Hurricane Irene Worse Because Of Global Warming
Global warming is contributing to the intensity of Hurricane Irene. Here’s how:
Oceanic Warming. Greenhouse pollution is causing the world’s oceans to warm. Sea surface temperatures in the region where Hurricane Irene formed and along its track are around 0.5°C warmer than they were about 30 years ago. “This rise is simulated pretty well by climate models forced by anthropogenic changes in greenhouse gases and aerosols, implicating these as the probable cause,” Dr. Doug Smith, the climate scientist who leads the Met Office Decadal Climate Prediction System tells ThinkProgress. This increased heat adds about 10 to 20 miles to the top potential speed of the hurricane’s winds. Storm surge increases proportionally to the square of the wind speed, meaning a 10 percent increase in hurricane wind speed means a 20 percent increase in storm surge. Climate scientists are debating how global warming and natural variability are interacting to change the intensity of Atlantic storms overall.
Sea Level Rise. Greenhouse pollution is causing the world’s oceans to rise…Boston’s relative sea level has increased 11.8 inches since 1990, and sea level at Norfolk, VA has steadily risen 14.5 inches over the past 80 years. The one-foot rise in sea level means that damage from Hurricane Irene’s storm surge will be about 50 percent greater than it would have been otherwise.
More Atmospheric Vapor. As the world’s oceans have warmed, the amount of atmospheric water vapor has increased by about 4 percent. Rainfall rates due to hurricanes appear to have increased by 6 to 8 percent since about 1970 in association with increased water vapor in the atmosphere and warming…“These warm ocean temperatures will also make Irene a much wetter hurricane than is typical, since much more water vapor can evaporate into the air from record-warm ocean surfaces,” tropical meteorologist Jeff Masters explains in the Daily Beast.
Increased Extreme Precipitation. Because of greenhouse pollution, heavy rains in the United States have increased 14 percent over the 20th century, much greater than the increase in overall precipitation. This has been one of the wettest years in history for the Northeast, directly in the path of Hurricane Irene. Hurricane Irene’s wind and rain will more easily topple trees in the loose, saturated soil and flood rivers, reservoirs, and drains.Click here for reuse options!
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