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Global Warming Made Hurricane Sandy Worse

Heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions have warmed the ocean and increased sea levels

As millions begin to recover from the devastation inflicted on us all, we need to be aware that human activities made Sandy a stronger and wetter storm. Global warming has made the oceans warmer and has caused sea levels to rise – both of which worked to exacerbate the impacts of Sandy. See Figures 1, 2, 3, 4.

The fuel for hurricanes is warm ocean water that releases tons of water vapor. This water vapor then condenses into clouds and rain which releases heat known as “latent heat”. This latent heat drives the power of the winds much like stepping on the gas pedal makes the engine output more power. The warmer ocean, in essence, put a turbocharger on Hurricane Sandy’s engine.

This extra water from the warmer oceans must eventually come down and it does so as flooding rains. Some places in the mid-Atlantic had over 12” of rain and a few higher locations to the west saw nearly 3 feet of snow as colder air wrapped around the backside of the storm. As Governor Cuomo said to President Obama, “We now have a 100 year flood every two years”. Global warming = heavier rains and floods. We saw this last year with Hurricane Irene.

Global warming also causes sea levels to rise for two reasons: 1) as water warms, the molecules move faster and take up more space (known as thermal expansion) and 2) a warmer climate melts ice sheets and glaciers and that water over time makes its way into the ocean. Due to global warming, storms are now riding on much higher sea levels which is causing the storm surge to reach higher levels and farther inland. Residents on Long Island and NY City saw this phenomenon first-hand. NY City saw surges approaching 14 feet – higher than for any storm in the past 400 years! Sea levels have risen over a foot in the past 100 years and are projected to increase another 2-5 feet by the year 2100. Imagine Sandy coming in on an ocean that is 5 feet higher than today? The surge would be nearly 19 feet.

If somebody asks you, “Did global warming cause Hurricane Sandy?” they are asking the wrong question. Sandy certainly may have occurred in the absence of global warming but it would not have been as strong nor as damaging. I tell people, “Think of a hurricane as a fire in a fireplace. Global warming did not start that fire but it is certainly adding a few logs to it.”

Some sobering facts about hurricanes and climate change:

• Of the 11 most intense North Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded, five have occurred in the last eight years (Wilma, Rita, Katrina, Dean and Ivan).

• The record-breaking rainfall dumped by Hurricane Irene in 2011 was the main impact of the storm in which flooding and other damage totaled over $15 billion,
making Irene the 10th billion-dollar disaster in 2011 and the sixth most expensive hurricane in U.S. history.

• With more than $100 billion in damages, Hurricane Katrina remains the costliest
weather-related disaster on record.

• In June 2012, tropical storm Debby produced record-breaking rainfall across Florida, in some locations dropping over 20 inches of rain in 24 hours. When Tropical Storm Debby formed on June 23, it was the first time ever that four storms formed before July since record keeping began in 1851.

• According to data from 2007, the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes has increased by nearly 75% since 1970.

There is a strong scientific consensus that the most intense Atlantic hurricanes will become more frequent in the coming decades if greenhouse gas pollution continues to grow even at a moderate rate. The increase in damages due to climate change will rise to an average of over $40 billion per year, as stronger hurricanes are exponentially more destructive than weaker storms.

We have choices to make. The sooner we begin to shift away from burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas to using cleaner energies such as solar, wind, wave, and geothermal, we will prevent the oceans from becoming even warmer and sea levels from rising even higher.

