Harvey. Irma. Florence. Michael. And now Willa. These are just five out of the seventeen destructive hurricanes that have occurred in the past two years.
What is a hurricane?
A hurricane is a tropical cyclone with winds that exceed 74 mph. Hurricane season typically starts on June 1st and ends on November 30th. Hurricanes form when there is a tropical disturbance, an area over warm waters where rain clouds build. A tropical disturbance will sometimes turn into a tropical depression, an area of rotating thunderstorms with winds at 38 mph or less. The third stage begins if winds of the tropical depression reach 39 mph. Finally, a tropical storm becomes a hurricane if winds exceed a rapid 74 mph. Hurricanes are measured with the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale on a 1-5 rating. The higher the rating, the greater the hurricane’s potential for property damage. Below is a Saffir- Simpson Wind Chart.
Why are hurricanes so devastating?
Hurricanes are one of the most destructive storms on the planet. Although there is not much of a problem when the storms are over the ocean, when hurricanes travel onto land they bring destructive side effects: storm surges, flooding, and catastrophic winds. Storm surges are walls of water that are pushed onto shore, sometimes reaching a great height of 14 feet above regular high tide level. Rainfall is also a large problem that brings deadly floods. The rainfall rate may be so great that the ground cannot absorb the water fast enough, leading to flash floods and mudslides. Above all, high winds are disastrous since they cause extreme power outages and buildings to collapse.
Why are there so many hurricanes?
Climate change: the cause of almost all environmental issues in the 21st century. One of the great causes of climate change is the emission of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gasses are absorbed by the ocean, causing the warming of the waters. Since hurricanes thrive and power off of warm water, as the temperature of the ocean increases, the power and quantity of hurricanes will increase as well. Scientists have concluded that as climate change gets worse, the hurricanes produced will also become more catastrophic.
Since the 20th century, the global ocean temperature has increased by about 1.5˚celsius as shown in the graph below. This number might seem insignificant, but it is crucial to the world’s environment as hurricanes and other extreme storms feed off of warm waters.
Change in Ocean Temperatures (1880-2018)
Climate change is a devastating but very real concept that is affecting the world. Although the majority of people know about climate change, many do not know how much harm it can really cause. If climate change continues to be uncontrolled, back-to-back category five hurricanes will only be one of the many issues to worry about.