Hurricane Sandy, AKA the Frankenstorm and Climate Change: Is There A Connection?

Bill McKibben on Why ‘Frankenstorm’ Is Just Right for Hurricane Sandy

Bill McKibben writes in the Daily Beast that the ocean temperatures are certainly different, (as Mat noted here)

You can’t, as the climate-change deniers love to say, blame any particular hurricane on global warming. They’re born, as they always have been, when a tropical wave launches off the African coast and heads out into the open ocean. But when that ocean is hot—and at the moment sea surface temperatures off the Northeast are five degrees higher than normal—a storm like Sandy can lurch north longer and stronger, drawing huge quantities of moisture into its clouds, and then dumping them ashore.

He concludes:

Our relationship to the world around us is shifting as fast as that world is shifting. “Frankenstorm” is the right name for Sandy, and indeed for many other storms and droughts and heat waves now. They’re stitched together from some spooky combination of the natural and the unnatural. Some state will doubtless bear the brunt of this particular monster, but it also will do its damage to everyone’s state of mind.

At Climate Progress, Joe Romm and Stephen Lacey ask Did Climate Change Help Create ‘Frankenstorm’? and uses an odd analogy:

Another factor under consideration is climate change. Like a baseball player on steroids, our climate system is breaking records at an unnatural pace. And like a baseball player on steroids, it’s the wrong question to ask whether a given home run is “caused” by steroids.

Mary Duenwald writes in Bloomberg: Frankenstorm Is a Perfect Mystery

Here's what climate scientists do know, according to hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: In years when the sea-surface temperatures are relatively high, the big storms are more plentiful and more powerful. This is evident from historical records of powerful tropical storms in the western Atlantic dating back to 1890......

If Sandy were an ordinary hurricane, then we'd have reason to suspect climate change. But Sandy is turning into a combination event -- part cyclone, drawing energy from evaporating ocean water, and part winter storm, gathering strength from a broad "horizontal temperature gradient" (cold air from the north meets warm air from the south). Such superstorms are rare, and scientists don't know whether a warmer climate helps make them happen.

The insurance industry is certainly looking at the numbers and wondering how to adapt. In Insurance and Techology, Nathan Golia asks: Is Climate Change Altering Insurers' Hurricane Risk?

I understand that it's election season, climate change is a politicized issue and there are strong opinions regarding its existence, causes, and solutions. However, whether or not anthropogenic climate change is an indisputable fact doesn't change the reality U.S. insurers face. The past two years have seen major tornado outbreaks, severe impact on the northeast from tropical storms, and a devastating drought stateside. The industry must find a way to adapt.

Finally, the Village Voice suggests that everyone just take a pill and calm down in Frankenstorm Unleashes Tidal Wave Of PR Sluttiness

Look, the weather's gonna suck next week. We could talk to all the climatologists on earth -- and watch the MTA put plywood on every ventilation grate in New York -- but nobody will know how bad this storm is going to suck until it hits. Or it doesn't. The PR hacks can spend the weekend working overtime to freak everybody out. We're just gonna batten down the hatches, grab a beer, and expect to get a little wet come Sunday.

Tags: Global Warming Effects | Natural Disasters | Weather

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