By: Chris Burke
At the time of I’m writing this post (1:26pm, Monday), hurricane Sandy is creeping up along the East Coast of the United States, where it is expected to collide with another storm coming in from the West. It will then moving slowly northward over New York State and eventually pass right over Ottawa by 8am Thursday, though significantly weakened by that point. The city of Waterloo is currently under a wind warning, so yours truly will be huddled up in his apartment tonight, thankful he got all of his errands done on the weekend. Early predictions suggest this could be one of the worst hurricanes to hit the East Coast, and it’s likely the future holds more of these events in store. As the planet warms we except to see an increase in severe weather.
First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: I am not stating that severe weather is proof of global warming theory. Using singular weather events is a bad measure of climate change. Perhaps best illustrated by a slew of right-wing politicians and commentators a few years back exclaiming that the snow storms (again in the East Coast of the U.S.) were proof that global warming is a hoax. ‘Look! It’s really cold out, so this has to be false’. I hope most readers can find the immediate fault in claiming that snow in the winter months is a checkmate against a well-accepted theory. What makes using weather alone as a proof problematic is that weather is short-term, and climate is long-term meaning that a year of unusual or odd weather could be possible without needing global warming to explain it. Still, more severe storms could be a likely by-product of a warmer planet.
An increase in storm severity in a warming planet makes sense. Warm oceans are needed to fuel these storms, warmer oceans as a result of global warming fuels the hurricanes, as explained by Distinguished Senior Scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Keven Trenberth
It’s even possible for us to have an intense year followed by a year of relative calm, as global warming does not mean a straight upward trend in temperatures, there could be drops in temperature. The point to take in is that the general trend points to warmer temperatures and more severe storms.
I can only hope that our political leaders are prepared for this. We are already seeing how hurricane Sandy is putting a damper on the U.S. election plans. The reaction of the Obama administration to the event could certainly sway undecided voters at the last minute, but only time will tell. Until then, to those who may find themselves in Sandy’s path: Stay sheltered. Stay safe.