Why is Hurricane Florence Different?
By Ruth Robinson
As I am writing this article, over 10 million people on the Eastern Atlantic seaboard are in harms way. The news tells us that this storm may dump nearly three feet of rain over 36-48 hours in the affected areas. On Thursday evening, Sept. 13th, we just don’t know if this is going to be confirmed.
Is the intensity of this storm, and other recent hurricanes, a result of climate change? Is it because we’re using too much fossil fuel?
What I’ve been able to discover is that the answer is not simple, nor easy. Climate experts disagree on some things, but are completely in agreement about this fact: warmer seawater plus any hurricane or tropical storm or typhoon results in a more intense storm. The temperature of the water is what makes for extreme storms.
So, how did that happen, anyway? Current science links global warming to increased water temperatures. Global warming is linked to human actions, no doubt about that.
Just about a year ago, before the last three (counting Florence) major hurricanes hit any of the US states or territories, the NY Times had an article about “The Relationship Between Climate Change and Hurricanes”. Basically, the science is evolving as data is analyzed and interpreted. Here is an excerpt written by John Schwartz:
“The relationship between hurricanes and climate change is not simple. Some things are known with growing certainty. Others, not so much.
The most recent draft of a sweeping climate science report pulled together by 13 federal agencies as part of the National Climate Assessment suggested that the science linking hurricanes to climate change was still emerging. Looking back through the history of storms, “the trend signal has not yet had time to rise above the background variability of natural processes,” the report states.Temperatures have been rising, and theory and computer modeling suggest an increase in storm intensity in a warmer world, “and the models generally show an increase in the number of very intense” storms. Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University and an author of the report, said even if global warming does not change the number of storms - and, she noted, there could even be fewer hurricanes over all - tropical storms and hurricanes do gain energy from warm water, so the unusually warm water that has accompanied climate change “can have a role in intensifying a storm that already exists.”