Thirty inches of rain ahead. Could climate change be fueling the history-making nature of this storm? We know that humanity’s carbon footprint has shifted the baseline conditions of the climate, the context in which every weather event takes place.
But trying to isolate the human influence from everything else that is going on can be really hard, especially for hurricanes or what scientists call tropical cyclones. They’re super complex and the quality of the historical data we have for them.
Isn’t great., We do have physics, though. Hurricanes are driven by the transfer of heat from the sea to the air through evaporation.. The storm’s, maximum possible wind speed or its potential intensity depends in part on how warm the ocean is, And, of course, we’re warming.
The ocean., So researchers expect intense tropical cyclones to become frequent. If we continue to warm the planet. & quot, That’s, one place, I think you’d, find a very strong consensus among scientists who study the connection between hurricanes and climate that the frequency of the high-end events will probably go.
Up. & quot, And that shows up in climate models.. This is from the intergovernmental panel on climate change. It summarizes the computer model results for tropical cyclones near the end of this century, compared to today.
The first bar represents the total number of tropical cyclones globally.. That’s projected to go down a bit., But the second bar represents the frequency of the most intense storms categories. Four and five and the models show those increasing And that’s, bad news, because those are the storms that cause the most damage and the biggest loss of life.
Now, when they try to look at specific regions, it gets really messy. In the North Atlantic, for example, the models show category four and five storms, maybe increasing by 200 % or maybe decreasing by 100 %, So yeah.
The resolution of their simulations just isn’t fine enough, yet to give us good regional projections, even if they expect more intense storms globally., But there’s. Another really clear, consistent result here, this fourth bar it represents the amount of rain that hurricanes will bring and that’s, going up.
Not just for our Atlantic coast, but for the Pacific coast of North America, the western Pacific, the south Pacific and the Indian Ocean everywhere., The hurricanes of the future, will be wetter., So coastal cities will face freshwater flooding from the sky paired with storm surge from the sea, which is higher now, because we are also causing sea levels to rise.
And that trend of wetter, storms, isn’t just for hurricanes. Heavy precipitation. Events from other types of storms have been increasing in The US and should continue to increase across the country., Even in places that might see less rain over the whole year.
They’ll, get more days with really heavy precipitation.. This comes down to basic physics, too. Warmer air can take up more water before it dumps it back down on us.. All of this means global warming worsens floods like the kind that hit Houston, but it’s, not our destiny.
To hurt ourselves like this., It depends on what we choose to do now.. We could rethink our infrastructure and regulations to minimize the damage, but unless we also start cutting our carbon emissions and shifting the world to clean energy, it’s just going to get worse.