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The Effect of Global Warming on Tropical Storms

There are many contributing factors to a tropical storm. However, a recent study has shown how much impact changing the severity of just one of these factors can have on a storm. Global warming has resulted in the increase of ocean temperature which in turn has increased the intensity and duration of tropical storms. Along with facing the storm crisis we are also currently faced with the challenges of properly evacuating and rescuing individuals in the affected areas due to social distance and traveling restrictions of the 2019 Coronavirus pandemic.

Although we have delt with natural disasters for decades as global warming continues to wreak havoc on the earth, the strength of and damage caused by these natural disasters have significantly increased. A new study has provided evidence of sea surface temperatures increasing resulting in warmer and moist air to super fuel tropical storms. The Caribbean and Florida were hit by Hurricane Irma in 2017 resulting in 134 fatalities and $50 billion worth of damages. Usually as a storm crosses over land it will lose its source of heat and moisture resulting in a loss of energy causing it to die out. However, this was not the case with Irma. Irma fluctuated between cycles of weakening and strengthening as it traveled across the Caribbean to Florida, becoming a category five strength storm (winds greater than 157 mph) twice before finally dying out. Irma lasted longer and was considerably larger than what experts anticipated as a direct result of the warming oceans.


On April 5th, 2020 Tropical Cyclone Harold hit Vanuatu in the Pacific. Harold was classified a category 5 hurricane with winds up to 170 mph. Unfortunately, because the storm hit during the height of the coronavirus pandemic the general response for this natural disaster was obstructed. Emergency responders were forced to come up with new evacuation strategies. The country had to lift the social distancing regulations for COVID-19 to evacuate and shelter residents. According to the NASA Earth Observatory Bulletin aid efforts from outside sources were delayed by travel restrictions. Emergency responders were faced with the difficult task of trying to evacuate while maintaining a physical distance to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.


Because of climate change due to global warming we are faced with unprecedented times. It has not only caused the sea surface to increase in temperature but has also raised sea levels exacerbating storm-driven flooding contributing to the disastrous outcomes of a tropical storm. Although tropical storms are something we have delt with for decades, their increased intensity and destructiveness is something we weren’t fully prepared for when the issue first arose. The expectancy of a storm to die out as it crosses over land is now a thing of the past. Warmer oceans supply more energy for storms and the warmer atmosphere holds more moisture thus giving the storm the ability to refuel itself. This single change has led to more volatile and unpredictable storms, we can no longer expect a storm to die off but instead have to be concerned that once it passes over the land and reaches back to sea that it won’t revamp itself and continue its path of destruction. Climate change has caused severe tropical cyclone impacts and despite advances in research it is still hard to calculate the exact risk for individual locations.

Chances of major tropical storms have increased globally by six percent within ten years. This increase can be seen and has remained at this level for the past four decades. We are now seeing storms arrive earlier than the designated hurricane season. Along with the earlier arrival date we are also experiencing hurricanes in areas which were not previously affected. This causes great difficulty in properly preparing and having evacuation plans along with emergency responders available in these areas. While the overall number of tropical cyclones are expected to decline the severity of the storms that we do have has drastically increased due to the continuing rise of sea surface temperatures.

Unfortunately, the world is faced with multiple crises at once. Despite continued research being done to find solutions to these issues we are still not close to perfecting an answer. Due to the constant changes of global warming and other unforeseen issues arising we are forced to always revamp and reconsider guidelines and responses to situations to provide the best possible result for our nation. Although most of the damage done to the earth is irreversible, there are still ways we as a nation can improve the way we treat the environment now. We need to be mindful of our harmful habits and replace them with better ones. There is only one earth, and with each bad habit, we knowingly contribute to its demise.



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