By: Manya Gupta
Hurricanes have been some of the worst natural disasters in history, and unfortunately, they’re only becoming worse. Due to climate change, we are seeing an unprecedented change in the severity of hurricanes.
Let’s start with the basics: how do hurricanes form? They start with a small disturbance in or near an ocean. Moist air begins to rise over a warm, low pressure area, and cool air gradually replaces it. This process causes storm clouds to form, which start to spin around a central point called the eye (due to the Coriolis effect). As the storm picks up moisture, its winds become stronger. Finally, if the winds are over 74 miles per hour, it is considered a category 1 hurricane.
Since hurricanes form over warm areas, the warmer the ocean, the stronger the hurricane will become. That is exactly why climate change is exacerbating the issue. When water is at warmer temperatures, there is more heat energy available for a potential hurricane to consume, which increases the likelihood that one will happen.
However, data shows that hurricane severity is a greater issue than its frequency. There has been a 25-30% increase in the number of category 4-5 storms, which have the most devastating long-term impacts. Wind speeds are also increasing 4.4 mph every decade. Despite the small number, 4.4 mph can significantly escalate the amount of damage a hurricane can do. This intensification is primarily due to global warming caused by humans. Scientists have also seen a strange decrease in the number of category 1-2 hurricanes, though it is not clear whether or not this was caused by climate change.
Although it seems otherwise, scientists actually don’t know if hurricanes will become more common in the future. While the evidence stated above indicates that they will, evidence to the contrary is presented by the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association). Their studies show that the amount of tropical storms will decrease due to the atmosphere’s saturation deficit. In other words, the atmosphere can’t reach its normal level of moisture, which therefore decreases the chance of a storm taking place.
As we head into the next few years, be on the lookout for intensifying hurricanes. Hurricane severity is increasing by 6% every year, according to Yale. If a hurricane is heading your way, make sure you’re prepared, especially if it’s forecasted to be category 3 or above. The best way to do this is to make a plan. Evacuate if needed, pack emergency supplies, and be mindful of the pets and elderly adults traveling with you.
The importance of taking care of our planet cannot be stressed enough. Stopping severe climate change is the key to reducing hurricane damage, so please do your part. If you don’t know how to help, reducing water usage and driving energy-efficient cars are great ways to start! Limiting water usage decreases the amount of electricity needed, and driving efficient cars reduces the amount of CO2 released in the atmosphere. For more ideas, visit https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-you-can-stop-global-warming.
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