As climate change naysayers make excuses for Sandy, Talia Fuhrman brings to light the connection between Hurricane Sandy and climate change after experiencing the effects of the hurricane first hand;
I’ve always believed that how we feel about ourselves is strongly connected to our efforts to learn, engage, and more importantly, actively seek to help the world around us. Educating ourselves about climate change and the consequences of global warming is a huge part of that. As I write this from my small town in western New Jersey, Hurricane Sandy has swept over the east coast a mere 48 hours ago and I ventured out of my house for the first time as the dawn rose this morning. I welcomed the sun as it finally decided to make an appearance through a now patchy layer of clouds. It was remarkable to see how a natural disaster that came and went so quickly could bring about such chaos and destruction for days and weeks to come. My observant eyes certainly did not like what they beheld as I drove around town.
Every gas station was occupied by more cars than could comfortably fit into their lots; lines were atrociously long and horns were honking as if everyone believed that a good blow to the ears would somehow result in getting gasoline faster. Most roads finally opened up, but this didn’t mean that they were easy to navigate. A number of them remained closed and traffic was bumper to bumper on the highways. As power remained out for many families, hordes of locals headed to chain restaurants and hotels, where outlets, heat and hot water were thankfully to be found. Trees were down, traffic lights had no power, and many homes were flooded. Suffice it to say, if a windy force of nature that lasted for only one day can bring about so much damage in such a short period of time, imagine what more frequent and more powerful natural disasters would inflict on our country. As the climate warms up in the coming decades, this is not a fantasy. More frequent and stronger hurricanes are likely to, and will, make landfall.
Climate change scientists all over the world can explain the whys and hows of why this is the case and scientific studies abound which prove their points. Hurricanes form in warm ocean waters and warmer oceans lead to more evaporation and precipitation. When Sandy formed, sea surface temperatures off the Northeast were five degrees higher than normal- an effect that can draw huge amounts of moisture into clouds and lead to hurricane development.
A 2005 study published in the journal Nature evaluated the duration and maximum wind speeds of each tropical hurricane that formed over the last 30 years and found that their destructive power has increased 70 percent in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.[i] Another study published in the journal Science showed that the percentage of hurricanes classified as Category 4 or 5 has increased over the same period.[ii] Furthermore, a study published in Geophysical Research Letters measured surface wind and temperature records between 1958 and 2001 and found a 60 percent increase in a tropical cyclone’s potential destructiveness.[iii] Potential future storm trends have also been studied extensively and model stimulations indicate that a one percent annual increase of atmospheric CO2 concentrations over the next 80 years will produce more intense storms and rainfall will increase 18 percent compared to the storms of today.[iv]
While the above studies represent just a small sample of evidence amidst the plentiful data, they do provide convincing support that the connection between storm intensity and global climate change is real, rather than an argument to be disputed. It’s a simple fact that the faster the planet gets warmer, the more likely we are to get hurricanes like Sandy and ones that possess even more destructive power.
While we learn about how to get in shape and love our bodies, I think we should continue to educate ourselves on how to keep the planet healthy too. Sandy was a nightmare for many people, but also a reminder that we need to pay attention to global warming and the increase in natural disasters that will likely go along with it.
It’s easy to learn about how to live more eco-friendly with websites like this one and 50waystohelp.com and treehugger.com, which provide simple suggestions to help us make a difference in our energy and resource consumption. I think it’s empowering and a self-esteem booster when we take actions outside of ourselves to make the world more beautiful. And sometimes what’s good for our bodies is also good for our planet! Avoiding animal products is one of the best things we can do to reduce our global footprint and keep ourselves healthy. In fact, a 2006 UN Food and Agriculture report announced that worldwide livestock farming is the number one cause of climate change- more than all planes, trains, cars, and boats, worldwide.[v] I love that taking care of our health is intertwined with going green. You can learn more about the connection between what we eat and climate change at www.worldpreservationfoundation.org or by reading Livestock’s Long Shadow by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. As unfortunate as Hurricane Sandy was, it is a reminder that we have a responsibility to be kind to our planet because the effects of global warming are already upon us and will only continue to worsen if we don’t collectively act as a society to make eco-friendly lifestyle changes. The change begins with you.
[i] Emanuel, K. 2005. Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years. Nature 436:686-688.
[ii] Webster, P.J., G.J. Holland, J.A. Curry, and H-R. Chang. 2005. Changes in tropical cyclone number, duration, and intensity in a warming environment. Science 309:1844-1846.
[iii] Sriver, R., and M. Huber. 2006. Low frequency variability in globally integrated tropical cyclone power dissipation. Geophysical Research Letters 33. doi:10.1029/2006GL026167.
[iv] Knutson T.R., and R.E. Tuleya. 2004. Impact of CO2-induced warming on simulated hurricane intensity and precipitation: Sensitivity to the choice of climate model and convective parameterization. Journal of Climate 17: 3477-3495
[v] UNFAO (2006). Livestock’s Long Shadow. UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO). Retrieved from: ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/a0701e00.pdf
Talia Fuhrman, daughter of author Joel Fuhrman M.D., has a degree in nutritional sciences from Cornell University and is a nutrition writer livin’ the eco-conscious lifestyle. She is working on her first book and hopes to get the word out to young women that we can protect our health, feel great about our bodies and help the world become a better place at the same time.