Intense hurricane season not completely caused by global warming

October 3, 2017

 

With so many devastating hurricanes this season, many wonder if this increase in intensity has anything to do with climate change.  

 

In the past few months Hurricane Harvey brought devastation to Texas. Then Irma to the Atlantic Islands and Florida. Lastly, Jose to Puerto Rico and the some of the same islands in the Caribbean Irma devastated. These storms all showed signs of rapid intensification due to warmer waters in the Atlantic.  

 

These trends of warmer waters have been linked to climate change, according to scientists studying climate change. 

 

While many believe this year’s busy hurricane season has something to do with climate change, Chief Meteorologist at ABC 15 News Ed Piotrowski said they may not be the case.  

 

“It is premature to say that climate change has any effect on this hurricane season,” said Piotrowski. "We don't believe that climate change has anything to do with the number of storms that actually form. In fact, a lot of the long range climate models would suggest that if the globe is warming, and the waters are getting warmer, we would have increasing wind shear that would actually reduce the number of storms that form". 

 

Seasons are measured how active it is by calculating the amount of accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) produced by all the hurricanes in a given season.   

 

ACE takes into account the storm duration and strength. The past 30 years of ACE reports show that 15 years have been more intense than normal. 

 

This hurricane season has seen an increase in water temperature and a lower level of wind shear. These factors combined have created an intense season so far. 

 

Recently NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, conducted research that suggests that if the globe continues to warm, the number of storms may actually be reduced thanks to an increase in wind shear.  

 

While the intensity of storms can be decreased due to wind shear, this does not necessarily rule out the threat. Global warming still can have effects on storms.  

 

“The warmer the air the more water vapor it holds, so if we assume the globe continues to warm, tropical cyclones will be capable of producing more rain,” said Mr. Piotrowski.  

 

Piotrowski said that a single year can't be a tale-tell sign of climate change because there are so many factors that go into who the storm develops. This is called natural variability. 

 

This poses issues since flooding is one of the main threats when it comes to hurricanes. 

 

With all of this being said, it is still too soon to tell what future seasons will have in store. Research will continue to be conducted to truly conclude how global warming will affect Earth. 

 

To help or to make a donation, visit unicef.org for more information. 

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