Commentary

Sobering evidence links Hurricane Matthew’s intensity to climate change

Environmental expert Dr. Joe Romm at Think Progress has a sobering, if not surprising post today about Hurricane Matthew. The central point: It’s worse than it would be because of global warming. Here’s Dr. Romm:

Hurricane Matthew is slowly approaching the East Coast where it is expected to wreak havoc with storm surge, wind, and rain. Matthew has already set a number of records and global warming is giving it a boost.

Hurricanes “extract heat energy from the ocean to convert it to the power of wind, and the warmer the ocean is, the stronger a hurricane can get if all other conditions that it needs to exist are present,” meteorologist and former hurricane hunter Jeff Masters explained last month on Living on Earth. “So, scientists are confident that as we continue to heat up the oceans, we’re going to see more of these high-end perfect storms.”

Case in point, as meteorologist Philip Klotzbach has noted:

  • Matthew set a new record as the longest lived Category 4 (or higher) Atlantic hurricane in October?—?84 hours.
  • By Monday, it had already “generated the most accumulated cyclone energy” of any Atlantic hurricane ever recorded in the eastern Caribbean.
  • As a result, the 2016 hurricane season has “already generated the most accumulated cyclone energy in the Atlantic in October since 2005” (the year of Katrina, Rita, and Wilma).

Let’s look at some of the latest climate science. One 2013 paper found that “since 1975 there has been a substantial and observable regional and global increase in the proportion of Category 4–5 hurricanes of 25–30 percent per °C of anthropogenic global warming.” Another 2013 paper concluded that “dramatic changes in the frequency distribution of lifetime maximum intensity (LMI) have occurred in the North Atlantic,” and the stronger hurricanes “have become more intense.”

In other words, warming oceans create stronger hurricanes, like the one we’re seeing now.

The post goes on to point out that we can continue to see more such hyper-destructive category 4 and 5 hurricanes in years to come as ocean temperatures continue to rise. Click here to read it.

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