones, hurricanes are one of the worst types of storms out there. With the right conditions, what starts as a small storm in the middle of the ocean can quickly become a force of nature.
How do hurricanes gain strength to become the storms that batter our coasts? They rely on a combination of warm air and high humidity.
Most hurricanes start around the earth’s equator, an area where warm temperatures and moist air are the norm. Due to the laws of physics, warm air rises into the atmosphere while cold air sinks. This creates a drop in air pressure near the surface of the water and an increase in pressure higher up.
Over time, these swirling air pressures can increase in velocity and become formidable winds. The air rising into the atmosphere condenses into clouds that release their contents in the form of a thunderstorm.
These swirling winds can gain strength and speed as they travel across the ocean, making them much more dangerous when they reach the coast.
Measuring hurricane intensity
Tropical cyclones are measured on the Saffir-Simpson scale, a tool that classifies them into five groups based on their intensity.
Categories range from 1, a tropical storm with winds of 74 to 95 mph, to 5, a hurricane with sustained wind speeds of 157 mph or more. However, don’t be fooled by the scale: even Category 2 or 3 storms can cause considerable damage if they make landfall.
Hurricane season begins May 15 in the eastern Pacific and June 1 in the Atlantic. Both seasons last until the end of November, making the season much longer than many people think.
How Climate Change Affects Hurricane Intensity and Frequency
There are two main reasons why climate change increases our chances of devastating hurricanes.
First, melting glaciers and ice caps contribute to sea level rise. Higher ocean water gives more power to storm surges, leading to the absolute destruction of flooding in coastal areas.
Second, the upward trend in average temperature is warming the ocean surface. Higher sea temperatures can lead to a greater temperature gradient within the storm, which causes an increase in wind speed. Warmer water also makes it more likely that storms will bring heavy rain to the coast.
Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say satellite imagery provides evidence for this claim. As average global temperatures continue to rise, the likelihood of hurricanes reaching category three status increases by about 8% each decade. We are also likely to see an increase in the average annual number of tropical cyclones.
Despite the global lack of data measuring wind speed and other indicators of severity, the study concluded that climate change is a driving factor behind the worsening of tropical storms.
Preparing for the next storm season
Are you prepared for worse hurricanes than ever before? If your answer to that question is not a resounding yes, it’s time to start preparing now. Otherwise, you run the risk of being caught by surprise when the first storm hits.
At a minimum, be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice. Keep a “bug-out bag” packed for each member of your household and keep your car fueled to the max during hurricane season. Have a plan in mind for where you will go if you have to leave home and how to transport pets to safety.
If you are sheltering in place, keep plenty of flashlights, candles, ready-to-eat food and clean water in case you run out of electricity or sewer lines overflow. Keep your cell phones charged with a first aid kit and a list of emergency numbers nearby.
Unplug your electronics and appliances from the wall in case of flooding, and consider turning off your home’s power at the main breaker during the worst of the storm. A generator can also help power your home while the lines are down.
If you live in an area that has been hit hard before, you may want to consider flood and hurricane insurance. To make the most of any claims you file, be sure to take detailed photographs of your property before a storm so you have something to compare the damage to.
Be prepared for more devastating hurricanes as the weather changes.
As our past, present and future choices continue to affect the planet’s climate, we must prepare for an increase in natural disasters.
Devastating hurricanes are about to become part of our new normal. In addition to reducing our carbon output and taking more steps to live sustainably, it is time for those of us who live near the ocean to prepare to weather the storms ahead.
For more information on the ways climate change affects us and what you can do to stop it, be sure to read the rest of the content on our site.