How is Hurricane Irma related to global warming?

The category 5 storm has been the worst the Caribbean islands have experienced so far

Hurricane Irma

On Wednesday, August 6th, the storm hit Barbuda. With wind speeds of 250 kph that extend out over 85 kilometers from its eye, as reported by academic journal The New Science, the storm destroyed 95% of the island’s buildings and infrastructure, as stated by Primer Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda. So far only one death has been reported, that of an infant, but there might be more casualties.

Puerto Rico has also been affected by Irma, as it is right in its path. One of the main problems the island faces is flooding. Citizens interviewed by news outlets such as The New York Times have stated that while they have seen other hurricanes in the past, none of them have been as strong and as destructive as Irma.

Read also: La tormenta más poderosa del Atlántico

Other islands that have been affected by the hurricane because they are right in its path are the Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and the French Caribbean islands, St. Martins being one of the first affected. Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron has stated that it is too early to release a roundup of the damage Irma has caused in the French islands, but at least 8 casualties have already been reported.

Why has Irma been such a devastating storm? Scientific journals have explained that no, neither Irma nor Harvey were directly caused by global warming. If climate change has affected the amount and frequency of hurricanes and tropical storms, it is too early to tell, as stated by the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, a dependency of the U.S’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. However, climate change has affected the strength and the size of Hurricane Irma. The GFDL projects that for the rest of the century hurricane and tropical storm strength will increase by 2% to 11%, assuming no reduction in storm size. This increase in strength and destructibility has been linked to atmospheric changes caused by global warming. In short, yes, climate change has made Hurricane Irma stronger and more deadly, although it probably has not caused the storm.

The projection proposed by the GDFL is calculated in relation to global warming caused by humans, particularly greenhouse gases emission. “A review of existing studies, including the ones cited above, lead us to conclude that it is likely that greenhouse warming will cause hurricanes in the coming century to be more intense globally and have higher rainfall rates than present-day hurricanes”, states the GDFL.

As it turns out, a natural disaster seemingly so far away from our control has worsened by the actions of the human race. In a year, the GDFL’s projections may change, because this is an issue that involves countless variables. However, at this moment, the future looks bleak.


Latin American Post | Laura Rocha Rueda

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