Scientists in Germany and the U.K. say climate change didn’t cause Hurricane Irma, the most powerful storm to form in the open Atlantic Ocean, but did make it much stronger; It has been estimated previously that flooding could cost coastal cities around $1 trillion per year by the year 2050.
An extremely dangerous Hurricane Irma smashed small northern Caribbean islands Wednesday morning as one of the strongest storms recorded in the Atlantic — and is on a path to hit parts of the British Virgin Islands and perhaps skirt northern Puerto Rico later in the day.
Irma’s core, with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph — well above the 157 mph threshold of a Category 5 — slammed Barbuda early Wednesday before hitting St. Martin and Anguilla.
Irma is on a path that may bring it ashore in Florida and destroy so much property that damages surpass Hurricane Katrina. Officials there are ordering some evacuations and shutting down schools, report CNN. The season opener for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers has been postponed Sunday in Miami because of Irma. The game will instead be played in Miami on November 19.
Scientists in Germany and the U.K. say climate change didn’t cause Hurricane Irma, the most powerful storm to form in the open Atlantic Ocean, but did make it much stronger.
“Unfortunately, the physicality is very clear: Hurricanes get their destructive energy from the warmth of the ocean, and the region’s water temperatures are super elevated,” said Anders Levermann, a climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
Irma comes less than two weeks after Hurricane Harvey smashed ashore in Texas, knocking offline almost a quarter of U.S. oil refining capacity and causing widespread damage, power outages and flooding. Climate change can “badly exacerbate” the impact of the hurricanes, even if it’s not the initial cause, he said.
“Burning coal, oil and gas warms our planet and that way supplies energy for the build-up of ever more powerful tropical storms,” said Levermann.
U.S. President Donald Trump said in a series of tweets that the hurricane looks like the largest ever recorded in the Atlantic, and that he was “watching it closely”.
Higher than average sea-surface temperatures “are fueling Hurricane Irma, giving additional energy and moisture,” according to an emailed statement to Bloomberg from Julian Heming, a hurricane expert at the U.K.’s Met Office.
“A hurricane of this magnitude will have impacts extending far from its center, so it’s important for residents not to focus on the exact forecast track but to consider the system as a whole,” he said. “Intense rainfall, flash floods, extreme winds and a life-threatening storm surge will severely affect communities over a wide area.”
According to a study by WEF, climate change enhances storm surges and causes flooding – both of which can have devastating consequences.
As human activity gathered momentum in the mid 20th century – in the form of growing populations and the rise of heavy industry – carbon emissions also followed an upward trajectory. CO2 levels have increased rapidly since the 1950s.
The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide has created a warming effect. This has coincided with an uptick in the number and scale of natural disasters such as droughts, floods, wildfires and storms.
It will come as no surprise to learn that China and the United States are the most prolific carbon emitters. Both countries are among those with the biggest populations, the most factories and the highest number of cars.
Interestingly, it is those same countries that top the table in terms of carbon emissions that have experienced the highest number of hydrological, meteorological and climatological disasters in recent years.
According to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), China, the US and India were among the countries worst hit by extreme weather events from 1995 to 2015.
Large parts of Africa and Europe have so far been relatively unscathed by the onslaught of these types of natural disasters.
Higher sea levels in turn lead to bigger storm surges, such as those that have caused devastation in Texas and southern China.
It’s no coincidence that an increase in carbon emissions coincides with a steady rise in the number of hydrological disasters over recent years.
It has been estimated previously that flooding could cost coastal cities around $1 trillion per year by the year 2050.
Yet again, it is towns and cities in the US and China that are expected to bear the brunt.