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Hurricanes and Climate Change

As Hurricane Ian approaches Florida, it’s a good time to discuss the connection between climate change and hurricanes. Though storms of all sizes have been around since far before the industrial revolution, when we started to see a major increase in our greenhouse gas emissions - a driver of climate change - we are seeing storms become more intense more often. “Climate change increases the odds that you’ll get a rapid intensifier,” Jeff Masters, a meteorologist at Yale Climate Connections, says. As the temperature of our planet increases, so does the ocean temperature. As ocean temperatures get warmer, hurricanes get stronger and they do so at a rapid pace. Rapid intensification is when wind speed increases at least 35 miles per hour in 24 hours or less. Scientists use Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) to measure the activity during cyclone/hurricane season. The higher the ACE number, the bigger, longer, and more severe the storms in that given year were. In 1851 the North Atlantic had a score of 36. In 2018 it had a score of 132. [2] Jim Kossin, a senior-level scientist at the Climate Service recently stated, “Climate change is increasing both the maximum intensity that these storms can achieve, and the rate of intensification that can bring them to this maximum.” [1] And while some argue that there have been fewer hurricanes in recent years, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says the storms that do make landfall are more likely to become category 4 or 5 and include more rain and wind.[3] The science is clear. Climate change is causing more intense hurricanes that currently are and will continue to impact us for many decades to come. Learn more about how climate change affects you: Learn how to talk to kids about climate change:


Sources [1] “Climate Change is Causing Hurricanes to Intensify Faster than Ever”. Fritz, Angela & Ramirez, Rachel. 26 Sept 2022. CNN. [2] Natural Disasters: Intensity of Northern Atlantic Hurricanes. Our World in Data. November 2021.

[3] Hurricanes and Climate Change: Everything You Need to Know. 26 July 2022.

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