Are storms in the 21st century more destructive?


By Georgia Thompson

Science tells us that, on average, storms have become increasingly more severe, causing an even more significant amount of damage over the last 35 years. Scientists also understand that hurricanes are a natural phenomenon and are a normal part of weather patterns. So what is causing the increase in intensity?
Thirteen years ago, the United States witnessed the worst hurricane season in the country’s history. The 2017 season has now surpassed that record, with scientists proclaiming that these severe storms are increasingly becoming part of a pattern.
Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coastline on August 25th, wreaking havoc and causing chaos throughout the states of Texas and Louisiana. With peak accumulations of 64.58 inches of rain, Harvey was the wettest tropical cyclone on record in United States’ history.
Harvey was followed by Irma, which killed more than 100 people. According to more than 100 “Public Notice of Pollution” reports submitted to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Irma caused at least 28 million gallons of treated and untreated sewage to be released into the streets, residences and waterways in 22 counties.
It is too soon to judge the long-term impact of the 2017 hurricane season, but the impacts of Irma and Harvey has sparked increased discussion about the rising intensity of hurricanes.
Dr. Karen Eckert, professor of Sustainability at Principia College, explains, “The two essential ingredients in every hurricane are warm water and moist warm air. The relationship between hurricanes and climate change is complicated; it’s definitely not as simple as ‘climate change caused Hurricane Harvey. What isn’t complicated is that as CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels continue to warm the lower atmosphere, including land and ocean surfaces, monster storms will, over time, become more frequent.
Essentially, climate change doesn’t cause hurricanes, it only enhances them. The higher average temperatures associated with climate change may be setting the stage for stronger storms, like Irma. This could also mean that smaller storms mature into monster storms very quickly.
In the June 2017 draft of the U.S. Climate Science Special Report, scientists concluded that since the 1970’s climate change created by human activity has contributed to the observed increase in hurricane activity. The report also states that the increased intensity and frequency of these destructive forces are a product of a warmer world. Communities, governments and first responders will have to learn to cope with this increased ferocity.
As an organization, Principia has extended a helping hand to those severely affected by the recent hurricanes by opening admissions for any Christian Science families who were struggling with the aftermath of the recent storms.
Free tuition for the 2017-18 school year was implemented to help families who may be displaced or are in areas where schools and colleges may not be operational.
Members of the community also took personal reactions towards the events of the hurricanes. The Principia women’s soccer team sprung into action when the news of the damage started to emerge. Vanessa Ramirez-Jasso, co-captain of the soccer team, spoke of how previous fundraising efforts at Principia for past hurricanes inspired her to raise money for Hurricane Harvey victims. “We couldn’t be there physically to help,” Ramirez-Jasso said, “so we decided to spread the word to others and encourage them to donate.”
Every day for a week, members of the team would sit in the concourse collecting donations to give to the Salvation Army. Ramirez-Jasso said, “It was good to support a Christian organisation because they’re about going the extra mile and supporting our brothers and sisters.”
Ramirez-Jasso said their efforts focused on love. “We want to support love and prayerfully support [the victims] through love while also giving some human support. Life is about serving, life is about giving, but most of all, life is about loving.”

Image courtesy of Laurencce Martins

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