Are Hurricanes Getting Stronger Because of Anthropogenic Climate Change?

Updated on March 5, 2018
Ivan Hernandez profile image

Erick is a highly intelligent autistic person who is a science and meteorology expert. He survived hurricane Irma without any major hiccups.

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.

  1. Head as far away from any coastline that is prone to tropical cyclones
  2. A medically superior solution called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Hurricane Irma

This detailed infrared image of Hurricane Irma shows her wrath as it passed over Barbuda with winds of 185 mph. Note its symmetrical shape, indicating that it was an annular hurricane.
This detailed infrared image of Hurricane Irma shows her wrath as it passed over Barbuda with winds of 185 mph. Note its symmetrical shape, indicating that it was an annular hurricane. | Source

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)
Katrina
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
>$150 billion
Harvey
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
>$125 billion
Irma
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
>$50 billion
Maria
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
>$95 billion
Damage estimates are what I think it's going to take to rebuild the affected areas. New Orleans suffered $108 billion in 2005 dollars, and New Orleans was rebuilt within a decade, and rebuilding continues today.

Hurricane Harvey as it Made Landfall Near Rockport, TX

Harvey devastated east Texas between August 27-September 2 while it was a tropical storm, with some areas getting up to 60 inches of rain, not far from my prediction of 70 inches. Many conspiracy theorists suspect that Harvey was a weather weapon.
Harvey devastated east Texas between August 27-September 2 while it was a tropical storm, with some areas getting up to 60 inches of rain, not far from my prediction of 70 inches. Many conspiracy theorists suspect that Harvey was a weather weapon. | Source

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.

This photo represents what will happen if Anthropogenic Global Warming (climate change) doesn't stop in the Atlantic and scientists don't take immediate action and find a way out of this climate predicament.
This photo represents what will happen if Anthropogenic Global Warming (climate change) doesn't stop in the Atlantic and scientists don't take immediate action and find a way out of this climate predicament. | Source

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.

This is Hurricane Maria as it tore through Puerto Rico.
This is Hurricane Maria as it tore through Puerto Rico. | Source

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

Hurricane Katrina was the costliest hurricane of the 2005 hurricane season. It was also a very deadly hurricane, due to a lack of public transport and untimely warnings.
Hurricane Katrina was the costliest hurricane of the 2005 hurricane season. It was also a very deadly hurricane, due to a lack of public transport and untimely warnings. | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Erick Hernandez

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      • Ivan Hernandez profile image
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        Erick Hernandez 8 months ago from Maintaining The Ivan Brand in Total Nonstop Ivan

        Oh My God!!!!! Thank you!!!! You made my day. On a day where negativity reigned, you gave me light at the end of an extremely long tunnel. I'm forever in your debt.

      • DzyMsLizzy profile image

        Liz Elias 8 months ago from Oakley, CA

        Very well researched and written. You make many valid points, and your understanding of the phenomenon is superb. If you are not a professional meteorologist, you are very close to being so.

        Your observation regarding PTSD is also spot-on-target. People seem to think that only soldiers returning from war zones suffer from this malady, but it is not so. Even being in a serious car accident, or almost drowning, or being just in the area of a man-made tragedy such as the recent massacre in Las Vegas--any major disruption in our ability to feel safe--can trigger PTSD.

        Kudos. Shared and pinned!

      • Ivan Hernandez profile image
        Author

        Erick Hernandez 8 months ago from Maintaining The Ivan Brand in Total Nonstop Ivan

        I believe so as well. It's the people, not the media, that has to rebuild Puerto Rico. You've got to remember that Puerto Rico hadn't fully recovered from Irma when Maria dealt them a knockout punch. If Tesla is planning to rebuild Puerto Rico, then the entire project could cost Puerto Ricans, and the US Economy, hundreds of billions of dollars to fix the entire Island.

      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 8 months ago from the short journey

        If Puerto Rico's leadership takes them up on the offer and they actually do it the process and outcome should be interesting to watch. How it works out for everyday people and how it works out for the government, both in the immediate and in the future will be a learning experience, and who knows, maybe a worthy one.

        Some of the hurdles to cross include defining who has jurisdiction of the acreage needed to implement such a plan and the fact that Puerto Rico's aging grid was in major decline before the latest hurricane.

        That's very curious, mainly because the leadership there knew that a major hurricane would, best case scenario, eventually debilitate the communities. They ignored that fact and are now pointing fingers.

        Also, their grid would not support Tesla's proposal so the project would be far bigger than they are admitting publicly. One must consider that the whole so-called offer may be a publicity stunt.

        Hopefully they will be able to help the people, but it's the people, not the media, who will be able to tell us whether that happens or not. We have to be careful to scratch below rhetoric for the whole story.

      • Ivan Hernandez profile image
        Author

        Erick Hernandez 8 months ago from Maintaining The Ivan Brand in Total Nonstop Ivan

        By the way, those 60 inches of rain was in Nederland, TX in Jefferson County, not in Harris county.