We will always have hurricanes but we do not need to make them worse!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Scott A Mandia November 01, 2012 at 01:39 PM
A very good resource just posted: http://www.skepticalscience.com/hurricane-sandy-climate-connection.html
GEORGE TRIPPTREE November 01, 2012 at 02:13 PM
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/10/13/report-global-warming-stopped-16-years-ago/ The Atlantic is warmer the Pacific is colder it happens throughout history.
Argile November 02, 2012 at 12:31 AM
I don't believe anything these eco nuts say. These are the same nutbars that put mercury right back in our homes with compact florescent lights. One of these most toxic elements on the planet. What a bunch hypocritical morons.
Had Enuf! November 02, 2012 at 10:34 AM
So let these alternative energy believers run the government and this is what you get. Billions and billions of your tax dollars wasted on failed companies. Evergreen Solar ($25 million)* SpectraWatt ($500,000)* Solyndra ($535 million)* Beacon Power ($43 million)* Nevada Geothermal ($98.5 million) SunPower ($1.2 billion) First Solar ($1.46 billion) Babcock and Brown ($178 million) EnerDel’s subsidiary Ener1 ($118.5 million)* Amonix ($5.9 million) Fisker Automotive ($529 million) Abound Solar ($400 million)* A123 Systems ($279 million)* Willard and Kelsey Solar Group ($700,981)* Johnson Controls ($299 million) Brightsource ($1.6 billion) ECOtality ($126.2 million) Raser Technologies ($33 million)* Energy Conversion Devices ($13.3 million)* Mountain Plaza, Inc. ($2 million)* Olsen’s Crop Service and Olsen’s Mills Acquisition Company ($10 million)* Range Fuels ($80 million)* Thompson River Power ($6.5 million)* Stirling Energy Systems ($7 million)* Azure Dynamics ($5.4 million)* GreenVolts ($500,000) Vestas ($50 million) LG Chem’s subsidiary Compact Power ($151 million) Nordic Windpower ($16 million)* Navistar ($39 million) Satcon ($3 million)* Konarka Technologies Inc. ($20 million)* Mascoma Corp. ($100 million)
Scott A Mandia November 02, 2012 at 11:14 AM
Your list is incorrect/misleading. It comes from the Heritage Foundation. http://blog.heritage.org/2012/10/18/president-obamas-taxpayer-backed-green-energy-failures/ You should always cite your sources if you desire credibility. Here are what the fact checkers are saying: http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/04/politics/fact-check-green-energy/index.html http://money.cnn.com/2012/10/22/news/economy/obama-energy-bankruptcies/index.html Apparently, the federal government has a better success rate than many private ones, including Romney’s Bain Capital which had a 22% failure rate on investments. See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/the-latest-romney-claim-about-bain-capital/2012/05/29/gJQA9RPK0U_blog.html Can we all at least agree that we should not be using our tax dollars to give handouts to ExxonMobil and other companies that PROFIT over $2 BILLION every MONTH and whose product is causing dangerous and very expensive climate change?
Had Enuf! November 02, 2012 at 01:00 PM
The big difference is private equity like Bain uses private money, not taxpayer money to invest in clean energy alternatives and the market picks winners and losers. Are you going to deny all the failed investments made by the government with our hard earned tax dollars. I choose to believe the Heritage Foundation rather than the Clinton News Network or money.com
DJ November 02, 2012 at 01:39 PM
I kept seeing how warm the ocean was this summer. I almost guaranteed this would happen. I just thought in Aug or Sept.
Paul Kersey November 02, 2012 at 09:07 PM
How's this new low-carbon-footprint lifestyle working out for you all?
Had Enuf! November 03, 2012 at 08:46 AM
Do you believe Joe Bastardi from Accuweather or Scott Mandia and AlGore? http://newsbusters.org/blogs/brad-wilmouth/2012/11/01/ex-accuweathers-bastardi-slams-gores-stunningly-ignorant-statement-hu
Scott A Mandia November 03, 2012 at 12:06 PM
Joe Bastardi has zero credibility in the science community. http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/03/11/442110/weatherbell-forecaster-joe-bastardi-denies-basic-physics-co2-cannot-cause-global-warming/
Paul Kersey November 03, 2012 at 12:28 PM
ThinkProgress as a source now? I respect your religious convictions, Professor, and let's leave it at that. I am sure that many of the TP bloggers/readers who live in lower Manhattan are currently enjoying their back-to-basics lifestyle right now.
Had Enuf! November 03, 2012 at 12:48 PM
ThinkProgress is an arm of the Center for American Progress. Enough said. Professor, is this the kind of mush you feed your students. I' ll take joe Bastardi's experience over your's and AlGore's anytime.
Had Enuf! November 04, 2012 at 12:32 AM
You should know, the Center for American Progress (thinkeprogress) is funded by George Soros. Soros is a member of the so called 1 %, but since hecwantsto see the collapse ofthe US dollar and the collapse of American prowess, these progressive liberals like Scotg Mandia look the other way. WOW the emperor has no clothes. If I was paying tuition at SCC and has Scott Mandia as a "teacher", I would get a refund. If I was the editor of the Patch, I would reconsider having Mandia as a regular spewing his falsehoods. But since I am not, I will continue to fight this progressive lie day after day. You can too.
Wlodek November 04, 2012 at 03:36 PM
It is interesting that those arguing against the facts presented by Scott have not used any fact based information. Instead they seem to inject their political agenda into what is a fact based science. There is no harm done in reducing the green house gas emission, only positive can come out of such prudent approach. Why not do it? It is just common sense.
Had Enuf! November 04, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Facts? How many more facts do you need that the govt wasted billions on pipedream alternative energy dreams? Where are the facts that global warming exists? Great storms lashed Long Island in 1938 and 1953, long before CO2 emissions ever came on the scene. The global warming folks have no facts yet they try to shove their agenda down our economic throats in order to line their pockets, aka Al Gore. Mandia quotes a Soros funded dungeon as factual. Look at this latest progressive thought process from that dungeon. http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2012/11/military-think-tank-recommends-big-benefit-cuts-110112w/
PaulRevere November 04, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Man will discover a way to "STOP WIND" I'll ride until that happens. No more hurricanes to destroy our planet. We never had hurricanes in 1888 or 1788 or 1998 Did WE???
Dirk Maas November 04, 2012 at 09:55 PM
"Where are the facts that global warming exists?" Ask just about any scientific body: According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change#Joint_national_science_academies.27_statements), over 75 scientific bodies of national or international standing, including the US National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of the UK, the American Medical Association, the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, the European Geosciences Union, the African Academy of Sciences, and the American Meteorological Society all agree that the climate is changing because of human activity.
Scott A Mandia November 05, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Dear Readers, I just posted about how the extra sea level rise caused more New York City residents to suffer. 6,000 more people impacted for each inch of rise! 70,929 more people and 30,551 more homes flooded. See: http://profmandia.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/71000-new-yorkers-rise-does-matter/
Had Enuf! November 16, 2012 at 10:39 AM
Thought I would preempt Professor Scott trying to use Obama's scientific background as proof of global warming. http://drtimball.com/2012/current-climate-changes-are-normal-its-time-the-media-got-the-story-correct/
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