Hurricane Irma is recorded as the most powerful storm over the Atlantic, devastating the Caribbean and Florida. The destruction left by hurricanes Irma and Harvey has left many wondering why this year has been particularly bad. Many sources have pointed climate change as a cause.
However, the science is complex. Hurricanes aren't caused by global warming directly, but climate change does make their effects much more disastrous.
Firstly, hurricanes will bring more rainfall. Warm air can hold more water, and water vapour is predicted to increase by 7% for every degree centigrade of warming so when hurricanes hit, they bring much more rain, meaning more flooding.
Secondly, climate change works to heat the ocean and increase the sea levels and the surface, particularly 0.5°C to 1.25°C above average. In turn, that helps to make the hurricane more devastating: more heat helps increase the power of the hurricane, leading to the kind of destruction that has made its way across the Americas and the world is simply not equipped for the kinds of extreme weather that will come with changes in the environment. In particular, the effects of such damage is spread differently across the world.
Damaging hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons occur in tropical parts of the world, at the time of year when the sea is warmest. So if the world gets warmer still, the risk increases – it's as simple as that.
The good news is that by the end of the 21st century, the models indicate that there will be fewer hurricanes per year. However, they will be more destructive, according to the The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL).
HOW WE CAN HELP?
There are many ways we can help. Probably the most efficient way is to donate what you can to one of the organizations on the ground:
- Mercy Cops: focus on water and hygiene, money and support to help people recover their agriculture and incomes
- UNICEF: supplies of drinking water, non-perishable food and medicines
- The Red Cross: Mobilizes volunteer and relief supplies
- Save the children: protect vulnerable children
The combination of the hurricanes is a particular warning about the damage being done to the environment.