      • Ivan Hernandez profile image
        Author

        Erick Hernandez 8 months ago from Maintaining The Ivan Brand in Total Nonstop Ivan

        Do you know that the developers at Tesla are planning to rebuild Puerto Rico?

      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 8 months ago from the short journey

        Just a caution here about giving any man credit for that much power. This president, nor any other at any time, has that much power.

        Also, Barbuda is quite habitable, but it will take real work to bring communities' systems back to where they were. Though very sad in the immediate sense, especially where there was injury and loss of life, some say that the bright side is new opportunity to make sorely needed improvements to the island's systems and, therefore, the lives of islanders.

        Those who vacation in the resort areas would not ordinarily see how the islanders struggled before the hurricane and be able to connect the dots to why the destruction was so bad. I hope that going forward people in that region will work together to improve life for islanders rather than seeing more of what has happened in other places hit by natural disasters.

        Look at the questions being asked by many on where the resources to rebuild Haiti have gone. Now we are hearing from Puerto Rico. What is happening to the resources already given to help the people in need there? The media isn't reporting these issues, but the people there are indeed talking about them. We need to be looking past rhetoric and getting to the truth about the whole picture in these situations.

        A bigger issue is that there isn't enough money anywhere to make everything right in all natural disasters. After a disaster people will either work together to rebuild or they will give up. The rebuilders are usually the leaders of the future.

      • Ivan Hernandez profile image
        Author

        Erick Hernandez 8 months ago from Maintaining The Ivan Brand in Total Nonstop Ivan

        I think Trump's decision to decline from the Paris Accord has sparked a catastrophic chain of events in the US and Caribbean, starting with Harvey, which caused massive floods (and 60 inches of rain) to parts of Harris County, continued with Irma, which made Barbuda almost completely uninhabitable, then Maria came and catastrophically damaged Puerto Rico's tourism industry, and the California Wildfires are one of the most destructive wildfires of all time.

        Problem is that California wildfire records don't go back a long time, so the California wildfires of October 1991 are the benchmark. I think that the October 2017 wildfires will be the most destructive Californian wildfire-related disaster in history.

      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 8 months ago from the short journey

        Though this is confusing, partly because of several false statements written inflammatorily as fact (for instance, though greatly changed Barbuda is not completely uninhabitable) and conclusions being based on theory submitted as fact, after seeing the plea for HP to get it edited immediately I made myself read through it for a couple of reasons.

        First, it could be really helpful to realize that you are far from the first person to be terrified of a massive hurricane and that there are many kinds of life changing/life ending storms people have dealt with in life. Ancient peoples have been caught up in fantastically destructive natural disasters that we do not have details on, only signs of their devastation remain for archeologists and anthropologists to study. A book you could find helpful is Trusting God Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges.

        In response to your question, some would tell you that today the California wildfires are far worse than the hurricane you mercifully made it through. Others would tell you that the recent storm of bullets in Las Vegas was far more terrifying. The world over there have been and still are people trapped in terrible circumstances (situations we can't even conceive of because of the great peace and safety we have in our nation by comparison) who would tell you that the storm they face is far more devastating than any natural disaster.

        Back to your topic though, people who choose to live in areas that hurricanes develop in do indeed need to know how to survive, especially by heeding evacuation orders or, ahead of orders, making plans to evacuate so as to take no chances (out of consideration that it is impossible to predict any hurricane's development or path with accuracy). Some people simply choose not to live in hurricane alley.

        The idea being floated about by some that hurricanes will be more destructive because of climate change is full of holes. Many scientists assert that promoting such theories is nothing more than fear-mongering in order to gain control of people for their own purposes, including profiting from the theories.

        That hurricanes have benefits is news to too many people because they have never bothered to fully study them. That the consequences of climate change are nothing new is astonishing to those who only listen to media rhetoric on the topic and do not understand that the earth has always been changing. That global warming has not been tracked long enough to warrant fear-mongering is confusing to people who've only listened to recent history's fear-mongering.

        The human condition causes whole generations to think that life should always be as we now know it. A proper study of history would teach us better, but that's been thrown to the way-side in our education systems in favor of modern culture. The truth is, so-called the life-as-we-now-know-it concept has been completely debunked, and that includes the life of the earth.

        We are directed to be good stewards of the earth by its Creator so it is not surprising that when we are not good stewards there are consequences, but a study of the earth and its amazing systems is helpful in understanding that the earth was designed to renew itself. The hubris of thinking that we are more powerful than its Creator leads us to foolish thinking and makes us vulnerable to theory presented as fact.

        If the public wants to be able to think through the issues for themselves instead of being led en masse by theorists some balanced research is needed. If they just want to be spoon fed that which whips up emotion so they can jump on a bandwagon with celebrities and politicians they certainly are free to do so, but they should also consider the consequences for themselves.

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