Are Hurricanes Getting Stronger Because of Anthropogenic Climate Change?
What Is climate change?
Climate change refers to any type of change in climate, with Anthropogenic Climate Change referring to human-caused climate change. As of November 4, 2017, scientists have studied the climate trends. The Earth should've cooled back to industrial levels by now, but a 2016 report from ucsusa.org suggests the extreme likelihood that humans are the main driver of global warming and climate change. Unlike weather, which is akin to your mood, climate is akin to your personality. This means that weather happens on a daily basis, whereas climate happens on a long-term cycle, typically 30 or more years.
What's Causing the Planet to Heat up?
Since the Industrial Revolution, we've been pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and that's causing the planet to warm. During the late 20th century, scientists discovered another greenhouse gas, and that is methane. Together, they make up less than one-fiftieth of one percent of the atmosphere on Earth. In 2017, the total amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 410 ppm (parts per million). That meant that there is 0.00041% carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and counting.
Coal was the go to source of energy, but it polluted the atmosphere with smog and everything. Then, natural gas came along and changed all that. Next came solar panels, wind turbines and hydroelectric dams (although hydroelectric dams were in use before 1950).
Answering the Titular Question
The simple answer is yes. Hurricanes are getting stronger. The complex answer is that hurricanes derive energy from ocean temperatures greater than 82 degrees Fahrenheit. As the planet warms from natural and human-induced climate change, we'll see an increase in the intensity of hurricanes. Take Hurricane Irma, for example, as it passed through the northern portion of the Leeward Islands over Barbuda. It intensified into a monster 185 mph hurricane and stayed at that intensity for 37 hours, beating the previous record set by Typhoon Haiyan by 13 hours.
Just two years prior, Hurricane Patricia became the strongest tropical cyclone on record when it reached a maximum wind speed of 215 mph In the Eastern Pacific, which is 58 mph higher than the minimum wind speed of 157 mph needed for a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale. I'm sure future hurricanes will surpass both Irma and Patricia in terms of intensity, and duration at such intensity.
Hurricane Harvey intensified in an area of the Gulf of Mexico where water temperatures were 2 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. If this were 2005, then it would've been renamed Irma and the death toll would've been 20 times higher. Irma would've been Jose, and the death toll from that storm would've been in the 1000's, and Maria would've been Nate, and the death toll would've been in the 1000's as well.
Climate Change's Role in Shaping Future Atlantic Hurricane Seasons Part 1
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season will go down in history as the costliest and, perhaps, most catastrophic hurricane season of the 2010s decade. That begs the question: will there be other seasons worse than 2017? Of course there will be. The whole United States thought that 2005 was the worst hurricane season on record. 2017 dethroned 2005's title. I'm sure there will be others that'll dethrone 2017's title. I expect a 200 mph system to form within the next 20 years inside the Atlantic Ocean.
As far as any increase in activity's concerned, climate change will continue to make hurricanes stronger. A warming ocean will likely increase the number and intensity of hurricanes. But it's not just that. Warming oceans means more moisture for the hurricanes to take advantage of. Yes, there'll be periods where hurricane activity's limited because of El Niño, but that won't change a thing.
Climate Change's Role in Shaping Future Atlantic Hurricane Seasons Part 2
By the 2050s, hurricanes will be more intense and more ferocious. High-end Category 5 hurricanes will happen more often, both with greater intensity, and with greater duration of intensity. I expect a Sandy-sized Category 3 hurricane to strike anywhere within 200 miles of a coastline and still produce catastrophic damage.
There's no denying that hurricane seasons like 2017 or 2005 will happen with greater frequency as the climate warms. By the 2100s, there'll be more moisture for hurricanes to transfer due to warming ocean temperatures. As a result, more rain will fall when hurricanes do make landfall. A warming ocean will also mean more intense hurricanes.
Imagine a hurricane bigger than Patricia, with wind speeds in excess of 215 mph while staying above 200 mph for a full week or more, and slamming into Houston at that intensity. The ensuing damage would be cataclysmic in so many ways.
Also, by that time, more hurricanes will make it into unusual areas while fully tropical, such as Ireland, France, or Portugal. It's also possible that the number of hurricanes will increase beyond the mid 10s to the mid 20s. There'll be more moisture for the hurricanes to transport, meaning more extreme rainfall events, like Hurricane Harvey or 1963's Florence, which dumped an astonishing 100 inches of rain in Eastern Cuba.
