To add to the extraordinariness of 2020, this year also marks a historic and destructive Atlantic hurricane season. So far, 11 named storms have made landfall in the U.S. mainland, breaking the previous record of 9 storms set in 1916. This number may quickly jump to 12 this weekend if Hurricane Eta reaches Florida early next week. Eta touched down as a Category 4 hurricane in Central America, leaving devastating impacts and claiming the lives of over 50 people.
In total, we’ve seen 28 named storms in the Atlantic region this season, a number we haven’t reached since 2005. Scientists predict we will see even more storms before the season ends on November 20th.
Not only are storms like these becoming more frequent, but they are becoming increasingly dangerous. As our climate warms, the air has the potential to hold 7% more water per degree Celsius. This means that storms can sustain more water creating more damage than they previously would. Storms are also increasingly slowing down, which allows more time to cause damage while over land. As we continue to pollute our atmosphere, polar ice melts causing sea levels to rise, leading to disastrous coastal flooding during storms. We saw this happen here in New York approximately 8 years ago after Hurricane Sandy, which accounted for over a hundred deaths in our region, and caused 65 billion dollars worth of damage. Scientists predict that over the next few decades, sea levels could rise so much that the homes of 300 million people will be below the elevation of average annual coastal flooding.
Although this record amount of storms brings devastating impacts – they are predictable if we listen to climate scientists and take necessary action to mitigate potential damage. More frequent and intense storms are just another one of the growing dangers due to climate change, and why we must elect officials who will take appropriate measures to combat global warming.