By: Lindsey Hazelton
Summary. Right from the initial sight of Hurricane Ida, it was destined to be powerful. This is because the water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico were hotter than usual, leaving the air hotter and moister as well. Hurricane Ida had perfect conditions to form, using the warm water as its foundation. This presents climate change in action. According to Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist, people are going to have to get used to these kinds of storms as the Earth continues to warm up. In the United Nation’s last climate report, it is stated that fossil fuels as well as many other human activities are what have led to more powerful hurricanes. On top of this, the Gulf of Mexico has spots where the water is three to five degrees Fahrenheit warmer than usual, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The hurricane traveled over these warmer parts which allowed it to grow bigger and bigger. As the hurricane traveled further inland, the surface temperature of the sea became hotter which also led to an increase in its size. Hurricane Idea was said to make landfall on Sunday, August 29th. On the Thursday before, Hurricane Idea was not yet named and was also only considered a tropical depression. It was upgraded to a hurricane due to the winds reaching up to 75MPH. It kept gaining power and by Saturday night was considered a category 2 hurricane. The winds had reached up to 105MPH. The storm made landfall the next day, which was predicted, bringing winds that reached up to 150MPH and seven feet of storm surge. Due to climate change, there is more of a difference between the amount of heat in the ocean and amount of moisture the atmosphere can hold. This contributes to quicker energy transfer and evaporation. This allows storms to develop quicker and makes them even more fierce. Not only that, but the amount of water that hurricanes bring will increase as climate change gets worse. The air is able to hold seven percent more moisture for each degree Celsius that it heats up. That is very dangerous in terms of the amount of precipitation hurricanes can potentially cause. With increased rainfall, flooding is more likely which is another big concern. The rising sea levels from global warming are also of concern, because with these higher levels, more water gets pushed onshore by wind during these storms. Louisiana, where Hurricane Ida made landfall, has areas where the water is 24 inches higher than it was in 1950. This hurricane is just one example of what is to come for the development and formation of other storms in the future. According to Kerry Emanuel, Ida is a step into the door of what can happen when a hurricane reaches its “full potential.”
Why we should care? The devastation that hurricanes have caused in the past will only get worse in the future with rising temperatures due to climate change. Something must be done before the wreckage is too detrimental.
I found this article interesting because it displays just how damaging climate change is and will continue to be in the future if something is not done. We see climate change in many aspects of life and around the Earth, but I personally did not realize the effect it would have on the brutality of a hurricane. It struck me that with the increasing temperatures, these powerful hurricanes will become a norm. It is important to be aware that human activity is one thing that is contributing to rising temperatures so something can be changed. I also found it interesting that hurricanes gain so much power from warmer water and air. I only had basic knowledge about how hurricanes form, so this was eye-opening to read.
Science in Action.
Dr. Kerry Emanuel is an Atmospheric Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Dr. Kerry Emanuel studies tropical meteorology and climate, specializing in hurricane physics. His research is focused on these things as well as how clouds, cumulus convection, water vapor and upper-ocean mixing determine climate. Another specialization of his is tropical cyclones and moist convection in the atmosphere. This connects to Hurricane Ida’s formation and development because part of his research is geared towards how climate is connected to hurricanes. With one of his focuses being on hurricane physics, that has to do with the formation and development of them, which is exactly what this blog post discusses. His research is vital to learning more about what climate change will do to the strength of hurricanes in the future. Based on the article I read, he knows these powerful hurricanes will become more frequent. However, it is not certain how bad they’ll really get.