In the matter of a few weeks, we have seen devastation strike across the Atlantic at the hands of Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria. This succession of deadly storms has left many wondering if this is the Earth’s way of letting the world know that climate change is, in fact, happening in front of our very eyes. Could it be that climate change is growing increasingly worse as time goes on? The past events have left many wondering what the significance of these storms could mean for us in the future.
What’s Going on With the Weather
Each year, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) broadcasts their predictions for the hurricane season to come. Normally, the tropical storm and hurricane forecasts are set for the time frame of June 1st to November 30th and are released around April. This year, NOAA made some slight adjustments to their earlier predictions and revealed that the Atlantic, Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico are to expect approximately 14-19 named storms and out of those storms, 5-9 would evolve into hurricanes. Since June, we’ve witnessed and experienced 7 cyclones, four of which developed into a category 3 or higher. Here’s what occurred so far:
- April: Tropical Storm Arlene
- June: Tropical Storm Bret
- June: Tropical Storm Cindy
- July: Tropical Storm Don
- July: Tropical Storm Emily
- August: Hurricane Franklin: Category 1
- August: Hurricane Gert: Category 2
- August: Hurricane Harvey: Category 4
- September: Hurricane Irma: Category 5
- September: Hurricane Jose: Category 4
- September: Hurricane Katia: Category 2
- September: Hurricane Lee: Category 1
- September: Hurricane Maria: Category 4
It may seem quite scary and menacing when it’s listed; however, some of the tropical storms and low category hurricanes did not make landfall and dissipated at sea. With that being said, this hurricane season is, indeed, active, but not something that is unheard of. Although, from 1981 to 2010 the average amount of hurricanes to occur in one season was 6, which we have already surpassed this year. Meteorologists at NOAA believe that are a myriad of environmental factors at play that is causing such a busy hurricane season; climate change being the ringleader of it all.
NOAA has noted that this year has been comparatively warm in the area of the Atlantic in which hurricanes tend to form. Additionally, West Africa experienced a very strong monsoon and an Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation (AMO) that help to increase energy in order to form hurricanes (Source). Also, the lack of wind shear has also been a contributing factor to the uproar of storms this season. Many scientists claim that the lack of wind shear is to due to the absence of El Niño this year. Professor Richard Allan from the department of meteorology at the University of Reading, UK stated that there has been a deficiency in upper-level wind flow and lower pockets of moisture that usually wear down the magnitude of the storms this year, resulting in many storms ranging from tropical depressions to category hurricanes.
Since it has been 12 years from the time a category 3 or higher rated hurricane has made landfall in the US, many are quick to blame this busy hurricane to carbon emissions and other human factors that have contributed to the notion of climate change. However, many scientists and meteorologists disagree with this idea; they believe that people should not be comparing the number of hurricanes that have made landfall to effects of climate change. However, opinions on the matter vary. There are many researchers that believe the contrary: climate change is making a huge impact on the constant fluctuation of storms. In fact, it’s making them much worse. Factors like rising temperatures are responsible for warm air to hold more moisture that cause an even stronger downpour of rain during the time of a hurricane. Additionally, ocean levels have risen significantly as a result of thermal expansion and glacier melting which only increases the possibility of more severe storm surges. Just recently, we witnessed just that in Hurricane Harvey as well as Hurricane Irma. For the skeptics, many climate scientists suggest looking at the effects that greenhouse gas emissions have had on hurricanes across a long-term scale.
Though this subject is slightly controversial, filled with differing opinions, studies, and claims, the fact of the matter is that as time goes along, hurricanes are estimated to only get stronger with heavier rains, relentless winds, and significant storm surges.
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