This fall season owes it to these storms for becoming a season characterized by unnatural disasters. The emergence of so many severe storms in a row has made the threat of climate change very well understood by many of those living in the southeast.
Hurricanes brew in warm oceans. With human activity warming the Earth, the ocean temperatures have also risen, making storms like Hurricane Harvey and Irma more severe.
After Harvey, “The Atlantic” magazine reported the temperature in the Gulf of Mexico as between 2.7 to 7.2 degrees warmer than normal. This means that more water evaporated into the storm that would later be named Harvey. Harvey dropped copious amounts of rainfall in Texas because more water from the Gulf was evaporating due to the significantly warmer temperatures.
Dr. David Unger, Associate Professor of Biology at Maryville College, weighed in on whether these storms have anything to do with climate change.
“The oceans are getting warmer,” Unger said. “The warmer oceans have more evaporative properties. If you have more evaporative properties you are getting more water evaporating into the atmosphere. If you have more water evaporating into the atmosphere, then you’re going to get more storms picking up more water, forming in a larger size, and that are going to eventually be more destructive.”
An article recently published in “National Geographic” explained that, though no one weather event can be attributed directly to Global Warming, Hurricane Harvey was almost certainly a result of increasing global temperatures.
“Climate change has changed the environment that everything is happening in,” said Kevin Tenberth, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in the article. “When you add in the climate’s natural variability and then the right conditions come along, you can get a storm that is stronger than you might otherwise have expected.”
In an article considering the effects of climate change on the two hurricanes that hit the US (Harvey and Irma) an article in “The Guardian” explains that climate change has made the hurricanes worse because warmer waters will form more hurricanes, evaporate more water which will fall as rain, and produce stronger storm surges due to rising sea levels.
Unger agreed that the number of times that a category 5 hurricane forms may begin to increase.
“We are fools to think that we are pumping out trillions of tons of carbon dioxide and trillions of tons of methane from our industrial society and that we aren’t adding on to what is happening,” Unger said.
He stressed that humans are currently speeding up climate change.
“The question is what do we do now?” Unger said. “We are way behind.”