More heat, More Hurricane Impacts

By: Thais Lopez Vogel

“Is it just me, or is it hotter today?” That’s what many South Florida residents are asking. It’s not just your imagination; it is indeed hotter.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, human activity has increased carbon dioxide pollution in the atmosphere by 40%. This, with other greenhouse gas emissions, has warmed the globe by about one degree (F) over the last 50 years. Florida has experienced more than one degree (F) of warming.

That may sound like a minimal increase, but, consider how much one extra degree affects you or your children when sick with a fever. What are the consequences of the additional heat on the environment?

For starters, an increase in global temperature leads to warmer sea surface temperatures. Warmer seas are a direct cause of stronger, longer, and rapidly intensifying hurricanes.

Sea surface temperatures of 82 degrees (F) produce hurricanes of a Category 2 intensity. In warmer months when sea surface temperatures are about 85 degrees, we see more incidence of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes.

Water evaporates from the surface of the ocean and since a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, these hurricanes dump inches-to-feet of rain along the coast and inland in a short amount of time. Neighborhoods flood.

Data shows that one degree (F) of warming is equivalent to a 20 mph increase in hurricane wind speed. For example, Hurricane Dorian (2019) was a Category 5 storm that registered 1-minute sustained winds of 185 mph. Hurricane Irma (2017) registered 1-minute sustained winds of 180 mph. Both storms broke records and cost billions to cleanup. Both would have registered a significantly lower wind speed in a world without global warming.

Therefore, we can thank our greenhouse gas and fossil fuel dependency for this and future damage costs.

Is there anything we can do? Yes.

Change consumption habits to support renewable energies. Demand climate leadership from our representatives at all levels of government.

Let’s also use our vote to support those who are serious about addressing climate issues. Solutions exist, but time is crucial, and taking action is urgent.

Learn more about the cost of hurricanes.

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