Saturday, April 6, 2013

Climate change and hurricanes

Marlene Cimons in Live Science: Six months later, residents of the New York area are still struggling to recover from a climate-fueled monster storm that surged up and over retaining walls last fall, and destroyed countless homes. So, it’s worth remembering a simple fact: Global warming is increasing the intensity of hurricanes, and Sandy is a prime example of that.

Most of the damage and fatalities from hurricanes come from high-intensity storms ― those labeled category 3, 4 or 5. Historically, those storms have represented a small fraction of the hurricane total. That balance, however, apparently is shifting in ominous ways. We may have fewer storms, but more of them could be catastrophic. Sandy, clearly, was one of those extreme storms.

Perhaps mindful of this, and of the grim lessons learned from Sandy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Thursday (April 4) it would keep hurricane and tropical-storm watches and warnings in effect — even after such a storm loses its tropical characteristics — if it poses a significant danger to life and property. In addition, NOAA said that the National Hurricane Center (NHC) would continue to issue advisories during the post-tropical phase of such storms to ensure effective communication of ongoing threats. Forecasters had predicted Sandy would become a post-tropical cyclone prior to reaching the coast, possibly prompting residents to underestimate its destructive nature....

Sandy drove a disastrous storm surge into the New Jersey and New York coastlines last fall, with preliminary U.S. damage estimates near $50 billion, making it the second-costliest cyclone to hit the United States since 1900, according to the NHC. At least 147 people died across the Atlantic basin, 72 of them in the mid-Atlantic and northeastern United States ― the greatest number of U.S. direct fatalities related to a tropical cyclone outside of the Southern states since Hurricane Agnes struck in 1972...

Power outage from Hurricane Sandy, shot by Hybirdd, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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