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Did Global Warming Influence Hurricane Sandy?


Hurricane Sandy took over the news with its devastating and destructive effect on New York City and the New Jersey coastline this week. The intensity and duration of the storm made many scientists engage in the controversial debate whether global warming had something to do with the event.

LiveScince published an editorial piece on this topic, which we at GreenOptimistic, could not resist to report.

It seems the general consensus was that, yes global warming contributed, but it did not cause the storm. According to the head of climate analysis section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Kevin Trenberth, the influences of climate are the ‘new normal’ since the environment is already changed.

Sandy formed within the hurricane season with winds reaching up to 90 mph.  Although it is perfectly acceptable for such storm to occur, David Robinson, a Rutgers University professor and New Jersey’s state climatologist, states that the event should not have lasted as long as it did, and it should have lost steam by moving to colder, less energetic waters.

Here we observe the exact opposite effect. The intensity was strengthened by a low pressure dipping down from the Arctic, as well as a high-pressure system in the northeastern Atlantic Ocean, which pushed the hurricane onshore. Such conditions were already seen in 1991 when the Hurricane Grace formed over the Arctic but never reached the land.

There is a strong reason to believe that global warming made Sandy wetter and stronger, according to Kevin Trenberth. A study published recently in the journal of Geophysical Research Letters state that hurricanes and tropical cyclones form faster than 25 years ago. Trenberth adds that storm intensity is influenced by the temperature of the ocean surface, which is now about 0.9 degrees F higher than what it was about 100 years ago.

Warmer ocean surface creates warmer and wetter air above, which increases the risk of greater intensity storms.  In addition, Trenberth is certain that hurricanes from such category are becoming more common.

According to Robinson, although intensity of hurricanes varies on yearly basis, the conditions that we observe now lead to the thought that climate change has influence.

As it is always with climate change and global warming discussions, the scientific community cannot and does not want to release a conclusive statement.

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  1. Well, in my opinion there is never going to be a ‘consensus’ on this topic. A certain group of scientists will agree, and others will not.. A solid and unquestionable scientific proof would be very difficult to find.


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