Hurricane season has fully made landfall, with Florence battering the Carolina coast, Americans are battling some of the fiercest storms on record. Some may be wondering if that is really the case? Are hurricanes becoming worse? Are we getting more of them? The answer is complicated and has multiple parts. Following up on our last entry, this time on the Blackjack Industrial blog, we are looking at how and why the climate is making the worst hurricane season ever.
Hurricanes are large storms developing over subtropical or tropical waters, specifically over the Atlantic or Eastern Pacific oceans. If they develop elsewhere they can go by other names, typhoon, cyclones, but they are all the same – huge tropical storms.
And They’re Getting Worse?
‘Worse’ can be determined in two major ways. Frequency and intensity.
Based solely on the number of storms, there has been a steady worsening of the hurricane season from 1900, with more storms occurring on average. Some years there are less than previous years, but that is the exception.
Intensity wise, we can measure hurricanes in two ways, their category (1-5) but also the amount of damage done, the cost of the damages. It’s not a perfect measurement, it can be flawed due to the number of people and infrastructure present in vulnerable areas, but it is a measurement none the less. 2005’s Hurricane Katrina sits at the top of that list, costing over $160 billion in damages, though it was only a Category 3 hurricane when it made landfall. Of the top costliest hurricanes, 3 are from 2017, with Harvey, Maria, and Irma, all of which were Category 4 when they made landfall.
So, by both metrics, the hurricane season is getting worse. They are becoming stronger, doing more damage, but there is more to it than just that. Climate change is having a huge effect on hurricanes.
Climate Change & Hurricanes
Due to climate change, the world’s waters are warming at a faster rate. These warm waters are what makes hurricanes more likely and creates the conditions for ‘rapid intensification.’ This process, RI for short, is when a storm’s sustained winds increase by 35 mph (at least) within a 24 hour period. This can take a storm from a smaller, Category 1 or 2 up to Category 5 in less than a day, unleashing a monster on an unsuspecting coastline.
Warmer waters are not the only climate change cause of tougher hurricane seasons. Higher temperatures mean the air can hold more moisture, allowing hurricanes to drop more rain. If the more rain wasn’t enough of a problem, the altered global weather patterns due to Arctic warming makes it even worse.
Scientists are theorizing that the warming of the Arctic is affecting the jet stream, the huge air current that flows around the world and has a domino effect on weather patterns all over the globe. With warmer air, the jet stream doesn’t move with the same force it used to, meaning storms like hurricanes are no longer moving along at the usual pace.
The old norm was for hurricanes to make landfall, drift for a few days, before moving back out to sea. Now, with no wind forcing them away the hurricanes make landfall and sit. They land and just dump rain, for days and days, hitting areas that are not prepared for such massive amounts of water. It’s what made Hurricane Harvey such a terrible storm for Houston, TX.
This is a symptom of a larger problem. The permanent change in climate that we are enduring is causing all sorts of extremes to become even more extreme. It is why hurricanes are having more of an impact, why wildfire seasons are getting longer. It’s why our jobs are getting harder, and proper gear and know-how more critical.
Here at Blackjack Industrial, our clips will help keep your gear secured, and help you operate safely, while our blog will give you the info you need to work intelligently. With the right gear, and the right mind, we can do anything – that’s just what humans do. If you have yet to get our Double Down Clips, head over and drop the $10 to keep your goggles at hand, and your headlamp shining. Properly equipped you can keep doing your job right, no matter how hard it gets. We’ll catch you next time on the blog.