As Hurricane Florence makes a landfall in the eastern United States, four more storms with wind speeds of least 40 mph are brewing up in the Atlantic Ocean. It was previously in 1998, that a total of five storms simultaneously existed in the Atlantic. Scientists have stated that as anthropogenic global warming continues to increase the temperature of the atmosphere as well as of the oceans, hurricanes are poised to intensify. This is part of the climate change that could bring in unprecedented amounts of disaster to coastal areas in the future.
So, how is atmospheric and oceanic temperature linked to hurricanes? A higher atmospheric temperature augments the amount of water it can retain. In fact, for every 1 degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, or warming – the air can hold 7% more water. This enables a tropical storm to absorb more water from the air, and fuels their intensification and result in heavier downpours. As the air gets warmer, the hydrological cycle, the process of water evaporating, condensing, and falling as rain, increases in its rate. This would result in greater frequencies of storms occurring.
Moreover, evidence has suggested that hurricanes are slowing down in their pace. No, it doesn’t mean that’s good news. It means that, now, hurricanes are going to last longer and take even more time before they subside. Hurricane Florence is forecasted to do just that, which has deemed it to be the worst hurricane to hit north of Florida in more than a 100 years.
Wind shears are the winds that hit hurricanes from their sides to break them apart. Many researchers have also suggested that the power of wind shears are going down with climate change. A lighter wind shear would indicate that they don’t possess enough power to break the hurricanes – thus letting it linger over an area for a long time.
So, can technology be implemented to ensure that the hurricanes don’t gather up enough power as they form? The answer, unfortunately, is no. When warm air rises, cools and condenses into water droplets – a tremendous amount of latent heat is released. The latent heat produces the kinetic energy of the wind which drives the storm. At any given moment, the power of a Category 5 hurricane is as much as a nuclear warhead. No amount of technological advancement holds the capacity to deal with that amount of power.
Scientists have yet to conclude that climate change is responsible for the five storms brewing in the Atlantic. Falko Judt, a research meteorologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said, “Hurricanes and tropical activity often comes in ‘bursts’ (internal variability), and that’s what we’re seeing now, coincident with the peak of hurricane season”. Hurricane Florence has taken advantage of the warm ocean waters, which played a role in its sustained and atypical westward trek towards the Carolinas.
In either way, Hurricane Florence is set to disrupt the eastern United States and cause a large amount of monetary damage. Climate Change is definitely causing such storms to intensify in their power – holding higher amounts of water and being prolonged in its duration. Even if carbon emissions are nullified at the moment, it would be a few decades before such hurricanes cease to exert so much power over humanity.