Is climate change to blame? Panel discussion

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When President Biden visited Fort Myers beach on October 5, to see firsthand the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ian, he made it clear what he believed to be to blame.

“I think the only thing (Ian) that finally ended was a discussion about whether or not there is climate change and we should do something about it,” Biden said, then that Governor Ron DeSantis was standing next to him.

This is actually still a matter of debate.

A report released earlier this year ahead of the start of hurricane season by the Insurance Information Institute said: “While it is tempting to attribute increased losses (from hurricanes) to climate change, data available do not support this conclusion. In fact, recent research indicates that tropical cyclones have in fact decreased in both number and accumulated cyclonic energy over the past 30 years.”

This research, conducted by the American Geophysical Unionattributed the increase in hurricane activity in the Atlantic in recent years to a the girl climate change model.

La Niña is a pulse of colder-than-usual water near the equator in the Pacific Ocean — the flip side of El Niño, which is warmer-than-usual water in the same region. Both patterns, which occur every several years, alter global climate patterns.

“During La Niña, the Atlantic hurricane season tends to be more active and the Pacific season is generally much calmer,” the Insurance Information Institute report said.

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The findings of the American Geophysical Union contradict the conclusions of a report published on October 3 by the Columbia Climate School. He noted that Ian, which hit the southwest Florida coast as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 150 miles per hour, “followed a two-week series of massive storms and devastating all over the world”.

They included Typhoon Noru, a Category 5 superstorm with winds of 155 miles per hour, Hurricane Fiona which inundated Puerto Rico and later became the most intense storm on record in Canada, and Typhoon Merbok , which “ripped over 1,000 miles of the Alaskan coast.”

“It is clear that climate change is increasing the upper limit of hurricane strength and rainfall rate and is also raising mean sea level and therefore storm surges,” according to the Columbia Climate School report. .

Could the conclusions of both reports be true?

Yes, said Kevin Reed, associate professor of atmospheric sciences at Stony Brook University. Reed in April is the author of a study which examined total rainfall during hurricanes over the past 150 years, showing a consistent increase in rainfall regardless of the number of tropical cyclones in a given year.

Kevin Roseau

Reed acknowledged that the current La Niña cycle could be a factor in increased Atlantic hurricane activity. But he said overall rainfall totals produced by hurricanes have steadily increased whether it’s an El Niño or La Niña cycle.

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“One of the clear signals we have of climate change is that the storms are getting wetter,” Reed said. “They are dumping more rain and will continue to increase in coming years as the global climate continues to warm. Hurricane rainfall has been rising and rising for decades.”

More rain in hurricanes produces more flooding and property damage.

The year 2020 saw 30 major named storms that resulted in combined damages of $40 billion, according to Reed’s study. A recent report by Moody’s Analytics predicted that Hurricane Ian could cause up to $84 billion in damages combining private insurance claims and the National Flood Insurance Program.

For John Dickson, president of Aon Edge Insurance, a Montana-based private flood insurance provider, one thing is certain, whatever the cause: “What we see are storms with a greater frequency, intensity and range”.

“Science and politics don’t change as fast as time (the trend) changes. We’re playing catch-up,” he said.

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