Teen Vogue

Hurricanes Are Getting Worse Because of Climate Change

It’s not just the warm atmosphere that has changed. Sea levels are higher, which means hurricane storm surges will inherently be worse. Heavy rains during hurricanes – as happened during Ida – are becoming more intense, at least in part due to climate change. And as the IPCC report proclaims, in total many of our hurricanes are turning into severe storms.

how will the future be?

Scientists agree that our future holds a greater percentage of Category 4 and Category 5 hurricanes. Those storms have a minimum sustained wind of 130 mph, and the National Hurricane Center indicates that even a Category 4 storm, whichever is less, it will cause “catastrophic damage”.

“Well-built homes can suffer severe damage with the loss of most of the roof structure and / or some exterior walls,” says the Category 4 hurricane impact center website. “Fallen trees and electric poles will insulate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks or perhaps months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months ”.

Scientists disagree that the overall number of hurricanes will increase; but they know that climate change will worsen the individual effects of storms, such as rainfall and wind speed, and that may be enough. After all, as Wehner says, great storms cause the most damage. The total economic loss from Hurricane Ida could reach $ 80 billion, according to an estimate by AccuWeather.

Climate change may also be one reason certain destructive qualities have become more common in storms, including rapidly escalating just before a storm arrives on the island. This is what happened to Ida: it suddenly went from a Category 1 storm, with wind speeds of 74 to 95 miles per hour, to Category 4, according to Done. “We are seeing more of these storms escalating rapidly,” he says, “and this is a great challenge for forecasting and preparedness.”

However, hurricane activity has a cyclical nature. There is also a name for the phenomenon: Multidecadal Atlantic Oscillation, which refers to atmospheric changes that can cause lulls or very active periods in the Atlantic hurricane season. Florida, the state with the most hurricanes hit directly by the country, saw no hurricanes land between 2006 and 2015. So even the most likely victims can take a break.

Does this mean that we may see another quiet time in the future? Maybe, but it probably won’t like quiet, says Done. “I would say this variability has occurred and will continue to occur, but it is on top of an underlying trend,” he explains. “The peaks are higher and the pauses are higher.”

Should we stay or should we go?

For those of us who live in particularly hurricane-prone areas, the question now may be whether it is time to leave forever. In certain areas, Wehner says, it is difficult to fortify oneself completely. This raises the question of whether reinforcement is possible or whether managed retreat is the best strategy.

“It’s not clear if we can spend enough to defend ourselves against these kinds of storms,” ​​he says. “It’s really a case by case. There are technologies for doors and windows and for the reinforcement of houses and roofs that can reduce the risk of damage ”.

Fact points to Florida as a prime example. After Hurricane Andrew decimated parts of South Florida in 1992, the state initiated a review of local building codes to create a single minimum standard code for all local governments. This has had a measurable impact, according to Done. Research he undertook after Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle in 2018 showed that homes built under the modern code suffered far less damage than those that weren’t.

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