PTSD and Hurricane Survivors
Hurricane-induced PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a very real thing. There are people that lived through Katrina, Wilma, Harvey, Maria, and Irma that still deal with the trauma after the first symptoms appear. Images of hurricanes will cause them to panic. News of a hurricane making landfall in their area will put them into panic mode. The most catastrophic hurricanes are shown below. The following hurricanes caused massive destruction (more than $50 billion (2017 dollars))
Cyclonophobia and how to Deal With This Debilitating Condition
As mentioned in the above callout, many people who experience hurricane-related trauma will likely develop Cyclonophobia, which is the unnatural and horrifying fear of tropical cyclones in the Southern Hemisphere and Northern Indian Ocean, hurricanes in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific Basins, and typhoons in the Western Pacific. These people, when they see a hurricane go towards their area, leave as soon as possible and head hundreds of miles inland. It's not very easy for these people. There are two ways of dealing with Cyclonophobia.
- Head as far away from any coastline that is prone to tropical cyclones
- A medically superior solution called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
What Is An Annular Hurricane?
As I mentioned, an annular hurricane is a special class of hurricane that is not affected by eyewall replacement cycles that easily. Basically, an annular hurricane is almost invincible to wind shear and dry air. You need a cold easterly wind in the upper levels of the atmosphere, a large anticyclone aloft, they often have a huge eye at the center, and they are almost always symmetrical. They range from Category 1 to Category 5 hurricane status.
Hurricane Iselle and Annular Hurricanes
Gawker has some very interesting information about annular Hurricanes. They often develop in the Pacific. Hurricane Iselle of 2014 was an annular hurricane. It survived through a very dry environment ahead of the hurricane and reached Category 4 intensity. It only weakened when it lost its annular characteristics. This article is over 3 years old, so it may not reflect the current news.
Hurricane Epsilon: An Annular Hurricane That Defied Expectations
Some annular hurricanes, Like Hurricane Epsilon of 2005, exist in water temperatures too cold for hurricanes. They often have a very unstable environment around them, and they defy odds. During Hurricane Epsilon, the hurricane defied the National Hurricane Center's forecast of dissipation, and persisted into December with water temperatures in the low-mid 70s.
NASA's report on Hurricane Epsilon shows us that this greek-letter-named storm survived unfavorable wind shear.
Hurricane Irma and its Annular Hurricane Status
Hurricane Irma battered the Islands of Barbuda, Antigua, St Thomas, The U.S and British Virgin Islands and everything else in between. Hurricane Irma completely changed Barbuda forever. Hurricane Irma was an annular-looking hurricane that didn't weaken at all while crossing the Northern Leeward Islands. In fact, it spent more than one-and-a-half days as a 185 mph Category 5 hurricane. Irma was a monster when she was at her peak.
Ophelia and its Major Hurricane Status Over Unusually Cold Waters
Hurricane Ophelia formed southwest of the Azores Islands and slowly intensified under marginal ocean temperatures of 81 degrees Fahrenheit. It became a hurricane on October 11, 2017, and stayed at Category 1 for a good while. It, too, became annular and strengthened to a Category 2 hurricane on October 12, 2017.
Upper-level temperatures were unusually cold for this time of year in its track, so it stayed as a Category 2 storm until October 14, 2017, when it unexpectedly strengthened to a Category 3 hurricane with water temperatures in the 74-75 degree range.
By doing that, it became the easternmost Major Hurricane in Atlantic history. It affected the southeast coast of the Azores and affected Ireland when a cold front merged with Ophelia and its remnants produced the worst storm the island has seen in 50 years.
This is what happens when an Atlantic hurricane clashes with the European Continent, and I expect more in the future.
Comparing Katrina With the Big Three Major Disasters of 2017.
Name of Hurricane
Category At Landfall (If there were multiple landfalls, separate with a category and Portion of State or US Territory)
Maximum Wind Speed At Landfall (if there were multiple landfalls, separate with winds in mph and Portion of State or US Territory Affected)
Highest Category, windspeed reached, and Absolute minimum pressure reached
Estimated Damage (In 2017 Dollars)
1 in Southeastern Florida and two 3s(One of them happened in Southeastern Louisiana and the other one happened near the border of Louisiana and Mississippi
80 mph in Florida and 125 and 115 mph, one in Southeastern Louisiana and one near the border of Louisiana and Mississippi
Category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph and a minimum central pressure of 902 millibars
4 and 3 (Both in The big bend area of Texas), Tropical Storm (Southwest Louisiana)
130 and 125 mph (Both in the Big Bend Area of Texas, and 60 mph in Southwest Louisiana
Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph and a minimum central pressure of 938 millibars
4 and 3 (Both in Florida)
130 and 115 mph (One in the Lower Florida Keys and one in Western Florida
Category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph and a minimum central pressure of 913 millibars
4 (Southwest Puerto Rico)
155 mph (Southwest Puerto Rico)
Category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph and a minimum central pressure of 909 millibars
Hurricane Harvey as it Made Landfall Near Rockport, TX
My Hurricane Experience
These videos are examples of hurricanes that have struck the United States within the last 14 years. I know it may be hard for you to comprehend, but stay with me. I have experienced hurricanes in the past. The only storm I was terrified of was Irma. Wilma was my first major hurricane. I didn't understand what hurricanes were about, as I was too young to understand. My second major hurricane was Matthew, but I knew that he wasn't going to slam Miami. My third major was Irma, and she hit hard.
