Last week Cyclone Pam left a trail of destruction in the South Pacific from winds of 168 miles per hour. Hardest hit were the islands of Vanuatu where homes were destroyed, power lines were downed and dozens of deaths were reported. Scientists are saying the intensity of the cyclone has to do, in part, with climate change. The science is complicated, but global warming has played out in a tropical storm like Cyclone Pam because of the warmer ocean temperatures which energizes storm winds. Sea surface temperatures around Vanuatu have been one to two degrees Celsius above normal, increasing the moisture 10 to 20% more than in the 1970’s. According to Prof Kevin Trenberth, expert in climate change and extreme weather at the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research, some of the higher temperatures are from “human-induced global warming.” The warmer-than-average ocean temperatures in the region were part of why the cyclone was as big and intense as it was; also the rising sea levels overall means more flooding. Other reports say that Vanuatu has seen changing weather patterns, rising seas and heavier rain falls, all indicators of climate change.
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