Still reeling from the devastating impacts of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, our attention turns to Hurricane Irma and the flooding it brings with it further east. These hurricanes are not the only two on the radar in the past week as Hurricane Katia struck the Gulf Coast of Mexico near Tecolutla late last Friday and Hurricane Jose still looms in the Atlantic Basin projected to stall there before continuing on its uncertain path.
Right now, the focus is on relief, recovery, and preparation for Irma, but climate change remains the elephant in the room. Although climate change may not have directly caused the hurricanes, it has played a role in triggering these storms to intensify monstrously. Scientists and climate experts point to three main aggravation factors: higher sea levels related to warmer waters and glacial melts, a warmer and more polluted atmosphere holding more water vapor, and warmer sea water.
To what degree these conditions and other environmental patterns exacerbated these hurricanes is not yet known, but most scientists agree that it is significant enough that it can’t be ignored. This is especially true when considering the 120 lives that have already been lost in Texas, Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean and the thousands left in limbo scrambling for basic needs and without their homes and possessions.
Hurricane Harvey alone is expected to exceed Hurricane Katrina in economic devastation. Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma combined are estimated to cost 290 billion, among the costliest natural disasters in the US. A detailed climatic analysis of these hurricanes may not be available until later this month, but there are indisputable qualities about these hurricanes that are unprecedented. While hurricane Harvey brought on more rainfall than ever been seen in Texas, hurricane Irma is the first major hurricane to strike land in Florida since 2005. According to Phil Klobatz, a hurricane expert from Colorado State University, with Irma and Jose together, this is the first time on record two storms in the tropical Atlantic Ocean have attained 150 mph winds at the same time.
To read more about how climate change exacerbates hurricane conditions, follow these links:
Picture source: NOAA/Reuters