This week, news of Hurricane Dorian has dominated the news cycles. It became a Category 5 hurricane before making landfall in the Bahama’s, and wrought widespread destruction there. While this is sad news for the inhabitants of the island, it appears as of now to be moving up the eastern US coast, hopefully sparing more destruction.
Many articles have talked about how hurricanes are becoming more consistently powerful in recent years, and that this is linked to climate change. But how is it possible that such a massive storm that is hundreds of miles across is influenced by climate change?
The answer lies in the temperature of the oceans. Hurricane season in the Atlantic ocean begins in August, at which point in the summer the oceans have been steadily warming up, allowing the water and air to become warm enough to sustain the massive flow of energy that takes place. Essentially, the warmer the water, the more powerful the hurricane can be. So, as the oceans heat up, it allows more powerful storms to occur, and to last longer than they traditionally would.
For the last two decades, climate change has seemed like an abstract concept, one that we understand in theory to be true, but hard to physically see if you are not a scientist studying it. But that time is past, and extreme weather events are only going to get worse as our climate changes more rapidly than it ever has before.