After Hurricane Harvey rampaged through Texas, the even stronger Hurricane Irma tore through the Caribbean.
As a result, the small island Barbuda has been flooded completely, leaving its 1600 inhabitants unequipped to prepare for the next hurricane – José – which is on its way. Sint Maarten also suffered severely from Irma’s passage, leaving its infrastructure in complete ruins and forcing the French and Dutch governments to set up disaster relief mechanisms.
So, what’s the connection with Climate Change?
As explained in New Scientist, hurricanes and tropical storms are fueled by warm surface water. As these storms grow stronger they churn up the ocean, bringing deeper water to the surface. Normally this water is colder, which will then slow down the storm.
Climate change, however, is warming up the Atlantic, meaning that warm water there is found at the same depths as in the Caribbean or the Gulf. So Irma was able to grow stronger while already a fair distance out into the Atlantic thanks to the above-average water temperatures.
Strong winds high in the atmosphere, faster than winds lower down, can stop hurricanes from growing so strong. Tests suggest that global warming influences this natural phenomenon, causing storms to grow stronger when they do form.
Despite US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, a global framework and commitment is the only means by which the world can tackle climate change and keep global warming within acceptable limits.
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