Hurricanes. Climate Change. Let’s talk.

I’m not going to spend too much time here, and instead try to keep it concise. Here are three links of Hurricane Florence to climate change.

Hurricanes are incredibly damaging — but to what extent are they affected by climate change.

Hurricane Florence is currently battering the coast of North Carolina. This is a category two storm — not exceptionally powerful — but many of its traits are indicative of global warming’s effect on tropical storms.

For example, the hurricane has gone particularly far north, while retaining power. Its latitude was roughly 28 degrees north at around 6 am EST, which is significantly further north than most typical hurricanes. All hurricanes last year of a comparable strength hit Florida and the Deep South, so this is obviously unusual.

The reason why this is so significant is that hurricanes get their energy from warm air rising and condensing from oceans of at least 27 degrees Celsius (80.6 Fahrenheit). For oceans, this far North, to not just be at 27, but higher to provide more energy, is not unusual per se, but part of an upwards trend. A storm of this severity at this latitude has been a rare occurrence, with just 15 comparable hurricanes over the last century and a half.

And climatologists predict that worse is to come before the end of hurricane season in November. Based on sea temperatures this year, which have been high, it is likely that there will be a catastrophic storm before the end of the year. The reason for the lack of tropical storms thus far is due to changing gulf stream patterns caused by global warming. As such, the hurricane season is likely to become more unpredictable year on year.

What will make the storm so devastating to the region is the fact that it will stall on the coastline, which has certainly been a recurrent feature in recent storms. Normally, we would expect storms to make landfall, travel a small distance, and quickly lose energy. This new trend, though, shows a change.

Meteorologists don’t have a concrete theory at the moment, but there are a few mooted ideas. One idea is that, as cities become more built up, the skyscrapers block hurricanes from moving inland, as they increase friction. Another idea is linked to global warming: the idea that smogs above cities could stifling the movement of hurricanes.

Another issue linked to Florence is that rising sea levels can worsen the impacts of hurricanes such as Florence, causing much more consequential storm surges. Much of what makes Florence such a threat is that, while only a Category 2, existing conditions such as whatever causes stalling and sea levels can worsen the effect.

While natural weather events such as El Nino and La Nina have a huge impact on hurricanes, and we can’t blame climate change completely, it certainly makes storms worse.

Florence is just the latest example of this, but it will continue well into the future, and into the year. We must question ourselves: do we want to clear up the mess, or stop the mess from ever being made in the first place? Once we know our answer, we can start going about making sure that no-one has to die when they shouldn’t again.

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