Please invest in Our Daily Planet today, by making a one time or monthly contribution.
We do not charge our readers a subscription fee for our content. We want to continue to grow our readership, particularly among millennials and public servants. Voluntary contributions from readers will help us employ interns and freelance journalists, expand our content, and reach a larger audience.
Urban flooding post-Hurricane Harvey. Image: Richard Carson/Reuters
Hurricanes are the most destructive natural disasters in the United States and the most dangerous and destructive storms are hitting the U.S. three times more frequently than they did a century ago, according to a new study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
What stands out about this study is how the researchers were able to standardize the damage inflicted by hurricanes over time. As AP explained,
“Experts generally measure a hurricane’s destruction by adding up how much damage it did to people and cities. That can overlook storms that are powerful, but that hit only sparsely populated areas. A Danish research team came up with a new measurement that looked at just the how big and strong the hurricane was, not how much money it cost. They call it Area of Total Destruction.”
The Big Question: Since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, our nation has been much more willing to ask if climate change is indeed making hurricanes more damaging. While many experts say that the pure physics would indicate so, there are still areas where we can better quantify how hurricanes are changing to paint a fuller picture. That’s precisely what the PNAS study does.
Why This Matters: While scientists can’t yet attribute any one hurricane’s destruction to climate change, we do know that a warming ocean and atmosphere do make storms stronger and slower-moving–meaning that they can sit and drench cities with relentless rain for days on end. While NOAA hurricane scientist Jim Kossin responded to this most recent study by stating that the result is “consistent with expected changes in the proportion of the strongest hurricanes and is also consistent with the increased frequency of very slow-moving storms that make landfall in the U.S.,” other researchers weren’t entirely convinced.
Go Deeper: The discrepancy in scientific opinions around this study highlights the need for increased development of attribution science. The area of study that Politico called “the new science fossil fuel companies fear.”
by Amy Lupica, ODP Contributing Writer As the 2020 hurricane season draws to a close, scientists are reflecting on the devastating records set by this year’s storms. 2020 had the most named storms ever recorded, ten of which were classified as “rapidly intensifying,” a record which occurred only in two other years, 1995 and 2010. […]
The 2019-2020 Australian bushfire season burnt more than 18 million hectares across the country, destroyed more than 2,000 homes, and claimed the lives of 34 people and about one billion animals. The devastation was gutwrenching and a wake-up call to the entire world that climate change is our greatest existential threat. Yet as fire crews […]
by Ashira Morris, ODP Contributing Writer Hurricane Iota, the 30th named storm this year, made landfall in Nicaragua Monday night as a Category 4 storm. As it continues to move across Central America, it could still bring “life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds, flash flooding and landslides,” according to the National Hurricane Center. Iota was the […]
Our Daily Planet is your daily dose of the stories shaping our world and the ways that you can take action. From the climate crisis to the protection of biodiversity, if these issues matter to you then please subscribe & stay informed!
Your privacy is Important! We promise never to use your email address to send you spam or advertisements.