EDITORIAL NOTEBOOKS

Increasing awareness of climate change effects

So far, the 2017 season has featured at least two category five hurricanes, which have only occurred a few times since records have been kept. It seems that new hurricanes are forming within a few days of each other and there may be even more to come. The 2017 hurricane season is turning out to be one of the most destructive ones in history. It is estimated that there will be billions of dollars in damage, and some areas could take many weeks to rebuild everything that was destroyed. Hurricane seasons fluctuate in intensity, but what made this season to be one of the worst?

In order for hurricanes to form, they need two main things: heat and water. This year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the waters in the mid-Atlantic Ocean have been between 0.5 and 1 degree Celsius warmer than average this summer. Once the warm air rises above the ocean’s surface, it takes in heat and moisture. As the hot air rises, it leaves a lower pressure region below it. This repeats until air from higher pressure areas moves into the lower pressure area. This process heats up the air, allowing it to rise and produce swirls in the air. The air continues to rise until it gets high enough in the atmosphere to condense into clouds. These clouds become unstable and a vortex forms which is the start of the storm. The storm begins to build in the Mid-Atlantic and gains strength as it moves west. Sometimes, the storms are disrupted by the presence of the wind shear. The wind shears are winds that change in speed and direction in different levels of the atmosphere. The wind shear can disrupt storms by weakening them. Once the storm reaches the Caribbean, it can be influenced by steering patterns. These steering patterns can push the storm in either a northernly or southernly direction.

One of the reasons that caused the hurricanes of the 2017 season to be so strong was the lack of wind shears. Along with the warmer ocean temperatures, this caused the hurricanes to continue to intensify as they moved west towards land. Hurricane Irma, which made landfall on Florida, was one of the largest and most powerful storms ever recorded in history. At its peak, Irma measured hundreds of miles across and reached sustained winds of 180 miles per hour. Many believe that climate change has to do with the recent severity of the hurricane season. While it is not entirely because of this, some seasons are worse than others, and the effects of climate change have an impact on the already present natural risks. Already rising sea levels cause the storm surge to be more catastrophic. Similarly, loss of wetlands and natural barriers cause more damage to infrastructure, which can be attributed to climate change. Even though it was not the main cause of the severity of the hurricanes this year, we must still be conscientious of the effects that climate change poses to us.