by Kate Billingsley
Every year when hurricane season comes around, citizens have no idea what it will bring. Hurricane season spans from June 1-Nov. 30, with the peak season of August, September, and October being unpredictable and different each year. This season so far, the United States and its territories have been struck with record-breaking storms.
“This season has been an overachiever by almost every index,” stated Bob Henson, a meteorologist for Weather Underground.
According to a Washington Post poll, the majority of Americans believe that climate change has played a major factor in the severity of hurricanes this season.
Meteorologist, Sean Sublette, a Climate Central employee stated,”[Climate change] is not the proximate cause of the storm, but it makes these bad storms worse. And in the case of a really bad storm, climate change can make it totally disastrous or catastrophic.”
Over time, an increasing amount of data has been able to prove the direct relationship between the results of climate change, and extreme weather, such as hurricanes. The driving factors that fuel these severe storms are warmer ocean temperatures and rising sea levels, which are results of a warmer climate,. These create the worsened storm surge and higher participation and flooding rates.
In the last century, ocean temperatures have risen an average of one to three degrees Fahrenheit, and sea levels have risen about seven inches.
“But everything in the atmosphere now is impacted by the fact that it’s warmer than it’s ever been, there’s more water vapor in the atmosphere. The ocean is warmer. And all of that really only pushes the impact in one direction, and that is worse: higher surge in storms, higher rainfall in storms,” says Meteorologist Brandon Miller.
Climate change has been a controversial topic, although there is scientific information that proves it to be true, some people still do not believe in climate change.
According to the Washington Post, younger adults are more likely to believe in the relationship between climate change and extreme weather. Of people under 30 years old, almost 70 percent believed in climate change’s effects on weather. With every ten years, this percentage drops by about ten percent, with only 50 percent of 40-year-olds being convinced by the science.
The climate change debate is heating up in politics as well. Approximately, 72 percent of Republicans do not believe that climate change is related to the strength of these hurricanes, normalizing the severity of these storms. On the other hand, 78 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of independents believe that climate change fuels hurricanes.
Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University asserts, “You can say, ‘I don’t believe in climate change,’ but the planet is warming, humans are responsible, and the risks are becoming increasingly serious and even dangerous.”
Republican President Donald Trump has been vocal about his opinion that climate change is a hoax. Despite an overwhelming amount of evidence proving it to be in fact, real, Trump still denies climate change and its negative effects on the United States. Since the beginning of Trump’s presidency, the Environmental Protection Agency has removed mentions of climate change from its website and reduced regulations that are meant to curb climate change, carbon dioxide emission regulations.
So far, four storms; Harvey, Irma, José, and Maria, have reached category three strengths in 2017.
Hurricane Irma was the strongest hurricane recorded in the Atlantic. The storm made landfall on Sept. 10, 2017, destroying parts of southern Florida. Irma spent a record-breaking three days as a Category 5 hurricane.
Following hurricane Irma, Miami Mayor, Republican, Tomás Regalado spoke out, saying “If this isn’t climate change, I don’t know what is.”
Regalado continued to express his concern by stating, “This is the time to talk about climate change. This is the time that the president and the E.P.A and whoever makes decisions need to talk about climate change,”
Only five hurricane seasons since 1851 have had as many named storms by mid-September as there has been this year. There have been more storms this hurricane season that at least seven other years combined since 1851.
“….climate change will certainly increase the frequency and severity of hurricanes, and surely it’s already playing a role in the 2017 season,” says Stuart Earth Science teacher, Sarah McIntosh.
Hurricane Harvey was an astounding storm that hit Houston, Texas this season. Making landfall on Aug. 25, the storm dumped a whopping 51 inches of rain on the fourth most populated city in the United States.
Relief efforts and prevention of more life-threatening storms is crucial for all Americans to partake in.
Hayhoe expresses more of her thoughts towards climate change, declaring, “The most pernicious and dangerous myth we’ve bought into when it comes to climate change is not the myth that is its real, or humans aren’t responsible. It’s the myth that it does not matter, and that is the myth that [hurricane] Harvey shatters.”