Hurricane Charley in Orlando, FL
Technologies The US Introduced in the 2010s
In 2016, the National Hurricane Center developed an experimental tool called the Storm Surge Watch and Warning System. The National Hurricane Center used this tool to predict storm surge days ahead of time. That very same year, Hurricanes Hermine and Matthew put this tool to the test when they threatened the United States; Hermine made landfall in Cedar Key, FL, and Matthew passed by very close to the same state before making landfall as a Category 1 hurricane. This life-saving tool was so successful that it became functional the following year.
In Late 2016, NASA Launched the GOES-16 satellite, which beamed back its first satellite images in April of the following year. It has helped scientists and meteorologists with a lot of things in the US, like tracking hurricanes, storms, tornadoes and other kinds of stuff. During the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, GOES-16, renamed Goes-East later in the year, beamed back near-flawless, near-realtime data of every Tropical Storm, Hurricane, and Major Hurricane ever produced.
Hurricane Irma in The Lower Florida Keys
Will Climate Change Cause More Destructive Hurricanes?
Here, I am stating the cold facts about hurricanes and climate change. Hurricanes will be more destructive because of climate change, which includes rising sea levels across the United States.
No one really knows at what temperature will all these disasters mentioned will happen, but it is possible that as global temperatures rise, hurricanes will get more intense. The image below shows how global warming will affect average global temperatures over the next 100 years.
Climate Change Predictions.
A Question To Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change Deniers
I would like to address all the climate deniers with a rhetorical question: What is worse than two Category 4 major hurricane landfalls within 15 days of each other, two simultaneous 150+ mph hurricanes in the same basin at the same time, three catastrophic major hurricane landfalls in the US or US Islands, and a hurricane that has been at or above 185 mph for 37 hours? Read a newspaper report about the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, and you will find out.
Hurricane Maria: Puerto Rico's Worst Nightmare
Hurricane Maria started out like any other normal tropical entity developing east of the Lesser Antilles on September 16. Suddenly, Maria entered 86-degree waters and had an anticyclone aloft, and strengthened from a 50 mph tropical storm on September 16 to a 160 mph Category 5 hurricane 2 days later. Immediately after that, the storm made landfall in Dominica, becoming the first Category 5 hurricane to hit the island. The island's mountains weakened it to a 155 mph hurricane, but by September 20, the storm strengthened to a 175 mph hurricane, with a pressure of 908 millibars making Maria the 10th most intense hurricane on record.
Moving toward an Irma-Ravaged Puerto Rico as a Category 5, the storm began undergoing an eyewall replacement cycle right as it made landfall in the southeastern portion of the island as a 155 mph Category 4 hurricane on September 21, knocking power to all of the US Territory. When it was done, the entire island was without power and drinkable water.
Every tree in the island was destroyed. Even the palm trees didn't survive. There was a mass exodus of Puerto Ricans because the United States government didn't respond to their cries for help. It took until the beginning of 2018 for Puerto Rico to recover, and there's still decades to go before the island regains its tourist attraction money.
Final Thoughts on The Matter
My last thoughts on the matter are that hurricanes are the most destructive storms to ever hit land. They are usually more destructive than every single natural disaster in the world. They bring flash flooding, tornadoes, and storm surge. The thing to take away from this is that hurricanes are very strong. Even a 100-mile-wide hurricane can unleash energy equal to more than 1,000 Hiroshima bombs. A hurricane survivalist has a much better chance of surviving weeks without power and food after a catastrophic hurricane than a regular person.
A Statement to Climate Change Deniers
Climate change deniers like to put out a myth that climate change is caused by Chinese factories. Here are the facts. Climate change is real, so when a Category 5 hurricane hits your city, don't come crying to me. Humans have changed the climate, but they also have the power to change it back. It takes determination and strength. It takes the banding together of different cultures and religions to make a solution. Our 45th President doesn't care about our climate at all.
Hurricane Katrina as it Intensified in The Gulf of Mexico
© 2017 Erick Hernandez