I’m not one to blog about clich� topics, but an article on Reuters presented two interesting aspects to the Hurricane Sandy frenzy. It reported in detail some possible answers to the questions many Americans are curious about:
What caused Hurricane Sandy? And why was it a storm of so much power?
A COMBINATION OF TWO STORMS…
The article explains an interesting aspect of Sandy. It explains that scientists set it aside from previous storms not only because of its mass destruction and power, but a unique combination of tropical hurricane effects mixed in with various components of a winter storm. Professor of Atmospheric Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Kerry Emanuel, is quoted in the article calling this a “hybrid storm”. He notes that tropical hurricanes and winter storms operate differently – thus why the joint forces of the two is a deadly mix.
According to the article, the storm was originally fueled by abnormally warm temperatures for the season – as is the case with many hurricanes. However, as Sandy plummeted up the Caribbean, she met with Artic winter weather patterns that increased both her size and power phenomenally. Scientists believe the Artic weather patterns brewing near the east coast were to result in a pretty powerful winter storm, but Sandy and her tropical hurricane patterns met with the winter storm and gave it a bit of a “head start”.
Senior scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, Kevin Trenberth, is one of the firm believers that this storm evolved into such a powerful one because of the combination of the two intense weather patterns. He believes the timing was everything when it came to a storm of such dangerous power – coining it a “meteorological bomb”.
The reason that this “hybrid storm” theory is so interesting is because according to the article, it seems many scientists stand firm on the idea that gradual climate changes – specifically global warming – are the reason for destructive hurricanes of the past, and the reason Sandy was so brutal. Scientists like the aforementioned Kerry Emanuel and Kevin Trenberth, however, believe the warming climate is free of charge in the case of Sandy and it was fully caused by the combining of the two weather systems. The article indicates that both scientists firmly believe climate change is a main cause of tropical hurricanes, but Emanuel specifically expresses that climate change’s role in this storm would need further investigation.
OR SIMPLY THE INTESIFYING OF GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE?
As I said, however, other scientists stand firm on the belief that global warming is the sole cause of such destructive storms, including Sandy. The article tells of things like increased ocean water temperatures, increased sea levels, air-moisture containment, and possibly even greenhouse gases(live link) being the inciting factors of Hurricane Sandy.
As for increased sea levels, it is believed that melting ice and water expansion as a result of increased temperatures have led to an average sea level increase of 8 inches in the past 100 years (reuters). Higher sea levels are dangerous because they increase the intensity of storm surges – as shared by a professor of physics Stefan Rahmstorf.
In the case of air-moisture containment: the higher the temperature, the more moisture the atmosphere can contain – resulting in more rain.
The article even suggests greenhouse gases as a possible relation to Sandy’s power. However, the research on this is weak – and studies on the matter have really only been used to explain weather phenomena such as previously occurring heat waves.
There are clearly two sides to the “What caused Hurricane Sandy (and her intensity)?”‘s story. In my opinion the answer seems simple – the climate warming effects are what triggered Sandy as a tropical hurricane, and her meeting with the Artic storm is what resulted in her intensity.
What do you think about the cause? Was it an unfortunate fate of timing for the two storms meeting that made it so powerful? Or was the power simply due to ever-increasing climate change (via global warming)? Is it just that global warming (that is to say if it even exists) effects are intensifying yearly – producing more deadly storms?