Climate Change and Hurricane Sandy

As we all know, Hurricane Sandy ripped through the eastern United States last week, wreaking havoc along the way.  Estimates of the damage include at least 40 U.S. deaths, $50 billion in economic losses, 8 million homes without power and the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people.  With both presidential candidates staying mostly quiet about climate change before the storm, it has once again become a topic of concern.

Climate scientists have long stated that no one weather event can be contributed to climate change.  There are a number of factors that contribute to every storm, tornado, hurricane, tsunami, etc. However, climate scientists also agree that climate change does affect weather events.  Mark Fischetti of Scientific American provided some insight in a recent blog post.  He stated that climate change has warmed the Earth’s oceans.  The warmer the ocean, the more intense the storm.  Additionally, the atmosphere of the Earth has warmed, causing it to retain moisture, which eventually comes out in a storm.  Climate change definitely increased the intensity of Hurricane Sandy.

A new article in Bloomberg Businessweek speaks to climate change and its effect on the weather.  The article provided a superb analogy from Eric Pooley, the senior vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund: “We can’t say that steroids caused any one home run by Barry Bonds, but steroids sure helped him hit more and hit them farther. Now we have weather on steroids.”

It has become obvious that climate change is real, it is caused by humans, and it needs to be dealt with accordingly.  Our country’s dependence on non-renewable resources that emit greenhouse gases must be curbed.  Of course, climate change is a global problem and must be handled on a global scale.

Not only does climate change affect the intensity and reach of disastrous weather events, these events also leave behind other environmental consequences, feeding back into the problem.  For example, waivers were granted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to fuel shortages.  These included waiving the requirement of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel fuel use in generators and pumps.  Storms like these also lead to mold issues, flooding of farmland, contaminated water sources, release of chemicals into the waterways and a number of other environmental concerns.

Hundred year floods and disasters are now occurring much more frequently.  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg both agree the problem needs immediate attention to lessen the effects of these storms when, not if, they occur again. “It’s not prudent to sit here and say it’s not going to happen again,” Cuomo said. “I believe it is going to happen again.”

 

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One Response to Climate Change and Hurricane Sandy

  1. Hottest US summer on record, Sandy, early Nor’easter, current active hurricane season with storms blocked and diverted mid-ocean. All of this tips the concept over the cultural hurdle, so it doesn’t need further arguing, any more than evolution or gravity. What needs attention is what will reduce all thermal and other impacts, and curbing CO2 emissions doesn’t come close by itself. The bottom line must be population reduction, and everything else avoids the problem of which nobody will speak. The technical problem can be solved with social changes that for now seem acceptable to advanced countries. Those activities should be supported as doing more for reducing our footprint than half-hearted measures that accommodate more and more unit emitters. We multiply, consume and emit. That’s the problem. The tools we use to emit can be sharpened, but two eat more than one, and that’s a bigger problem.