The past week’s Hurricane Sandy was a superstorm of note. Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane measured to date – and in the Unites States alone, the hurricane affected a total of 22 states. A major storm surge hit New York City on the eve of October 29 and Lower Manhattan was severely flooded. Hurricane Sandy left monstrous devastation in her path – New York and New Jersey are now declared disaster areas. Considering that Hurricane Sandy is the worst recorded hurricane in our history, what does this tell us about climate change?
Sandy’s climate change components
With the recent coverages on superstorm Sandy, scientists warned that careful analysis is needed – and warned against purely and unconditionally accrediting the happenings to climate change and global warming. However, scientists agreed that Hurricane Sandy’s impacts were indeed worsened by the following climate change elements:
- Sea level rise: scientific records show that the current water levels surrounding New York is almost a foot higher than a century ago.
- Increased ocean temperatures fuelling hurricanes: compared to data from a century ago, the current Atlantic Ocean temperature is two degrees warmer.
- The Gulf Stream with water temperatures of 80F was warmer than usual, causing Hurricane Sandy to build up even more as it passed the Gulf Stream.
- Climate change and meteorological scientists have finally agreed: with climate change resulting in higher temperatures, future hurricanes might be less, but definitely stronger and wetter.
- The recent Arctic warming could potentially have contributed to Hurricane Sandy turning for New Jersey, unlike the usual eastern turn out to the ocean waters. High pressure hovering over Greenland, potentially due to the warmer Arctic, is a possible reason believed to have blocked Hurricane Sandy, preventing the normal hurricane behaviour.
Sandy’s important conclusions
Considering recent scientific reviews of Hurricane Sandy, a few important conclusions need consideration:
Firstly, Sandy is not the complete manifestation of climate change. But, climate change has definitely worsened the way it played out. Weather patterns are changing – and with it comes new and unexpected weather happenings. Climate change is at the door and it is bearing risks. Therefore, climate change predictions should be taken seriously, and it cannot be considered in isolation of its safety and economic impacts. This is what Hurricane Sandy is telling us about climate change.
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