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Is Climate Change causing more natural disasters?

climate change

Although a warmer climate does not necessarily impact the number of tropical storms and hurricanes, the storms that do form are likely to be stronger. Although the Atlantic hurricane season should, in theory, be ending in by November or so, it’s showing no sign of letting up.

Last October, Hurricane Delta hit the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. Delta made landfall on already destroyed defenses and land, as a result of Hurricane Laura that hit back in August. This year, there’s already been a reported 25 storms - this is the earliest in the year this number of hurricanes has been reported.

Hurricane Delta

Hurricane Delta also registers as a “major hurricane,” was defined as category three or higher. Delta reached a reported category four before hitting Louisiana, weakening ever so slightly and hit the coast as a category three. 

The average hurricane season reports 12 named storms, 6 of these generally become hurricanes, with a further three registering as major hurricanes, such as Delta and Laura. However, as previously mentioned, this year we’ve already exceeded 25 hurricanes, with no sign of these slowing down. The 2020 season could close with a record-breaking year, according to the NOAA. 

In fact, the only year that has previously produced more registered hurricanes and tropical storms were back in 2005. A total of 27 named tropical storms and hurricanes occurred, including hurricane Katrina and Wilma. In the run up to Halloween, when more hurricanes are typically reported with just under two months left of the hurricane season, it’s entirely possible that we could see a record-breaking number of reported storms in 2020.

So, is climate change to blame?

As this year is particularly busy by the number of hurricanes and tropical storms, it’s hard not to point the finger at climate change. Especially as the storms have not been as bad for the last fifteen years. 

However, in general, current evidence suggests climate change does not have much of an effect on the number of hurricanes in one given season. Despite this, the strength could have climate change to blame. In 2020, unlike previous years, various weather factors aligned and produced far from ideal conditions for hurricanes to form and worsen. Ocean temperatures were reported higher than usual, for most of the year, too. 

Several contemporary scientific studies suggest hurricanes will become more severe as the climate warmers, as a result of climate change. In the near future, we can expect the number of storms to remain the same, perhaps fewer than this year- we should all keep our fingers crossed. However, notwithstanding there being fewer storms, more storms are likely to form into hurricanes, of all categories. 

In a recent US Vice Presidential debate, it was shown that politics may somewhat distort the science of hurricanes for political purposes. During the debate, Vice President, Mike Pence, in response to a question about whether or not he believes science impacts hurricanes becoming wetter, slower, and more damaging, Pence responded saying, “there are no more hurricanes today than there were 100 years ago.” Pence then goes on to suggest climate alarmists use hurricanes and other natural disasters and tropical storms to unfairly advance personal interests in a new green deal. However, in Pence’s response, he quite clearly dodges the question, not answering whether or not he believes science has a role to play (climate change). 

Current and new research being released, points to hurricanes worsening in strength, rather than increasing in frequency. For this reason, it’s difficult to showcase climate change to be the cause, although it is becoming clearer. A recent study in the proceedings of the national academy of sciences found hurricanes to be moving slower with an increase in rain, thus causing more flooding than several years ago. 

As climate change intensifies, and the earth is continuously getting warmer, hurricane intensity is expected to continue to worsen. It’s not solely about the strength of the hurricane either, it’s about how quickly the storm forms. For example, the recent hurricane, Delta, was the fastest storm to form a tropical depression category 4 hurricane, occurring in the short span of 36-hours.

The 2020 Hurricane Season 

The 2020 hurricane season is no doubt the worst to hit the U.S. since the horrendous hurricanes and tropical storms of 2005, including Katrina and Hurricane Wilma. In future years, and with the rate of climate change worsening, we can expect hurricanes to develop in speed, particularly over the Atlantic ocean.

Despite this, further research is required to determine the exact impact climate change has on hurricanes, both in regards to the intensification and frequency. As the planet continues to get warmer, we can expect worse hurricanes that form much quicker, posing a great threat each hurricane season to those in the U.S., particularly on the Gulf Coast.