Hurricanes are monster storms that swirl over the long stretches of ocean waters and cause massive damage to building and other structures when they come into contact with land. Many argue that global warming is intensifying the dangers these hurricanes pose to coastal cities.
Scientists all agree that global warming is not the catalyst of hurricanes; however, there is a scientific consensus that the warming of the ocean is producing bigger and more destructive hurricanes. The most recent, Hurricane Michael, was the largest hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle – making landfall at a category five and making history as one of the top four strongest hurricanes to strike the U.S.
The unforgettable thing about record-setting Michael is how rapidly it became a category five storm. This is called the process of “rapid intensification,” and the worst hurricanes of the past two years- Harvey, Irma, Maria, Florence and Michael all demonstrated the effects. Rapid intensification means that a storm in its ideal environment, one characterized by warm waters and little adverse wind shear – inevitably intensifying the storm.
In a recent study in the Journal of Climate, climate researchers found that global warming raises the oceanic temperatures and intensifies hurricanes.
“The rapid intensification of these storms, which was part of what made them so dangerous and devastating, is attributed to global warming,” said a climate scientist at Princeton University. The phenomenon has become more serious as sea waters have warmed with climate change. “Several factors can contribute, but warmer waters increase the potential for a storm becoming stronger,” he said.
Warmer waters fuel more energetic storms. The heat from the water condensation raises to form rainfall while cycling the warm air below forms cyclones. The actual process begins with a cluster of thunderstorms moving across the ocean. When the surface water is warm, the storm sucks up heat energy, creating moisture in the air. If wind conditions are right; the storm becomes a hurricane.
Global Warming and hurricanes are linked simply because warmer water provides more energy that feeds them. Kerry Emanuel, scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says, “The temperature difference between the ocean and upper atmosphere determines how much a storm intensifies. A bigger temperature difference leads to the release of more energy into the storm. The warmer the ocean, the bigger the difference, and subsequently, the bigger the storm.”